From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I started gobbling up any kind of information I could find on pregnancy, birth, early childhood, and child development. In stressful times, consuming information really helped me calm down. I knew if I reached the […]
I’m going to be honest here: I love cleaning! I know that might sound crazy to some people. Like, really? Cleaning? But yes, I do love cleaning. And not just the by-product: a clean house. The process is totally meditative for me. It’s only exhaustion or timelines that force me to quit once I get into a cleaning project.
You might be thinking, oh that’s just part of your DNA. You were born Type A and a little neurotic. I’LL never learn to love cleaning. And maybe that’s true. Maybe I was a little bit suited for cleaning and organizing from childhood. But I’d like to offer an alternate explanation…
I didn’t always love cleaning. As a homemaker, though, it was kind of part of my job description. Every job has its own downsides, and I thought cleaning was mine. It was something I HAD to do just to function and keep my house running, but it wasn’t something I loved to do. Because of that, my house would pile up and up with clean and dirty laundry piles, dirty dishes in the sink, and a yucky bathroom. Things got done… eventually. There just wasn’t much of a system, a routine, and it was done with a lot of reluctance on my part.
I realized that I was just making my life harder by not digging in. I had two choices: I could either stare resentfully at my laundry pile, grumble, and get it over with or I could embrace this task and make the very best of it. I really had to come up with creative ways to get motivated and love cleaning otherwise I would keep dreading it and procrastinating.
I started this project with some research. I was just really honest with my google searches: “I hate cleaning,” “how to like cleaning,” and “how to get motivated to clean.” I stumbled on a few resources and tips that worked well for me. I wanted to share those and some things I discovered myself in the hopes that you too can actually love (or maybe just like) cleaning. Here goes…
+ make a playlist
Or in my case, find a playlist you love. If you’ve ever powered through a workout by blasting your favorite music or made your commute just a little less sucky by listening to a podcast, you’ll have a better idea of what I’m talking about. For me, music is the difference between cranking out a bathroom clean and just being cranky. Lots of people use services like Spotify or Pandora to find or create a get-motivated playlist. You can also create a few in Apple Music or Google Music.
My favorite way to get myself motivated is to tap into a few pre-made playlists on YouTube. I read a study recently that the non-music music that Starbucks plays is great for productivity because it’s enough white noise to help tune out other conversations and the focus is more on the beat and the vibe than the lyrics or meaning. I couldn’t agree more. With that in mind, there are a TON of chill playlists on YouTube that I love to pop on while I’m cleaning. alexrainbirdMusic and Chillhop Music are favorites. alexrainbirdMusic is more folk and pop and Chillhop is low-fi hiphop. Podcasts works well for some people and there are a zillion and one of those on your favorite topic.
+ the right tools
My husband’s favorite hobby is tinkering around with our cars, especially our vintage 1969 Mustang. He can spend hours in the garage making improvements, repairs, and shining things up. He’s always said, “The right tools make all the difference.” If you have broken tools or just ones that aren’t right for the job, it can turn a simple repair job into a total disaster. The right tools are also motivating! Who doesn’t want shiny new, top-of-the-line tools for your favorite project?
I think the same principle holds for cleaning. The right tools like a handheld vacuum, spray mop, grout brush, and sturdy broom can make cleaning much easier and more enjoyable. I also think that adding a few fun scents to my cleaning supplies cheers things up considerably in my home. I like to make my own DIYs and buy a few delicious smelling products too. Sustainable brands like Method, Seventh Generation, Honest Company, and Mrs Meyers have so many great scents and formulas. It might seem like a simple thing, but working toward a great smelling house is hugely motivating to me.
+ time yourself
Have you ever noticed how much cleaning you seem to get done around the house when you have houseguests on their way over or some dinner guests about to arrive? That’s when I really kick it into high gear, prioritize, and just crank it out. With that in mind, if I’m really low on cleaning motivation, sometimes I’ll set a timer and do a speed clean. There’s also this concept of a “power hour” clean that’s been floating around homemaking blogs and YouTube channels. It’s when you make a list of things you’d like to get done, set a timer for an hour, and see how many things you can check off your list in that hour. You can also try to beat your best times or challenge people in your house to do the same. As my son gets older, this will be a fun way to make a game out of tidying up.
+ watch others clean
I would say watching cleaning videos on YouTube is my best motivator. The idea of watching other people clean might seem strange to some people. For others, it’s hugely inspiring. Some of these “clean with me” videos have hundreds of thousands of views. Really! I think it’s worth a try if you’re really looking to get motivated to clean.
These YouTubers film “power hour” cleaning videos or “clean with me” videos because this style of video been hugely motivating for them. It’s nothing special. Just a well-filmed video of someone cleaning out their bathroom or fridge or entire house. I’ll admit, sometimes the stay at home parent life can be a little isolating. This makes cleaning a bit more social and makes the time fly. I’m a big fan of Love Meg and Beauty by Kristy, but there are cleaning videos that appeal to everyone: big families, working parent families, small families, rich, poor, you name it. I do have to warn you: it’s pretty addictive once you start!
+ find your why
I think this is a great tool any time you’re looking for a little motivation for a specific goal or a motivation boost midway through a project. If you have a compelling reason why you want to clean, then you’re more likely to do it. It’s important for me to create a calm home environment that allows me some ease and peace during the day. If I’m digging through clutter or working with a sink full of dirty dishes, I’m less likely to do my job as a homemaker well and it injects a huge dose of stress to my life.
If I’m working TOWARD peace and calm instead of AWAY from clutter and disarray, I’m more likely to have good, positive feelings about the process. You can use a vision board, journal, or just a good conversation to solidify the things that a tidy and clean home will give you. It’s important to make it personal to you, too. If you’re doing it for your partner, your kids, or to impress your neighbors or in-laws, then it’s going to be much less motivating.
How tidy and clean your home is sometimes reflects the inner order of your heart and mind. At least it does for me. I find that when my brain is all scattered and over the place, my house usually follows suit. It also works in the reverse for me. If for some reason, I’m not able to tidy my home or get pulled away mid-clean, the buildup of dirt and clutter really gets to me! I start stressing out and being frustrated for no reason. Once I clear away everything, I immediately have a sense of calm and well-being.
I like to remind myself that cleaning my surroundings is an essential act of self-care. Just as important as dentist appointments, showers, a little bit of blush, and a great pedicure. I would actually put it somewhere between dentist appointments and showering in terms of its importance. It’s THAT important.
Taking care of our things is a physical way to practice gratitude, care, and tending that is essential to our sense of self. I know I am much more grateful with what I have an content with my life when the things I own are well-tended. Looking at newly vacuumed and fresh smelling carpet makes me less likely to start eyeing hardwood floors at Home Depot. I’m not just taking care of my things when I clean, I’m taking care of myself. And that’s hugely rewarding.
+ embrace the zen
Last but not least, there’s something so mindful and meditative about a good clean. Physically doing something is a proven way to get out of your head and the repetitive nature of cleaning can help anyone relax. Don’t believe me? Try scrubbing grout for a half hour. It’s not super easy, you have to pay attention, and if you hate it, your mind is so focused on hating the job that you’d don’t really think about all the other stuff in your life. It’s also a good excuse to be left alone! Nobody really wants to clean, so my husband is far more willing to take up some childcare duties if I’m offering to clean the bathrooms. I find that if I have some good music, space and time to myself, and end up with a satisfying result (a clean room), then I feel kind of refreshed when I’m done. Win win!
Those are just a few of the ways I learned to love cleaning: some deep and some just fun. I challenge you to give one a try! And if none of these work for you, try coming up with some of your own ideas. Comment below with anything that makes your cleaning more fun and enjoyable!
It’s been a hot minute since I last posted about anything spiritual. To be honest, I haven’t been feeling very spiritual lately, so it’s been hard to write about it. Have you been there? There are all these expectations when we put our faith out there that it’s always going to be out there and strong, and that’s just not always the reality.
Which is why I wanted to take you through some of the things on my heart and mind about reconnecting with God along the way when you have no clue how to do that.
I guess I should begin at the beginning. Or at least somewhere close to the beginning. I’ve always been drawn to spiritual things and have felt a call on my heart since I was pretty young to connect with the bigger things in life. I was always interested in church, spirituality, and all kinds of deeper things. Don’t get me wrong, I was definitely a child. Lots of dollhouses and playing in the woods, but part of my heart was always connected to the supernatural.
Fast forward to maybe 2010-2011. I started to become aware of worship music by chance (spotted a discounted copy of Kari Jobe’s debut album at a Christian bookstore closing sale). I rode that rabbit hole right down to the end. I spent years connecting with God in all these amazing, revelatory ways. I was deep into the supernatural and saw miracles and wonders flourish in the natural. I can’t tell you how many times I got a window into eternity through this period of my life. It was a wild ride!
Then after getting pregnant two years ago and now having a one-year-old, something really shifted in me. I think it was that the material world required so much of me that the supernatural just kind of faded away. Sure I had some real encounters along the way, but overall it just wasn’t the same.
Where was God’s glory? Where were the signs and wonders? Where were the visions and spontaneous outpourings of grace? Why didn’t my prayers or Bible studies or worship nights “work” anymore. That magic of spiritual depth was replaced by some very sweet understandings of the Father’s love for me, but the deep stuff vanished into thin air. Or so it seemed.
Because that’s where I am now. I’m in this weird lukewarm place that is punctuated by a few moments of inspiration. I had no idea this was around the corner. And I’ve been mourning the loss of that relationship and connection for a long time now.
I think I’m putting a bunch of caveats like “few moments of inspiration” or things like that because I want you to understand my authenticity when I’ve posted faith things in the past. Oh yeah, that faith reality is still there in my heart, just way way mellower than before.
I feel like I’ve defined myself by this worship/spiritual life but sometimes lately it feels like clever branding and a characteristic of myself instead of the very depth and fabric of my being. It was like I was trying to prove to myself that I was still this person who saw heaven on earth and experienced frequent miracles. When I would go to worship nights, I would try SO HARD to feel something and have a revelation or encounter. It was like I was commanding it to happen.
Really clearly, in one night of worship with the inimitable and aforementioned Kari Jobe, I heard the Father say, “quit trying so hard.” Just that. “Quit trying so hard.”
It wasn’t said in a sarcastic or scolding or annoyed way. It was said in just this matter-of-fact way to my heart that made all the sense in the world.
Quit trying so hard.
Steffany Gretzinger, my very favorite worship leader, once said in a talk on prophecy that if you haven’t heard from God in awhile and aren’t sure of His message, go back to the last thing He said and dwell there until the next message comes along. I love that.
Since then, I’ve heard a few things from the Father, but that phrase “quit trying so hard” stuck with me and I was dwelling in it for quite some time. It seemed to not make any sense to me at first. Was I really trying so hard? Was I really trying to create something out of nothing? Where did this spirituality that I knew so well and understood and became a habit and a lifestyle and a passion go? Didn’t it require chasing and trying and lots and lots of effort?
I think God was telling me to chill out with it all to bring me back to a place of listening and receiving instead of directing the show. I had become so used to, in some ways, manipulating my circumstances to get a certain result. And to following a formula that would bring breakthrough and relationship and connection and everything else I love and desire.
In the past few months, I’ve started to reposition my heart toward that message. I’ve laid off on most of the worship music and bible studies and rituals and routines and just really simplified things. Simple prayers. Simple scripture. Going to church regularly. I’ve laid off on posting a bunch of Bible quotations on instagram and forcing myself to look and feel like such a deep, intense Christian.
One thing that makes me sad about this mission is that I find I’m not connecting with certain people in my life the way I used to. By being authentic to this messy spiritual place, I sure am sounding more normal to my friends who aren’t terribly spiritual, but I’m also having a lot of awkward silences when conversations with spiritual friends turn, well, spiritual. I feel like that whole part of my life is being left behind.
But maybe some of my holding on to these formulas and rituals and behaviors was just nostalgia. Maybe God has been calling me to move on to different, possibly deeper, possibly more impactful things down the road. Because He’s clearly not just going to leave me hanging. He promises again and again that He’ll see us through and be there and that we’ll go from “glory to glory” if we stay tucked in the palm of His hand.
St Teresa of Avila talks about the “interior castle” and how our relationship with God is full of all kinds of rooms and hallways and the more we connect with God the deeper we go. She also talked about the “dark night of the soul” and how right before you get to the good stuff, you feel like God has ditched you. I’m not quite in the “dark night of the soul” right now, but maybe God is calling me to take a step forward into the unknown, into places where I don’t have a map, where things are unsteady and strange. He’s taken me through the looking glass before. Why not now? Why not here?
I think God is leading me to all kinds of new rooms in His heart that I can’t find or experience if I’m just dwelling on one great worship track from 2013. Or if I’m dwelling on that totally insane retreat or conference or worship night that’s far past being over.
I’m sure part of this is fear. Any time I’m living in a nostalgic place, I find a lot of fear and uncertainty swirling around my heart and my head. And there is a lot of fear when we’re met with Perfect Love. Because Perfect Love casts out all fear, but It also can be terrifying and majestic.
It’s a big risk to follow the God of the Universe. The God of Israel worked in a lot of ways. Sometimes in thunder and storms and sometimes in the still small voice. Sometimes Jesus was shouting down storms and demons and sometimes He was just spending time with His friends at the beach. Holy Spirit has showing up both in flames and gusts of wind at Pentecost and dwelling in the peaceful, homey communities of the early Christians who were just learning how to live godly lives in this brave new era. The Trinity is full of dichotomy and things that boggle our simple human minds. And that is just as it should be. That is the order of the universe They created.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m venturing out into uncharted territory that is way off any familiar map. God knows the way, He’s going to take me through. I just have to trust that Him saying “quit trying so hard” is also His way of saying “I got this.” And that puts God properly on His throne instead of me.
I think it’s also meant to give me the spiritual and emotional energy to live with a rapidly growing toddler and a family dynamic that’s changing and evolving too. It’s helping me keep my focus on the terrestrial things instead of just wandering out in the clouds all the time. I think He’s trying to save a bit of my energy and take away some of my burden. Because most days I just don’t have a moment for a full Bible study and forty minutes of deep worship. I think He’s also teaching me about mindfulness and being present in the here and now. He’s teaching me things about peace and joy and this idea that things are “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Because when this world is all over and the end times are through, we get to have glorified bodies and a restored earth. Not some floaty angelic Botticelli or Raphaelite existence. He’s giving us the earth back to love and live and cultivate in glorified plenty. So maybe the mundane and day to day is just a taste of the eternities and maybe it’s a blessing that I’m getting a taste of it now.
Before the Kari Jobe worship night I experienced most recently, I was able to sit in on a Q&A with her and her husband Cody. I was super excited to ask her how she connects with God while she’s chasing after a toddler. She gave me some wise words. “I was really sad one day because I had been trying to read this great spiritual book for weeks and really didn’t have a spare minute to read it. I told God how frustrated I was that I couldn’t do all the things I used to. I asked Him what I should do. And He told me to just read the Bible. It was that simple. Read the Bible. He knows us and where we are. He knows we’re trying. Going back to the basics and keeping it simple is always the best way to start.”
I couldn’t agree more.
You know, just chilin’ with Kari Jobe. I LOVE THIS PICTURE.
On days like today, I have a million and one things to do and just zero time to complete them all. I have to take my dog to the vet for a minor procedure, ship a huge package at the UPS store, go grocery […]
I haven’t done a travel post in FOREVER! I really like compiling all my travel memories to a blog post so I can look back at them in the future. It’s such a fun way to relive a great vacation.
Last week, my husband, son, and I drove to Bentonville, Arkansas, the home of Walmart. We weren’t there to visit the Walmart world headquarters though! We were there for the mountain biking.
I guess Walmart has been trying to attract millennials to their company by building things that attract millennials: coffee roasters and shops, microbreweries, sustainable clothing boutiques, and, you guessed it, mountain bike trails. My husband’s two best friends live around the country (one in Indianapolis, one in Denver) so the guys thought it would be fun to split the difference and meet somewhere they could get their mountain bikes dirty. My son and I were just along for the ride!
One of the wives decided to tag along, and we had such a fun time together! We’ve always gotten along well so I was happy to spend more time with her. She’s a really chill traveller, which is great when you’re with a one-year-old. I promised her reality tv, shops and cafes, chardonnay, and sunshine. I think I delivered on my promise!
A few nights of our trip, we were able to sneak away and have some girl time shopping and happy hour-ing. I’m grateful for that! It was nice to relax and laugh with a friend I only see about once a year.
I wanted to share a few recommendations if you’re considering visiting northwest Arkansas anytime soon. We didn’t even go as far as Fayetteville (home of the University of Arkansas), which is supposed to be much more exciting. It seems like this part of the country has more than I had initially thought when my husband said “Let’s go visit Arkansas!” and my response was, “huh? Why?” Even if you’re just driving through, I think it’s worth a nice overnight visit! I was hugely, pleasantly surprised by all northwest Arkansas had to offer.
Our first stop was the townhouse we rented through airbnb. Airbnb has been such a great travel resource for us domestically and internationally. (Check out our airbnb experience in Iceland! It was perfect.) Especially now that we have a little guy, I love having a more comfortable home-like environment with a kitchen and laundry room. We stayed at the Townhouse on B in the Downtown Arts District. This area is full of new, contemporary housing and gorgeous restorations of old Victorians and bungalows. We were within easy walking distance of the town square with shops and restaurants.
All Townhouse Images: Townhouse on B and airbnb
The inside of this townhouse was jaw-droppingly nice! I knew we had sprung for a nicer townhouse close to everything, but this was gorgeous! Huge living spaces, great kitchen, pretty front porch, spacious back patio, gorgeous beds and baths, even white bathrobes! And with five adults and a baby, we couldn’t have been happier with all the extra bedding, sheets, and space.
We were greeted with chocolate chip cookies and freshly ground coffee from a local coffee roaster. Yum! After we set down our belongings, the guys trekked to Bike Rack Brewing to start off the weekend on the right foot. This was a super cute brewery with a big outdoor patio, twinkle lights, and delicious beers. It was also an easy five minute walk from the townhouse.
Image: Bike Rack Brewing
While the guys were mountain biking during the day, my friend and I were pushing around a stroller and checking out downtown Bentonville.
We especially loved Onyx coffee right off the town square. The lavender latte I had was delicious and the vibes were chill and much more urban and upscale than I had expected in Arkansas (sorry, Arkansas! I was wrong!): lots of well-dressed young executives and comfy Bible college students. Seeing cascara lattes next to Bibles really made it feel like home! That’s my usual coffee shop vibe.
My son is unimpressed with Bentonville hipsters…
Another coffee shop we loved in town was Heroes Coffee roasters. It was our morning go-to for delicious coffee and lattes.
Image: Heroes Coffee
About a million times over our trip, my friend and I visited the Walmart Neighborhood Market. This is a new small-concept Walmart grocery store that was totally adorable! It helped that the employees were a heartbeat away from corporate headquarters. They were the VERY BEST Walmart employees I have ever encountered. And the store was spotless! This Neighborhood Market had everything I needed and the selection was great. I loved popping into the air conditioning for baby snacks and supplies and fresh groceries for lunches during our visits.
Most days, we were out back on the patio of the townhouse, chilling, and enjoying the sunshine. My friend would read her book and I was busy making sure my son didn’t eat rocks. He got close to that a few times…
Image: Rollie Pollie
To keep him busy, I used toys from the travel play tray I created for the trip out. We also stopped into Rollie Pollie toy store a few times to pick up some cute toys like this adorable xylophone. This store had so many specialty items and toys to entertain my little guy and feed his imagination. I knew I was in the right place when the first product I spotted was Bavarian Gnome Natural Beeswax Crayons! Totally my cup of tea.
Images: Remedy Road
On one night, the guys took over childcare duties, and we ladies were able to escape for shopping and happy hour. We stumbled on Remedy Road, which is a sustainable and charitable boutique that only carries brands that give back. The clothing, accessories, and goods were Pinterest-worthy and so adorable. Lots of handmade leather handbags and wallets, sustainable fabric clothing, handcrafted wooden jewelry items, and the like. I wanted to buy everything in the store! I ended up with a pair of Spiritual Gangster $90 sweatpants for $20. I was very excited to snag that deal! The girl working the counter was very helpful and enthusiastic about all the amazing products in the store.
Probably our favorite stop was Pressroom for happy hour food and drinks. We sat at a gorgeous marble bar and ordered almost everything from the happy hour menu: roasted beets, smoked salmon dip, cartelized Brussels sprouts, sparkling rose, craft beer, and a delicious oak-y Chardonnay (just like I promised). The food was great, the company was better, and we even shared a lot of dad jokes with the bartender. I wish we had gone there a few more times over our stay!
Image: Guild Winery
The sparkling rose from Willamette Valley I enjoyed had me missing my trip to Oregon a few years ago. I really want to go back! To Pressroom AND Oregon.
Image: Thai Kitchen
We also loved Thai Kitchen where I had maybe the best panang curry in my life. It was so much fun laughing, sharing food, and having lots of girl talk.
On our last night in Arkansas, we decided to pop into Oklahoma to check that state off our list! (I only have 7 states left!) The closest town is Siloam Springs in Arkansas and West Siloam Springs in Oklahoma. We were hoping to grab some dinner and/or ice cream in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, this was the best entertainment we could find in Oklahoma… I might try again in the future before writing off Oklahoma entirely, but it wasn’t encouraging…
Image: 28 Springs
Siloam Springs, Arkansas was a real find though! It was the cutest little tourist town! We found a great restaurant called 28 Springs. The menu was amazing, the service was great, and I was really surprised at how upscale and fashionable the whole place was. Who knew?! I had a delicious salmon with fingerling potatoes and asparagus. I also had some amazing blue corn muffins with raw honey butter. Yum!
After poking around in the town, checking out a bluegrass band in a gazebo, and checking out some beautiful fountains and parks, we found Pure Joy Ice Cream, the CUTEST little ice cream shop. They had lots of fun toppings and creative flavors. I decided to try their chamomile honey ice cream with cacao nib “gravel” on top. So delicious! It was so much fun sitting outside, enjoying the nice weather, and eating tasty ice cream with friends.
I was super impressed with this part of the country and it’s totally worth a visit if you’re in the neighborhood. We had a great time, and look forward to another mountain biking trip with this crew in the future.