Homekeeping Freedom

The first thing that came to my mind after a good sweating of scrubbing the kitchen top and the cooking hob was “How wonderfully clean things will stay if only no more cooking should ever be done here!”

The next thing, of course, was to realize how foolish could that idea be. What’s the point of having the kitchen there if there’s no cooking to do?

I see now, I was doing the cleaning with the intention of freeing myself from the cleaning itself. It’s of little wonder why I get disappointed and discouraged by the mere thought of having a mess to clean again soon from the next cooking, or meal, or play. I see now why, especially after a thorough house cleaning, I get easily irritated just by having living beings living in the house.

My housekeeping serves no one but myself. I think that summarizes why. The irony of it all is, the freedom that I am chasing is an elusive one, and is in fact not a freedom. Instead, it binds me and my family away from living freely in our own home. Because every act of living we do will inevitably violate the cleanness and tidyness of the house. And that is absurdly funny, is it not? Having a house that you can’t live in?

I see now the real freedom housekeeping affords me is the freedom to serve my loved ones again and again. And the real reason why there is a need for my housekeeping is because my loved ones are fed, clothed, and taken care of in this house. As the proverb goes, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” In my current season of life, mess is the mark of productivity, and cleaning is the means to continuity.

As sure as there is pleasure in doing others good, so it turns out, the true pleasure that homekeeping gives is the repeated pleasure of providing hospitality, joy and happiness for others (often, the dearest ones). The satisfaction felt in seeing a sparkling clean and tidy house after a good sweating out is then a ‘bonus’.

Spring Cleaning and Decluttering A la KonMari

Chinese New Year

It’s the time of the year for family reunion, angpaos, festive feasts and delightful cookies, and of course not forgetting, it’s the time for massive cleaning and decluttering of the house.

With Chinese New Year just around the corner, it is traditionally considered auspicious to thoroughly clean the house in order to rid the bad luck and make way for the incoming good one.

I am sharing with you in this post some useful tips from Marie Kondo, author of the best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Because, auspiciousness aside, it is always good to usher in the new year with a fresher and tidier house.

Decluttering and Discarding

The KonMari method advised discarding as the first step towards an uncluttered and tidy house. Some of us are hoarders by nature (think about those piles of stuff we stored away for years thinking ‘I might need it someday’ but never even knew if they still exist today, somewhere in the keeping), so discarding comes naturally hard on us. That’s why it’s the first on the list. And here are some more principles to help make discarding fast and, hopefully, less painful:

1. Choose what I really want to keep, not what I want to get rid of.
Because deciding what to discard is harder, we might end up with no significant less stuff. Scan each item with the “Do I really still need/want this?” question, keep the ‘yes’, and keep the ‘maybe’ to a minimum. Discard the rest. Do consider donating things that are still useful and in good condition, and recycling the recyclables.
*Someone did a great job compiling recipients of used but USEFUL goods donation here at http://honeykidsasia.com/charity-singapore-donation/

2. Do it by category not by location.
Done this way, we keep the focus and avoid having to sort similar items twice or more. *See below for help with item categorizing.

3. Sort in this sequence: clothes, books, papers, miscellany, mementos.
Start from the least-emotion-involving items (mementos invoke nostalgia and deep emotions) and items of the largest amount (usually clothes and books).

4. Let the things that have ‘fulfilled’ their purpose go.
Apart from special mementos, there are items which lie somewhere between ‘not really needed’ and ‘not really wanted’, yet are not easy to part with. Items like these are usually gifts we received, or souvenirs we impulsively purchased. Marie Kondo shared in her book that such items have fulfilled their purpose and it is appropriate to ‘thank’ them and let them go.

*Item Categorizing:

1.Clothing/apparels:

  • Tops
  • Bottoms
  • Clothes that should be hung
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Bags
  • Accessories
  • Clothes for specific events
  • Shoes

2. Papers:

  • Paper that needs attention (bill, mail to be answered, etc.); to be discarded immediately once done.
  • Important papers (contract, legal papers, etc.)
  • Paper needs keeping (warranties, insurance policies, etc.)

3. Miscellaneous, in this order of sorting:

  • CDs DVDs
  • Skin care products
  • Makeup
  • Accessories
  • Valuables (passport, credit cards, etc.)
  • Electrical equipment and appliances
  • Household equipment (stationary and writing materials, sewing kits, etc.)
  • Household supplies (expendables like medicine, detergents, tissue, etc.)
  • Kitchen goods and food supplies (spatulas, pots, blenders, etc.)
  • Others (spare change, figurines, etc.)

Home Organizing

Once done with the discarding process, the next step is to put the shortlisted items back to their proper places. Here’s Marie Kondo’s advice on how to efficiently store things, maximize storage and keep items regularly organized:

Fold the clothing and stack it vertically for easy visibility and access.

Fold the clothing and store it vertically for easy visibility and access.

1. Designate a storage place for every single item.
2. Store the same category of things at the same place.
3. Strive for as minimum location for storage as possible, i.e. do not scatter storage places all over the house.
4. Store similar categories of things near each other.
5. Use rectangular boxes instead of funny shaped ones.
6. Keep bath and kitchen sink free of items. It saves you wiping time and from having to wipe the brownish slime under those bottles of soap/detergent/cleaning agent.
7. Coins ALWAYS go into wallet.
8. Don’t pile things, store vertically (like books on bookshelves) if possible. The key is visibility. When piled, items at the bottom may get forgotten over time and end up being unused.
9. Store bags in bag, like the Matryoshka doll.
10. Items that usurp the floor space belong in the closet.
11. Unpack and de-tag new clothes immediately.

There you have it!

I hope the process of cleaning, tidying and decluterring our houses helps us also to appreciate and be thankful for our possessions, and to realize how we can actually be content with few things in life.

Happy spring cleaning and here wishing you a warm and wonderful reunion with your loved ones!

*Disclaimer: If you have little children at home, you will naturally have your kind of all year round spring-cleaning: things keep springing and you keep cleaning. Don’t feel discouraged to see the mess and clutter, see it as a mark of merry home and productiveness. Treasure this moment as the little ones will grow up and the house will be mess-free in no time. 🙂

The things keep springing out and you keep cleaning up.

Our kind of spring-cleaning, where things keep springing out and you keep cleaning up. 🙂

 

Body and Soul

It is a most wonderful truth that the Lord God would delight in human body as much as in the soul. So much so that He took it on purpose to create human as spiritual and material being, and as if that weren’t enough, He gave His promise that when He returns in glory, not only our soul will enter the eternal blessedness but our very flesh too, reunited with our soul, be made perfect and glorious!
Praise the Lord for His unfathomable wisdom and love! (Think: literal heavenly culinary experience guaranteed for an eternity! :D)

On the flip side of the coin, back here at home, we are routinely absorbed in the care-taking of the bodies under the roof. Winning the bread, filling the tummies, clothing the naked. The needs of the body are many, urgent, and obvious.
Let us not forget that these bodies too, are one with their souls. And while the bodies thrive, well-fed and well-sheltered, let us also see to it that the souls are well nourished. For these souls need nothing less, if not more, of such care.
May God help us!

First Thing First

6am

I got new great books last two weeks, thanks to Hubby 😉
Lately, with a very active and curious baby around, I had rarely any time for some good reading. You know, when you are a mom with young kid(s) your time is almost never your own heheh..

books

The titles suggest, especially the first book on top (the first one on my read list too btw!), definitely the very things every mom is curious about. And so I was determined to find time to read about how to shop for time. And thank God I did, hooray!

The book is AWESOME. Go read one yourself to believe it, your soul will thank you (and God, of course)! May I share with you one of the things they wrote in the book that had personally spoken to and challenged my convicted conscience..

It’s about the first thing first.

The top tips on how to shop for time is, according to the authors (who based it on biblical principal apparently), to rise up early. Chapter one and I am down already.

Waking up early in the morning is not my forte, no indeed it’s my weakest point, I resent it to the point that I’ll have difficulty falling asleep if I need to wake up early the next morning.

To desire sleep, maybe too much sleep, has been my struggle for many many years. It’s embarrassing to admit that sleep has been an idol in my heart. Doesn’t sound very serious yeah? Perhaps, precisely because it sounds trivial that I have let the sin linger for too long. Little did I realize the impact it had on my life.

For sleep, I have traded my personal time with the Lord, my opportunity to serve my husband every morning, and my being ready, fit and fresh to greet my baby girl and meet her needs effectively when she woke up in the morning. Yes, I am plagued with feelings of guilt every morning but I keep telling myself, excusing myself, that I will make it when things are better later on, when the baby is older, when the house is more under control, when I have rested enough, which I have to admit finally if I go on this way, chances are it will happen only when the Lord returns!

Need not to say, having my spiritual diet starved, the only natural result to my homemaking is the constant feeling of being overwhelmed with my daily chores, which make complaints felt just as natural as well, not to mention the short span of patience and tolerance towards my husband. Joy? Bearing fruit? You bet. It should have been obvious to me that it is impossible living a christian life apart from the Source. As Lord Jesus had said Himself, “..apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Convicted, I knew it was time to take the radical change.

06.00 o’clock in the morning. That’s my current goal. By right, that should make me an earlier bird than my husband is, but he was on the same resolution too so yeah haha.. I have been walking out of the bedroom to the dining table with my Bible for ten days now while it is still dark outside (note how often this phrase was recorded to describe the waking up time of the spiritual giants in the Bible, it’s not there for vain apparently).

Truth be told, I don’t wake up to the birds singing or some heavenly feeling. In fact, it feels miserable. I think it will still do for many mornings. I earned some pimples on my forehead and a big one on my chin from the sleeping hours cut off. But it is the truth also that the peace and joy and gladness one can experience from sitting at the Lord’s feet do flow into my life every morning and guide me for the rest of the day, everyday! On the practical note, waking up early means I have more time to do my work efficiently as well. Pimples are of small cost! (Fear not, my body adapts to my new habit fast and as I wake up early I go to bed early naturally.)

By God’s help, I seek to faithfully rise up early every morning and witness His grace transforming my life through the meditation of His Word and prayers.

If time is money, it would only be wise to spend it on the best deals. Sleep, apparently, is far too pale in comparison with the Life itself. Don’t you agree?

The Problem with Bin Chute and Fumigation – Solved

binchute2

One of the things I love about living in Singapore is that they help me with my homemaking, by getting rid of cockroaches, that is.

(Yikessssss!!!)

The town council, I suppose, will have the HDB f’lat’s rubbish chute chamber fumigated once in every few months. You know, to keep those pests from invading your world. We are usually advised to mask-tape the hopper on each side (the gap between the hopper and its frame) to prevent the escaping-for-dear-life roaches from creeping into the house. (These roaches sure are tough, by the way, our flat is on the 7th floor and I still get them, lying over half-fainted on my floor!)

Now, did I mention the preventive taping and roaches still getting into the house? Yes, I did.

And it’s a super frustrating and horrifying experience at the same time. Good and bad for me being a stay-at-home mom. Good, because I witnessed and knew that those roaches just got into the house right then, half-fainted, and that was the best chance for me to get the broom and slap them dead! If the scenario were I found them only after I was back from work (or somewhere else), I can’t imagine what the guessing game of “are there roaches left still crawling somewhere in the house, bedroom, baby’s room?” would do to my nerve. Bad, because I saw them creeping in (oh those disgusting creatures, meeting them is bad enough already) and had to start killing them in panic mode! Well, good and bad in pretty much the same way. Look at things from both sides of the coin they say. I got tails on both sides. Anyway..

So what’s wrong with this taping?

We figured it out one fumigation day. As usual, we had the sides of the hopper all taped. Hubby was the taping guy, and he was home that day. Good! Two pairs of eyes and hands to make sure no roaches made it into the house alive. Once our block’s bin chute chamber was fumigated, we saw smoke coming out from the bin chute and soon after we found roaches around the wall where the chute is, some were lying on the floor already. They are quite small in size. Okay, one big fat roach flew in from the window, we both screamed and jumped in horror before Hubby slapped it dead. Very traumatic experience, I know. It still gives my goosebumps even now when I think (and type) about it. So that calls for closed-windows in every fumigation day.

binchuteThat big one is exception, now back to the chute. Since those succeeded in escaping were smaller ones, we came to suspect the handle of the chute, which were not taped at all. Afterall it totally didn’t look accessible for the roaches (and even the taping instruction in picture given out by the town council is one with tapes only on the sides, the handle is left un-taped). By the way, the type of chute I am talking about is the flat type with handle that works like a door knob, not the older type of which handle and chute is a one-piece-built.

Well as impossible as we thought that roaches could be coming out through the handle, there’s no harm in trying. Today is another fumigation day, we mummified the chute with layers of masking tape, extra layers on the handle! Sometimes the spirit of ‘kiasu’ is of good use too, you know. Heard the loud spraying of gas and slamming of metal door down there. Best of luck to the roaches and me! I waited for some minutes in front of the chute with the broom in my hand. (Baby was safe in the pack and play, in case you’re wondering.)

Voila!

Not one roach. Not even a hint of smoke. I went back a few more times to the chute and waited. Not a single roach in sight. Hooray!! Did a happy dance with Baby! A happy homemaker I was, and all the happier I am!

****

*Kiasu: a popularly used Hokkien term in Singapore, is literally translated as ‘fear of losing’; is normally used to describe an extreme effort to play safe, or to out-smart everyone else in everything.

An Alphabet of Wifely Excellence

It is that woman I am thinking about.

Yes, that one woman every woman looks up to with great admiration and a healthy dose of envy.

They call her the Virtuous Woman. You can find her at Proverbs 31 #10-31 (which, as lined out in verse 10, might send you into a further search for this lady 🙂 ). As I am one among those who are still searching, I found this commentary written by Derek Kidner in his book Proverbs throws clearer light along the path.

May I share this with the many women who share my quest for this wifely excellence.

The subject of this portrait is a lady of some position, who has servants to manage (15c) and money to invest (16). As her husband’s trusted partner (11) she has sole responsibility in her domain, which extends beyond the house to the management of her lands (16) and to dealings in the market, where she is as shrewd a seller (11, 18, 24) as a buyer (13, 14). She treats her advantages not as a means to self-indulgence but as a widening of her responsibilities (27), for she is a tireless worker (15, 18, 19): there are the poor to help (20) and the vicissitudes of life to meet forearmed (21, 25b). Yet with all her thrift, she is not austere (22), and with her business sense she is not hard, but a friend in need (20) and the delight of her children and her husband (28, 29). Her charm and her success (30, 31) owe nothing to chance, because her outlook (30) and her influence (26) have the solid foundation of the fear and wisdom of the Lord.
Except in this last respect, this lady’s standard is not implied to be within the reach of all, for it presupposes unusual gifts and material resources; nor is it much concerned with the personal relationships of marriage. Rather, it shows the fullest flowering of domesticity, which is revealed as no petty and restricted sphere, and its mistress as no cipher. Here is scope for formidable powers and great achievements – the latter partly in the realm of the housewife’s own nurture and produce (31); and partly in her unseen contribution to her husband’s good name (23).
– Proverbs, 178-179

It Is Free – Someone Paid for It

Works feel lighter when appreciations and rewards are received in the end. That’s just so very natural for us human.

The cooking. The dishes. The house cleaning.

They are all ways in how a homemaker can serve her family. But I am always robbed of my joy when I start to calculate inwardly. We do this very often, don’t we? The garlic that is painstakingly fine-chopped, the sink that keeps me going back every one hourly, and the mess on the floor or sofa or table tops that constantly begs for cleaning, again. And at the end of the day I find myself passing sinister remarks to my husband, trying to subtly imply how hard I have been working the whole day and put some guilt in his conscience for not helping or thanking me enough. I find myself asking“Why am I the only one doing all these? And they are not even appreciative!”. I find no joy, and nobody in the house does.

What goes wrong?
I forget (often am not willing) to bring the gospel into the picture altogether. That is always the problem, the gospel is very close to home but is not always welcomed. Do I not receive the salvation of God and all the blessings that come with it freely? I forget that the salvation is free to me because Someone else has paid the price in the first place.

Lord Jesus paid with His blood. I am saved and set free from sin and the wrath of God.

So joyfully chop the garlic, do the dishes and fold the laundry, again and again. Pay the price and give to the family freely. Take every opportunity to follow Christ. My reward will be the joy of one step closer to being conformed to the image of the blessed Son of God.

The sweet peaceful faces which greeted me after chores ;)

The sweet peaceful faces which greeted me after chores 😉