Ten Things I Do, for Sanity’s Sake

We all have a routine of some sort. Here are ten things I do that help me save time, work more efficiently, get more out of less, and of course, stay sane!

Thing #1: A menu!

There’s a reason that a menu is at the top of this for Sanity’s Sake list. I save so much time, stress, and even money when I have a meal plan. The idea of making menus totally overwhelmed me at first, but now that I have gotten in the meal-planning groove, it only takes me around ½ hour a week.

Step 1: I get out my favorite cookbooks (the reliable ones that never let me down!) and map out my food agenda for the next week – breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Step 2: I have a small, magnetic calendar I keep on my fridge and all of the meals I intend to make hit the calendar. I strategize when I plan my meals. What activities do I have going the next week? Thinking through this helps me plan easier meals for days I’m expecting a busier evening.

Step 3: I make my grocery list while I plan my meals. When I choose a recipe I glance quickly over the ingredients and if it calls for anything too exotic or abnormal, I quickly check my fridge or cupboards to see if I have it (or something similar I can substitute with).

Step 4: Since I plan every meal per day, I have 21 meals to plan every week. If I tried to be creative and original for every meal I would go crazy. I have chosen to make creative supper dishes, eat leftovers, burritos, or sandwiches for lunch, and stay really simple with breakfast.  Breakfast is my “hard” meal. Even though I get up early, I am not a morning person and the last thing I feel like doing is making a fancy breakfast. When I get up in the morning, I like to get a good start on whatever I have planned for the day, so simple is what works best for me. We alternate eating these three breakfast meals through our week – yogurt, granola & berries; oatmeal & fruit; and cold cereal & fruit. On the weekends we have a “special” breakfast like breakfast burritos or pancakes and sausage.

Here’s an example, from last week:

MON – oatmeal & fruitL – chicken salad sandwichesS – Apple Walnut, Chicken Salad


TUES – granola, yogurt & fruitL – leftoversS – Calico Bean Dish & Corn on the Cob


WED – cold cereal & fruitL – turkey roll-upsS – Stir Fry Chicken & Veggies


THURS – oatmeal & fruitL – leftoversS – supper at the fair


FRI – granola, fruit and yogurtL – tuna fish sandwichesS – steak, zucchini dill ribbons, Basil Parmesan Tomatoes


SAT – pancakes & sausageL – leftovers

S – meatloaf, rice & salad


SUN – cold cereal & fruitL – fellowship mealS – Dad & Mom Shafer’s


Thing #2:  House-cleaning day!

I grew up doing this and now I’m carrying on my mom’s tradition. I know many women who have certain days for certain jobs, but one thing that has worked for me is having one day a week I thoroughly clean my house. Thoroughly cleaning (dusting, sweeping, mopping, scrubbing down the kitchen and bathroom cupboards and appliances, etc.) my house every week means that quick clean-ups can be done a lot less often and a lot faster. The stress of dust, grime and clutter build-up of several weeks or months is nonexistent. I don’t have to deal with that. And while I admittedly have a small house, I can give my house a good weekly cleaning in under two hours now.  In the long run, it takes less time for me to block out one morning a week for a thorough housecleaning than if I divvied up cleaning chores for everyday through my week.

I don’t think having children makes this less of an option either. For as long as I can remember, my mom had a weekly housecleaning day and that just meant we all got involved and had to help scrub down and clean-up. J

Thing #3: Alphabetical Order!

That’s right; my books get organized in alphabetical order, just like at the library. This is something else I have carried over from my childhood days, and it probably started because my mom home schooled and had a lot of books (Think: over 5,000). Alphabetical order was a most definite sanity-saver.

While I don’t have over 5,000 volumes in my house, I do have over five hundred. Organized books save me time. I don’t have to pick through three + full bookshelves for fifteen minutes to find that certain volume. Time is precious and messy, disorganized books is just one more way for me to  waste time stressing out. If I know the name of the author, I can find the book I want in about five seconds.

I have my books organized into three categories (Adult fiction & nonfiction; Juvenile fiction & nonfiction; Research/Devotionals) and shelved in alphabetical order within each category. The only books that aren’t in any order are my story books. Those sit nicely on the bottom shelf for children to pull off and look through at their own whim.

Thing #4: No Junk Drawers Allowed!

My mom never really had a junk drawer in her house and I don’t either. Of course we both (that is, my mom and I), have desk drawers that naturally get disorganized sometimes…just like everyone else!…but we don’t have specified catch-all drawers. I don’t know about you, but when I am in a pinch or a hurry and I can’t find a pen that works or that stick of glue I need right now and for crying out loud, where are all my safety pins? The biggest frustration is when I pull open a cluttered messy drawer and have to rifle through piles of crumpled paper, dried-up ink pens, and miscellaneous keys, erasers, and paper clips to find that missing notion. (My blood pressure is going up just thinking about it.)

I don’t have many rules in my house, but here’s one of my top home-keeping guidelines. Everything has a home. My desk drawer now has little organizer boxes, with a place for pens and pencils, a container for paper clips, a box for safety pins, a space for glue, a place for everything. When I’m done using something, I can open the drawer and toss the item back in its place to access later. Stress-free, hassle-free living. The No Junk Drawers decree is perfect for me!

Thing #5: A No List!

This one will continue to change over the course of my life. It may be one of the most vital things I do that keeps me sane. A list of things I must resolutely say no to, so I can emphatically say yes to and excel in other things. While I recognize that some of the ways I organize my home or my time may not work for you or will need to be tweaked to fit your lifestyle, I am pretty convinced that everyone needs a “no list”.

Being the “yes person” that I am, a “no list” has been very freeing. Every time I say yes, I must also say no. Where am I called to serve and give my time? Having a no-list protects the sacredness of my marriage, my friendships, and my calling. It helps me prioritize and live more effectively and intentionally. There are so many opportunities in this life, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. I have wallowed in that place of ineffective over commitment far too many times. We were called for more!

Consider for yourself: Where, who and what are you called to invest your time, your energy, and your life? Where does that mean you will have to say no?

Remember: saying no is an inevitable aspect of life!

Some Things on My Current ’No’ List:

1) Teaching Sunday School

2) Working outside the home

3) Sewing my own clothes

4) Leading a grocery co-op

Thing #6: A Sense of Weekly Structure!

My weeks can change drastically from week to week. I think it’s this way with most people. I have found it stabilizing to have a short and sweet list of weekly goals for every week. Barring vacation or emergencies, I try to maintain a simple sense of structure that looks something (at least right now) like this…

1) An hour of straight solitude every week – time to sit and think and meditate.

2) Three blog posts per week. (Blogging is process for me. It’s my preferred way of journaling and my most effective method of digesting life. I do have limited internet access though, so some weeks I’m doing good if I blog once.)

3) Daily exercise. (Since I am a very active person (I pretty much walk everywhere I go and live a very active lifestyle!), this means an actual workout video or a run with Ryan.)

4) Two afternoons a week with city girls. (This one is largely dependant on my girls or their parents – if they remember, if they happen to be allowed to do something this week, etc.)

5) Ten hours of writing, at least. (My husband and I are in the middle of writing a book together and I am also dredging through my five-year-old manuscript, salvaging and reshaping what concepts I can.)

Having a sense of weekly structure with basic goals (outside of the necessary things of life, like laundry and cooking), gives me a baseline for my week. Some weeks none of my goals are met and some things frankly get thrown out the window more often than not. The key is flexibility. Am I willing to let Jesus ultimately guide my days?

Thing #7: Having House Systems!

Classification and method – synonyms for the word system. Just like the success of businesses and factories largely depend on certain procedures to get the job done, perhaps homes could be more productive if they utilized the system-mentality. I know that for us, since Ryan and I lead very busy lives, having a method to the madness is pretty key for our sanity!

We “get the job done” far more efficiently and effectively when we have a system to refer to, go by, and follow. We end up with more time on our hands when we don’t have to reorganize every time we need to… review our finances, go camping, or work on a crafting project, for example. We take advantage of the system-mentality and have our finances frequently updated and carefully laid out in our budget planner, our camping supplies neatly organized, labeled and stored in our attic, and our crafting materials for woodwork or other projects sensibly arranged in our workroom.

The reality is that everyone has a system, whether their lives are well-ordered or not. Consider for yourself: Are you a slave to your system or does your system aid and abet you?

Thing #8: A Planner!

I think I’m addicted to my planner. Honestly, I’m not sure I would quite know what to do with myself if I didn’t have a planner. It pretty much goes with me almost anywhere. An accessible calendar makes scheduling an appointment or a date with a friend quick and easy!

In my planner, I…

– have all Shafer/Pratt birthdays and anniversaries marked on my calendar

– write down church bulletin announcements that are relevant to us

– schedule appointments (piano lessons, doctor visits…)

– keep track of special events (holidays, vacations, dates with friends, etc.)

– outline Ryan’s or my work schedule (particularly if it is something out of the ordinary)

– file church cleaning and hostess dates relevant to us

plan my weekly and monthly agenda for goals, chores, responsibilities, etc.

Thing #9: A day of rest!

I used to think my parents were silly for being so staunch on Sunday being a day of rest. It seemed old-fashioned to only do necessary work like washing dishes or the finishing touches on Sunday dinner. I remember being so frustrated one time, because I wanted to wear a certain shirt and it was in the wash and we didn’t do laundry on Sundays.

The seemingly archaic tradition that so frustrated me has now been adopted by me. It’s not a legalistic law, but a freeing guideline. In other words, I may do a laundry load on Sunday sometimes, but not as a general practice. My husband and I love our relaxing Sundays to read, write, fellowship with friends, or take a nap. We relish breaking away from the hustle and bustle of our busy world, to chill and reflect. God put a no-agenda day into our week for a reason!

Thing #10: Proper sleep.

I actually struggle with this one more than I would like to admit. Being the driven person that I am, I can easily lose track of time and stay up much later than I intend too. (I am more of a night owl than an early riser, so getting to bed at a decent hour is a discipline for me!)

Sleep is important when it comes to living a focused and purposeful life. My success at any responsibility – great or small – is largely affected by how much rest I have had. The truth is, when I’m running low on shut-eye I am quickly irritated and I struggle to concentrate. Late nights with friends and family can be fun, but I’m learning to make them an exception and not a rule. I am a much happier, productive, and carefree person when I’m functioning on proper sleep.

What are the things you regularly attempt to do, that help you manage your home and live intentionally?


5 thoughts on “Ten Things I Do, for Sanity’s Sake

  1. You GO, GIRL!!!! I love structure and can hardly stand it when things get chaotic. I guess I need to work on my flexibility!!! I recently started making menus again after getting off track for a while and oh I love having that back. Now to add breakfast and lunch.
    I love and miss you,

  2. Very very good, Renee. It’s encouraging to read how you keep your life ordered. I’m not nearly as organized as you are and need to work on some areas. Getting hubby on board will help too. 😉 Thanks for the input and the reminder at FLEXIBILITY!

  3. What a great list! I do many of the things on your list but a few of those I could use some help in! I have completely quit menu planning recently and I need to start again!

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