by Daryl Hoole
The story is told of a teenage boy who had a pair of boxer shorts that he did not like, so he tossed them into the trash bin. His mother, upon noticing them, retrieved them, laundered them, and returned them to his room. So he tried again to get rid of the shorts. This time he put them in a bag of items the family planned to donate to charity. Once again his mother gave them back to him.
For the third attempt, he put them in his mother’s mending basket, and he hasn’t seen them since.
Whether the problem is procrastination, prioritization, organization, delegation (to other family members) or whatever, most home managements tasks can get accomplished when you plan your work and then work your plan. A big step in making this happen is to do today’s work today.
Back in the eighth grade, I had an English teacher who harped on a single theme all year long: “Do today’s work today.” As immature junior high students we used to entertain ourselves by mimicking her and poking fun at her constant cry: “Do today’s work today.”
As time has gone on, however, I’ve regretted that I laughed at her instead of appreciating her as I’ve come to realize, countless times, the value of doing today’s work today. It’s not just about turning in English assignments on time; it’s about doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done in every facet of one’s life. In our home, doing today’s work today is the difference between feeling like a sinking ship or a cruise ship.
I like to compare doing my day’s work to constructing a building where you have a “cornerstone” to keep the structure on the square, a “foundation” for stability, and then a fine “structure” for the enjoyment and blessing of the entire family. Let’s talk about all three of these components beginning with the cornerstone.
The cornerstone is me, the mother. It’s the cornerstone that keeps the structure on the square, and this is what mothers do for the home. In order to be fit for the family, however, you first have to be fit yourself by taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The little refrigerator magnet that says, “If mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” is more than just a cute saying — it has a lot to do with the morale of the entire family.
I have found that the closer to 6:00 a.m. I get up, the more successful is my day. Even so, days can be complicated and challenging. This is especially true if you have a house full of lively children and a baby to feed and change. In this case the cornerstone laying will undoubtedly have to be done quickly.
One mother of young children said, “By keeping my bathroom and dressing area organized with regard to toiletries, makeup, and clothing, I can cut my dressing time to a bare minimum.”
It’s important for busy mothers to remember that maybe you can’t do everything, but you can do something. For example, you may not have time every day, especially early in the morning, to read a chapter in the scriptures. But if you take even a minute to read just one passage, you can feel the Spirit and your day is blessed.
The foundation has to do with stability, and therefore it’s about supporting your house by putting it in order first thing every morning. It’s about doing today’s work today.
With the cooperation and help of family members, the following could be considered a list of daily tasks:
A woman was making the bed one morning when a nearby closet that needed attention caught her eye. She abandoned the bed-making part way through and went to work reorganizing the closet.
She became so engrossed in the project that she spent the entire day sorting and rearranging. Before she realized what time it was, her children and husband were home and there she was in her bathrobe with the bed half made, cereal boxes and breakfast dishes were still on the table, and the house was in a state of disarray. It turned out to be a terrible day. If she had first put the cornerstone in place and laid the foundation and then gone on to the closet, it could have been a very satisfying day.
One thing about cleaning a closet or attempting any other project is that if you give it six hours, it will take six hours. If you give it three hours, you can usually get it done in three hours. Projects usually take up just as much time as you allow them. There is almost always time to lay the foundation first.
Everything goes better at home when the cornerstone and foundation are in place. For instance, it’s been my experience that when husbands and children are used to an orderly house and an emergency arises and they come home to disarray as a result, they know something unusual has come up to interrupt the routine of the home. They understand and rise to the occasion and do whatever is necessary to help.
The problem is that some homes operate constantly in a crisis mode, and the mothers declare too many emergencies. In this case family members tend to lose interest and withhold their cooperation and assistance.
When the cornerstone is in place and the foundation is laid, it’s time to work on the structure. The building blocks for the structure consist of training and enjoying your children, doing weekly or seasonal cleaning, engaging in family activities and projects, reading and studying, serving in the Church and community, pursuing hobbies, and doing whatever is important and edifying to you and your family. It’s amazing how high and well you can build on the foundation of an orderly house. In fact, it’s when your house is in order that your work really starts.
There are times in every home, however, when circumstances dictate a change in scheduling, and adjustments have to be made that cause the building to take on a different shape than planned. In other words, sometimes it can be necessary to shift into a minimum maintenance mode as you put your time and energy into meeting urgent and usually unexpected needs. Emergencies, illness, major activities, or other situations may require practicing some “selected neglect.”
One of our daughters has suffered with severe clinical depression. She says that this “cornerstone, foundation and structure” concept made all the difference in how she was able to care for her five children and do what mattered most to manage her house.
Her doctor told her that it was one thing to have depression, but that she should not “do” depression. He urged her to get out of bed every morning, even if it meant having to pray herself out of bed — which it often did. Then she was to get dressed, brush her hair, apply some makeup, and keep moving through the day the best she could, even though it felt like walking through molasses.
She found that when she had the strength to do only five things on a daily basis to manage the home, it was important that she chose foundation-type tasks such as preparing simple meals, doing the laundry, picking up in the major rooms of the house, and keeping the kitchen and bathrooms clean.
She did a lot of “skimming” and hardly any “scouring.” But it worked. By laying this foundation, the house didn’t crumble. The house looked orderly, meals were served, and there were clean clothes to wear. Her structure or building project was to get better. (Please see The Ultimate Career, pp. 153-167 for Elaine’s story of hope and recovery.)
In summary, it’s when you as mother are strong that you can lend strength to your family. It’s when the house is first stabilized by doing today’s work today that progress can be made in other areas of home management. Therefore it’s at this point that family and personal projects and activities are most likely to bring enjoyment and satisfaction. It’s all about the cornerstone, foundation, and structure concept in doing today’s work today.