It is a natural thing for a woman to feel that her home is her castle, and for many, her temple. We work diligently to create an environment of order, peace, and beauty. As our life extends into a family, with a husband and children contributing to the environment, it becomes more difficult to maintain that same level of cleanliness and serenity, much less on a constant basis.

Life today flies by at such incredible speeds. The lifestyles of the world are driven by “fast,” “high speed,” “instant,” and “disposable.”  We eat at fast-food restaurants or while driving; we use high speed Internet; we get instant cash back; our babies wear disposable diapers. Don’t these engender an underlying sense of urgency? Is it any wonder we feel an anxiety that things should be done right now?

Pressures on time also exist. Besides education, children’s schedules often include extra curricular activities like sports, dance, gymnastics, swimming, music, and self-defense. Not to mention emergencies, or required doctors and dentists appointments. How do we get there? Mothers are often the ones driving us to and from these different destinations.

Always busy; forever behind, right? In no time, order gets replaced with confusion; peace turns into agitation; and beauty transforms into chaos. Thank goodness our Father in Heaven is aware of us. He has blessed us with an incredible tool to help relieve us of the tensions and frustrations that come with such an atmosphere. One of those gifts we’ve been given is a sound mind (see 2 Tim 1:7.) It is up to us to use it. As a couple, we have to choose our priorities. No one has the right to define how our house should look or feel; when it should be cleaned; or when we should focus more on our families.

That’s our responsibility. We need to guide our own lives or we will be tossed ‘to and fro’ by the opinions of the world.  Like any other family, we struggled obtaining a consistent house of order. In fact, my slogan eventually became, “Order is coming!”

That one phrase: relieved the stress of having to have order, now; validated my desire to have order, and gave me hope that I would have order in the future.

Reality Based Expectations
When I had small children, I had to give myself permission to let go of some very high expectations of a clean house.  There were just too many variables out of my control: the needs of little ones, illnesses, accidents, church callings, unexpected errands, favors for neighbors.  So many demands - limited resources, including my time and energy.  I could only do so much.

As husband and wife, we examined reality with what we wanted to have happen. We clarified expectations that had to be met, and listed things that we could let go of. This is a personal, intimate process.  As a couple, you should decide what works best for your family.

For us, we decided that we would live on Kieth’s income. He would take responsibility for providing for our family, and I would stay home with the children. During the day, my focus was the children. I developed character, taught them responsibility, encouraged sharing; I was shaping lives, as well as the future!

I would do my best to straighten the house and have dinner ready.  Kieth seldom expected both and was totally understanding when he got neither. He was very aware of the energy the children took, especially when they were young. He knew I was a doer, and would do whatever I could to get things done. He knew if something didn’t get done, there was a good reason, even if it was that I was just plain exhausted. There would always be tomorrow when I could try again.

After work, Kieth would come home and play with the children to draw their attention from mom; or he would help clean up. He was willing to work past his own 8-5 job helping me, knowing my job as a mother was a full 24 hour job. He never set expectations for me. He let me set my own. He knew I was hard enough on myself. How I love him! I love him for the confidence he showed in me; for the help he offered me; for the freedom he gave me, and for the power he instilled in me. He’s been a wonderful companion.

Maintaining Peace
If I couldn’t have order, I was determined to have peace! Peace was one expectation I would not lower. I began to establish habits that I could feel and maintain peace within myself and within our home. I began each day reading the scriptures. The amount didn’t matter; it could be ten pages, ten minutes, or ten verses; the point was, I consciously spent time daily inviting the Spirit into my life.

In no time, I truly noticed a difference in my life. I testify there are tremendous experiences that come from feasting on the words of Christ. Feasting wasn’t reading ten pages; it was the Spirit I felt when I read them.

Many times, it felt like a conduit opened up directly from heaven to me. Inspiration flowed; self-control expanded; desires to be kind, loving, patient, and understanding, increased. Peace reigned in my heart. Now I wanted it to govern our home.

It was vital to me that, each day, my family entered the world with the companionship of the Spirit. Monday through Friday we had a morning devotional. Most of the time, Kieth had already left for work, but the children and I began our devotional singing hymns or Primary songs; then we had a prayer to invite the Spirit; and then we read a chapter from the scriptures. Many times our devotionals were accompanied with breakfast. A few times we were running so late, we just began the day with prayer and read scriptures that night before bedtime. But we had a devotional, daily. These devotionals were the
place where many amazing discussions took place.

A New Perspective on a Clean House
In one of our lessons in Relief Society, a sister made a comment that changed the way I looked at fingerprints all over the house. She said that she loved the fingerprints she found all around the house, because they reminded her of her children that made them. She proposed the question, “Do the fingerprints bother us so much that we are ready to get rid of their source?” Obviously, if I had to make that choice, I would take children with their fingerprints over fingerprints without children.

I’m not promoting leaving fingerprints all over the house. I’m just saying that my perspective changed. I was grateful for those who caused fingerprints; and that gratitude grew as my children helped me clean them up. Same with the laundry, their bedrooms, and their items around the house. My perspective changed on how I saw our situation. Our house became the place in which we live, and there were days it was obvious we lived there, with all the mess. Our home constituted the feelings of peace and love that filled its walls.

Still, I strived for a house of order. I wanted each child to learn the different values of hard work, cleanliness, goal setting, responsibility, dependability, observation, service, and sacrifice.

We worked together. When they were young, I worked beside them, helping them. As they got older, they had their job and I had mine; but we were still working at the same time, sometimes in the same room.  We worked in the yard together; in the garden together; we even found time to play together.

We tried a variety of techniques, and each one worked quite well. Like anything else, the excitement of each approach wore off and new ones had to be introduced. I’m happy to share some of the techniques we’ve used and you’re welcome to any of them; but please know that the Spirit can inspire you with personalized methods that will work ideally for your individual family.

Different Techniques

The Monster Bag
When Bry was three and Steve was two, I invented the monster bag. Actually, the Eyre’s shared their version of it in “Teaching Children Joy” and Steve inspired the idea through his imaginary friend, the “baby monster.” Steve has always had an extremely active imagination. As a baby, he could entertain himself for hours. One day, after making a mess in the kitchen, to get out of trouble, he blamed it on his “baby monster.” That was my introduction to his new best friend.

Steve loved monsters. His favorite T. V. show was Barney, the friendly dinosaur. Because of Barney, any “monster” was a good monster, so my children were never afraid of monsters. Bry and Steve loved Barney. I loved Barney. Anytime there was a clean up job we would sing Barney’s clean up song. It was fun, the toys got picked up. It worked beautifully, the majority of the time.

It was at such a point, and the house was in disarray, that I invented “The Monster Bag.” I told my little guys that we only had ten minutes to clean up their bedroom, because I had heard a monster was in town and he was eating all the little boys toys that he could find.

I told them if we hurried and put their toys away, the monster wouldn’t be able to find them. Usually, I helped them clean, but this time I had something important to do.

They quickly began putting their toys away and I ran and got a white pillow case. Throughout the ten minutes I would say, “Hurry, we only have eight minutes.” (or five, or three.) I drew colored eyes on it just above the opening, for the opening was the “mouth” that would eat up the toys. After ten minutes, I said, “Oh no, here he comes.”

I entered their bedroom with the pillowcase dragging on the floor; it’s mouth opening and closing; the “Monster Bag” growling, searching for toys to eat. There were none. The boys had cleaned their room.  We laughed. They loved the monster bag.

I asked them if all of their toys and messes were picked up in the kitchen. Their reply was no. I encouraged them to hurry before the monster bag checked the kitchen. We went through each room in the house that way and in less than one hour, the entire house was picked up. Not a toy snatched. All their clothes were put away. It was great!

That whole year, we’d see the monster bag at least once a week. The reminder that the monster bag was back in town was their warning that he would be visiting our house that day. That was all it took; I had their cooperation getting our house in order before he came.

Throughout that year, the monster bag ended up eating different items he found left out: their toys, clothes, paper, books, things that meant something to them. The boys had to work to get them back.

It was amazing how the monster bag:
        a. brought excitement into cleaning the home
        b. truly made work - fun
        c. helped me obtain a house of order (at different times)
        d. taught the boys the value of their material possessions

I loved the natural consequence of the monster bag. The boys lost whatever item was left out and had to work to get it back. It was not seen as a “punishment,” instead the result was positive. If they wanted it, they worked for it. If they didn’t, the item was discarded.  It was that simple.

Eventually, Bry and Steve outsmarted their mom. They found the monster bag hidden away downstairs and went through and pulled out the toys and things they wanted back. When I found out, we moved on to other forms of motivation. Don’t worry, the monster bag returned for Josh, and then again for Jaclyn. He’s a keeper!

Incentives for Motivation
As the children got older, they needed something to work towards.  We had a few incentive programs: sticker charts, job opportunities, and allowance.

Sticker Charts
We couldn’t afford to reward our children for every thing they did.  We also knew that motivational approaches made it more fun; they helped them complete their responsibilities well, in a timely manner.  As something needed to be done, the children were assigned different responsibilities. When it was completed, they would earn a sticker to put on their sticker chart. Part of the beauty of this was they had designed their own sticker chart. It was personal to them. They took pride in their chart and the placement of each sticker. After earning ten stickers, they could choose a surprise: shake, popsicle, candy, etc.

Job Opportunities
Because we all lived in the same house, we all shared in the responsibility of taking care of it. Praise and stickers were the only rewards given when they helped clean the house. However, there were times they wanted to buy things. Instead of us buying it for them we set up a way they could earn some spending money. Dad thought of one thing that he didn’t mind paying them for because it would help him out, the yard. They could mow the yard, front and back, for $5. It wasn’t much, but if they did it twice a week, that was $10 a week.

Mom chose laundry for her job opportunity. They could earn $2 per load; they washed/dried and put away on the owner’s bed. (This didn’t last long with Bryan earning over $150 in one summer.)  Once in a great while, when they really needed money for scouts or a primary, young men’s, or young women’s activity, we would come up with something they could do to earn it.

Allowance
Allowances were earned in our family. They were not entitlements.  When the children felt they were ready to receive an allowance of $5 a week, they would keep their room cleaned and their laundry done. If it didn’t happen that week, they did not get paid. Under these conditions, they could start at any age to earn an allowance.

Teaching Responsibility

Awareness
As the children grew, I wanted them to become aware; aware of their surroundings; aware of their environment: to look for things that needed to be done and do them; to look for opportunities to serve.  Over the years, we worked on different ways to develop awareness.

1. The Virtues
About a year after we began home schooling, we were introduced to “The Virtue Project,” a group of 52 virtue cards, each one containing: a sacred quotation, a description of the virtue, signs of success in practicing the virtue, and affirmations that one could say to himself while trying to develop that virtue. I came up with a song to help us learn the virtues, using Johnny Cash’s chorus tune of “I’ve been everywhere, man”:
        “I've been everywhere, man - I've been everywhere, man
         Crossed the deserts bare, man
         I've breathed the mountain air, man
         Of travel I've had my share, man - I've been everywhere”

The words to “The Language of the Virtues” song I wrote are:

Chorus: “I need all the virtues; I want all the virtues.
               The language of the virtues; I like to speak the virtues.
               Want evil to desert you? Come virtue talk with me.”
Then each verse began listing the virtues, pretty much in order.

1. Just be assertive, or caring, clean, compassionate, or confident; considerate, creative, have courage, and courtesy.
   Grow through detachment, determination, enthusiasm, excellence / forgiveness, faithfulness, or flexibility.

Chorus: “I need all the virtues; I want all the virtues.
               The language of the virtues; I like to speak the virtues.
               Want evil to desert you? Come virtue talk with me.”

2. You can be friendly, generous, gentle, helpful, honest, ideal,
    Joyful, just, kind / loving, honor, loyal and still have humility.
    You can have mercy, moderation, modesty, obedience, order,
    peace, & patience / prayerful, purpose, have respect, reliability.

Chorus: “I need all the virtues; I want all the virtues.
               The language of the virtues; I like to speak the virtues.
               Want evil to desert you? Come virtue talk with me.”

3. Responsibility, and reverence, self-discipline, give service,
    be steadfast, be tactful, give thanks for all you see.
    You can be tolerant, trust others, speak the truth, be trusted,
     include everybody - that’s called unity.

Chorus: “I need all the virtues; I want all the virtues.
               The language of the virtues; I like to speak the virtues.
               Want evil to desert you? Come virtue talk with me.”

As of April 2017, one could find out more about the Virtues project from their Internet site at http://www.virtuesproject.com.
We chose a verse for the week. Each week during our devotional, we sang the song through to the verse we knew. We played a game with the virtue cards. We laid out the virtues in that verse and each of us chose one and didn’t let the others know what we chose.

During the following week, we would work on developing that virtue. At the end of the week, we would try to guess which virtue each of us had worked on. If we lived our lives in such a way that others could guess the virtue we were developing, we got a shake. A famous phrase in our family became, “Let’s celebrate. Let go get shakes.”

2. Room Evaluation
We would walk into each room and verbally evaluate it. We would list off things we could see immediately that needed to be done. We then looked for things that weren’t so obvious.

We tried cleaning rooms through service. This worked great for those who had a desire and didn’t mind serving. For those who were a little more selfish, it didn’t work so well; so we instigated the method of “assigned” rooms.

Each week a different room was assigned to each child. They were responsible for keeping it straight throughout the week. Saturdays we each cleaned our assigned room thoroughly. Sundays we rested. Mondays we were assigned a new room for the week. If the month had a fifth week, that week we all worked on walls, woodwork, windows, etc.

Having learned the technique of observation and evaluation, as rooms were assigned for cleaning, each person new exactly what was expected to clean that room. This also made it easy for them to help critique the cleanliness of each others rooms.

Laundry Days
As we approached teenage years, we had to change routines again.  By the age of twelve each was doing his own laundry. To help us maintain a sense of order, we initiated individual laundry days. Each chose the day most convenient for them, from the oldest child, down.  That was the day they got their room cleaned and their laundry done.

Jaclyn, who was seven at the time, ended up with Mondays; Josh got Tuesday; my day was Wednesday; Bryan took Thursday; and Steve chose Friday. Saturday was used for anyone who needed to catch up or prepare for Sunday.

In conclusion, a few words the thesaurus uses to define order are:  arrange, balance, discipline, method, plan, progression, straighten, system, tidy. Order is application of these things.

A house of order is a house with a plan: a house that uses systems and methods to straighten, tidy, and achieve balance. Order is the process.  Order is progression! If that’s the case, who would have thought... We’ve been living in a house of order all this time!