Heart-school Scrapbooks and Scraps from the Heart

Vintage ScrapbookToday I spent a lot of time working on school scrapbooks with several of my kids.  Let me tell you, it does not pay to wait until you have six of seven kids in school for several years before you figure out what to do with old school work.  It has been a monstrous task.

But it’s also been a little bit fun.

At one point I was about to complain that my eldest daughter was lallygagging instead of working when I realized she was reading some of her old school work.  Isn’t that exactly why we are putting a subset of these things in an organized folder?  To enjoy looking back and seeing how much we’ve grown, learned, and changed?

Thankfully I caught myself before I started scolding.  Instead I smiled and asked her if she was enjoying reading her old papers.

I wish I could scrap book that moment.  I often feel like I jump to the worst conclusion and act on it before I’ve even gotten my bearings.  So much of life is busy, busy, busy.  I pray and grow and learn and change and have no real record of it all.

But when I take the time to stop and look back, I see I have a lot of noteworthy moments, too.  Maybe I can’t make a binder of handprints, drawings, letters, poems, and crafts to sum it all up, but there are definite signs I have changed.  I might not have a lap-book of colorful slips of paper cataloging the ways I’ve learned to hold my tongue or the times I’ve cast down heart-idols in a painstaking process of learning to think less of self and more of serving.  But when I take stock of where I am compared to where I was five years ago – even one year ago – I can see my Teacher has been effective.  I am learning.  I am growing.  I am changing.

I think it’s important to look back every once in a while – not like Lot’s wife, longing for the things from which God has called you, but like the good kings, who looked back, saw God’s faithfulness, and worshiped all the more because of what the Lord had done in the intervening years.

Can you make time today to think about your heart-school scrapbook?  Maybe you journal and can browse the pages to see how your heart has been shaped.  Maybe you sketch and can flip through a picture book of life changes.  Maybe you simply need to remember what your days were like last summer this time.  What is different in your house besides the size of the shoes by the door?

Photo by Tulane Public Relations (Vintage Scrapbook) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Japan, Economics, Homemaking and Band-Aids

5S Collage

After college and grad school and before seminary and pastor-hood my husband worked in manufacturing.  One of the practices he implemented and utilized was the Japanese workplace organizational methodology called 5S, which helped him to operate a Just In Time business within the company.

Bear with me for a very brief and shallow economics lesson…

Just In Time is a strategy used by businesses to minimize the overhead and storage requirements of items required for manufacturing.  It involves setting up triggers which prompt an order of goods to arrive just in time for the next step in the process.  Well done, it increases return on investment by reducing inventory and the associated carrying costs.  Poorly done, it decreases a company’s reliability and ability to produce products in a systematic and timely manner.

A key element for Just In Time manufacturing is having an efficient and effective work place.

Enter 5S.

5S is a Japanese workplace organizational method which uses a list of five Japanese words, which, when transliterated into English, all begin with S.  Synonyms starting with S have been selected for the English translation as well.

Wikipedia summarizes the methodology well.  According to Wikimedia:

The list describes how to organize a work space for efficiency and effectiveness by identifying and storing the items used, maintaining the area and items, and sustaining the new order.

In short:

1. Sort (seiri)

    • Remove unnecessary items and dispose of them properly
    • Make work easier by eliminating obstacles
    • Reduce chance of being disturbed with unnecessary items
    • Prevent accumulation of unnecessary items
    • Evaluate necessary items with regard to dept/cost/other factors.

2. Set in order (seiton)

    • Arrange necessary items in order so they can be easily picked for use
    • Prevent loss and waste of time
    • Make it easy to find and pick up necessary items
    • Ensure first-come-first-serve basis
    • Make work flow smooth and easy

3. Shine (seiso)

    • Clean your workplace completely
    • Use cleaning as inspection
    • Prevent machinery and equipment deterioration
    • Keep workplace safe and easy to work

4. Standardize (seiketsu)

    • Maintain high standards of housekeeping and workplace organization at all times
    • Maintain cleanliness and orderliness
    • Maintain everything in order and according to its standard.

5. Sustain (shitsuke)

    • To keep in working order
    • Also translates to “Self-Discipline” meaning to do without being told, as in forming a habit.

Okay.  Economics class is over.  And that’s enough Japanese to be going on with.  On to Homemaking…

Can you see, as a wife, mother, household manager, how handy 5S can be for organizing your home/life?

We don’t run a full fledged 5S system in our house, but my husband’s job from a decade ago still shapes how we play house. 🙂

Part of 5S in his workplace included being able to put your hands on what you needed most often within seconds.  I’ll be the first to admit that having items on hand quickly improves efficiency.  I’m sure you can recognize echoes of it in Handy vs. Hoarding.

I don’t know about you, but I make a much better editor than creator.  What do I mean by that?  Well, I do a much better job taking something that exists and editing it (modifying, altering it) to my needs than I do starting from scratch and coming up with something on my own.

I am about to spend the next several weeks talking about how we organize a lot of our house.  Our life doesn’t work well as a one-size-fits-all solution, but its a great place to start and edit/modify/delete/alter ideas to suit your own life.  And the only way you will be able to take our version of organization and modify it to fit your home, family, and lifestyle is to understand the principles behind how I do what I do.  5S plays into a lot of it.

When I start to organize anything – from tools to the kitchen to band-aids – I start by thinking through my version of 5S.

  1. What do I need to do in this area and what tools do I need to accomplish it?
  2. Where do I need things to be placed so I can reach them quickly? What is sitting here that is just in the way?
  3. Where will I put things when they are not in use?
  4. Who do I need to tell/inform/educate on how/where to put things away?
  5. How can I keep it the way I want it?  When will I replenish consumable items?
  6. What do I do with things I need sometimes, but not very often?

Band-Aids (A simple example)

I repurposed an old coupon organizer to sort our band-aids.  I also made use of a small craft bag for the rest of our First Aid supplies.  We keep the First Aid bag in the hall linen closet – which, in our house, is right across from the hall bathroom, near the kitchen and the front door.

Since I often need to wash an “owie” before slapping on a bandage, being near the bathroom is pretty handy.

In our First Aid bag we keep:

  • the coupon organizer with band-aids sorted by size (with a couple of slots designated for girly or boyish ones)
  • a spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide
  • wax earplugs
  • alcohol wipes/swabs
  • thermometers (ear, oral, rectal – clearly labeled – lol)
  • eye droppers
  • sterile gauze and gauze pads
  • medical tape – paper, water proof
  • antibiotic oinment
  • benadryl cream
  • aloe gel
  • bug-bite itch relieving sticks
  • tweezers
  • an otoscope with pictures of healthy and sick eardrums (most people don’t keep one of these, but our first born had so many ear infections, it was nice to know when to call the doctor and when we could avoid waiting room germs).
  • On the shelf behind the First Aid bag, I keep ace bandages, knee braces, slings, etc. from past injuries which we may find need of again.
  • In the freezer we have a smiley face ice block (“happy ice”) for quick access when a cold compress is required.

When someone comes in, hurt, I can meet them in the hall bathroom with “the medicine bag” and take care of almost anything.

If someone is hurt in the yard, I can send any kid into the house to grab “the medicine bag” and have pretty much anything I need to handle minor injuries.

When we travel, we add benadryl, tylenol, and motrin (usually the generics of these), along with any daily medications to the bag and we have a little traveling pharmacy.

In the coming weeks, I’ll take a look at several areas of our house, how we organize it with this 5S methodology in mind, and *hopefully* you’ll walk away equipped to set up a system that can work for you because it takes your needs into account.

Before we get too far into organizing though, I want to deal with the excess we will undoubtedly find in our houses.  I have a couple of very freeing tools for dealing with excess.  You’ll be amazed at the freedom found in these two tools: the waste bin (next week) and gleaning (the week after).  Then onward and upward to tools, kitchen, bathrooms, oh – just everywhere!

Photo Credit (Collage)
Japanese Lanterns by JurriaanH (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Common Sense Economics by Ludwig von Mises Institute ([1]) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Doctor-Themed cupcakes by Clever Cupcakes from Montreal, Canada (Doctor Themed Cupcakes) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Keep on Saving Fuel by Marc Stone [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Where Poppies Grow

Did you know that Memorial Day began as Decoration Day? It was a day to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers from the Civil War -both Confederate and Union soldiers.  In a war-torn nation, it was a day of remembrance and reconciliation as all sides decorated graves of those they lost during the years of the Civil War.  There was unity in grief – all Americans felt, and understood, great loss.

Later, Memorial Day was instituted as a day of remembrance for those who died in service to our country in any war.

The loss of life in military service is not unique to the United States.  An officer in the Canadian Army wrote a poem in 1915 which speaks to the ache of loss in battle.


In Flanders Fields

By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Inspired by In Flanders Fields, in 1915 the American poet, Moina Michael, also penned a poem in remembrance of American soldiers.


We cherish too, the Poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led,

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies

Ms. Michael also started a tradition of wearing a red poppy on Memorial Day.  She sold red poppies to raise money to benefit servicemen in need.  It was a tradition taken up by a visiting Frenchwoman who carried the idea back to France as a fundraiser for war-orphaned children and widows.  The idea of selling red poppies returned to the United States in 1922 when the VFW started the “Buddy” Poppy Program to benefit Veterans in the United States.

Maybe this is a little different than the back-yard barbecue or the day off you have planned today.  I know it is different than our typical Memorial Day activities.

Here’s another little historical tidbit:  In December 2000 the “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution was passed asking all Americans “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of Remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps” at 3 p.m. local time.

In the Old Testament, God frequently calls for a pause to remember the past.  Whether the Old Testament saints set up ebeneezers or celebrated the Passover, the point was to remember and to teach their children of the mighty acts of God on their behalf so they would know how to live in the future.

Memorial Day is a little bit like that.  And I think it is important to pause, to remember, and to teach our children about the past.  There are victories to celebrate and tragedies to lament.  It is all a part of who we are.  When we forget, we are in danger of repeating the mistakes of our fore bearers; we are in danger of acting in ignorance by not following the wisdom of mighty leaders from years gone by.

However you choose to spend Memorial Day, I hope you have some times woven into your family calendar to remember the fallen soldiers who died for our freedom, the ache of loss for those whose bodies have died before us, the gruesome atrocities of man’s acts in history, and the glorious deeds of our Lord, his might, and the wonders he has done (Psalm 78:4).

Have a great Memorial Day!

Poppy Poem

By Alex Morley (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Lynn.art (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Background for poem by Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK (Poppies Uploaded by tm) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Invited to the Dump

I am not an avid environmentalist, but I do like to do what I can to reduce my carbon footprint.

One way we do this is by recycling.  Many of you live in places where recycling is mandated, but in Cumberland County, Tennessee it is completely voluntary.  Voluntary meaning you sort, you store, you deliver to one of the collection stations.  Regular trash pick up only includes recyclable items if you intend them for the land fill.

We made a little experiment out of it several years ago and realized by recycling, we reduce our waste by 2/3.  In other words, we filled our taxpayer-funded-city-provided trash can three times per week, but by recycling we only filled it once.

That was a pretty big difference, so we kept it up ever since.

Recycling in this way has other benefits, too.  Unexpected ones.

One of our kids is a recycling pro – he does our sorting every morning and is acutely aware of which things can be recycled.  He has become an expert in materials.  That’s a pretty awesome benefit.  Kids like to be the expert.

Another side benefit is getting to go to the dump itself.  Now, you wouldn’t think a 16-minute round trip to the dump would be that exciting, but when it comes as an invitation to spend time with Daddy, everything changes.

Like many homes, time with Daddy is at a premium.  Being invited on a trip to the dump with Daddy is a treasured date.  Our youngest kids especially enjoy this time and even fight over getting to go to the dump.  Go figure.

On one hand, it’s not a big deal.  They buckle into their seat belts, ride for eight minutes, sit and watch Daddy unload, dump, and reload the bins, and ride eight minutes back home.  Done.

On the other hand, it is a big deal.  It occurred to me recently how much my kids value one-on-one time with a parent, even if it’s a 16-minute trip to the dump or a 22-minute trip to the post office or a 35-minute trip for allergy shots.

A short trip to run an errand may include conversation about anything from the cars on the road with us to caring for an elderly neighbor.  They might talk about their dreams for the future or the crazy dream they had last night about flying attack hamburgers over the Sahara.

So often my objective is to get something done, while my kids’ objective is to do something together.

Maybe the most important thing I accomplish in my day is inviting my children along.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  — Deuteronomy 6:4-7

Walking togetherInviting a child to the dump is an opportunity for my husband to diligently teach my children about loving God.

Inviting a child to shop, to allergy shots, to the post office are all opportunities to impress upon them what it looks like to love God with all our errands.

Talking about the traffic counts, especially when we train thankfulness for being stuck in traffic rather than stuck in the overturned car causing the traffic.  Talking about the weather counts.  So do all the conversations about Cookie Monster, new dresses, fresh scrapes, and Lego Robotics.

The point is to invite my children to sit, walk, and lie down with me as I love God like crazy.  After all, they only do what they see at home.

Handy or Hoarding?

Handy vs. Hoarding?

If you have been in my home, you may be surprised to hear clutter is a struggle for me.  Most people who visit our home notice clean surfaces, neat cabinets, and tidy closets.  Our house generally fits the description, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

God has been gracious to me.  He has filled our home so full of kids, it is simply not possible to hang on to everything I might otherwise keep.

We are fairly minimalistic in furnishings, clothing, toys, kitchen tools, household cleaners… everything except people, we seem to have an abundance of those! lol.

And yet, I like things to be handy.  So, in the name of efficiency, I often keep duplicates of things.

The idea of decluttering leads us to believe less is more.  And in many ways it is.  The less you keep, the less there is to clean and the more likely you are to be able to put things away.

But living cluttered or decluttered really comes down to a state-of-heart.

Last week I wrote a post addressing the potential sin element of clutter.  That sense of clutter tied to holding on to thing “just in case I need them” which implies a state of heart of trusting my own provision over trusting God’s provision.  If I don’t trust God to meet my needs, I will hold on to too much in an attempt to provide for myself.  You can read more about that here.

But there’s a flip side to the clutter coin.  Sometimes it isn’t clutter to have multiples of the same item.  See, there is also a state of heart which chooses to be intentional and disciplined.  Clutter-free homes have a high incidence of intentionality and discipline.

One way clutter builds up in my house, and I suspect yours as well, is when there are barriers to completing tasks.  Say you’ve decided to fix the broken handle on the screen door. The broken piece has to live somewhere until you can fix it, right?  Even if you are on your game and buy the needed parts on the next shopping trip, how quickly will you get to this “minor” repair if you have to go to the garage, clear a path to the storage closet, dig out the tool chest, find the WD-40, re-charge the drill battery, locate the tools missing from the tool chest, AND find time to do all of this?  Not very quickly, I’d guess.  Even a quick job can take a long time to accomplish if you spend a lot of time getting tools together to complete the job.  And it takes me even longer to start work that I know will meet with many barriers.  I have a mental block to even putting it on any particular list.

Sure, there are efficiencies to grouping like tasks when possible, but usually I’m looking for excuses if I’m waiting until I have several tasks requiring a metric socket wrench…

A while back I made the decision to keep duplicates of some things if it adds to our efficiency or removes barriers to getting things done.

It can be little things like, in our house, every kid has their own tube of toothpaste .  This keeps quarrels at high stress times to a minimum, and we don’t share germs when there’s a bug going through the house.  This may seem like a lot of duplication (eight tubes of toothpaste in use at any given moment…), which is one of the side effects of clutter, but in our case it enhances efficiency.  It was an intentional choice.  And really, we’re going to use the same amount of toothpaste eventually, it’s just whether I buy the tubes sequentially or in tandem.  I chose tandem.

It also takes the form of bigger things.  I have multiple tool bags (more on tools in an upcoming post).

It is important to be careful about duplicates.  Sometimes keeping something means something else has to go.  I don’t have room in my linen closet for the number of hand towels we keep AND multiple sets of bath towels.  I chose to use my space for enough hand towels to change them daily while only washing once per week over keeping two bath towels per person.  Other people might prioritize their space differently.  The point isn’t really isn’t about how much stuff you have, it’s about being a good steward of the stuff, the space, and the time you have.

This is how I can live with the apparent contradiction “less is more” and “have essentials on hand before I can count to ten.”

So when is duplication handy and when is it hoarding?

I think it comes back to the discussion last week – it all depends upon what is going on in my heart.  I may keep dozens of hand towels, but we actually use all of them, I have space for them, and it would be easy for me to pick the best ones to give to a friend if they had a house fire and had to replace everything.  The hand towels don’t hold my heart – they help life with seven kids work for us.

Those dishes on my counter, on the other hand, aren’t getting used, I don’t have space for them, and the only reason I still have them is because I’m afraid I’ll give them away and the recipient will sell them for a lot of money and since I live on a pretty tight budget, that notion is hard to swallow.  Perhaps I’m still trying to provide for myself instead of trusting God’s provision.  I think perhaps that’s hoarding.