Mom-to-Mom Support/I wish I lived in a pretty house!

I wish I lived in a pretty house! How do I begin to train my boys to help?


I wish I lived in a pretty house! We live in a rundown little weatherboard which we’re needing to renovate and we’re strapped for cash. I do what I can to make it homely but it’s by no means Martha Stewart. I’m mummy, and the only girl in a family of boys, four of whom are under the age of 7. I love them all dearly but I am so sick of being the only person who seems to see the underpants and socks on the floor, who picks up the toys, who orders and tidies, who seems to think that screwdrivers, computer software and lego do not make a home pretty. I am trying to train my lads to be more responsible but they’re all so little and my patience wears really thin at times and I explode. And of course the time taken to keep just the basics clean (and barely that at times) means that there is less and less time for flowers. How do I get more time to make the pretty home of my dreams?

Dear Parent,

Thank you so much for your email. Be assured that you are not alone in your plight, as I know many mothers, including myself, are also in your situation. I would be happy to address, as best I can, all your concerns within your email.

1.) How do I get more time to make the pretty home of my dreams? My first suggestion is to have a rhythm, routine, or schedule. On a daily basis, it is important to have quiet time with our Lord, even if it is just ten to fifteen minutes, so that He can give us the grace to distinguish between what is truly important over what we think is urgent. Also, schedule quick pick up times with the children throughout the day so that they learn to put things back after they’re done with an activity. In our home, we do quick pick up times after each meal and before we resume homeschool.

2.) Weekly schedules also help. What works well for our family is that we set aside one day every week (usually Saturdays) to organize, clean and beautify our home. After we spend the entire morning “regrouping,” we do something fun together as a family (like a field trip or any outdoor activity) to encourage the children to do their part. Doing this on a weekly basis will help ingrain this valuable life skill of living an uncluttered and simple life.

3.) For little children, a privilege system may help. Children need to earn their privilege to watch a video or go on the computer only after they have done their chores or after they have put their toys away. Simple incentives like these are an effective tool for behavior modification.

4.) As far as the things that tend to distract us in our vocations (example: legos and screwdrivers), I have found a simple formula that has helped our family tremendously and at the same time helps beautify our home in the process:

  • Centralize: centralize all items that are alike, such as legos, screwdrivers, and homeschooling materials, and assign a general area for them so that you can set them aside when they are not in use and you know where to access them when needed.
  • Contain: containers are such a wonderful way to control clutter. You may even choose beautiful containers, such as baskets, wooden crates, etc. Thrift shops are a wonderful place to find used containers, and you may even find very inexpensive tablecloths, curtains, vases, or trinkets that can help beautify your home.
  • Systemize: systemizing helps your organizing efforts self-run. One way to do this is to label your containers so that the children know where to put things back. You can use a simple labeler, or even label your containers with pretty handwriting. Picture labels could also be used, especially for young children. For example, framed pictures of children can go above their coat hooks so they know it’s their special place to hang their coats, etc.
  • Maintain: maintenance can be done weekly or monthly and gives families a chance to regroup, organize, and start anew. This step is the most challenging for most families because of busy schedules. But just as we put important doctor’s appointments in our calendars, it helps to schedule house cleaning on our calendars as well. Another essential aspect of maintenance is that when containers get too full, this is also a wonderful time to declutter and give away things so that other families can enjoy them.
  • Finding the time to devote to our domestic church is one thing, but making the time to do so is what will make a difference. Even if it is just ten to fifteen minutes per day or one to two hours per week, simple baby steps to organize and beautify the home helps us tremendously in our vocations. While our goal is not necessarily to have a perfectly organized and beautiful house, it helps to surround ourselves with simplicity and beauty, to bring a little bit of Heaven within our domestic churches.

Blessings on your journey!

Abby Sasscer
Author of Simplifying Your Domestic Church

About Abby Sasscer

Abby Sasscer was born in the Philippines and came to the United States in 1986. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Averett University. She is a natural-born organizer and enjoyed systemizing small offices and home offices as a career before staying home to raise and homeschool her three children.