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Home management tips

Renee Ellison's tools for effectively managing your home--including finance and domestic skills..

The false promise of a mortgage

Tuesday, 02. February 2016 by Renee Ellison

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A mortgage is laced with a false promise.  It purports to be doing one thing when in reality it is doing quite another.  For the first decade or so, new homeowners come to realize slowly and gradually that their principal is hardly budging—despite their faithfulness month after month in paying what is required.  The bottom line?  The bank will get its money—by using yours.  It is rigged to do that.  Banks live on floating interest from one investment vehicle to another.  But what about you?

Look at it this way.  For a good long while, as a new homeowner who didn’t make much of a down payment, you will actually only be renting your house from the bank, with none of the freedoms normal renting allows.  All of the house maintenance and improvement expenses will be yours.  No one else will cover these costs for you.  The yearly taxes and insurance will be yours as well.  And you may find yourself trapped in immobility, if you should be offered a better job at more pay somewhere else, until you can sell the house.

In the end, when a “home owner” crunches the numbers on a 30 year fixed mortgage, he may be dismayed to discover that he has paid nearly double what his house originally sold for— because of this steady, relentless, compounded extraction of interest.  Debt is never the best scenario—no matter what golden package it is presented in by our culture.  The individual pays dearly for this false hope, and the country eventually collapses under it.

The American Dream based on these easily-acquired nothing-down “no collateral needed” mortgages has now turned into the American Nightmare, while a slew of investors became rich on derivatives—worthless mortgages re-packaged in bundles and re-sold.  But now the false lie crumbles down around us like a house of cards.  Now, as a country (and as individuals) we finally pay the piper.  T’aint purty.  Our economy is contracting by the day, and the stock market is staggering under the debt load.

So what is a young couple to do, who want to own their home?  The only way you can work down that principal on a mortgage is by paying two payments a month.  The first will satisfy the bank’s insatiable hungers; the second will apply directly to the principal.  Banks won’t let you get at that principal-reduction any other way.

But what is an even better way?  If the couple is willing to become “saving-money-maniacs” for a time, working hard, taking on one and a half to two-PLUS jobs each (i.e. working one of the weekend days, and working evenings for an hour or two) and living as frugally as is humanly possible (either in a rental, or in your folks’ driveway in an RV, or in the house that you are buying), not even buying such things as toothpaste or deodorant (make your own—you get the point) for four years, throwing $25,000 a year into savings from their combined earnings—at the end of those four years they can own a $100,000 house debt-free.  This saves the couple $80,000 that would have otherwise been wasted in interest via a full term mortgage.  Think of the vacations that could have been taken or the second house that could have been procured, that they could instead have re-invested in a second modest house that now earns them rental income for the remainder of their lives.

It is even better to begin this bull’s eye focus in your early teens, making every day count toward building this nest-egg of savings while still living for free in your folks’ home. 

Either way, it is best to earn the money before you even make the house purchase.  If, on the other hand, you were to follow the American Dream [Nightmare] and take on a mortgage to “buy” a $100,000 home before your four-year stint at “work-mania,” you must realize that you will waste something like four years of payments going only to interest.  It is a wash either way, whether you buy or rent.  You’ll lose the money both ways.  Moreover, if you take the buying route you will incur hidden additional costs for upkeep and improvements—diminishing the speed at which you can save. 

Of course, be extremely careful what you buy, keeping in mind these vital house purchase principles:

—Buy a house with a good foundation and roof—a structure that only needs cosmetic repairs.  If, however, you are buying it only to improve it and flip it, earning profit from it, use your own free elbow grease to improve it.  Concentrate on making the kitchen and bathrooms the best they can be.  And put extra effort into making the yard gorgeous for curb appeal.

—Buy the poorest house on the block.  That way you can improve it and not out-price it for that neighborhood to be sure to get your “improvement-monies” back when you re-sell it.

—Always counter-bid.

—Wait for a smoking deal.  Don’t fall in love with any house emotionally.  Stay detached until you get the “deal of the century.”  Remember that there will always be another house and a better deal somewhere else.  There is a house on every corner.  Don’t rush to do this.  Watch the market for a while—do research—knock on doors and ask the neighbors what they like and what they don’t like about that house and about their neighborhood—and keep your eyes peeled for the desperate homeowner who must unload his home quickly, at way below market value, because of extenuating circumstances.


Let’s crystalize even further what we are proposing is your best route to long-term financial success.  A home mortgage can be a good investment tool IF:

You have the savings to afford it AND all the other expenses.  You must be able to make a sizable down payment—i.e., at least a quarter of the total sale price of the house—and STILL have $1,000 saved for emergencies, PLUS all the money you expect to need to fix the house up, PLUS 3 months of living expenses.  (If you don’t have enough savings to do all 4 of those, you are NOT ready to have a mortgage.)

You are able to negotiate a screaming deal.  There’s a house on every corner, and in between—and you never can make as much money as on the day you make your house purchase, by agreeing on a price that is well below market value, after you have counter offered.  Don’t fall in love with a house.  Stay committed to your principles and look for God to honor your respect for His principles.  Realtors and sellers are not focused at all on those principles.  Of course they want you to fall in love with it and give them all your money—and then a lot more.

The house is in a highly re-sellable location, in a non-faltering economy.  There are economies that are good to buy in and economies that are not good to buy in.  It’s up to you to weigh the outside economic factors.  If the stock market is tumbling day after day, that can burst a housing bubble in a hurry.  In that scenario, people get stuck owing their bank more on their house than they can now sell it for.  This has happened and does happen; you have to watch the news carefully.  Remember, the root of the word MORTGAGE is mort (death) and gage (covenant or agreement).  Once you sign on the dotted line you become a slave to that mortgage.  Therefore, if you are going to have a mortgage you want it to be in an area where you have a high possibility of pulling your investment out of it if and when you must leave it.

You plan to stay there indefinitely—i.e. your income/employment situation there is very stable.  Otherwise you get into the nightmare of needing to live somewhere else but you are straddled with a house you can’t sell.

• A building inspection is a necessity.  Does it have a good roof and a good furnace?  How solid is its foundation?  How well is it insulated?  Older houses tend to have very poor insulation, which means way higher heating and cooling bills.  Ask to see the utility bills for the last three months; those can be hidden bills you didn’t anticipate.  When you are a home owner you are on the line for all of these repairs: roof, foundation, etc.

Conclusion?
Work, and work hard while you are young and you’ll gain yourself elderly freedoms and financial advantage galore.  Nearly all of your peers will not be on this fast track; most of them will spend a lifetime enslaved to someone else’s agenda for them.

To read more on this topic, read our 10 Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary People Who Got Free of House Debt and Sure Financial Steps for Beginners.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Can’t get on top of cleaning your house or office space?  Clutter got you down?

Friday, 18. December 2015 by Renee Ellison

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Cleaning up, organizing and de-cluttering your space can feel so good, it is like scratching your soul!  Being able to see everything and grab everything (without digging) gives you instant power over your days and your activities.  You start on top of life rather than scrounging around on the bottom, just trying to get up to see-level before you can even begin your trip to the top.  You’ll be far more productive, sharper and more focused if you get your personal external world in order.  Why?  Because letting go of the grip of excess stuff helps define where you are headed (not where you’ve been) and releases all the attendant emotional life that went with that stuff. 

Personal clutter (not someone else’s—that is a different problem) is often associated with two issues: 1) not saying NO to enough outside ACT-ivity to get command of your inside CON-nectivity, and 2) buried personal anxiety.  It is important to take a look at those underlying emotional issues before cleaning and sorting down; otherwise you may find yourself buried in excess stuff, yet again, and soon.

Maintaining the wonderful new condition of your sorting/cleaning labor is solely the result of locating a permanent place for everything.  And not just any place—your optimal organizing-aim is to find prime real estate for all of your prime stuff (frequently used objects).  You don’t want to use prime real estate for sub-prime objects.

Thus, you’ll want to store frequently used objects close to where you use them.  Conversely, put infrequently used objects in more out of the way places.  But make sure that in both storage places, each object is instantly observable and easily grab-able.  Just because you don’t use an object much doesn’t mean that when you do want to retrieve it you should have to go to herculean work and wasted time digging it out to procure it. 

How do you achieve this with limited space? You apply one or more of the following remedies:

A.) Pare down further
Your stuff must fit in your house.  As you know, to optimally organize, you’ll be wanting to find containers that fit in your shelving and drawer spaces.  Accordingly, think one thought beyond that to remind yourself that your largest container is your house!  We don’t have the luxury (or nightmare) of owning an infinite amount of stuff.  There is a boundary to every person’s material world.  You begin with your own parameters.  Here’s a governing principle: if it won’t fit, I can’t have it.

B.)  Within that larger context, if there is not enough room on your in-house shelves, for easy grab-ability of all objects, do one of three things: 
 
1) Build or buy more shelves.  If you do not have enough square footage on the ground for more shelving or drawers, then go up into the air!  Install one continuous shelf above your door frames and along the ceiling of each room, with L brackets underneath, as needed, just one foot down from the ceiling.  Banker’s boxes fit nicely in that ‘ceiling’ space.  These large white cardboard banker’s boxes can then be filled with lighter weight stuff (off season clothing, bedding, etc.) and can be labeled clearly.  This newly added one foot storage area is instant, rent free space!  (If you are renting a storage unit someplace, do the math.  You could probably re-BUY everything in it with the composite rental fee from over a year.)  So you see, if you feel cramped, you may not need a bigger HOUSE, you just may need some more SHELVING—at one-one-thousandth the price!
 
2) Consider putting some stuff in containers under beds.  Buy bed leg risers to make this possible.

 
Now that we’ve finished tackling the practical sorting steps, let’s examine your emotions in relation to clutter.

Compulsive buying (and sometimes going into debt to do it) and/or compulsive gathering can produce temporary emotional highs.  To get a handle on this, examine what your emotional state is immediately prior to buying or collecting.  Try to peg what stress or unresolved emotions the “high” is relieving.  Identify that emotion, and embark on finding a better way to fill it.

Old habits are never beaten back by force of personal will.  Self-will is no match for the bad habit’s power.  Bad habits are so strong, they are beaten back only by replacement. What will the new “go-to” habit be?  Determine this ahead of time.

Once your home/job space is uncluttered by finding and creating an exact spot for everything, there is strong evidence (via people who have done it well) that it will actually stay uncluttered.

An excessive hoarder brings items in one at a time and can’t let go of them.  It becomes a defeating dynamic for such a person.  An excessive spender may be looking to the actual act of buying, over and over, to gain an addict’s high to relieve subtle personal pain that has been caused by an unresolved dynamic.

Internal conflict can keep the would-be sorter/cleaner stuck in neutral for any one of these reasons:

1)  The task seems too overwhelming.
      Solution: break the task into bite-sized pieces.

2)  No time to do it. 
      Solution: determine to say “NO” to other activities for a while.

3)  Identity issues: “I’m just not WORTH having a clean house.”
      Solution: remind yourself of the truth that every human being was made to enjoy order.  You are no exception.

4)  Perfectionism: “If I don’t know the PERFECT place to put something, I’ll do nothing.”
      Solution: put it somewhere, and tell yourself that you can upgrade/tweak the arrangement later.
 
5) Indecision: thoughts like “this is too unique, too rare, to let go.”
      Solution: recognize that your needs are more important than a thing’s needs.

6) Paralyzing grief: “I can’t let go of mom’s (hubby’s or child’s) stuff because that would feel like I was throwing him or her away.”
      Solution: think instead, those objects served him/her well.  They were personal picks of theirs.  He/she contributed to my life; now it’s time to contribute to others’ lives, my way.

7) Stuck in the past?
      Solution: remind yourself that the past no longer exists.  Your life is in the present, only.  How can you well-order your life to make it less chaotic?  You only get one shot at this.  Life is not a dress rehearsal.  It is the real deal, passing by day by day.  You can’t afford to be stuck.


P.S.:  If the clutter is someone else’s issue, give them their own territory to do with as they will.  Let them observe your joy over creating your own neatness.  Inspiration happens in a person’s wake as they speed past—never by attempting to “whip” the other person into shape.

Filed Under: Home management tips

The anatomy of a mid-life crisis.  Want it?

Sunday, 13. December 2015 by Renee Ellison

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Many, many men go through a mid-life crisis.  But, typically, not so many women go through this same sort of “hit-the-wall” passage in their middle adult years.  Why? because women still garner tremendous meaning and significance through the raising of children and grandchildren.  In fact, statistically, it has been shown that mothers of small children and women raising needy grandchildren have the lowest suicides rates of the total spectrum of humanity.  Why? because they are needed.

Now back to the men—and women who suffer mid-life crises.  What goes on here with this syndrome?  Usually, it began in junior high and high school when we tended to grow outrageous fantasies about what life would deliver to us.  Our illusions were grown in the fertile soil of media entertainment and storybooks, coupled with our own juvenile driving insistent inability to master any self-delay or self-denial in reference to our emerging self.  Then, for years and years we fertilized our unrealities rather than weeding them out.

Then came the victimization stage.  Out came the measuring sticks, and nothing, absolutely nothing measured up in our circumstances or relationships—not even close.  Thus, loudly, our protestations began—the masked cries for help.  “Hey, what I’m experiencing doesn’t fit with how life is supposed to be.”  This was followed by the engulfing “me-ism”/entitlement/blame scenario.  Rather than dump the illusion and recalibrate, we clutched the illusion even more vigorously.  In order to make sense of it all, we pandered to self even more.  “This is only happening to me; no one else goes through what I go through.  Look at me.  Take care of me.”  As this unfolds, others tire of the myopia and generally withdraw.  The resultant isolation makes the malcontent even more lonely and perplexed.

But finally, in some drowsy hour, often deep in the night when the noise stops, the truth wills out.  The clutch is finally released.  But is it over?  In many cases, no, it is not.  Often, depression marches right in to replace it.  There’s your mid-life crisis.

So, what does the self-made “victim” DOHe/she frantically now sets out to RE-DO early life.  Find a different spouse.  Go out and change my CIRCUMSTANCES—find BETTER ones.  For surely the right circumstances will deliver the right kind of life.  The only problem is that now, as an older person, all the original plethora of potential spouses is gone—most of the options are used ones and/or defeated ones—and few and far between ones, at all.  And one’s own fading beauty and fading energy make all the “catching a fairy-tale mate” far more sluggish.  And when he thinks he finds one, he doesn’t count on the question of “what THEY will look like in old age?” or ACT like toward HIM in the final chapter?  Is this BETTER than what I’ve got?  Hmmm…I hadn’t thought about old age at all—only my immediate hour.  I thought I could reject with impunity.  “I’ll reject you, but you will feed me lunch!”  Face absolute aloneness in my final hour? —hadn’t thought about that, either.  The only important hour is this current one.  Or be rejected by my grown children and spouse in response to my prior rejection of them?  I thought that there was only ONE person who MATTERED in this story.  Arrghh.

And how goes the self-crafting of new circumstances?  Can we even do it?  Or do we find dead ends at the end of every furtive, darting idea?  In addition, we find to our own chagrin that we can’t even DEFINE what we want now—like trying to catch a butterfly.  Every butterfly caught now immediately loses its magic and lies stiff at the bottom of our jar.

Then escapism must be the solution?  Drink, drug, and bury oneself in entertainment?  Embark, too, on enacting all kinds of little delicious suicides—like self-sabotage?  Relationally increase methods of manipulation and control.  Demand more.  Or try on some type of adult screaming? i.e., louder self-made assertions about how life is supposed to be for me, wafted with more energy into mid-air.  Or perhaps it is found in “buy, buy, buy,” like a maniac.  Surely a new Lexus will do it.  Debt or die.  Is not such a life a catastrophe?

When the mid-life crisis disorder is looked at under eagle-eye scrutiny, we find that experiencing mid-life crises is a New World (a first world) problem.  When we set it in its historical context we can identify different sorts of role models for weathering the mid-term storms.  There, we find examples of nobility, courage, endurance, strangely cropping up in mid-life and old age.  Honest earlier recalibration worked.

If we look even deeper at this modern syndrome, we can note that there is something even better than secular recalibration, engineered by our own wits, to weather mid-life.  Could there be some spiritual answers?  What if the disillusionment was planned by an all-knowing and all-wise God?  Now, let’s back up and re-do this challenge as a believer—even as a backslidden follower of the Lord.

What if God takes every believer through a “world-let-down” on purpose? —insisting that He ALONE is our core?  What if it is part of His school of discipleship for eternal people?  What if it is His graduate school of maturation?  If the job is done well on our behalf, we find, to our initial shock, that nothing in life is as we imagined it!  Nothing.

In fact, Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his matchless little book, Life Together, asserts that every community of relationships, whether it be one’s family of origin, one’s marriage, one’s own family, one’s church, one’s neighborhood or job and work setting, has to crash—and with it, all the aspirations for perfect circumstances have to crash, too.

The restored objective, after falling through the fragile floor of worldliness, is to begin again on spiritual turf.  Through gentle nudgings we now find that life is to be lived in the adoration of our Maker (habitual gratefulness for the smallest of graces—which then mushroom into thundering praises—living waters flowing out of us in torrents in eternity) and responding to His impulses for what to make of life, by our own exertions and influence, moment by moment.  Only then do we step up to the wondrous platform of real life. 

Far from demanding that life serve us, we find that the entrance level requirement to this far more fulfilling world is that we serve life. We begin by putting on the apron, and rolling up the sleeves.  The hunt is on for the needs of others, this time—not the junior high scramble to make it into the in-crowd, myself.  Getting outside of self is the bastion of fulfillment.  How do we sustain it?  By refueling at the throne—treasuring the infinite sweet embraces of our Maker.  As the old hymn writer wrote: “Let me to THY bosom fly.  Other succor have I NONE!”  This, alone, is reality.  And here, on this sure turf, there are no mid-life crises—nor, much to our wildest delight, are there any POST-life crises, either!

Filed Under: Home management tips

Origins of birthday celebrations

Saturday, 05. December 2015 by Renee Ellison

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Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the quantity and pressure of too many children’s birthday parties?  If you want a way out of this relentless demand, here it is!

Did you know these historical facts about the celebration of birthdays?

• The first birthday celebrations noted in recorded history were around 3,000 BC, and were those of the early pharaohs only (i.e. the kings of Egypt), not of the common man.
• Often, prisoners were released on this day.  (If this is familiar to you, you may have read it in Genesis 40: while Joseph was in confinement in the house of the captain of the guard, the cupbearer was released—and this eventually resulted in Joseph himself being released.)
• In Egypt and later on in Babylon, only the birth dates of royal sons were celebrated.  Some royal women’s birthdays were celebrated, such as that of Cleopatra (her husband—who was also her brother—slaughtered their son and gave him to her for her birthday present).
• The birthdays of children were never celebrated, unless they were the male children of royalty.
• The date of a person’s death used to considered be more significant than that of his or her birth.  (If this seems at least vaguely familiar, you might be thinking of how in Scripture, we are commanded to remember the death and resurrection of the Messiah—but nowhere is there even a suggestion to celebrate His birth.)
• The Greeks took the Egyptian idea of a birthday celebration and added the custom of baking a sweet birthday cake, in honor of their goddess Artemis.  It may be that the cakes had lighted candles, representing moonlight, the earthward radiance of this fabricated goddess.
• With the rise of Christianity, the tradition of celebrating birthdays ceased altogether—until about 1,300 years later.  Most of the early followers of Yeshua faced a difficult life that could include suffering and martyrdom for their faith; perhaps this fact influenced them to celebrate the death of a faithful believer, which was “the true deliverance, the passage to eternal paradise.”
• The early church fathers regarded birthday festivities as a relic of pagan practices, and they wanted to avoid them, in their pursuit of personal holiness and purity.
• In A.D. 245 a group of Christian historians attempted to pinpoint the precise date of the Savior’s birth.  They were opposed in this by the church (i.e., the Catholic Church), which decreed that it would be sacrilegious and sinful to observe the birthday of Christ, “as though He were a King Pharaoh.”

(Source: Charles Panati, Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things (New York: William Morrow, 1989), pages 31-33)

For more on this topic, read the post dated 1/28/2013.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Overcoming personal management challenges

Friday, 27. November 2015 by Renee Ellison

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How to crawl out of feeling overwhelmed by any personal challenge

We’ve all heard about the power of setting goals, but not so much about applying those principles to anything small that repeatedly personally trips us up.  We’ve thought about goals as something you do when you set out to swim the English Channel or triple one’s income, but not about cleaning house and sorting down that mess in the garage or basement, or losing weight or getting out of debt or trying to juice for better health, or overcoming negative depressive self-talk. 

Just for fun, let’s revisit goal setting as a mad scientist would.  Let’s get down to the cellular level to discover how to make its principles work for us, right now, with any challenge, no matter how big or small.  By doing so, this time, we won’t be numbered with those who make unrealistic goals in January and quickly forget them by February.  By understanding the exact progression of the steps, we’ll crawl out of our personal holes by the dozens!  Victory is just around the corner; in fact, you’ll find it at the end of this list!

1.  Write down your goal. This takes your vague sigh/wish out of grey matter/brain fog and sets up a citadel in lead on your paper. There is something powerful about seeing your little “impossibility” in writing.  Writing becomes a bridge across your Rubicon.  It begins to go to work, “rat-a-tat-tatting” on your subconscious. 

What you write must be specific and measurable.  It’s like eating a steak: you don’t stuff the whole thing into your mouth at once.  You bite off little pieces and digest them well.  Phrases like “I want to overcome alcoholism,” “I want to clean my house,” “I want to get in shape and be Miss America,” “I want to get out of debt,” or “I want to say only positive things to myself” won’t work.  Start hacking and whittling at your large idea, then rummage through the shavings and pick up one little piece to tackle aggressively.

So let’s take the above examples and re-write them in this newer, smaller, more powerful way.
• I will go to an AA meeting.
• I will sort my bedroom drawers, beginning with the small dresser.
• I will make a green salad tomorrow morning—or right now.
• I will not spend money on perming my hair this month, nor on eating out.

2. Now to further gain power over your goal, rewrite your goal on a 3X5 card—as a fait accompli.  At the outset, re-word your goal as already accomplished—completed before you’ve done one thing to bring it to pass!
• I no longer drink
• I have all my drawers completely sorted down
• I am slimmer by 15 pounds.
• I say 5 encouraging things to myself a day.
• I have paid off $100 of my debt.

3.  Visualize your goal. 
Now affix your 3X5 card to your morning mirror.
Re-read it every day, aloud.  This engages the auditory memory trigger in your brain.

Also, post for yourself a picture of someone who has already achieved it or of the visual end results.  This takes your goal into the visual imprinting eye-gate of your brain.

Continuing the examples above with this third step:
• Post a magazine or website’s picture of a clean room.
• Post a picture of a health guru.

Got it?  Your written goal sits next to a picture of your written goal, and you hear yourself repeating it each morning, verbally.  This solidly embeds your goal into both hemispheres of the brain and into your emotions.

4.  Next, write down your obstacles toward achieving your goal.
If there weren’t obstacles, you would have already achieved it!  This step is what most of us missed when we wrote down a goal and attempted to attain it in the past.

Examples:
“I don’t make a salad because the kitchen is too cold in the morning and the vegetables and lettuce are too cold and the faucet water is too cold, and I don’t keep the right combination of vegetables in the fridge to even make a salad, and I don’t like the taste.”

5.  Now write how you will overcome each obstacle.
• I’ll put a little radiator heater in the kitchen to warm it up quickly.
• I’ll pick a salad recipe, make a list and shop for the exact ingredients for my salad and I’ll purchase them as my first priority not my last priority.
• I’ll prep all the veggies the night before and put them in little containers.
• I’ll make a salad dressing that tastes good that helps me get the salad down.
• I’ll remove all the ingredients from the fridge when I first get up before making my bed and getting dressed so that when I assemble them they are warmer to the touch.
• I’ll make a salad large enough to last two days instead of one.

6.  Next, decide on a time and a place for each goal.
• I will go to an AA meeting Monday at 3 at town hall.
• I will sort my drawers for 15 min. every night at 8 p.m.
• I’ll prep my vegetables at 7 each evening.
• I’ll exercise around my city block, and do so at 5 each evening.
• I’ll try to go one hour countering every negative thought with a positive one.

7.  Keep records.
Document your current status toward achieving each of your goals.  You do this by keeping a record of what you actually did today.  Then determine, did that dive-bomb your efforts or did it help them?  What will you do to get a better grip on the objective tomorrow?  If you are in debt and your goal is to resolve that problem, keep a record of all of your receipts so that you can log them in and tabulate them by the end of the month to see where your money actually went.

8.  Decide on a reward for yourself for when it is achieved.
Your reward doesn’t have to be huge or expensive.  It can be doing something—like hiking in a new area, or even just having an entire bowl of large strawberries—more than you usually allow yourself!  Tell someone about your victories or record them in a private journal.

9.  On the heels of such success you might want to start in again with another goal?!  What will that be?

In closing: remember to review seeing and saying your goal each day.  Be your own best coach.

(For more on this topic, download the e-book on Goal Setting and Time Management, or the Kindle book on Conquering Self-induced Stress.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Organizing your home school materials

Monday, 26. October 2015 by Renee Ellison

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For much more on this topic, read our booklet/e-book/Kindle book, Razor Sharp Teaching Tips for Homeschool Moms.  It is loaded with practical proven ideas.

Meanwhile, here are some of the general organizational principles for getting your homeschooling shipshape:

(1.) Begin with labeled containers.  No matter how tight the budget is for a family, containers are a must.  Start on some level, using any sort of container—even with just cardboard boxes you bring home from the grocery store and store under the beds.  You always start conquering organizational chaos by organizing in containers.  The principle?  Everything has a place, and there’s a place for everything.

(2.) Visual clarity.  You can see it at a glance.

(3.) Easy grabability.  No stuff is stored behind other stuff unless it is duplicates of the same thing; there’s no digging for anything).

(4.) Like things with like things, and back-ups for frequently consumed items.  Ideally, you want to have on stock two or more of everything you commonly use, so you never run out of anything.  If you do this, you will seldom if ever have to do emergency shopping for food or school supplies.  When you get down to the last one, you note it on your shopping list so you remember to re-stock that back-up second thing on your shelves.

Organizing your school stuff:

In addition to arranging picture books by size, if you have some early readers of various sorts, arrange those by level of difficulty so that you escort the child through all of them progressively.

Arrange everything so that your family members (including your husband whenever he’s taking over the homeschooling when you’re not available) don’t have to ask you where anything is.  They will know by looking.  Localize all of your school stuff near where it will actually be used, on shelves either under a counter eating area or flanked along a wall next to your main projects/schooling table.  Build long shelves at waist height, using 8-12” deep boards held up on each end by bricks cinderblocks—free from somewhere—and then group all your supplies (like things with like, down to minutiae—i.e., no pencils in with the markers).  Separate out everything into its own container.  Group all of your school books and workbooks together.  Top it all off with a large wall map of the world, a large map of your country, a large clock, a large calendar—all on the wall in that area—and each child’s large homeschool to-do checklists.

Set your young children’s flashcards in little white plastic baskets (3 for a dollar? cheapo at Walmart—either in their kitchen container area or the general container area).  Their size is 5 inches by 6 inches by 2 inches.  These let your flash cards breathe and flop backwards and forwards with some air and finger room in there, as opposed to using tight 3X5” metal/plastic index card boxes.  Stick a card upright for a marker to separate each type of flashcards, and label each division of cards on this upright card.

‏Summary: general organizational principle:
Your overall organization principle is arrange your stuff so that anything you do repetitively, you want to do optimally.  In other words, spend as much time as necessary up front on getting it organized exactly right, so that you will have to spend no time organizing it later smile

Filed Under: Home management tips

Intentional family camping

Thursday, 15. October 2015 by Renee Ellison

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Years ago, Dr. James Dobson did research to identify what people thought were the most effective activities to bind a family together.  At the top of the list, after having a strong faith, came family CAMPING, with not even a close second.  Apparently, camping embodied the bulk of people’s fondest memories.  Children LOVE to be squished into tight places WITH their parents, in ever-new “on the edge” surroundings, a unified force against the elements!

To make camping a success and not a fiasco, one must become at least moderately intentional about PREPARING to have a good experience.  That means thinking through a fair number of details ahead of time.

So, whether you have camped before but want to improve your efforts at camping or you are brand new to its challenges, here is a bit of practical hand-holding to help you boost the experience into the list of “fun things we did as a family”—and not a blackout bad memory!

To begin with, you want to think of CONTAINERS.  The first container you’ll have to consider is your major overall container of how you will transport all of the stuff.  Determine whether that will be your car trunk, a rack on top of your car, the back compartments in an SUV, the open back of a truck, or a small trailer that you pull behind your vehicle (which means you’ll have to get a trailer hitch, too).  The finished size of that space, established by you ahead of time, determines how MUCH stuff and what weight and size of things you can take with you—because it all has to FIT.  Some people with SUV’s like to put columns of plastic drawers in the back so that when they open up the back of the van they have an instant tailgate kitchen already organized and ready to go.  Others like to construct wooden shelves in a small trailer so that all of their boxed stuff is neatly labeled and easily grabbed whenever they’re camping.

The first two big items to consider are your sleeping tent and a kitchen tent (if you want one).  After hours and hours of research we have three suggestions of real winners for tents for FAMILY camping (not hardcore lightweight back-backer single guys : )  Those guys can survive with a nylon tepee tent—which only weighs 24 pounds and only involves staking the sides, setting one lightweight pole up into the middle of the inside of the tent, and presto they are done.  No floor, of course, on this unit.

Sleeping tent
Cabela’s Big Horn III and Cabela’s Alaknak tents provide oceans of space for a family.  (The Big Horn has no internal poles to deal with—providing a large dome-like interior atmosphere.)

The Kodiak tent is a light weight canvas tent (canvas breathes better than nylon) and is super easy to put up for a single mom with children, or a single widow.  It has a sealed in floor for those who are squeamish about night crawlers, spiders, snakes, etc. gaining entrance into one’s tent withOUT a floor.

And, finally, a Davis tent—which may be the ultimate in large canvas tents.  It weighs a lot, but once constructed feels like a real house.  It is ideal if you are staying in one spot for a long time.  Hunters love them.  They can also be four season tents with the ability to add a stove.

Kitchen tent
Why would you want a kitchen tent?  Because if ANY inclement weather appears, it can immediately shut down your cooking efforts indefinitely.  Menacing weather of high winds, rain (with its attendant mud afterwards), hail, tornadoes, dust storms, etc. quickly drives you back into your car or sleeping tent until it blows over—which could last anywhere from a half hour to all afternoon or evening to several days!  If you want to keep your paper plates, chairs, and utensils from blowing all over the mountains you’ll have to provide some secure kitchen space.  An E-Z-Up shelter with tarps for sides will help in this endeavor, securely anchored with super strong tent pegs and taut ropes tied through ALL of the grommets on the tarp walls.  Or some outdoor tent gazebo which has both screened walls and tarp walls that can rapidly be let-down or unfurled when a storm approaches.  Or another canvas tent with no floor.  If you pick a tent gazebo with ONLY screened walls the weather will march right into it and either lift it up in the air and hurl it into the nearby lake or collapse it all over your stuff.  Obviously for your kitchen enclosure there is no need for flooring other than the dirt.  You don’t WANT flooring, other than dirt, so that people can troop in and out of it to eat without taking the time to remove shoes.

Be sure that you lock away all perishable food each time you leave your camp site and each evening after dinner.  You don’t want food smells attracting unwanted animals.

Cost
For both your sleeping tent and kitchen tent, look for used deals on Craigslist or E-Bay.  Some people start out with great expectations, but then sell their gear with dashed expectations not too long afterwards!

Selecting your campsite
Pick a place higher up rather than lower down—so that if any torrential rains come you won’t be flooded out, as the water pools down below.  If you find yourself with a lower spot as your only possibility, be sure to dig a small trench around the base of your tent—to collect and divert water should that become necessary during a downpour while you are sleeping some night.

If you pick a place higher up, make sure it is not all the way up on top of a hill.  You want your tent site tucked in closely a ways down from the extreme top edge, so that you don’t catch sudden winds that tend to blow on mountain tops.
 
Preparing your tent’s foundation
Give time to making a smooth foundation for under your tent, before setting it up.  Bring a shovel and rake along to get rid of any unwanted stones or fallen branches and twigs so that they don’t poke holes through the floor of your tent.  Bring along a rubber mallet for pounding in your tent stakes.

After each trip, hose down your tents and thoroughly dry them in the sun.  If your gear is stored dirty, its lifespan will be shortened.  If you pack wet gear, it may become moldy.  Then fold up and keep all of your camping gear packed and ready to go in ONE area of your garage, trailer, or other storage area.

Sleeping bags
Your next most important purchase is DOWN sleeping bags.  The deeper temperatures the bag is tagged for, below zero, the better.  Then you want a thin self-inflating 3 or 4 inch air mattress underneath (there’s nothing worse than having to inflate your air mattress by some manual means when you are already exhausted from putting up your tent).

Exped Down mats are the luxury liner warmest mats—but you have to inflate them.  There are several other easier models that work fine, obtainable from REI, for instance.  But if warmth is a higher priority, then go with the Exped mat.  For added insurance, purchase a thin exercise mat to put below your air mattress in case the air goes out of your air mattress in the middle of the night (and check for deflation before you go to bed, each night, top them off with some more air, if some was lost in the last 24 hours—this is a miserable job to do in the middle of the night, so tend to it BEFORE going to bed).  The exercise mat ensures that you won’t be sleeping directly on the cold ground.

If you are the kind of person that just can’t get warm—bring along a polyester warm blanket to further cut the air on top of your sleeping bag for when you first go to sleep.  Your body will warm up in the night and you can toss this extra layer off later.

Coolers
Keep in mind that when coolers are full of ice and food they become super heavy.  So opt for several smaller coolers instead.  In addition to being lighter, this allows you to even categorize the types of foods via each cooler.  Put cheeses and yogurts in one, pre-cooked dinners in another, drinks in another, cut up veggies and fruit bowl contents in another, etc.  The 28-qt. Coleman Extreme is ideal for this; it is built to retain the coldness longer.

Ice solutions
If you freeze your water bottles WITH water in them—either your own concoctions of bottle and ice or the large six packs of pre-bottled water—tossed around in the cooler individually, you double-whammy your space—because you can drink them as they defrost. 

You can buy several half-gallon cardboard containers of juice or rice milk, and freeze these with the liquid IN them.  Because these become blocks of ice, they last far longer—and again you can drink them when they’re unfrozen.

Another way to keep the cold ice coming is to cram ONE cooler completely full of ice packs (no food at all in this cooler).  Each ice pack will keep all the other ice packs cold for a week!!!  Remove one ice pack a day to put into your food cooler and you’ll not have to return to town so often to refurbish your ice.
 
Food choices
Pre-cook as many meals as will fit in your cooler.  It is wonderful to be able to open and dump dinner in a pot and have it hot and ready in five minutes.  Often there is no time or WAY to cut up the ingredients for dinner right there on the scene.  And you may be too exhausted from just mere survival which takes more energy than at home—or long day hikes, hauling water, etc.  For additional quick meals bring along dehydrated soups and canned food (don’t forget a can opener) as well as bars and supplements and super food powders. 

Cooking utensils
Keep a duplicate set of all cooking utensils that you will be using so that you don’t have to ransack your house trying to remember what to take each time you go camping.  Have all of these things already packed, for camping use only, and keep them packed for easy quick retrieval for fast getaways. 

Cooking burner
A simple lightweight Coleman one-burner Powerpack stove may be all that you need.  This is a large 3 inch burner which runs on a propane canister and takes both small and large pans.  It has a metal frame to keep pans from slipping off while stirring.  Heat your tea or coffee or hot water first, and then set aside and heat your main meal in a separate pan, within mere minutes of each other.  Purchase a butane lighter-stick to make lighting this stove far easier than using tiny matches, and burning your fingers.

Heater
An American Camper propane heater delivers 10 hours of marvelous heat with each can of propane fuel.  This is far easier than bringing along a wood-burning stove for short trips in the fall.

Lighting
In addition to flashlights which only yield light directly ahead of you, purchase several LANTERNS that will give you light in all directions.  You need two or three.  One for your kitchen area, one for your tent, and one outside the entrance of your tent, if coming home to the tent in the dark.  Have BOTH battery operated and SOLAR operated versions of each of these so that if you run out of the other, you always have the opposite fuel for backup.  Goal Zero makes good solar equipment—an excellent source of renewable free energy. 

Solar oven
(This item is totally optional).  American Solar Cookers are FREE heat source ovens.  Some enjoy them so much that they use them every day in their regular non-camping life as well.

Conclusion
Keep in mind that even if you bought the most LUXURY editions of all camping equipment it would total far less money than any RV purchase—or hotel bills.  Nowadays, hotels have become so expensive for families that the popular phrase “spend a night, not a fortune” is on the lips of many travelers as they seek less expensive alternatives.

For further reading on this topic, download our Survival Planning for Simpletons e-book (also available as a Kindle book, and in print).

Filed Under: Home management tips

Escorting your elderly parents through their final chapter

Sunday, 20. September 2015 by Todd Ellison

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If you have elderly parents, here, to help you shepherd them through their last days, is a compilation of helpful quotes from Atul Gawande’s excellent book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.

Many of us need help in even just opening a discussion with our aging parents about the important issues facing them in their final stages.  As Gary Smalley has noted in Making Love Last Forever, experts have found that death and sex are two of the most difficult things to discuss.

Although Dr. Gawande doesn’t write from a Judeo-Christian perspective, he (aHarvard Medical School surgeon and professor) is effective at front running some thoughts on the complex issues that face the elderly.  You as a believer can read these management strategies within the context of our faith in the resurrection—adding the very real hopes and eternal realities for your parents which are absent from this book’s presentation.   


“Being mortal is about the struggle to cope with the constraints of our biology, with the limits set by genes and cells and flesh and bone [and, we would add, the personal and loving sovereignty of Almighty God].  Medical science has given us remarkable power to push against those limits…  But again and again, I have seen the damage we in medicine do when we fail to acknowledge that such power is finite and always will be.

“We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine.  We think our job is to ensure health and survival.  But really it is larger than that.  It is to enable well-being.  And well-being is about the reasons one wishes to be alive.  Those reasons matter not just at the end of life, or when debility comes, but all along the way.  Whenever serious sickness or injury strikes and your body or mind breaks down, the vital questions are the same:
• What is your understanding of the situation and its potential outcomes?
• What are your fears and what are your hopes?
• What are the trade-offs you are willing to make and not willing to make?
• And what is the course of action that best serves this understanding?”  (p. 259)

This is a good way to think, at this juncture in life: “living for the best possible day today instead of sacrificing time now for time later.” (p. 229)

Dr. Gawande has come to believe that “whatever we can offer [a person who is in this situation], our interventions, and the risks and sacrifices they entail, are justified only if they serve the larger aims of a person’s life.  When we [medical staff] forget that, the suffering we inflict can be barbaric.  When we remember it the good we do can be breathtaking.” (p. 260)

“At least two kinds of courage are required in aging and sickness.  The first is the courage to confront the reality of mortality—the courage to seek out the truth of what is to be feared and what is to be hoped.  Such courage is difficult enough.  We have many reasons to shrink from it.  But even more daunting is the second kind of courage—the courage to act on the truth we find.  The problems is that the wise course is so frequently unclear.  For a long while, I thought that this was simply because of uncertainty.  When it is hard to know what will happen, it is hard to know what to do.  But the challenge, I’ve come to see, is more fundamental than that.  One has to decide whether one’s fears or one’s hopes are what should matter most.” (p. 232)

Dr. Gawande observes that the default setting of the medical establishment has been “You took the most aggressive treatment available.”  On the other hand, “This [new] business of deliberating on your options—of figuring out your priorities and working with a doctor [him not as the Dictator or even as the Information-provider, but as a collaborator in interpreting the data and trying to fathom the unknowns] to match your treatment to them—[is] exhausting and complicate, particularly when you [aren’t able to ]...parse the unknowns and ambiguities.  The pressure remains all in one direction, toward doing more, because the only mistake clinicians seem to fear is doing too little.  Most have no appreciation that equally terrible mistakes are possible in the other direction—that doing too much could be no less devastating to a person’s life.” (p. 220)

Dr. Gawande summaries a study Daniel Kahneman reported in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, that found that there are two ways to evaluate experiences: how we apprehend them sequentially as they’re happening, and how we think of them afterwards.  How we think about the afterwards, sticks with us a lot longer, and what we tend to recall are the most intense periods and the very last period of the experience.  [Thus, how an experience—including a person’s life—ends, is crucial.]  Kahneman called it the Peak-End rule.  A key point here (pp. 238-239), is that “We have purposes larger than ourselves.  Unlike your experiencing self—which is absorbed in the moment—your remembering self is attempting to recognize not only the peaks of joy and valleys of misery but also how the story works out as a whole.  That is profoundly affected by how things ultimately turn out.  ...  in stories, endings matter.” (pages 236-238)

“I am leery of suggesting the idea that endings are controllable.  No one ever really has control.  Physics and biology and accident have their way in our lives.  But the point is that we are not helpless either.  Courage is the strength to recognize both realities.  We have room to act, to shape our stories, though as time goes on it is within narrower and narrower confines.  A few conclusions become clear when we understand this: that our most cruel failure in how we treat the sick and aged is the failure to recognize that they have priorities beyond merely being safe and living longer; that the chance to shape one’s story is essential to sustaining meaning in life; that we have the opportunity to refashion our institutions, our culture, and our conversations in ways that transform the possibilities for the last chapters of everyone’s lives.” (p. 243)

“Technological society has forgotten what scholars call the `dying role’ and its importance to people as life approaches its end.  People want to share memories, pass on wisdoms and keepsakes, settle relationships, establish their legacies, make peace with God, and ensure that those who are left behind will be okay.  They want to end their stories on their own terms [we would say, on the terms God dictates for them].  This role is…among life’s most important, for both the dying and those left behind.” (p. 249)

Filed Under: Home management tips

Why the KEY issue with the elderly is avoiding falls

Tuesday, 14. July 2015 by Renee Ellison

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With over ten thousand baby-boomers entering the retirement ranks per day, the care of THEIR elderly parents becomes their nearly full-time second job. This is an eyes-open bit of insight for all.  Take your confidence off from your elderly parents’ dubious bone-strengthening drugs (they don’t work anyway) and put your energy into ensuring that they AVOID the falls in the first place.  How?  Exercise your elderly parent; tighter muscles make for less falls.  And fall-proof the home.

Recent studies are telling us that one in three seniors, age 65 and older, fall each year.  70 percent of the trauma calls in the region where I live are for elderly people who have sustained a broken hip or head injury.  And that doesn’t even include the numbers of people who have fallen and, while not injured, can’t get up without help; our local district saw a 26 percent increase in those calls during the first quarter of 2015.

My 96-year old aunt has fallen perhaps ten times in her old age—most of that in the last six years—and each time the aftermath was a veritable nightmare.  The reason? besides the obvious results of 1) having physically harmed herself and 2) having entered the engulfing quagmire of expense and management of those time-consuming emergency hospital bills, is that, not only does the elderly parent have to cope with the injury but now, with even less personal resourcefulness, they have to cope with the greatly exacerbated decline in overall health because of the injury.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers seniors falling a public-health problem that is “largely preventable,” it says in its Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths and Injuries program. An injury from a senior’s fall can have long-term effects, such as disability, dependence on others and reduced quality of life, the CDC said.  Loss of muscle tone and balance; vision problems; medication interactions; bad lighting; and hazards in the home top the list of causes of this problem.

Elderly persons who have suffered from a fall cease to exercise.  This means congestion may set in throughout the body, especially in the colon, due to poor circulation.  Digestion suffers.  Lungs and heart suffer.  Muscle-tone deteriorates severely and rapidly, making the person prone to more falls.  Thus, the health challenges are compounded.  Amy Allen, executive director of the Southwest Regional Emergency and Trauma Advisory Council, observed that “Seniors worry so much about falling, they restrict themselves from moving, which makes it worse and stops them from doing daily things, like going for the mail.”  [Source]

All of this translates to double the work for the caretaker—adding to the already overwhelming load of total care of another adult human being.  The “adult” part matters, because the person’s “will” is interposed in everything, unlike what a caretaker of a baby experiences.  This accelerates the caretaker’s burnout.  The conclusion?  Minimize the likelihood of falls happening in the first place.  Guard this preventative territory like a patrolling alley dog.

Fall-proof EVERYTHING, including the elderly person’s environment and routines.  No throw rugs, anywhere.  Cork on the bathroom floor, if you have to.  TWO grip bars in the bathtub.  A portable plastic seat set there, in the tub to pull forward, nearer the faucet when in use.  A long loose hose on the tub faucet.  (No water coming from above, which can disorient the elderly and cause them to lose their balance.)  How to bathe them?  Either you or they, scrub up the top of the body, WHILE they sit, rinse.  Scrub the lower half, while they sit, rinse.  To do the crotch area, have your parent rise only a few inches, so that if they fall their body weight goes right back onto the plastic seat.  Never allow them to stand fully upright where the weight changes forward, WHILE showering/bathing.

Wash hair, as a separate task, in the kitchen, later.  Lean their body up against the kitchen sink.  Install a tall faucet there, if you don’t have one.  This fully leaning position, anchoring their weight against the lower cupboard, holds them clear up to their waist.  Do all of this even WHILE THEY ARE “STRONG” and in relatively good vigor, but OLDER.  They will resist, but you insist smile

When walking them outdoors, assist them over all curbs, even if they are fully capable of managing them themselves; don’t leave it to chance.  Our 3D eyesight grows foggier and foggier as we age.

Furthermore, exercise them daily with whatever part of their body still moves.  When health is far gone, exercise their appendages while their back (thus backbone) is fully supported, lying flat on the bed.  But before that hour, walk them all you can, before the disabilities multiply.

If you’ll guard their fall potential, this will translate to an easier job for you.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Parental perspectives on the complexities of living with grown unmarried children

Monday, 18. May 2015 by Renee Ellison

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Living with grown children is not the same ball game as raising small children.  An entirely different set of “parenting” skills is needed to make this further chapter successful and happy for all involved.  Furthermore, it requires different parenting for different personalities.  You will live differently with the conscientious young adult than you do with the lazy one. 

Homeschooling families in this generation are doing something that the secular culture has largely abandoned for several generations now: godly grown children are voluntarily choosing to continue to live with their parents until marriage, and their parents are in agreement about this.  Many believing families are opting to do this for spiritual reasons, because they see this pattern in the Bible, with good results.  Abraham chose a mate for his grown son Isaac when Isaac was well advanced in years, deep into adulthood, still living at home.  The lives of Ruth and Esther are set in stark contrast to the loud wandering, worldly woman spoken of in Proverbs who is seldom at home.  When Dinah left home to see what the daughters of the land were doing in Shechem, she left the protection afforded by a godly home and got into terrible trouble. 

The advantages of this living arrangement with adult children are many, both relationally and financially.  This arrangement spares the single adult from the severe temptations of shack-up situations and possible mincing forays into homosexuality—or the appearance of evil through the set-up of supposedly “platonic” guy-girl roommate relationships, and from any number of additional devastatingly dysfunctional roommate situations whenever someone lives with anyone who is not part of one’s extended family. 

In addition, living with one’s parents until one is married provides an opportunity for the young adult to amass an economic nest egg that will make a huge financial difference for them.  Earning money while living under their parents’ roof with minimal expenses may even afford them the possibility of paying for a house or land with cash and never having to pay rent.  Having disciplined goals during these transition years affords the young adult the possibility of further unimaginable savings over a lifetime, and relieves a young marriage of many financial stresses.  (Many houses bought with mortgages end up costing three times as much over the lifetime of the mortgage.  This money is siphoned from the earnings of each person; it is given over to a bank instead of building his or her own estate.) 

However, as with any relational set-up, there are pitfalls and blind spots that must be avoided for this arrangement to work well.  For this living arrangement to be successful it must be done with mature relational savvy on the part of the parents, otherwise the experience can result in lifetime scarring, destroyed relationships, adult tensions galore, and lifelong regrets for all parties of those lifetime relationships.  [Note: because of the limitations of the English language, we will refer to the grown single child as “he”, but this applies just as much to a daughter as to a son, albeit in a slightly different manner, given the different biblical standards for men providing for themselves and their families.]

Motivational speakers for years now have identified what makes people continue to produce and live invigorated lives.  People tend to stay in marriages, businesses and living situations where they continue to grow.  An affirming positive loving atmosphere will keep a person in such a relationship.  If this climate is not present, the tendency (or at least the lure) is to jump ship.

The key shift in parents’ thinking with regard to sharing their home with grown children has to be the realization that they are launching their young adult’s life, doing everything possible to gladden and enrich that emerging life, rather than viewing him as an appendage and a support for their own lives.  In other words, the parents must learn to do life by themselves, while also finding ways to procure advantages for their son’s life.  This involves choosing to carry their own load, even though the adult son continues to live in their home.  Conversely, if parents are leaning upon their grown child, using him, micromanaging him, demanding of him, and/or shaming him into doing their bidding or adopting their perspectives on everything, they will find an unexpected kickback that they may regret as time passes.

Many adult children grow to be quite capable in a variety of areas and thus can potentially become a real boost to their parents’ lives.  This is fine, so long as it is volunteered by the emerging adult as he thinks of it, rather than his parents extracting it from him.  Otherwise, he may grow to feel “used.”  Many parents unknowingly take advantage of their grown children’s capabilities (without compensating them for them, i.e. liberally and gladly paying them or returning some trade in the rent agreement, etc.) for their own parental benefit, and this may become increasingly oppressive for the young adult.

If the parents are using their adult son for their own benefit, he may at first turn away from them inwardly, and as time progresses may turn away bitterly in actuality and finally may eventually bolt because the relationship has become irreparable.  Parents’ relational salvation with their grown children is to think long-term and big picture.  What do you want your grown child to think of you when you at last rest in your grave?  Does he perceive the relationship as enlarging and enriching for himself?  Does he flock to be with you?  If given a choice, is he drawn to you, or do you observe him avoiding you, living in tension because of you, skirting interfacing with you over any matter?  These are alarms and bells and whistles that will only intensify, if you do not reverse them.  You are fashioning your own reputation with him.  What is that reputation?  Are you, perhaps, winning the battle (his compliance for the moment) but losing the war of winning his lifetime permanent affection for you?  These are deep waters.

As with any adult living situation, clean lines must be drawn and understood by both sides.  Clean lines must be drawn regarding finances and regarding responsibilities.  Otherwise, the grown child will find himself buried in a jungle of implied expectations, both expressed and naggingly felt.  He may sink into depression and hopelessness, wanting to escape but not knowing how.  No adult can stand doing another adult’s bidding unendingly.  All such relationships end in destruction.  Expectations kill relationships, unless the expectations are clearly stated, are reciprocal, and are mutually advantageous.  Living in a continual win/win situation with your adult child will tie him in loving bonds with you for a lifetime.  Is home a place he loves to be?  Strive to see your life together through his eyes.

When living with a conscientious young adult instead of correcting him broadside, try some humor.  Also, strive to posit your opinions in questions instead of edicts, fashioning your sentences more like this:  “Might you find this way more advantageous to yourself?”  Tell them that you are available to pray with them, if they should want that at any time for direction, and to clarify certain ambiguities for them.  Brainstorm with them.  Get other mature adults to brainstorm with them.  Encourage them that in a multitude of counselors there is victory, as it says in Proverbs.  This has an entirely different feel than ordering them around as adults. 

All of this is advice for living with conscientious adult children.  If, conversely, you live with a lazy, irresponsible adult child, you must put the screws to them to enforce specific expectations, in order for him to have the privilege of continuing to benefit from the advantages of living at home.  Otherwise he must learn by having his cheek on the pavement of some street somewhere.  Draw the expectations firmly, and perhaps do so on paper, together, not signing anything as a formal contract, but providing “paper” objectivity upon what you both are coming to agree to together.  After that, the young adult, by then crossing those agreed upon ideas, willfully puts himself out of the home.  It was not you that did it, but he.  The aimless young adult must be made to draw up his own goals and ambitions.  He must be growing old skills and learning new skills by apprenticing with others further along in those fields or studying.  He must be drawing income from somewhere, or he can’t live at home.  This living situation is to advance him in life, not to coddle him by providing hours for more sports and video games and other entertainments.

For young unmarried gals it is best to define their life as a full complete single life now, and the probability of a full married life later.  They are to live equally well in both conditions, steadily making a difference in God’s kingdom.  Get them out of the “waiting game.”  Get them fulfilled now with both meaningful income-producing work and kingdom work.  No one does well with a sloppy, ill-defined, meaning to life.  Get them fulfilled working steadily year round with meaning; there should be no intermittent dragging months.  See to it that they wake up to a day with purpose, continually.

So, what do clean lines in living arrangements look like?
Separate your finances and financial obligations from his or hers.  Does your son/daughter pay rent?  Or, does he/she work for that rent for you by doing specifically X, Y, and Z, or by working for someone else to earn that rent?  This area alone will destroy a relationship if not clearly spelled out.  His/her obligation to you (as regards paying a fixed amount for rent) cannot be unending and open-ended; it has to be settled by fixed tasks or established payment amounts, where there is a measurable end to them and the young adult is freed from any further parental expectations.  Are the household’s meal preparation and cleanup responsibilities clearly delineated?  Who is responsible for what?  Do you give each other space, if so desired, by leaving the kitchen when he or she enters; or vice versa?  Are both of you working at what you would both have to do full-time if you were living in two separate households?  Meal planning and preparations are a given in every living situation, at least some of the time.

Does the emerging adult have some space all to himself?  Does he have the potential of privacy?  Does he clearly own his own things and have his own bank account?

Your grown child needs space that can be organized by his own design and kept neatly or in a mess, given his personality—just as married couples have with each other.  If all space is shared, the relationship will collapse.  Private property is one of the first gifts even God gives to His bride (children) by allotting land by tribe to the children of Israel.

Do you give your grown child his own time, and opportunity to do his own home-based business(es)  or to work for others without being clobbered by your own random, unexpected sudden requests, to get you out of a bind, that claim his time for your own ends?  Are you frequently invading his time?  Even if you see him doing nothing, that is his right if his bills are paid.  Further, have you determined to make it financially advantageous to him to live with you, or are you eager for his financial contribution only for your own sake?  A grown adult knows his parents’ motives.  He observes them when you are not on dress parade.

Often remind yourself that if he were married and out of your home, he would ipso facto be using his time as he sees fit and thinking his thoughts as he thinks them, just as you did when you reached adult autonomy.  Just as you do not have access to your married children 24/7, it is not your right to have such access to the unmarried, even though he is still in your own home.  Adulthood is adulthood, and that includes having a separate psyche—even a private diary and private letters, just as you have.  If you did not finish the job of raising him during his growing years when you were authorized by God to do it, (and who of us parents ever does finish it?) you have to make your peace with the fact that that your “formation” job assignment has ended.  Your grown son will never be perfect; he will never totally “arrive”—just as you and your spouse haven’t, even yet.  You have to shift gears, from constant correction to living with forgiveness and adapting to all the uncomfortable, unpolished behaviors of any adult human being.  Other factors (we learn from experiences, too) and influences from other people now will have their say, not the least of which is God’s input, Himself, directly into his adult soul. 

Make sure that your grown at-home son/daughter knows that you are building his kingdom and not your own, and you will find that his heart will be with you to the end.  If you do not do this kind of self-sacrifice and adaptation when he becomes an adult, he may flee at his earliest chance.  Home has to continually be the best place on earth or another will be found, at any cost, if even only in the section of the heart that privately “longs” for such a place, substituting someone else in his/her affections.  Build relational capital with your grown children for a lifetime, by never losing sight of the prospect of the last ten years of your own life.  What have you relationally earned from your son by being as supportive and loving as possible?  That may even involve joining the “zipped-lip” club that many seniors have found they had to join ahead of you.  You have a chance to create a heaven on earth for your offspring as long as you live. 

See our booklets/e-books Daughters in Waiting and Young Men Preparing for Marriage for further details.

Filed Under: Home management tips