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Just Do the Next Thing – My Homemaking Motto

on July 2, 2013 by Anjanette 31 comments

Post byΒ Anjanette Barr, Contributing Writer

My personal homemaking motto - Just do the next thing!


I had been married for almost three years and was desperately in love with my life. My sweet little boy had a permanent place on my hip and I couldn’t wait for my husband to come home so that I could tell him about every second of fun we’d had during our day.Β I’d never felt so fulfilled, so womanly, or so confident in my purpose before.

But every time I saw the kitchen sink overflowing with dirty dishes, or the mountain of laundry, or the ring forming in the toilet bowl, my heart sank and I battled with despair.

I loved being a wife and I loved staying at home with my son, but I felt completely unequipped to be a homemaker.

My husband knew that those things were difficult for me (not like he could miss it!) and was wonderfully sweet about not making me feel worse than I already did. Still, after three years of listening to me groan over every chore, he reached his breaking point.

You Are Making This Too Difficult!

We stood together chatting in the kitchen after dinner one evening and I felt the guilty internal nudge I always felt when I knew I should be doing something to remedy the mess that surrounded us. I half-heartedly rinsed a few dishes and then turned to the stove-top, which was covered in crumbs and food spills. I love to cook and use my stove top for every meal, so even though it had only been two days since I cleaned it, it really looked disgusting.

I grabbed a rag and my bottle of kitchen spray and brushed the crumbs into the trash can as we spoke. But then I stopped. I hated this part. It took so much elbow grease to rub away the baked on food and I was already so tired. I turned to my husband and lamented that I just hated how much work cleaning the stove-top was and I wish it didn’t take so much time.

I was surprised to see that the expression on my husband’s face was not the tolerant look I was used to. And then he shocked me by abruptly grabbing the rag and spray from me and saying, “It’s just not that hard. You are making this too difficult!”

My first reaction was indignant anger. I wanted to throw a sassy retort back his direction and call Β him a meany, honestly, but I was too stunned to say anything and I just watched him clean. And goodness, did he CLEAN! I stood with my mouth open as he scrubbed that stove-top until it sparkled… in about 60 seconds.

What Molehill?

We didn’t actually have a conversation about cleaning that night. He tossed the rag in the sink and went off to do something in another room and I stood fighting back tears and trying to decide if I was more angry at his harsh demeanor or the point he’d made.

I won’t say I was convinced then and there that I had been making mountains out of mole-hills – my pride needed a little time to recover from the trauma – but I did get the rest of the dishes finished in record time that night.

He later apologized for losing his patience, but by then I felt I owed him a thank you. Something in my thinking changed drastically in the days following our little melodrama. Every time I was tempted to balk at a task, I got this image in my mind of my husband scrubbing away, plowing through the obstacle like it was nothing. It was tremendously a tiny bit irritating at first, but without my familiar excuses to fall back on, I pretty much just had to complete each job – like it or not.

Just Do the Next Thing

In the years since those mountains crumbled (praise Jesus!), I have not become the world’s most amazing homemaker. In fact, when we announced that we were moving (from Kansas City to Alaska!) and shared the floor plan of our new condo on Facebook, a friend lost no time in replying with, “Oh no! What are you going to do? Now there will be TWO bathrooms to clean!” Yes, sigh…

Still, things DO get clean, even with two more children to “motivate” me. πŸ™‚ I have learned to tackle tasks whole-heartedly and I try to make it my goal to be as thorough as I can be at top speed. I know that if I work hard and fast, I’ll be able to move on quickly.

And most importantly, I no longer feel hope falter when I write out my to-do list or enter my kitchen after an evening entertaining friends.

Instead of taking in the full scope of all of the things that could use my attention in my home at any given time, I look at every small task as a project that I can knock out in no-time.

My personal homemaking motto has become, “just do the next thing.”

When I unload the dishwasher I think, “Done! Wohoo!” I do a little mental victory dance and then think, “ok. Next?” And then I start a load of laundry. “Wohoo!” All day long.

Just let me know when you are coming over so that I can close the door to the second bathroom.

Get instant free access to my Finding Joy in Your Home video course.

  • Do you want to discover more joy, peace, & tranquility within your home?
  • Do you feel overwhelmed and like your house is out of control?
  • Join my free course and learn the essential habits for Christian homemakers
  1. I can SO relate with this! I’m not a mommy yet, but I’ve felt exactly the same way when contemplating a messy kitchen, a pile of laundry that needs to be folded, a floor that desperately needs a vacuum, or (worst of all) a messy bathroom that I’ve put off cleaning.

    I’m so glad it’s not just me!

    Thank you so much for this encouragement and conviction. I really have been making a big deal out of things that aren’t. Just do the next thing… as fast as possible, and as well as I can…and then go on to the next thing. YES. I can do this. Thanks, Anjanette!

    • I was at home for a few months before having my first baby as “just a wife” to try and get a handle on the whole homemaking thing. It’s just no joke! Even in our day of modern helps, keeping a tidy home is a task that requires more diligence than most of us have ever had to muster up! It’s wonderful that you are thinking about these things before kiddos come along. πŸ™‚

  2. OMG!
    This post is so timely! I have the exact problem you described. The only thing that has saved me from drowning in dishes and laundry is that we are living with my mother-in-law and her standards of cleanliness, and not quite living up to them. I have started timing the overwhelming tasks I have to do and realize they only take a few minutes of real time instead of the hours I feel they take. It does help to have an itemized list of the few things I need to tackle today, instead of the 400 things I see that I need to do sometime this month or year! Your post is so encouraging. I do need to just do the next thing!
    Thank you for being open with your struggles!

    • Living with another adult woman would definitely take the pressure up a notch! Good for you for tackling these things head on and keeping a positive attitude! And on those days when things don’t quite get finished, give yourself some grace and a *hug* from me. This stuff really can be tough!

  3. Thank you Anjanette! Great point. I am easily overwhelmed every single day about the mountains in my house. Logically I know they are mole-hills. I struggle keeping up in our home with my three boys to look after too. I really need to adopt your motto! Unfortunately I get no satisfaction from cleaning one mole hill when there are 100 others to tackle! Lol!

    • haha, it’s ok, some days the novelty of it wears off for me too. πŸ™‚ Maybe you will feel like you are rocking it if you group your tasks together into mini sessions of 3-5 things? Find the system for you that breaks it down and helps you temporarily block out the majority of the mess.

  4. Anjanette this was such a great and inspiring post! I’m a part time SAHM, looking forward to someday soon being a full time one and I get home in the afternoons and think “I have so much to do and so little time!” and can get overwhelmed – “just do what’s next” is a great reminder to keep in the back of my head. Blessings!

    • And give yourself some special grace! It’s hard enough for those of us home full time to get stuff done! There’s a fine line we all have to walk between sticking with it and not expecting too much from ourselves. Remember that God knows where you are right now in your life and where you are headed. πŸ™‚

      • Anjanette-

        Just had to reply real quick. First off, thank you for your sweet words! And because it’s just too funny I had to reply back- I went to your blog after reading this post the other day. And my husband was just on facebook today and sent me a link to your blog, stating “We went to school together!” – what are the odds???! (Robert Beard by the way)

        Anyways – have a great day!

        • haha!! Indeed, we did! He knew me during the “best” of my awkward years. πŸ™‚ And I see that you have an adorable etsy shop! Love it! πŸ™‚

    • Don’t we though? It’s a reminder that we are fallen broken people that no matter how good we have it, life is just HARD. Keeping perspective is so important and gratitude is a wonderful remedy for burnout.

  5. Wow. That’s like a magic word. I’m reading this just at the right time when I’m about to get disappointed by the never ending chores of a homemaker! Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  6. I’m so glad to learn that I am not alone in this! I don’t have children yet, and I’m only getting married in September, but I am struggling every day against feeling like a total flop for not having a perfectly clean house. My mother always has a clean house, and she always took care of the big things for my brother and I. So I guess I’m a big spoiled in that I haven’t been practicing for cleaning my own home while growing up.

    Now that I have my own space to take care of, I look at my to-do list and get so overwhelmed that I just don’t want to do anything! I also work full-time right now, so I feel like the hours in the day that I need to get everything done are just not there. It’s very difficult for me to organize my time. I have tried many things, like assigning specific rooms for each day of the week, but I never actually follow through with it and end up just tackling whatever is the most offensive at the time. There’s nothing I want more than to have a clean and tranquil home for myself, my cat, my future husband and my future children. I worry that even when I become a mom and stay at home, I won’t be able to achieve it.

    • Sister, I am right there with you. I could have written that comment when I was single. First, remember that you are not your mother. Even though someday you will laugh at all of the ways you are similar, God made you with different strengths and it was on purpose. πŸ™‚

      Second, it is good to desire to improve. And you will. I have SO very far to go. My husband gives me so much grace. And that is as it should be. None of us have it all figured out and even when we think we do we often discover we’re wrong. πŸ™‚ To take the pressure off, try and think of it as a hobby that you want to learn and not something that will make or break your future happiness. It won’t. And learning is fun.

  7. Oh my gosh! I’m so glad I’m not the only one that feels like this! Sometimes I feel like I just must not be good enough or I’m not cut out for all the homemaking parts of being a wife and mom. My mom made it look so easy! I just think it’s so hard because it never ends…

    • The never-ending part of it is so different than anything else we are trained for. That’s why looking at it as little mini-projects helps me so much. It means that there is an end – even if it’s just one task on one day. πŸ™‚

  8. Hello from a new follower!!! I am so glad I am not alone!!! I wrote a blog post recently called, “Confessions of a Lousy Housekeeper”. lol!!! This has been a constant struggle for me and I am terrible at baby steps. I truly think that is one of the lessons God is trying to teach me right now, how to take baby steps. Thank you for sharing your struggles.


    • You are most definitely not alone! πŸ™‚ It’s taken me years to realize that feeling bad about the things I’m not good at does me no good. πŸ˜‰ And small improvements may not feel particularly impressive, but they build on each other! πŸ™‚

  9. Great post! Isn’t it amazing how, when we time certain chores we realize that they really only took just a few mere minutes? It seems like we spend more time dreading it than actually doing it lol. Loved the peek into your life!

    • Yes! Right? πŸ™‚ Every time something seems like a mountain to me now, I know I should be suspicious of my judgement. haha! Difficult? Yes, sometimes things are! Insurmountable? Almost never! πŸ™‚

  10. Hello! I really enjoyed this post – powering through tasks is a great way to accomplish more with less agony. I’d love to feature your post on my little blog if that’s alright with you! I will provide a linkback to your post of course and credit you for the concept. Let me know if that’s okay! I’m just getting started in the blogging world and still learning the etiquette πŸ™‚

    • Hi Mollie,

      Thanks for the interest! You are welcome to quote a few sentences or craft your own post about a similar topic while linking back to this post! But we ask you to not copy more than a few sentences for a quote πŸ™‚ Let me know if you have any questions! Thanks!!