As the writer and host of a series of “parenting minutes” heard on local and national radio stations, I am often surprised by the messages that provoke a larger numbers of responses.
It is not the “heavy” stuff related to morals or medicine that kindle a reaction from listeners. Rather, the practical ideas about home and family seem to matter.
Recently, I heard from a slew of folks who wanted more information about research showing a relationship between neat, organized homes and kids who performed better in school.
Obviously, this message struck a chord.
Why? Homemaking is more than cleanliness. It is the creation of a setting for living, learning, playing and thinking.
During this time of year, the Autumnal Equinox and subsequent time change offer a natural ‘pause button” in the rhythm of family life and can be an ideal time to take care of details and duties that can easily be overlooked.
These 12 tasks can help you to “fall into a more organized home life.”
VINEGAR CLEANING: At the time change in fall — Nov. 3 this year — and spring, run white vinegar through coffee and tea makers. Vinegar is a natural cleanser and you will be surprised at how much better your beverages taste when brewed in a fresh pot. Be sure to run three to four cycles of distilled water through the pot afterward to flush the vinegar.
PURGE SWEATERS AND COATS: Take time to purge closets of sweaters, coats, and shoes. Why these particular items? As the autumn temperatures plunge, homeless and less fortunate friends in the community require warm clothing, and may not be able to afford what they need.
How many navy blazers or red ski jackets does one need? Drop by Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or a church outreach closet and exchange these treasures for a tax deductible receipt.
MID-TERM TIME: The Autumnal Equinox happens to intersect with the first grading period in K-12 schools and the dreaded “mid-term” reports in college.
Parents can make a good assessment of their students’ progress at this benchmark in the academic year. Is it time for a tutor? Is your child placed in the appropriately challenging set of courses? Are there too many distracting activities or friends that may be interfering with progress?
COOL ATTIC CLEANING: Clean out the attic. It is finally cool enough to brave the eaves and closets upstairs. In the same spirit as task two, look for items that might be useful to those in need and go ahead and pull holiday decorating boxes to the front. You will want them handy in about a month.
SWAP CLOSETS: Many folks keep winter clothes in a separate closet or set of boxes during the summer. It is time to pull those winter garments out and put the summer things away. The week after the equinox is a good time to swap if you have been putting it off.
THE THREE F’s: Check out your fireplace, furnace and filters. The three F’s of fending off winter chills are best attended to before the bitter winds blow. While filter-changing can be done by most sensible adults, a good inspection of fireplace, chimney, and furnace is the domain of an expert.
PLANTING TIME: Plant bulbs now for beauty later. The first chill of autumn is a signal to begin scouring the aisles of the nursery and home improvement store for the best bulbs. One of the most meaningful experiences in the outdoor memories of my children came when they chose and planted daffodil and tulip bulbs in the autumn and then observed in sheer amazement when the flowers popped up in March.
DEEP CLEANING: Take down curtains and blinds if you can and give them a good cleaning. Air conditioning is marvelous, but it keeps the house closed up and dust finds a natural nesting place in fabrics and crevices. With so many children suffering from allergies, this kind of home maintenance is almost a prescription.
PERIODICAL PURGE: Clean out magazines and paperbacks that have piled up through the year. Ask the local hospital, assisted living home or library if they would like your literary treasures. Many libraries hold a tag sale around this time of year and will gladly glean the paperback books for resale.
HOLIDAY CALENDAR: Make a family calendar for holiday activities. Believe it or not, the winter holidays are just six to eight weeks away. If you want good seats for a special ballet or show or a babysitter for the night of your festive office party, now is the time to make reservations and phone calls.
LIGHT IT UP: The fading natural light of the season can trigger depression. I like to light things up with artfully placed LED candles set on a timer. Grouping them on a mantle, in the entranceway, and on the dining table create a warm distraction for the eye and spirit.
SPICE IT UP: Now is the time to introduce spicy autumnal scents to provide a balm for the shorter, colder days. Essential oils are popular, but sometimes pricey. Try an old fashioned ceramic plug in scent pot with sticks of cinnamon, cloves, and lemon peel. For an afternoon treat, mix up a jar of my special spiced tea. Use decaffeinated, diet lemon iced tea mix; sugar free orange drink mix ( Tang or Crystal Light); cinnamon, and cloves. I recommend ¾ tea mix to ¼ orange drink mix and several teaspoons of the spices. Play with it to your taste.
With the exception of task number three, these little duties are hardly the stuff of life changing magnitude. Why do they matter?
As I go about them, they give me a chance to pause and enjoy my home and to deconstruct some of the clutter that presses in mercilessly. It is as much a mental process as a physical one.
There is research suggesting that homes that are clean and organized offer children a respite from the clutter and messiness of the world. Will it produce a higher SAT score or an honor roll report card?
Maybe. Maybe not. But at least your coffee will taste better when you get up on those brisk Autumn mornings.
Dr. Linda Karges-Bone is a professor, author, and media influencer who has written 34 books and hundreds of articles and stories for educational and family media. You can reach her at www.educationinsite.com.