How in the world do you have time to sew when you still have kids at home??
It’s a question I get a lot.
More than a lot.
With many people having to work from home over the next several weeks, I thought I’d finally take a minute to share some methods that have helped me out over the past few years.
But, before I get into how I find time to create and work from home, there are some things you should know for context:
First, I don’t crave a spotless house.
Second, I have kids that are old enough to help with chores.
Third, I have a firm “people first policy”. More on that later.
Fourth, our family is not dependent on my income.
So what I’m about to share here might not work for you. That’s okay! We’re all unique and operate differently in our day to day lives. Don’t feel my jive when it comes to working from home? I have a whole bunch of links in this post that might lead to something more your style (and keep you from having to scroll Pintrest to find what you’re looking for)!
Okay, now that’s out of the way, here’s my current approach to handling a bunch of kids and a small sewing business.
Routines and Rhythms.
It used to be that I didn’t have much passion for utilizing a routine in our home. Between working, going to school, being in the Army Reserves, and having kids left and right, there didn’t seem to be a ton of time to figure out a routine in the first place- other than a consistent nap schedule, that is!
A few days into my first summer as a newly minted stay at home mom, though, my five year old asked if I could add a little more structure to our days.
Yes, my five year old.
So I moped around for a bit, complaining to my husband that our daughter didn’t like my free-living approach to life. And then I gave in.
Turns out having routines and rhythms in our day made us all function a bit better and enjoy life a little more. In fact, most of the points I share below have to do with routines and rhythms.
Oh how I’ve changed.
One of the most important factors here is that everyone contributes to keeping our house running, not just me. However, I will admit, sometimes my husband and I need to have some “lively discussions” with the kids about this. Someday it will pay off. *fingers crossed*
Here’s the chore chart we keep on our fridge. Each day has a theme on the top section, and I dole out separate chores within that theme to each family member. During the school week, these are their after-school chores. They do them after snack and free reading/chatting time, and before going outside to play. The bottom section is a rotation of the after dinner chores.
When we have after school activities, the kids do that day’s chores the day before or the day after. When someone is sick, the rest of us pick up his chores for him (or her, as the case may be).
I have a monthly/yearly chore checklist somewhere gathering dust. Good intentions, I know. We’re still on a “fix things as they come up” theme there, so I may be checking these links again myself!
Links for Chores:
- Fillable chore chart: our personal family version shown above, delete our info and add your own!
- Build your own cleaning architecture: a guide for how to build your own cleaning routine, plus great lists of what to include each week/month/year
- Printable weekly cleaning schedule: a simple and colorful routine already filled out for you
- Mother Like a Boss: great tips and resources for how to keep homemaking consistent and fun
During the week, I stay at home with my toddler and preschooler (who goes to afternoon preschool four days). I do my best not to do any business work in the mornings or in the after school/before bedtime hours during the week. Keeping my day sectioned out really helps me stay less scattered.
After we stand at the living room window in the morning, waving and counting the number of kids hopping onto the bus, the littles and I (well, mostly I), clean up the kitchen from breakfast, start a load of laundry, do our chores from the top section of the chart for the day, and then have a “book break” and read together. Next, we do our best to remember to change the laundry over before heading outside for a walk when the weather’s good, or heading upstairs to play.
After lunch and getting the five year old to preschool, the toddler goes down for a nap and I get to work! I find that if I at least get the kitchen spruced up, one load of laundry done to completion, and my morning chore done, I can focus on work without feeling guilty.
Links for routines:
- Time blocking: great post on how to use “time blocking” to get more out of your day
- Finding margin: tips on how to find a little more time in your day
- Tips and printables for creating your own routine. Most of these focus on working from home, but can be applied to your day even if you don’t!
Ahh work. I love it. But (and this is a BIG but), I don’t want to be constantly looking forward to the next stage of life when all the kids are in school and I can sew as much as I want. I want to enjoy where I am right now.
So, while I still dream big, I work hard to set realistic expectations. Even then, I’m continually adjusting my expectations. And then adjusting them a little more. Through trial and error, I’ve found I’m more at peace with myself and my family (and do a better job sewing!) when I have long turnaround times for my projects and don’t pack too much into one week. And I’ve learned that production style sewing isn’t for me.
I take on fewer custom orders than I had originally hoped to be able to and have moved my business along more slowly than I had anticipated. A surprise pregnancy will do that do you 😉
Good thing life isn’t a race, people. You can move at whatever pace is right for you and your family. Don’t let social media make you think otherwise!
Down to the nitty gritty of work: I work while the toddler naps. He still takes around a two hour nap every day, so that gives me a decent amount of time to work with. On Mondays, I use that time to catch up on household paperwork such as paying bills, writing letters, or calling the insurance company for the hundredth time. Tuesdays through Saturdays I sew. Sundays, I rest or sew for fun.
My husband is usually gone a couple of evenings each week, so I use the “after the kids are in bed” time to respond to emails, write and schedule posts, update my bookkeeping, and other non-sewing related sides to running a business.
Links for working at home:
- Theme days: using theme days to add structure to your week
- Theme your week: more tips on using theme days
- Making time: my post on motherhood, mending, and making
- Focusing: tips on focusing to get more done in short periods
All of these things are made easier for me by using a paper planner. Having space to physically write out what I need to do helps me keep it all straight. For the most part, anyway 😉
I sit down at the beginning of each week and do a “brain dump”, then portion everything out by priority/category and write it down where necessary in my planner. There are some great posts about brain dumping already written, so I’ll just link them below instead of going into detail!
Links for brain dumping and paper planners:
- Brain dumping: get those swirling ideas out of your head and on to paper
- Brain dumping #2: another take on the brain dump
- Passion planner: I’ve used and loved this one
- Quilter’s Planner: my current planner (Merry Christmas to me!)
- Free printable to-do list: a weekly to-do list that you don’t have to pay for
- Different to-do list: another free printable and tips on how to get more done
I love setting goals when it comes to my sewing. Instead of just thinking about them, I keep a running list in Google Docs that I refer back to often. I started in 2017 by setting a couple of large goals for what I would like to do with my business over the next 5-10 years. Having a clear picture of what I’m aiming for has allowed me to break each large goal down into actionable steps with a timeline. This might sound a little “heady” and restrictive, but I’ve actually found it to be quite liberating when it comes to deciding what to do next in the day/week/month.
Here’s my real-life example that I haven’t shared with many people! One of my 5-10 year goals is to have enough passive income to fund free sewing classes in a women’s shelter setting. I’ve broken that down into what I’ll need to be doing 3 years from now for that to be a reality. Then broken it down again into what I’ll need to be doing next year. Then broken it down again further to what I need to be doing this year and month. And guess what my baby step is this month? Releasing my first free pattern! Nerve wracking and out of my comfort zone, yes. But I’m excited for it anyway because it’s one step closer to a goal that’s been on my heart since before starting Reclaimed for Good!
Links about goal setting:
- Goals for your business: a podcast about setting realistic goals
- For when you’re unmotivated: how to keep going on a goal when you’re in a funk
- Reverse goal setting: using the big picture to set small goals
There are a lot of balls in the air every day. The one that takes priority, though, is my “people first” policy. If I’m unable to take the time to help a friend in need or sit with one of the kids when she needs attention, then I’m trying to do too much. This simple idea is how I decide how many orders to accept, how many volunteer opportunities to take, and how many extra curricular activities we’re involved in.
Routines, chore charts, goal setting, people first. All sounds pretty neat and tidy, with a little bow on top.
But, my days rarely fall into place as perfectly as this post makes them sound! Life throws some curveballs, doesn’t it? And sometimes, curveballs or not, we just need to take a break from it all and rest.
I find that having a good structure to how we live and work means that it’s easier to get back on track when we derail from time to time.
Even more than that, it all needs to be flexible. Goals can shift, schedules can change, you can have a bad day. Don’t let those shifts, changes, and tough spots define who you are. Roll with them.
Then get back at it.
Here’s the thing. I love to sew. I love to see other people sewing and creating and coming to meaningful realizations in the process. It’s important to me, so I make time for it.
I’m incredibly thankful to be living a life where I’m able to make time for it and have the resources to do what I love!