Lessons from the Boutique, Part 2: Opening and Closing

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Owning a business for several years teaches you a few tricks.  This is one that I still use today:  an Opening and a Closing.

At the boutique, we opened at 10.  The thirty minutes before that was ‘gird your loins’ time.  It was the last few minutes you had to prepare for the incoming of customers.  This is when you checked to make sure everything was perfect, settled your heart and mind, dealt with any attitude issues, then click, unlocked that front door, and welcome the world.  Do you see where this is going?  At the end of the day, after we let the last customers out, we had a closing.  This was the wind-down: vacuum, wash mirrors, tidy, review the day, plan for the next day, count the money, lock up, and go home.

I’m a happy housewife now, but I’ve found that the idea, the concept of opening and closing still applies.  I still have things that need to be done each morning before me, my husband, and my house are ready to face the day.  Opening gives me a sense of peace, calm, and control before I get going, while closing settles me down for the night.

The main thing I like about opening, just like at the store, is it gets me ready for people.  One of the hard parts about life is that you can’t live without people.  Accept that.  You aren’t a hermit.  If you were, you’d die.  Now, I can say that because I’m the first to admit that I would be the crazy neighborhood cat lady if it wasn’t for all the rest of you crimping my style.  If it wasn’t for a husband, a family, and a church to serve, I might never leave my house, and I’d have lots of strange pets, and I’d probably scare neighborhood children.  (Remember, I’m a writer, strange comes with the job.)

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But God (my favorite two words) has wisely decided that we are all better off having to deal with one another.  I’m sure it has something to do with sanctification and destroying my selfishness.  Add to that that I’m one of those old-fashioned people who think that people should feel like honorable guests in my home.  I want my husband to feel appreciated for all the work he does, and I want him to be able to study with ease when he comes home.  The fastest way to accomplish this is with an opening and a closing.  The best way to have an opening and closing is to do the same thing every time.  (We’ll talk about systems in a later blog post.)

My day starts at 5.00am.  I get up, get the coffee going, wake up my husband, and drink a glass of water while I check email, FaceBook, Twitter, Pinterest, and my blog stats.  This prepares me for anything I may need to take care of later today, and lets me get my head in the game.  I try to limit my social media time or it takes over my life.  At this time, I also select blogs to read and line them up in my browser, so that they’re ready when it’s time to take a break.  After that, I see my husband out the door and focus on writing.  I either work on my blog, or on my WIP(work in progress): Icicle Rain.  Sometime between 700 and 730, I head for the shower.  I don’t leave the bathroom until I’m clean, my hair is done, and my war paint makeup is on.  I always put on my makeup for the most significant event of the day.  Meaning, if I’m going on a date that night, I wear date makeup all day.  I usually do the same thing with my clothing unless I plan on working in the yard.  After hair and makeup, comes getting dressed and making the bed.  I get completely dressed in the morning: jewelry to shoes.  This is part of being prepared.

Now that I’m all ready, I get the house ready.  Curtains are flung open to let in the day.  Last night’s dishes, snacks, and dirty laundry are tidied.  Each room gets a quick going over.  I generally start at the laundry room and move towards the back bedrooms.  This quick sweep of the house not only keeps it in order, but also lets me see any areas that are going to need more major attention later in the day.  Finally, I adjust my To-do list, make breakfast, and do a little bible reading.  My day is ready to start.

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At the end of the day, I basically rewind all that I did in the morning.  I set up my coffee.  I make sure my computer and flash drive are ready to go.  I close curtains, shut off lights, and settle in for a quiet evening with my husband.  The main thing about closing is to turn your focus inward on your family.  We have a small dinner together where we talk about our days, make any joint family decisions that need to be made, and plan our schedule.  We take off our day clothes and put on our comfy pjs.  I wash off the makeup.  This is a very important time, because it is us time.

Opening and closing your day gives your body cues as to what needs to happen next.  Are we gearing up or winding down?  It helps you prepare your family for the day ahead and get them all snuggled down at the end.  It lets you know the first things to accomplish so you don’t overwhelm yourself with everything all at once.  It is a good way to stay on top of your clutter even if you know you have to do it every day.  We don’t live in a world where things improve with time.  Everything falls to ruin in this life unless we maintain it.  God doesn’t get miffed that He has to give breath to one more person, even though they’re going to need it again in the next second, and they never even notice He gives it to them.  God is good and generous.  We should be too.  It might seem dull and frustrating to have to tidy up the house yet again, or make the coffee, or the bed, I mean you’re going to get back in it again, right?  It might seem like such a waste to do your hair or your makeup when no one’s going to see you but your husband, right?  Wrong.  It sets a tone of focus, self-sacrifice, and seriousness to your work.  Even if your house is going to have to be cleaned again tomorrow, it is important to clean it today.  That’s being a good steward.  That loves your neighbor as yourself.  That’s being ready for what the Lord brings in your life.

Open your home in the morning, close it at night.

Lesson 1: First Things First

Lesson 3: Have a System

Lesson 4: Dealing with People

Lesson 5: Red Heels

Lesson 6: Fashion from Boutique to Housewife

Lessons from the Boutique: Part 1: First Things First

Boutqiue Lessons

Back in the Boutique Days

My husband and I bought a business two weeks after we got married.  We bought a women’s designer consignment boutique.  A few years later, we bought another one.  We were in the business of designer clothing for ten years.  After our ten-year anniversary, we decided we wanted to apply ourselves to serving our church.  We wanted to store up our treasure in heaven and not here on earth.  The Lord graciously made that possible.  Now my husband spends his free time studying to preach on Wednesday nights.  I spend my time tending my home, visiting, helping, cooking, and serving my church any way I can.  I’m blessed with the opportunity to say yes instead of no.  To the world, our lives look much smaller and less significant.  To us, they’re fuller, richer, and have eternal value.

This is not to say we didn’t learn some valuable lessons from owning our business, we did.  In fact, as always, God used that time to teach me some very helpful things, which I now apply to managing my home.  For a few weeks, every other Monday, I’m going to share some of the lessons I learned.

The 1st Lesson: “First things first, and second things not at all.”

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Peter F. Drucker

Peter F. Drucker, the father of modern management, coined this phrase.  (Don’t imagine your bad manager, or lots of useless paper work.  Imagine a well-oiled, efficient management machine.)

We went to him, through books and articles, as our business grew.  We had to become good managers.  Not just of our growing number of employees, but also of ourselves.  A manager has to prioritize their time, money, and projects.  Managers have to manage everything.  These same lessons apply to housewives and homemakers.

You manage everything.  Out comes the To-Do List.  Everything.  Feeling overwhelmed yet?  Your brain fragments into a million multi-tasking problems.  But, it’s ineffective to multi-tasking projects.  It’s impossible to get a task done while also trying to get another task done.

“First things first, second things not at all.”

Calling your sister while you’re doing the dishes, or listening to an audio book while you clean and fold laundry is proper multi-tasking.  Those tasks require little use of the brain.  You’ve done them a thousand times.  Cooking dinner while cleaning out the fridge, planning the next day, and texting your mom isn’t proper multi-tasking.  Your stress level spikes, something goes wrong, or is left undone.

This is where the First Things management principle comes in handy.  What is the priority of the moment?  Focus on that.  Don’t worry (Yes WORRY) about the other things.  For you list makers, like me, this is very important.  This form of management frees us from constantly worrying about The List.

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A real life example:  I woke up yesterday morning, Sunday, with the list for Monday rolling through my head.  I have a flat tire that needs to be fixed, a window install that needs to be scheduled, all the normal cooking, cleaning, errands, working out, plus a nephew’s birthday, two nieces’ birthday, taxes to get ready, friends to visit, house sitting to plan for, and articles to write.  It is very hard to prepare for worship when your head is preparing to battle with the upcoming week.

“First things first, second things not at all.”

My First priority on Sunday morning, is preparing my heart for worship.  It is to rest from the world’s demands and focus on the Lord and his people.  This is my First Thing.  I need to ignore the Second Things (the List in my head).  Knowing that it is good management to pack away Second Things, I command myself to stop worrying about the List.  It’s not important.  Going to church with a focused mind and heart is important.  First Things first.

With Sunday finished and Monday morning rolling around, I reprioritize.  My First Things are to get this article written and my husband off to work in as happy a state as I can.  This frees me from worrying about the dishes in the sink, the dirty bathroom, and the phone calls I have to make.  With those First Things done, I re-evaluate my list and find the next First Things.  I consistently command myself not worry about the other things.

In another words, compartmentalize your life, in a good way.  Take all the things you have to do and put them in a box.  Label that box Second Things.  Only get something out of the Second Things box if the First Things are done.

This form of management requires some planning.  Planning in the above Sunday example proves easy: stop worrying about Monday.  There.  Done.  But, when Monday rolls around, the planning takes on a more strategic design.  I must sit down and find out what are First Things and what are Second Things.  This provides me a moment to see if any of the First Things connect to the Second Things.  For example, maybe I’m planning a crock-pot meal for dinner.  Preparing that meal is my First Thing.  Agonizing over the order of my errand running is not a First Thing.  It is a Second Thing.  It doesn’t become a First Thing until it’s time to plan my errands.  I stop thinking about it and focus on dinner preparation.  My worry level drops.  I know that each important task has a place and time, which isn’t now.

This concept proves itself repeatedly as I manage my household, help with conference meals, spend time with my church family, and write.  It helps me apply the Biblical principle of not worrying.  Practice it until you get a hold of it.  If you’re a compulsive list maker, it helps you stop nagging yourself.  If organization isn’t your strong point, it gives you a place to start – the First Things.

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“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  34 Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.  – Matthew 6:25 – 34

“She looks well to the ways of her household  and does not eat the bread of idleness.” – Proverbs 31:27

Lesson 2: Opening and Closing

Lesson 3: Have a System

Lesson 4: Dealing with People

Lesson 5: Red Heels

Lesson 6: Fashion from Boutique to Housewife