Annie Payne takes some advice from her diary in her final article

Involve the kids in household chores.

Set a timer, for motivation.

Quit while you’re ahead.

I’ve kept a faithful diary since I was 13. Over the years, for better or worse, my diary has gone from book form to electronic, now consisting mostly of my blog, my Facebook wall, my Twitter account and this column.

My diary is a reminder of lessons learned. It has been invaluable for me to look back and read some of the “bread crumbs on the trail of life” I have left for myself and my posterity.

I would like to share with you today — it’s actually more of a reminder to myself — some of my best Home and Garden advice.

“When motivation is low, set a timer for 15 minutes and get to work.”

This advice is especially appropriate this time of year when the “winter gloomies” set in.

Sometimes household tasks can become too daunting. Setting a timer for 15 minutes and committing to stop working when the time is up keeps you from becoming too overwhelmed. You may find that once you have started working, you get into a zone and you don’t want to stop until the task is finished.

You would be surprised how much can be accomplished in a few 15-minute flashes of effort.

Kids are motivated by the timer, too.

It becomes a fun competition for them to see what they can do in that amount of time. Speaking of kids ...

“Household maintenance is not a one-woman show.”

This has become truer for me in the past few months.

While in transition from stay-at-home mom to working mother, I’ve had to rely more on my 12-year-old twin sons and their 9-year-old sister for the day-to-day upkeep of our home.

Cleaning the kitchen is now (almost) solely their responsibility, along with the cleaning of their rooms and bathroom.

Mom works, dad works, the kids need to work, too.

Teach children early that they are a part of a family and have responsibilities in the family home.

As toddlers my kids were mopping floors, folding towels, and running little errands for me in the house. I now reap the rewards of having helpful, independent, older children.

“Life is not a Pottery Barn catalog.”

One of the goals of my column has been to bring the joy back into homemaking, which includes reminding people that home doesn’t have to look like, as I like to call it, a “Lottery Farm” catalog.

I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from purchasing things from the “Lottery Farm,” I would just like to dissuade someone from thinking that they have to, in order to be happy.

That catalog picture of perfection is not real. It’s a set. It’s as real as an airbrushed cover girl.

Real homes, happy homes, practical homes are not that clean, not that orderly, and not that perfect, because what is missing from that photo set is a family.

What makes a house a home isn’t an oversized glass decanter filled with corks or a couch covered with so many pillows there is no place to sit.

It’s the people who eat, sleep, laugh, and leave their socks on the floor. It’s the people who bounce the basketball in the kitchen and leave a trail of backpacks, coats and shoes from the front door to the couch that make a home.

“Quit while you’re ahead.”

The dishes are done, the laundry is folded and, sure, the pantry could use some organization. But, as my mentor Erma Bombeck so famously said: “Cleaning the house while kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk while it’s still snowing.”

There are always going to be chores to do, but your children aren’t always going to want to play video games with you.

Know when to say “when.” Stop and enjoy the family and home you have now.

And that’s exactly what I plan on doing.

This will be my last article for the Home and Garden section. It’s time for me to turn the page of my diary and enjoy a little more of the family, home and life I have right now.

I want to thank my faithful readers for their love and encouragement over the past four years.

Perhaps I’ll grace the pages of The Daily Sentinel again someday, but for now ...

Dear Diary,

Today is going to be a good day.

For more on an unpredictable variety of other topics, visit Annie Payne’s blog,, at


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