Here is my Q&A with Smart Martha author Tami Kiser. I am so grateful for Tami's willingness to fit this interview into her busy schedule, and to write such an excellent book. Thanks, Tami!
I loved the encouragement in Smart Martha’s Catholic Guide for Busy Moms. Explain how you got the idea for “Smart Martha.”
I began just doing “organization” seminars for women. A few years ago as I began planning on how to expand my seminars, I was deeply struck with the gospel reading about the Mary and Martha story. I felt like this is what my seminars were missing! It was a light bulb moment. We women tend to not only need help with organizing our busy lives, but more importantly, we need help finding Jesus in our busy lives.
Tell me about your Smart Martha seminars.
The Smart Martha seminars are usually held at parishes sponsored by women’s groups. Throughout the five-hour event, there are presentations, group activities, small group discussions and usually a catered lunch. Each attendee gets a workbook that contains all of the information presented as well as room to make additional notes and personal worksheets. The women who attend have a great time and leave with inspiration, new ideas, and a fresh perspective. The topics we cover are: Having a Mary Attitude during our Martha Tasks; Managing Everyone’s Schedules and Activities; Toys!; Dinner; Laundry; and Keeping It All Clean. I have traveled to many different cities and states averaging about one seminar a month.
One intriguing aspect of your book is your take on Stephen Covey’s “sharpening the saw,” about rethinking routines and taking the time to implement them to save time and grief in the long run. What’s a good example of that?
I give the example of a key rack at the seminar. For the longest time, our family struggled with lost keys or not having the right set of keys for the vehicle that was needed. We were inconvenienced by this for the longest time. If I wanted to take the small car to get a loaf of bread and milk, I had to track down the keys from whoever had the car last. To solve this, all I needed to do was to purchase a key rack, hang it up, and then get everyone to always put his keys on it. Now, the right set of keys are always available. This is the example of “sharpening the saw.” I could have just gone on with our lives always being inconvenienced by the lost or missing keys—causing the family a little stress and a little time. This is like a person sawing wood with a dull blade who says he is too busy to sharpen his saw. There are lots examples I could give: Cleaning out the closet so people can find their coats more easily; designating a place for shoes so that no one ever has missing shoes; or hanging up hooks for backpacks so that mom doesn’t have to clear them off of the kitchen counter.
You champion a Martha/Mary balance that promotes organization in order to be present to one another more fully. Why do you think moms need to hear that message?
We moms have a lot of responsibility and by nature, tend to be very task oriented. This is why the Martha story resonates with so many of us. We feel that we need to measure our success by how much we have accomplished on our “to do” lists. Our society is also very much that way. We are bombarded with messages that our family needs to do more and have more. Because of this, mothers need to be reminded of what is really important in our vocation. We need reminders of what God says we need, not what society says we need.
What would be your number one practical tip for moms looking to save time and improve their organizational skills in the new year?
One thing? That is tricky. OK. Simplify. Get rid of things and activities. You don’t need to organize things if you don’t have them. And this will save you so much time. I have seen too many “organized” moms have great closets filled with bins and baskets of lots of stuff very neatly organized, but for what reason? Get rid of what you don’t need. Don’t just organize it. Simplify life and enjoy people without having to worry about all of the stuff.
Is there anything I didn’t ask, or that you would like to add?
If you are interested in monthly reminders—since we all get caught up with our stuff, I offer 3 different ones. Since I encourage moms not to spend too much time on the computer, I make these brief and to the point. The first reminder is a simple tip to FOCUS on organizing, cleaning, uncluttering, or simplifying as well as a reminder to be more like Mary. The second reminder is to help moms with DINNERTIME since that is such a great opportunity to spend time with the family. And the last reminder comes at the end of the month and has a couple of suggestions for simple family CELEBRATIONS involving the church calendar to do the following month. You can learn more about them at www.smartmartha.com.