MODERN DAY MARTHA

Celebrating the art of making a home
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    The Art of Homemaking

    Friday, September 10th, 2010

    I often feel like a boat set adrift without a compass when it comes to homemaking.  So many times I have not had any idea what to do next or how to manage the tasks that arise in my daily life.  My mother in law has been singing the praises of a book she read as a young mother.  I was recently as my sister in law’s house and saw the book on her shelf.  I borrowed it and can see why it made such an impact in their lives.

    The Art of Homemaking by Daryl V. Hoole is a wonderful book that inspires me as a homemaker and as a mother.  It was written in 1967 by a lady who really knew her stuff!

    Book1

    “By systematically keeping your home clean through daily and weekly work, coupled with extra deep cleaning periodically, you will be able to rejoice in your sparkling home all year round…”

    I can see the value of that.  Makes perfect sense…

    Here are her eight points for an orderly home:
    1.  Let each room fulfill its function.
    2.  Streamline each room.
    3.  Keep neat closets and drawers.
    4.  Have the courage to throw away.
    5.  Label all stored items.
    6.  Store some food.
    7.  Learn the fun of filing.
    8.  Take care of the children’s toys.

    The next paragraph offers hope.  She says, “It’s never too late or too early.  Form the orderly habit now.  You know, if you make the things you have to do a habit you won’t have to force yourself any longer.  Then you will enjoy a neat home, peace of mind, and you’ll be able to find things – even in the dark!”

    She has so many great suggestions and thoughts on the entire process of making a home from organizing, daily schedules and cleaning that reading this book actually makes me excited to get up and take care of my home.

    I think many of the things she says are very logical and I probably could figure it all out after maybe 50 years, but I don’t have that long.  Or what I really mean is that I don’t want to spend that much time trying to figure it all out.  I want to know it all now and get on with my life.

    The first best thing that I have learned from this book, is her schedule of cleaning; there are daily items, weekly items, quarterly and yearly items.  The second best thing is really a complete mindset change about my tasks.  I have to decide to take pleasure and joy from my job and not be bogged down by the fact that I am doing the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over…  I have a problem with this one.  Big time!

    One of the things I love about this book is that it was written in 1967.  You can really see that by the adorable illustrations.  Also by some of the things she says.  It’s too cute.  But instead of being too old fashioned to be useful, I am finding it to be exactly the opposite.  There are some old fashioned comments but I just laugh and keep reading.

    tomatoes

    One of the ways I have been implementing her teachings into my life is to make use of the ample garden bounty that my family and neighbors have shared with me.  I recently canned a really basic tomato sauce and tomato juice.

    To make the tomato sauce, I sauteed onions and garlic in olive oil.  Then I washed, cut off the yucky parts of the tomatoes and quartered them.  Next I put them in the blender and pureed the heck out of them; seeds, skin and all.  Then I dumped them in the pot with the onions and garlic.  I boiled the sauce until it reduced a bit and got thicker, probably a good hour.  Then I put into clean pint jars, put the lids on and turned upside down for the lids to seal.

    The juice was also very simple.  I washed the tomatoes, cut off the yuckies and put into my juicer.  The collected juice was then put in a pot on my stove and brought to a boil.  I boiled it for nearly half an hour to make sure that any little bacteria or other beasties were properly disposed of and then I ladled the hot juice into clean quart jars, put the lids on and turned upside down to seal.

    UsedTomatoes

    The day before I was able to process a bunch of corn to be used in the future.  I shucked it and then boiled the cobs and all for 5 minutes.  I pulled them out of the water and set aside to cool.  After cool, I cut off all the kernels.  Then laid them out on two jelly roll sheets and put in my freezer over night.  When frozen, I measured 3 cups worth into vacuum pack bags, sealed them up, labeled them and put back in the freezer.

    The only special equipment I needed for these three projects were a vacuum packer and a juicer.  All the rest were things that I think most people would readily have on hand.

    Next on the homemaking agenda is to really figure out my schedule and figure out the best way to put it in a place that I will use it.  I’m really wishing for an awesome homemaking iPhone app about now!

    I’ll get back to you with the schedule and maybe you’ll find it useful too.

    Housework as Meditation

    Monday, October 26th, 2009

    I’ve been thinking this morning about Maryanne‘s Amish quotes, especially the one I’m “sitting with” today…

    A task takes as long as it takes.

    I have a concussion, and it is hard for me to focus or do much of anything.  My house is messy and I have a splitting headache.  I decided, in the Amish proverb spirit, to do just one task, and take as many breaks as necessary.  I chose laundry.  Laundry is good because for long stretches, the machine does all the heavy lifting :)

    As I slowly checked pockets and tried to remember which settings to have the buttons on, I was totally focused on that.  It almost felt like a Silent Saturday; I could hear Joey snoring, the fan in the living room, the cats scratching in the litter box.  Even my headache abated and I felt at peace.

    I’m grateful for that experience today.

    The Year of Magical Thinking

    Saturday, September 26th, 2009

    Later after I married and had a child, I learned to find equal meaning in the repeated rituals of domestic life.  Setting the table.  Lighting the candles.  Building the fire.  Cooking.  All those souffles, all that creme caramel, all those daubes and albondigas and gumbos.  Clean sheets, stacks of clean towels, hurricane lamps for storms, enough water and food to see us through whatever geological event came our way.  These fragments I have shared against my ruins were the words that came to mind then.  These fragments mattered to me.  I believed in them.

    What rituals of domestic life do you find meaning in?

    It’s the little things

    Saturday, September 26th, 2009

    It’s time for a nitty gritty post- a how do you do the things you need to to keep the house moving kind of post.

    I’ve realized that if I do a couple of small things on a daily basis, I can keep a handle on the world (or at least my house).

    1. Make my bed.

    I decided back when Z was just a tiny baby that my bed being made was going to be my signal to myself that everything was ok. Even if the rest of my house was an insane mess, and all I had managed to accomplish was to make my bed, I would have done that, and it was ok.  For a friend of mine, her “ok space” is her kitchen sink- as long as the dishes are done she can feel ok about the world.

    2. Fill the dishwasher directly after dinner.

    The food hasn’t had a chance to cement itself to the plates, and then it’s not hanging over my head for the rest of the evening.

    2a. Start the dishwasher before bed.

    Waking up to clean dishes is so much nicer than fishing around in a washer full of dirty dishes to find the plastic valve for a sippy cup while your eyes are still bleary.

    3. Tidy up the house before bed.

    Everyone else is in bed, so it’s not going to get messed up again, and it’s SO much less depressing to wake up to a clean house than a dirty one.

    4. Fully process one load of laundry a day.

    I fall behind on this one, but when I do keep up it makes life so much easier. By fully process I mean wash, dry and put away. Doing all of the steps right after the other gets it done, and doing only one load a day is so much less intimidating(and tiring and boring) than attempting to wash all of the clothes in the entire house.  I have it scheduled out which load gets done which day, Monday: white clothes, Tuesday: black clothes, Weds: kids clothes, Thursday: Sheets, Friday: White clothes (again, there’s a lot of them), Sat: Towels , Sunday: other clothes.

    What little things do you do to keep things flowing in your house? And do you have an “ok space”? What is it?

    Love is a Verb

    Sunday, September 20th, 2009

    Almost every time I come home from a trip to see my Mama, my kitty sitter has cleaned my kitchen.  At first, I was uncomfortable by this act of kindness.  Instead of seeing it as a compassionate expression of love, I felt judged, like my housekeeping skills had been considered and found lacking.   Over the months and years this has been going on, though, I’ve come to feel the deep care shown by the elbow grease expended on my stove top.

    I’m in a new relationship.  It’s the beginning, and I’m in the twitterpated, heady stage, and I’m head over heels “in love” :)   I spent the majority of my hours this weekend with Joey, and I realized that our “in love” has the potential to develop into real “love”.  He changed the oil in my car yesterday when I was at work.  Last night I sat on his living room floor and folded his clean clothes.  He and I showed our love to each other through action.  When he says “I love you” now, it has some weight to it…

    How do you show someone you love them?

    It’s Ok if my house looks a bit messy.

    Friday, September 4th, 2009

    A house in which babies are being raised is not an art gallery, a stuffy museum, or a showplace.  It is more like a factory where you expect a certain amount of confusion and clutter as part of the “production process.”

    So You Want to Raise a Boy? by W. Cleon Skousen

    Whew!  That makes me feel a little bit better.  I was feeling too tired to finish cleaning up the kitchen and to insist that my boys pick up all their toys before they went to bed.  Nights like this I tend to ignore the bit of mess and pretend it doesn’t exist.  If it existed then that would mean I was a bad mom.  Right?

    Wrong!

    I can also breathe a little better because my house is not perfectly decorated.  It’s not an art gallery.

    Yet.

    It is a work in process and so are my children.

    That simple little quote really made me feel a lot better tonight.  Maybe it will help you as well.

    Sitting around, eating bon bons

    Monday, August 31st, 2009

    “To me it appears that our splendid sisters sometimes undervalue their abilities—they focus on what is lacking or imperfect rather than what has been accomplished and who they really are.”   -Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf

    Last week I was present at an activity with the Young Women wherein we had them write down things they were good at.  (It started out as a way to have them brainstorm for activity ideas, and then shifted gears when we saw what was happening.) The girls struggled and whined a little bit, some had a list of 4 or 5 things, the most anyone had was about 10.  When we suggested things at which we knew they excelled, they said that just because they could do something didn’t mean they were good at it.

    Then we had the girls turn over their papers and write a list of things they wanted to be better at. Pencils flew.  One girl asked for more paper.

    My heart broke.

    It’s good, great even, to want to improve. To see our weakness and want to progress, to be better. But being honest about ourselves means seeing the strong with the weak, the accomplishments with the imperfections.

    Forgetting planning activities, we took a paper for each girl and had the other girls write down things they knew that girl was good at.  Again, pencils flew, sheets were filled; this time with confidence building, truth revealing observations.

    “She always participates and makes me want to participate too.”

    “She always smiles at me and makes me feel better.”

    “She works really hard at school.”

    “She is an amazing singer/swimmer/dancer/writer/friend.”

    How would other people describe us? What would they see as they watched us going about our days?

    In that spirit, I offer this list of things I have accomplished today, as seen by the fly on the wall:

    Woke up at 5:30. Did not yell at Heavenly Father in prayer form.

    Successfully moved Z into my room so that she could stay asleep and A could go back to sleep, without A seeing me or Z waking up enough that she couldn’t go back to sleep.

    Said morning prayers while laying on the couch. Did not fall asleep while saying prayers.

    Took 20 minute nap on the couch.

    Had a smile on my face when I got a screaming A out of bed.

    Fed A and got her happily playing.

    Read scriptures and checked e-mail. Noticed something new while reading scriptures, which means I was actually paying attention to what I read.

    Noticed the beauty of the morning outside. Took  pictures of Z’s tomatoes.

    Welcomed Bruce and Z to the morning when they woke up.

    Fed Z.

    Got everyone dressed. (Bruce dressed himself.)

    Refilled my well by talking to my sister on the phone.

    Went for a walk with my visiting teacher and enjoyed the beauty of a cloudy day.

    Talked with Z about visiting teaching and why it’s important.

    Picked up lunch and watched two little girls enjoy it.

    Successfully gauged when to put A down for her nap so that she actually fell asleep rather than screaming for an hour.

    Called a dear friend to wish him Happy Birthday.

    Figured out meals for the week.

    Ordered groceries.

    Got Z down for a quiet time.

    Tidied up the house.

    Thought of something to post about.

    Did not throw a fit when Z pooped in her pants even though she was in a room with a bathroom in it.

    That’s more than 20 things I’ve done today. I’m sure there are plenty of things I haven’t done, but I’m focusing on those 20+. That’s a lot of things to have accomplished by 1 pm.

    I’m amazing.

    And so are you. Please, share. What have you accomplished today? And like I told my girls, “don’t be modest. I mean, do be Modest- don’t run around half naked- but boast, people! C’mon!”

    To-Do or Not To-Do…

    Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

    Today I woke up motivated.  As I snuggled with my two year old under the warm covers I contemplated what my day would hold.  I said my morning prayers and thought about change, progress and many good things that I wanted to incorporate into this beautiful Saturday.

    Among the things I was thinking about, one in particular was that I needed to do a major cleaning job on my kitchen.  I had let it go for two days and in that short period of time it had come to resemble the wake of a Class 5 hurricane.  Pretty bad.  Worse than bad.

    After I finally decided to get up, I went upstairs to the kitchen and began the morning’s cleaning; unloading the dishwasher, filling it up and so forth.  I fed my boys.  Then I turned around three times and the kitchen was a total disaster again complete with oatmeal smeared on the floor, the table, the chairs and a few spots on the living room carpet.

    I had a minor conniption fit while basking in my self-pity and uselessness.  I ran downstairs and vented to my husband for a minute or two and then attempted to pull myself together.  I was struggling with the suffocating feeling of being overwhelmed by all the chores I had to do this day.  I was feeling let down because I had been so motivated just an hour or so before.  I was feeling like I would never get all the rooms clean and my mental to-do list would never get complete, especially when my kids were seemingly running behind like some kind of elves and undoing all the work I had just done.

    So while I was trying to get my motivation back, I spent some time looking over Fly Lady’s site.  I watched her Shine Your Sink video and read the first few baby steps.  That was the inspiration I needed.  I decided to follow her advice and tackle my jobs in smaller increments and I decided to make a list of all the things I wanted to get done this day.

    My list looked like this:

    • Put up new bedside lamp
    • Change light bulb in laundry room
    • Shine kitchen sink
    • Put away dishes
    • Re-fill dishwasher
    • Wash kitchen floor
    • Clean off my dresser
    • Fold laundry
    • Wash/Dust TVs
    • Make a box for the cat to sleep in on the deck

    Not the most elaborate list but detailed enough so that I wouldn’t loose track of what I was supposed to be working on.  I find that I get side tracked pretty easily.  There is always something else that needs to be cleaned, put away, scrubbed, folded, shopped, chopped, watered, baked, etc.  I’m a mom.  That’s life.  I turn around and there is another project staring me down.  If I look at the whole house and all of the daily projects and chores that need to be done, I get overwhelmed and then shut down.  Then I spend the entire day on Facebook refreshing my browser hoping that one of my friends has updated their status or searching Craigslist for cute antique couches that I can’t afford to buy and I’m not really sure that I want anyway.

    DSC_0007

    My bite sized pieces were the thing the kept me going today.  I was able to come back to my to-do list after cleaning up my son’s broken piggy bank and know what I should do next.  Like a buffet, I can pick and choose from my list the items I feel like doing at that particular moment.  I was able to maintain momentum and even found joy in performing the mundain tasks such as changing the light bulb in the laundry room.  I had so much fun doing that task that I was inspired to change all the light bulbs in my bathroom to the energy efficient bulbs.  Maybe I’ll save a couple of cents and can buy a new notebook when this one gets full of my To-Do lists…

    Tomorrow is a new day with a new list.  I will carry over a few of the items such as Fold Laundry.  All those clean clothes that I washed in between checking off items on my list are still piled up on the floor in the family room.  I’ll be honest, they might be there for a few days.  But that job will also be on each day’s new To-Do list and eventually I’ll happily cross that nice bite-sized chore off.