MODERN DAY MARTHA

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    It’s so hard to say goodbye

    Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

    In general, I have a really hard time getting rid of things. I come firmly from the “but I might need it” and “but maybe I can use it for something” camps.  Add in a dash of sentimentality and a deeply rooted superstition that as soon as I get rid of something I will need it, and you have boxes and boxes of notes passed to me in the hall in high school. (Ok, just one box.)

    Every now and then I find myself in the perfect mood, and then woe to anything extraneous in my house, nothing is safe. (Except, perhaps, the high school notes.) But that’s far from a continuous state of affairs, and mainly keeps itself to culls of the bookshelves and Happy Meal toys.

    But when we’re moving, it’s a totally different thing. I don’t want to pack anything I don’t have to, and I definitely don’t want to find it a place in the new house. So how do I decide what to keep and what to throw? Here’s my thought process:

    1. Is it loved?

    If yes, keep it.

    If no, move on to question 2.

    2. Does it serve an important purpose?

    If the answer to this is no, I ask myself why I’m keeping it, and it always ends up being one of three things. Someone gave it to me, I might need it, or I’m keeping it for reference of some kind. But you know what? Those three reasons are kind of dumb.  Because either the person will never know I got rid of it, I can get another one if I really need it, or it’s not important reference, or it would have passed the “serving an important purpose” test. Out it goes!

    If the answer is yes, then I move to question 3.

    3. Does it serve that purpose adequately?

    If the answer is yes, then it’s a keeper. I’d like to only have things in my house that I love, but that’s not always possible. So if I really dislike it, I put it on a list to be replaced at some later time.

    If the answer is no, then out it goes, and it goes on a list to be replaced as soon as is reasonable. (These are things that serve an important purpose, right?)

    So the books that I love? Keep. The fabric that I’ve had for 2 years and don’t love but figure I might use at some point? Going to a different home. The spatula with the head that keeps falling off? Gone.

    But what about the high school notes?  I’d been considering them as a single unit, but when I went through them individually I could see that some passed this test while others didn’t at all. Some of them were hilarious and held wonderful memories. Absolutely loved. Others served the purpose of documenting specific events in high school. And others did neither. So I tossed them after carrying them through multiple (I don’t even want to tell you how many) moves, and now I just have a discreet number that I have for a reason, instead of from habit.

    If I did this on a regular basis instead of just when we move, it would be far more effective in simplifying and streamlining our possessions, which, frankly, would be very welcome.

    So tell me, how do you decide what to keep and what to purge? How often do you get rid of things? Do you have it scheduled? Have a constant “Goodwill box”? What works for you?

    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.

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    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.

    Running errands

    Monday, August 30th, 2010

    A couple of weeks ago I was wandering around the internet and stumbled across a blog where a woman was describing her family’s schedule. Among the activities she laid out she mentioned going grocery shopping and running errands “once every month or so“.  How is that even possible? I’m comforting myself with the idea that she must live on a farm or something, because I’m at the grocery store at least two or three times a week, and I feel like I’m running errands more days than not.

    So, I decided to assess my schedule and see if there isn’t a way I could condense my errands – plan ahead and not have so many last minute runs out to the store.  I looked at my calendar for the upcoming month and figured out days that need planning for- preschool days that I’m teaching, parties I’m hosting, and came up with a list of things to be done in connection with them.  (I still have to figure out when to do those things, but it’s a step in the right direction.)  Then I planned out our meals for the next two weeks (I usually plan just one week in advance) and did that shopping today. Already I’ve realized I forgot a key item, and I’ll probably need to do a milk run in about a week, but I’m hopeful that skipping the almost daily trips to the store will cut down on the spending that goes with each trip.  (We will be making stops at the local produce stand, but that counts more as an activity than an errand. :) )

    So tell me, how many times do you grocery shop? How many days are you running errands?  Do you have any tips on how to condense, plan ahead?

    A New Start

    Monday, May 3rd, 2010

    Is it summer where you are?

    It’s not really summer here either, we’re still solidly in spring, but preschool has ended and it’s time to set up a new schedule.

    Our new schedule will include lots of being outside, crafts, swimming lessons, and parks. It will also include cleaning, organizing,  cooking, and learning how to read. The ever present question is how to balance everything so that it flows together and forward, keeping us moving and happy. I’m thinking a spreadsheet is in order.

    How do you fit everything you want/need to do into your schedule? Is it written down? On the computer? How often do you reassess? Do share!

    On schedules

    Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

    “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.”

    Anne Dillard

    How much do you  schedule? A lot? A little? How specific do you get?

    More to come….

    THE UBERLIST

    Monday, December 7th, 2009

    I love new starts. I love the beginning of a new week, a new month, and the opportunity it provides to plan and create a contained set of things to get done in an established time frame.  I appreciate the repeated chance to reflect back and evaluate what worked and what didn’t; what could be changed for next time.

    So I especially love the start of a new year.

    I’m not a big one for resolutions. They’re too vague for me, it’s too easy to get discouraged. (How do you measure “Be healthier”?)

    But a to do list?  That I can do.

    To- do lists for a week, by their nature, have to be short, concise, and specific, to be in any way effective.

    To-do lists for a year? Expansive, ambitious, long.

    Enter the Uberlist.

    I’m not sure who first came up with the idea of the Uberlist; I came across it on the blog of a friend of a friend.  The idea is to come up with a to do list for the coming year, with as many items on it as the number of the year. (For the friend of a friend it started in 1998 with 98 items, and continued on, so this year had 109 items, and 2010 will have 110.)  Some of the items will be menial ( #65. Organize desk), some much bigger (#21. Go to Disneyland).  Some are things you’d do anyway, (#82 Go to dentist), others should stretch you (#34 Memorize 10 hymns).

    I’ve done an Uberlist for the last 3 years, and I love it. So far this year I’ve finished 48 of my 109 goals, which is pretty good. There’s a good chance I’ll  finish another couple before the year is out (#12 Reread a childhood favorite is a strong contender).

    I split my list into sections to make it easier to go through, and to make it easier to balance out. (It gets hard to come up with new items once you hit about 50.)  The sections I used last year were:

    Books  (ie. #11 Read something by an author I’ve always meant to try. )

    Local attractions (#19 Go to the zoo )

    Trips (#22 Visit family in Utah)

    Spirituality  (#26 Read the New Testament)

    Personal Development (#38 Make a new friend)

    Leisure (#48 Go to a musical)

    Home  (#63 Get shelving for closets)

    Writing (#78 Edit novel)

    Health  (# Floss)

    Homemaking Skills (#100 Make a master grocery shopping list)

    Entrepreneur endeavors (# 107 Come up with name for Etsy store)

    This year I’ll probably add Creativity and Education as new sections.

    But a list isn’t any good unless you use it, especially one this long, so I come up with the list during December, and then at the beginning of each month I take a look at it. I pick things off of the list I can tackle that month, and then break it into weeks.  Some things are easier to get taken care of than others, some leap to the top of the list (#70 Put away Christmas decorations), others take planning and work (#92 Make a quilt), some stay on the list for years (#55 Make curtains for Z’s room).

    And some just become unimportant and never get done.  Interests or time or circumstance change, and things listed at the beginning of the year aren’t always relevant six months later. And that’s just fine.

    The point, for me, is to catch a vision of the year to come, from the basics to the dreams. Having it written down gives me a reference point on the days that seem overly cluttered, or unusually empty. When I feel like I’m missing the mark, I can reassess.

    I keep my list on the computer, and when I finish an item I bold it. It’s visually lovely that way.

    So I’d like to invite you to join me, if you’re so inclined.  Do it by yourself, or with your family (I might try that this year). Make your list as safe or ambitious as you prefer.   If you’d like, share one or two of your list items with us. It’s always inspiring to see what other people have planned for their life.  And if you’re curious, post a number from 1-110 and I’ll tell you what that item on my Uberlist is.

    Happy planning!

    What matters most?

    Friday, November 13th, 2009

    “Despite the changes which come into our lives and with gratitude in our hearts, may we fill our days—as much as we can—with those things which matter most. May we cherish those we hold dear and express our love to them in word and in deed.” – Thomas S. Monson

    I’m struggling with this right now- our days are filling themselves up quickly, but I’m not sure they’re filled with those things that matter most.  How do you determine what matters most to you? How do you keep those things at the forefront of your days while still keeping dishes washed and floors clean? (Unless, of course, clean dishes and floors are the things that matter most to you. It’s possible.) How do you find the balance between the urgent and the important, in real, practical terms?

    Reflections on Time

    Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

    I’m currently reading Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World by Suzanne Woods Fisher, a fantastic book I HIGHLY recommend.  It’s a great glimpse into the Amish way of life, and Fisher (who is not Amish) does an insightful  job of asking thought provoking questions that help the reader consider what can be learned from Amish beliefs.

    I read this yesterday and it was like a kick in the head, so I thought I’d share.

    “One Amish man joked that if her were meant to plow at night, God would have put a headlight on a horse. The Amish respect natural limitations: sunlight and seasons, hunger and fatigue. Do you accept those limitations, or do you try to override them? Do you ever feel as if you are expecting too much from yourself?

    How many times in a day do you feel rushed? How many times in a day do you feel frustrated? Are those moments always related to each other? Building a margin of error into your schedule – for unexpected things like traffic jams – can be a simple and effective way to add peace to your life.”  p 86 of Amish Peace

    Share your thoughts in the comments if you like, and if you need something to read, check out this book. The chapters are really short, so it’s easy to pick up and put down, and I’m really learning a lot from it — about the Amish, and about myself.

    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?

    An excuse to not put things away

    Saturday, August 29th, 2009

    I have a lot of crafting supplies. A lot. I’m a collector (voracious hoarder? You say tomato, I say tomato) by nature, and I enjoy 1) having  lots of options, 2) being able to put my hands on exactly what I’m imagining, 3) buying pretty things, 4) looking at pretty things. Add to that my tendency toward dabbling in many different crafting genres, and the end result is A LOT of supplies.

    Did I mention there’s a lot?

    I struggled for a long while figuring out the best storage solutions for all the supplies, and I’ve pretty much hit on what works for me. It’s a strange conglomeration of containers that resides in my closet.

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    The top shelf is the sewing machine and other sewing items- yarn, crochet needles, knitting needles, yarn, thread, scissors, rotary stencils, etc.

    The second shelf holds the Cricut and all related items- as well as paper cutters. And apparently sandpaper and bottle of pink paper flowers.

    Third is scrapbook paper and embellishments, and that section overflows into the  fourth shelf in those lovely Martha Stewart boxes.

    The ground houses all the generic supplies (glue, scissors, tape) and various inks, glimmer mists, and stencils.

    And there’s more in the rest of the closet – stamps, fabric, stationary, chipboard and o-wires.

    (Somehow my clothes, shoes, and bags fit in there too.)

    It’s really nice to have everything in one place and accessible when I need it. But because it’s put away and out of sight, I find I don’t “need” things as often, because I get distracted by the rest of life and forget about the 17 projects I have going and the other 15 I’m thinking up.

    Earlier this week I got out the sewing machine to work on a set of baby blankets I’m making for a friend who is having twins. I got almost done with one blanket and hit a rough patch, so I put it aside. But since the sewing machine was out, I decided to tackle some other projects I’ve been thinking about but hadn’t gotten to, because it was “too much trouble to get the sewing machine out”.

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    Pillows for Z and A to play their favorite game on- appropriately called “Fall on the pillow”. They were later used as stepping stones:

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    A new bag to cart A’s toys to church on Sunday:

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    Two easy, quick projects out of the way and done, and all because the instruments to make them were out and ready. I wonder how many other projects I would magically find time for if the sewing machine (or scrapbook stuff, or knitting stuff) was always out.

    I’m tempted to pick a supply and leave it out in plain sight for a week, and see what comes of it. Will you join me? Let me know what you’re leaving out in the comments.