Good enough, Part 2

Older daughter:  Mommy, why are there smiley faces in the dust at the base of the computer?

Me:  Because your brother thought it would be funny to draw smiley faces in the dust at the base of the computer.

 

After my (thankfully internal) response to my daughter watching me just sit, I started to wonder: how much is enough when it comes to housework? It’s different, obviously, when you’re up and able-bodied and not wandering around in a slightly zombified state due to lack of sleep; the state of the house post-partum is absolutely allowed to be different than the state of the house with a reasonably well-rested mom. I’d spent months thinking about and writing about simplifying “stuff;” now I was forced to simplify–or at least prioritize–housework. And I had to really commit to something, instead of just pondering ideas in an abstract way. My final verdict:

If it’s vital to the smooth running of the household, it gets done. Dishes, laundry, meals: yes. The family needs to be clothed and fed; those few things are not optional. (Who did the cooking was absolutely negotiable….whether that be my husband, Planet Sub, or me. Usually in that order.)

If it didn’t involve those few things, it could go. The family would pitch in at some points, but we still often had copious amounts of dog fur all over the floors, and a fine coating of dust all over the furniture. (Except the dining room table…there was a fine coating of Legos all over the dining room table.)

The baby is now six months old, and I’m feeling much more human now. We had my daughter’s birthday party at the end of September, my son’s at the end of October, and we’ve even had people over a few times for fun. The house has improved greatly, now that I’m not coma-mama. But for that little bit of time, that was what I needed: just enough, to be good enough.

Preparations

Awhile back I wrote a post venting about all the stuff I was dealing with.  Rereading it makes me want to slap myself just a little bit (get over it!), but at the same time, I understand where I was coming from.  I’ve been working on simplifying and decluttering and getting rid of excess, and to be deluged with stuff the way we were would obviously agitate me a bit.  (Interestingly, the whiniest post I have ever written resulted in the most “follows”….what’s that about?)

I’m at a place now where I realize that so much of the intake is so temporary.  The maternity clothes that have taken over my closet–and pushed all my regular clothes into every available nook and cranny left in the master bedroom–suddenly have a very limited lifespan.  The closet full of baby gear in the nursery will be dug into shortly, and everyone knows the cliches about how “they grow up so fast;” the bouncy seat and baby swing are going to be in and out of our lives in a fairly quick amount of time.  While homeschooling supplies might be here to stay for awhile, the pace of the influx has definitely slowed, and we can take the time to think through where something is going to live before we bring it home.  And all the winter gear (heavy coats, hats, gloves, etc.)….well, I tried to pack those away last week.  It didn’t last long.  (Sigh.)  But that time is coming.  Next week, maybe?

I realize that all the little tricks I’ve done off and on will now need to be used all at once, for at least the next year.  Going through kids clothes seasonally will need to shift back to “I keep a bag in the laundry room at all times,” for all the little outfits that last three months at a time.  The “one in, one out” rule might need to get tightened up for at least a little bit; “one in, at least two out” is really appealing when I realize my daughter has about four pairs of shoes she can’t wear anymore.  Staying on top of paperwork is becoming vital, simply for my own sanity:  once baby comes, postpartum depression is most likely to come, too (though I’m hoping a spring baby might make a difference).  Having piles of papers all over my kitchen counters will not help my mood or mentality one bit.

I’ve been trying, the past two days, to really focus on clearing and decluttering the downstairs.  I can’t call it nesting, because there’s absolutely no burst of energy spurring this on; it’s just the reality of the words “if she’s not here by Wednesday, we’ll schedule you to be induced” that’s weighing on me and helping me plod on in a “slow and steady wins the race” kind of way.  I can sit here on the sofa and think, wow, I really need to sweep (it’s mud clod season over here), but things look pretty good.

Essentially, I’m thinking back to when my first child was born, and realizing that NO, I refuse to do THAT again.  Let’s see how on top of things I can be before all the crazy starts.

I guess that means I maybe should pack a bag for the hospital……

“A little folding of the hands to rest…”

Any flat surface...

Any flat surface…

Technically, the verse doesn’t exactly fit.

The entire proverb actually reads, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest–and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.”  (Proverbs 6:10, NIV)

Every Monday morning, though, as I begin to pick up and try to help our home recover from the weekend, I think of this verse.  A couple of days off, I think.  Just a couple of days where I didn’t do (fill-in-the-blank) and now look at this mess.  Each time a Saturday rolls around, I feel like slacking a bit (it’s the weekend, after all), and then Sunday comes, with the get-ready-and-get-out-the-door morning crunch, when things get left undone or half-done… And then it’s another Monday morning, where I look around and shake my head and wonder, how did this happen?

Oh, yeah… a little folding of the hands to rest.

Our problem isn’t scarcity or poverty…it’s just “stuff,” stuff that gets piled on any available flat surface “for now,” somehow leaving me to deal with it each Monday morning.  Our lack of routine come Friday night is screamingly apparent by Monday morning; any other day of the week I’d be on top of all this, but apparently the weekends are “playtime” and not “worktime” around here.

I’m not a huge photo-blog person; the only other photo I’ve included so far was for a guest post I wrote, whose site always used photos.  But I had to include a picture with this.  On the raised hearth of our fireplace sits a basket for library books.  Most of the time, that is the only thing sitting on the hearth (although an assortment of things might end up in the basket).  Every Monday morning, though, I come downstairs and realize that “stuff” has been sneakily accumulating over the weekend.

Every Monday morning.

Maybe it’s time to rest a bit less on the weekends…..

Overwhelming simplicity

I’ve been reading too much lately.  That’s not true, I guess; I don’t think that’s possible.  I’ve been reading too many “simplifying” books recently.  That is true.  There comes a point where you get past good information and great ideas and run, full tilt, and fall off the cliff into a great morass of guilt.  The most recent book I read (which shall remain nameless, since I’m complaining about it) seemed to focus, extensively, on how horrible we Americans are in our consumption; especially compared to the majority of the world.  Which I already know, and hear repeatedly, and get tired of hearing repeatedly, and which frustrates me beyond belief.  Because what can I do about 312 million other people?  Besides feel guilty, I mean.

I can’t do anything about Americans’ excesses.  I know it’s out there, constant excess and consumption and a desire for more; it’s everywhere, and thanks to the creation of the automobile and the interstate system, we’re all doomed…. (Sorry.  Headed for the cliff again.)

I can’t do anything about Americans’ excesses….but I can do something about my family’s.  Here, in this house, this is where I have some modicum of control and can actually do something, and even though it’s unbelievably small, it’s what I can do.  In little babysteps, because it overwhelms me to try to do anymore.

So…babysteps:

We’ve given up drinking pop at home.  (I do still drink it in restaurants…. I love fountain Coke!!)  Do a bit of research on the environmental costs of the creation of soda pop (besides the obvious health costs) and you might give it up, too.

Started making bread, until our bread machine appeared to break.  There was a bit of (more guilt-washed) Do we buy a new bread machine?  I’ll never make bread from scratch on a regular basis…but how can we justify buying a new machine?  Then I fixed the machine myself (yeah, I’m kind of proud of that moment) and I’m back to making bread.  Probably not always, but often.  (Dear Sara Lee:  I’m so glad to see your new bread has no high fructose corn syrup.  Unfortunately I prefer my six-ingredient list to your paragraph.  I’m afraid I won’t be seeing as much of you as I used to…..sorry.)

Quit buying granola bars and cereal bars and started making our own.  (This goes back to the paragraph-long ingredient lists, and my attempt to rid our house of high-fructose corn syrup.)  Our family loves my peanut butter bars; I always have to make a double batch.

Just bought a cheese slicer today (we had an old broken one that we never used) and plan on not buying anymore presliced, individually packaged cheese.  (Gasp!  No more cheese sticks!)  We’ll see how that goes…..

Do I even need to mention recycling?  We’re crazy blessed to have curbside recycling where we live, but I used to store our recyclables and haul them to the center myself.  So glad I don’t have to do that anymore.

Little bit by little bit.  I’ll add to my list as things become habit….it’s a start, at least; even if I never counteract the 312 million other Americans out there.

Deal with it

As I was weeding through piles of papers this morning, I was struck by my train of thought:  Why does this always happen?  How do I get on top of stuff, only to let it bog me down again?  How on earth can I keep up this time?  How do women who work outside the home do it–I’m home constantly and I’m still buried by junk!  How many times will I go through this pile again?

Aha!!  I caught myself, and realized exactly what the problem was.  It was suddenly so clear I felt kind of silly for not seeing it before.  While I do battle the incoming stream of papers and “stuff” that enters this home, 90% of the problem was me:  I was forever putting things aside to deal with later.

I’ll put this here for now.

I don’t have time right now.

I’ll take care of that after _______.

There’s no point in doing “xnow, I’ll do it when I do “y and save some time. (ha.)

I’ll stack these up and take care of them later.

Oh, the list goes on and on…..but it’s all the same.  Procrastination.

The Flylady website designates each Wednesday as “Anti-Procrastination Day,” challenging you to tackle something you’ve been putting off.  I decided this morning (a kid-free surprise) was my Anti-Procrastination morning, and got to work.  (Kid-free mornings are quite hard to come by in the summer.)  The “office” cabinets in my kitchen I am no longer embarrassed to open in front of people, and the laundry room closet was dealt with before it got out of hand.  (I guess that’s progress, right?  To work on it before things are actually falling on my head?)  The most important part:  papers are actually in the recycling bin, and trash is actually bagged and in the garage, ready to be dumped in our cart.  These are, officially, Things I Will Never Have To Weed Through Again.  Thank goodness.

I wonder what else I could get to before the kids get home?

Summer routines

The summer rule at our house is “no screen time until after noon.”  It’s been that way for a few years, when I realized that once the TV went on, it didn’t turn off easily.  It’s not so hard keeping the kids from starting it…..it can be quite difficult getting them to stop.  So we solved the problem by slapping down the rule, which also covers the computer and time on the Wii, and we really haven’t met with too much resistance.  I truly don’t mind the kids watching TV in the afternoon, especially in July when it’s one hundred nasty, sticky degrees outside.  Flopping down on the floor of an air-conditioned house sounds pretty appealing to me, too; and with the DVR we can watch when they want, and skip the ads.

That leaves the morning for errand running and playing outside, before it gets too hot out.  Then we tend to hibernate for the rest of the day (though not necessarily in front of a screen).

What I didn’t expect was my reaction to our rule this summer.  I was a little shocked at how much I felt the pull to get on the computer; I was really angry with myself, for awhile, for how difficult it was for me to give up my own “screen time.”  But then it hit me:  it was messing with my routine.

For an entire school year I’ve dropped the kids off at school, come home, grabbed my coffee, and hit the computer.  I’d balance the checkbook first thing, and then move on to checking e-mail and other assorted tasks.  That’s nine months of establishing a habit that I was suddenly forced to break.  It’s not so much that I’m addicted to the computer or screen time or e-mail or any one of those things; it’s simply this is what I do next.

That realization was a great comfort to me.  Instead of getting angry with myself for being so drawn to the computer, I can simply remind myself gently that it’s hard to change a habit.  Our summer schedule is so much simpler:  I’m loving my time with my kiddos, our extra snuggle time in the mornings, and not having to be out the door at 8:00AM sharp….if I can enjoy all these other changed-for-summer routines, surely I can get over any lack of computer time.