Friday, July 24, 2015

Household Reboot Week 3 Hit-and-Run Recap

Sunday:  this happened:

It was NOT a dry heat.

Monday:  this happened:

I neglected to get an "after" picture but they were really white when they finished drying, and they smelled like fluffy sunshine.

Tuesday:  this happened:

Stage 1.  Thanks, random mom who sent her kid to camp with strep.  WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

Wednesday:  this happened some more:

Plus a fever.

Thursday:  this happened a lot more:

So Strep.  Much positive.  Wow.

Friday:  The Great Strep Throat Crisis of 2015 appears to have finally taken a turn for the better, which means I have a chance to work on these:

There's nothing like a composition notebook to put a mom in an organizational high.  I'll give you a tour of them next week.  

And now, your weekly moment of haiku.

I got nothing done.
A whole lot of nothing done.
Not even pickles.

Tomato sauce.  Not pickled.  One jar.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, July 20, 2015

If you're having a pillow fight, at least make it a clean fight.

The condition of our bed pillows has been bothering me for a long time.  We have a front loading washing machine, so they don't get "scrubbed" by agitation.  To even get them in the machine they have to be bent, which means one side is way less exposed to water and detergent and never got clean enough for me.

And don't even get me started on how long it takes to dry one of them, or how lumpy they are when they finally do get dry.

Today I decided to solve this problem.

Instead of one long cycle using a lot of detergent and bleach, I decided to try two, short cycle, with dishwashing powder and nothing else.  First cycle - one side of the pillow out.  Second cycle - the other side of the pillow out.

And then, I put them on a table in the sunshine.

Believe it or not, the pillow at the top of the picture is the "after" version.  Imagine how bad it was before.  I should enter it into the "Don't Judge" category at the state fair.  ;)   The pillow at the bottom has not been washed yet and is in the photo for comparison purposes.  It is now in the machine going thru the second cycle.  

Pillow washer caveats:  if yours is a feather pillow, do not use bleach or any product with bleach, as it will destroy the feathers.  And if you have outdoor allergies and are in the allergy season, consider putting a pillow case on your pillows before drying them outside.  You can remove the pillowcase before bringing them in and replace it with a clean pillowcase, then wash the outside one to remove allergens.

Sunshine Bonus!  Direct sunlight is a known bleaching agent and sanitizer/disinfectant.  It's almost as good as bleach.  And it is free.  It even works in the winter, because it isn't the heat, it's the UV rays.


There are all kinds of good links online for ways to clean your pillows.  Many of them recommend combinations of ingredients that I do not think are useful, or that concern me in their combinations.  When in doubt, don't cross the streams - one product at a time, and don't stand in front of your machine inhaling fumes.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Household Reboot Week 2 Hit-and-Run Recap

A summary in the traditional haiku format.

I got lots more done.
Lots, lots, lots, lots, lots more done.
I even made pickles.

Spicy dilly green beans.  Mmmmmmmmmmm.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Life-Changing and Tidying and Magic and What Not

Are you on this bandwagon yet?

Yep, I bought it.  Notice the lack of capital letters. 

I stumbled upon the book "the life-changing magic of tidying up" by marie kondo*, totally by accident one day at the library and was intrigued enough to check it out.  I liked it immediately, because I relate to my home and my things in much the same way she does, which made me think that this might actually work for me.  I mean, who doesn't want LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC???

If you've decided to give this method a try, let me offer you a few hints about how not to feel defeated by the process:

  1. This book was originally written for readers in Japan, who generally live in smaller houses than Americans do, and who generally have less stuff than we do.  So when Kondo wrote, "put all the clothes in a pile in the middle of the floor", she didn't expect readers who would have several closets and attics and boxes and and dressers full of the clothing of just one person.
  2. She anthropomorphises the objects in the home, which makes some readers uncomfortable.  You don't have to buy into that in order to follow her method.  Just overlook it the way you would if a young child did it, and move on.
  3. She recommends doing the job once and thoroughly, but that does not indicate speed.  She says somewhere in the book that it could take months to do the whole house.  (I tried to find the page number for you, but I got distracted by noticing how much I still have to accomplish).

Is it worth the effort?  For our family, the answer is most definitely YES.  Ella in particular has found great value in the process.  Since finishing her room several months ago she continues to remark that it is easy and pleasant to be able to enjoy all her things and still be able to restore her room to order without help and without much effort.


*That is my Amazon affiliate link, which sounds a lot more impressive than it is.  Essentially, if you buy the book using that link, I get enough money for a cup of coffee, but not enough for a whole pot of it.  :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Backward Engineering a Monetary Mind Hack

Sorry about not posting yesterday.  It was one of the busiest days of the summer and, well, I forgot.

One of the things I'm doing for my Household Reboot is to try to get a handle on the money end of things.  Argh.

When you're on a tight budget, it can feel like you're endlessly policing yourself, which is exhausting and can lead to a lot of resentment and feelings of deprivation.

My mechanism  for coping with that kind of mental mess is to reframe the problem in a way that makes it sound like a virtue instead of a burden.  For example, when making a choice to spend money, I look at what I could be spending it on now as compared to what future thing I could do with it instead.  In that light, a choice not to buy a thing today is a choice in favor of being able to buy some other thing tomorrow.

But it can feel like all you're doing is saying "not now, later", without having a clear picture of how much progress you're making in the now.  So I'm turning it into a game - I'm keeping track of all the money I don't spend, and giving myself a monthly tally as a trophy.

The twist is that "choosing not to buy" isn't the standard.  After all, I can choose not to buy a new pair of shoes that I don't really need in the first place, but that doesn't get me anywhere except on paper.

What we're looking for here is a way to mitigate the feeling of being deprived without actually becoming deprived.  The question then becomes, "How do I get/do this thing that I would typically need to spend money for, but without spending the money?"

And that is why yesterday I got on YouTube, and learned how to cut my own hair.

This picture would be way more dramatic if I had had the forethought to take a "Before" photo first.

It took me about 30 minutes to view enough videos to convince myself that I had a grip on the process, then about another 30 minutes to actually complete the cut.  So about an hour all together - which sounds like a lot except that it would have taken more time than that just to get to a salon and get a professional cut - and at Nashville mid-range prices I would have spent $50.00.

So the math is:  for an hour of my time, I got a mid-range haircut that I am actually quite satisfied with, and saved $50.00.  Or to look at it another way, I got a $50.00 haircut for free.  Or to look at it yet another way, I did not have to spend several hours of my husband's work life to pay for a $50.00 haircut.  Or to look at it another another way, I can put that $50.00 in a bank account and save it for a tank of gas to get to the beach.  Or to look at it yet another another way, I could take that money and go buy that pair of shoes.

I've started a page in my bullet journal for tracking my savings, and I'll update you from time to time. Do I dare set a figure as a goal?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Household Reboot Week 1 Hit-and-Run Recap

A summary in haiku format.

I'm lemon cucumber rich.

I did not get done.
I did not even get close.
I did make pickles.

Lemon cucumber refrigerator dill pickles.  Mmmmmmmm.

Oh well.  There's always next week.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Homeschool, Chapter 11. It's More Than Just Bankruptcy. It's A Way Of Life.

For most of our homeschool years I've made Ella a full partner in the decisions about what we do and when we do it. This has created a wonderfully collaborative relationship, but it has also resulted in a wonderfully disorganized educational process.

The disorganization used to really bother me.  Even as anti-authoritarian as I am, in the back of my mind were those little nagging voices, undermining my confidence and insinuating that was doing a disservice to my own child by not being more intentional in our process.

This concern was why I started offering homeschool classes in our studio.  It is also why our homeschool classes, for the most part, have been only so-so.  They weren't honest.  They were driven by a need to prove that we were "on track."

The problem with the track is that it's arbitrary.  Who says the track has to lead where it does?  What if that's not where we want to go?  What if that's not the track we want to use to get there?  What if we really prefer the other, longer, bumpier track?  WHAT IF I DON'T WANT YOUR TRACK TO BE THE BOSS OF ME?

So, after 7 years of carefully overthinking all the various "tracks" - Montessori and Classical and Reggio and unschooling and Charlotte Mason and Waldorf and inquiry-driven and delight-directed and unit studies and project-based and ALL THE HOMESCHOOL PHILOSOPHICAL THINGS, I decided to go back to the source:  Ella.

Her pace.  Her interests.  Her self-knowledge.  Her ambitions.  Her wisdom.

She is not "on track".  She is building her own track as she goes.  It is intuitive and holistic and well-rounded.  It fits her like a glove.

Which brings me to today's household correction.  You see this basket?

So Homeschool. Much ugh. Wow.

This basket mocks me.  It has been both the bureaucracy of what we do in "school" and the repository of all the things that we have "failed" to do.  I have put a lot of hope in it and a lot of guilt has seeped out as a result.  The basket is not to blame, and the part of me that likes to anthropomorphize things imagines the basket feels bad that it has become so FRAUGHT with symbolism, when all it wants to do is hold stuff stylishly and without any drama.

So today I held a little tonglen ceremony for the basket.

Breathe in all the burden, breathe out relief.

Breathe in all the expectations, breathe out non-attachment.  

Breathe in all the judgment, breathe out compassion. 

Breathe in all the bull droppings, breathe out all the aromatherapy.

Now the basket is empty again.  Now the basket is useful again.

Chapter 11 to the rescue once again.


So you're all wondering what went back in the basket.  Right now, it's Ella bullet journal, her laptop, her library book, and her diary.  And the occasional cat.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Freezer Entropy: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

One of the household corrections that I've needed to do for a while is freezer inventory.  We are fortunate to have an upright freezer, but without constant inventory maintenance, it turns into the frozen land that time forgot.

Imagine I had worked up the courage to show you a picture of the inside of my freezer pre-organizing, and mentally insert that image here.

Today's mission was to sort the contents of the freezer then organize them in such a way that entropy could at least be slowed to a crawl.

Going with my mantra, "Done is better than perfect," I acquired a few bins, laid them out on the floor, and as I removed each item from the freezer I tossed it into its intended bin.  Then I lovingly hand shoved the bins back into the freezer, took a couple of pictures, and called it Done™.

Top shelf:  purchased items ready to eat.
Second shelf:  home-prepared veggies and fruits.
Third shelf:  homemade stocks, stews, and soups.
Bottom shelf:  meats, chicken, fish.

Top row:  homemade slow cooker starters.
Second row:  items to make stock, frozen cooler packs
Third row:  homemade breakfast items.
Fourth row:  homemade and purchased juice mixes, more items to make stocks.
Bottom row:  frozen cooler packs, water bottles for to use in blanching.

This took about 25 minutes.  There is no list of items to mark off.  Nobody looks at those lists anyway, so at best they are busy work and at worst they serve only to taunt you with their judgment.  I figure as the bins get empty I will be able to see what we are low on and replenish.


VoHo ProTip:  Eat as much Chinese takeout as possible.  Those pint and quart soup containers are excellent for freezing liquids.  If you find a restaurant that uses square ones instead of round, court their sons/daughters like a boss so you can marry into a lifetime supply, because the square ones are more space efficient than the round ones.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Homemaking for Beginners, Part 4: Monthly Household Routines

Welcome to the Homemaking for Beginners series!  You can find the rest of the HfB series HERE.


So many possibilities.

Ha!  Bet you thought I'd forgotten about this series.

The point of a monthly routine is to automate all the monthly household things so you don't have to figure out when to do them 12 times a year.  Much like setting up an automatic draft in your bank account.  The key to my system is to link your routine items to something that is already in place on the schedule.

At the risk of sounding like that person who thinks they are really profound but in actual fact they are just high, here's what I recommend:

Step 1:  Decide what you want done on a monthly basis.
Step 2:  Identify existing activities and events that relate to the items in Step 1, then link them on your schedule.
Step 3:  Do the things.

For example, on my street the trash is picked up every Tuesday, but recycling is only picked up on the second Tuesday of the month.  Since the city of Nashville has helpfully set up this periodic household garbage schedule, I tie all my garbage-related activities to that schedule:

1st Tuesday:  trash pick up - wash and sanitize trash cans.
2nd Tuesday:  trash and recycling pick up - take glass to recycling center. (The city doesn't pick up glass)
3rd Tuesday:  trash pick up - pest control appointment - sweep cobwebs out of corners of the porch, apply monthly flea and tick control.  (We recently started using Seresto collars for all our pets - they work great! - so flea and tick control have now moved to the seasonal schedule, but I mention it here because it was an important part of the routine.)
4th Tuesday:  trash pick up only - turn/stir/shake the composters.

Apply the same system to all your non-garbage needs.

What happens when there are five Tuesdays?  The fifth Tuesday is the wild card day.  I use it to catch up on a missed Tuesday when I was out of town, or a Tuesday when I was, let's say, "less disciplined".  Or I can pat myself on the back and have tell Facebook that I'm on track.

When I have a chance, I will put all this in handy-dandy worksheet format.  Until then, you can print out a blank calendar from my favorite organizing website, Printables and Resources, and jot down what you want done when.  Use your starter schedule for a month then adjust as needed.

Remember, this is what we're trying to avoid.


VoHo Poll:  What is your default setting on things that are damaged or broken - keep and repair, or get rid of them?  I'm in need of making that decision on a few major household items and I'm torn.

Monday, July 6, 2015

2015 Mid-Summer, Mid-Year, Mid-Life Household Reboot

Part 1, in which I go on a bit about how I'm totally going to get it together now, I really mean it this time, you guys.

I was going to use a more relevant image but I got distracted by this.  You're welcome.

We've passed the halfway mark on this year, and we've also just passed the halfway mark on our way to high school graduation, and I might or might not be freaking out JUST A LITTLE BIT. So I'm dedicating the month of July to household reboot.  My goal is to get things back under "control" by the end of the month.  And to help keep myself on track I'm going to try to publish a post every weekday thru the end of the month, which means they aren't going to be pretty, but they are going to get done and you will have them in the palms of your internet.

Today I'm going to reboot my daily household routines.  If you are VoHo newletter reader (thank you!) you know about my Daily Three, which in a nutshell is my commitment to do 3 things without fail every day to keep the major systems under control.  My three are make the bed, do the dishes, one load of laundry.

The twist is that each week of July I'm going to set a Daily Three for other areas of my life as well. This week I'm going to do 3 things every day that I call household corrections - things that don't have to be done, but which will advance my quality of life.  This week, those things will be "bringing the home up to the current season".  That is how a vocational homemaker says things like "put away last year's school materials," or "take down the Easter decorations." I promise to give you a report on what I did at the end of the week.

Tomorrow I will share a bit about how I organize the monthly household routine.  It's riveting.


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