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Archive for the ‘Cleaning’ Category

I have a teeny tiny problem with perfectionism. If I can’t do it perfectly, (I tell myself) I can’t do it. So projects pile up, clutter collects and my life goes from order to disorder in a blink. I have journal entries dating back to 1997 that say the same thing: why can’t I get my crap together? What’s wrong with me? Do I need a professional organizer? Should I pay someone else to clean my house? Why does life feel so hard for me??? (Haven’t I written this blog entry before…)

I’ve tried all kinds of house systems and ordered all kinds of de-clutter organizing books. I joined Flylady.com and bought a Bubble Planner. I’ve asked everyone I know: what works for you? How do you manage kids/house/stuff? Because I seem to suck at it. Even just as recently as last week, I went on an info spree and spent 5 hours (over the span of a few days) on the internet researching organization and productivity and housekeeping. Oh. and how to stop procrastinating. Years and years have gone by while I have tried to find the answer.

I was watching Kung Fu Panda with Sadie when I had my aha moment. Po’s dad finally reveals the secret to his best-selling noodle soup: ‘there is no secret ingredient.’ Then it dawned on me: I have everything that I need within me already. I haven’t been trusting myself. I’ve been beating myself up for not ‘succeeding.’ But what does success even mean? For me, doing something is better than the overwhelmed NOTHING I have been doing. So I decided to change my expectations of myself. Instead of a job well done, I’m going to settle for a job done half-assed. At least it’s done.

So I came up with a Plan for Half-Assed Success. I will add one or two things to my schedule and do them every day until I don’t notice I’m doing them anymore. I will write said one or two things in my planner every day and then highlight them when I’ve completed them. So last week I put in my planner: ‘make bed as soon as you get up,’ and ‘unload the dishes while Sadie eats breakfast.’ I was already doing these things sporadically–so it wasn’t earth-shattering to add them into my life. By the way,  I’m using the words ‘planner’ and ‘schedule’ loosely– I started using a planner at the beginning of January (a cheapy one from Walmart), and by ‘schedule’ I mean ‘the random stuff I do at random times in my life.’ So I did it. I wrote those two things down every day and highlighted them when I finished them. So YAY me! I will celebrate the small successes along the way: I now have unloaded the dishes AND made my bed all of last week and today.

My mom used to say ‘you don’t get praised for stuff you should already be doing…’ but I’m going to disagree with her. I made my bed and I ROCK! (I love you, Mom :))

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Well, I didn’t hate Christmas. It didn’t suck. Surprisingly. Though I did have a few moments where I wanted to hurl myself off of the mountain side because the physical pain would have felt much better than the waves of grief that shoved me hard underwater at random and unexpected times. I found myself muttering dumb dead sister; sad and mad and totally resistant to the fact that I had to be without her. I’m just glad it’s over.

But all in all it really was ok. I mean, we didn’t have to spend 20 hours in the car to see our family–AND Dan and I got to stay in a hotel while Grandma Judy supervised the cousins sleepover party at the Noyes house. Sleeping in never felt so good. I also must mention the hours that Sadie and Grampa John (Smith) spent together watching the strongest man contest on ESPN. I kept hearing Sadie gasping and yelling Grampa! That guy just pulled a TRUCK with his BARE HANDS! And then he would make some comments and I would hear him chuckling. She was so into it.  I think it was a highlight for him too. Nothing like a FULLY ALIVE six year old to ease the pain of loss–even if for a short time.

Now that I’m back, I’m concentrating on making some changes that I think will help lift the funk I’ve been living under. As usual, it starts with my House. I’ve been so paralyzed since August. Not like I was super house functional before (um…….) but for the last few months it’s been TORTURE to do even the smallest thing around the house. I’ve done a lot of wandering and napping and more than my share of self-loathing. I’ve felt lost and listless and just plain despondent. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that grief hangs on and hangs on and looks sometimes like depression and/or laziness and a lot of times like personal failure. But I’m not going to beat myself up anymore. I’m not going to stare helplessly around me and believe that I cannot move forward, because I can. I can take teeny tiny steps–I can start small and declutter one shelf, one drawer, one lazy susan at a time. I can decide to look through a smaller frame and refuse to be overwhelmed. I can believe that I don’t have to be perfect.

Also, I’m going to do a lot of running. I need all the endorphins I can get.

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I spent Columbus Day making grape jam with my friend Sunshine. She had picked mountains of Concord grapes at a local vineyard, and since I had already been through the jam-making process once before with Industrious Betsy, I was up for another batch (actually 5 batches…). The kids had the day off of school, and Sadie is good friends with Sunshine’s little girl, so I packed up two kettles, picked up a borrowed food mill, grabbed some snacks for Sadie, and we were off.

My favorite kind of day is when I get to live life with people. Making jam by myself couldn’t be NEARLY as fun as working with a friend. We pulled the grapes off their stems, rinsed them, and put them in a big kettle to cook down and get mushy. Then we ladled the slurry into a food mill–the kind with a hand crank (I’m sure Caroline Ingalls used one just like this–it hooks right on to a kettle) and mashed all the juice from the seeds and skin. So in case you weren’t counting, the number of kettles used so far: 2. Then we measured 5 cups of juice into a THIRD kettle, mixed that with a box of Sure Gel, and waited for it to come to a full rolling boil. At that point, we added SEVEN cups of sugar all at once and STIRRED CONSTANTLY until it boiled again for EXACTLY one minute. After that it was a race against the clock: get the hot jam into the jars stat (a big funnel helps) and one pours while one screws the lids on, and it has to happen while it’s hot or the jars won’t seal. So in the middle of the crucial get-it-into-jars-time, of course, the kids need something immediately: we want to paint, we need a snack, can you get me down from here?, I have to go potty…

After we finished the 5th and final batch, Sunshine and I sat on the back porch and complained about all our aches and pains from working so hard all day. See, I always thought I would like to be Amish, but after ONE day of Amish-y work, I was SPENT. How do they do it? Churn the butter, milk the cows, make the quilts?? The one thing I know is that they understand the power of Community. And I think that’s what makes their lifestyle so attractive to me. (That and the bonnets…)

Since I quit my job and started my domestic career (ahem), I’ve felt very alone and lonely at times. Which is interesting, because I know so many people who stay at home for various reasons–and we’re all in the same boat, doing the same things at pretty much the same time. I think I could be a good candidate to live in a commune–then we all could all fold clothes and unload the dishwasher together.

All this to say that I’m experiencing Community here, and I feel like it’s Christmas morning. Life together is one huge present to me from God.

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Quick update…

Three families are looking at our house today. At least one of the three is so interested they are going to the bank, and may have an offer for us. We leave in 5.4 days. Talk about the 11th hour.

Thanks, dear ones, for praying. Now I must speed to make the house BEAUTIFUL…

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Well, first of all, the Nibblers made an offer on another house. We were next in line if the sellers rejected their offer, but alas, offer accepted. We have now lowered our price and are hoping that will make a difference. We’ll be okay even if we don’t sell before we leave, but life would be a teensy bit easier if we sold it. Or at least had a contract on it.

I cleaned my house today in preparation for all of the traffic we’re hoping to get. I’m getting to be a real pro, by the way. Today I didn’t even realize I was cleaning. I totally tricked myself. WHAT did I DO before I had my ipod? Oh yeah. Nothing. At present, we have spatulas, knives and other kitchen essentials in the garage, and everything else (except my coffeemaker) that used to grace our counter tops now live in Dan’s car. This could get dicey since I need the canister of Splenda for my coffee…but you do whatcha gotta do.

11 days and counting.

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So we had the Big Open House on Sunday. Here is the number of people who came to see the house: ZERO. Even with the balloons and the ad in the newspaper and the big sign at the end of our street. BUT, all is not lost. I didn’t clean the closet doors with a toothbrush (actually it is more like a dish washing brush, but you get the idea…) or wash down the baseboards for nothing. Yesterday we got a call at 4:30 from our Realtor saying that someone in her office wanted to show our house in fifteen minutes–could we be ready?

Why yes, we could! Because we spent hours and hours scouring the house for Sunday, it would only take about 10 minutes to whip it back into ship showing shape. I was at the library at the time with Sadie and her friend, Taylor, so I called Dan and he was on it in a flash. (I knew there was NO WAY I was going to get there in time–one 5 year old is slow enough–just imagine TWO of them who really think it’s funny to hide from me then run away when I say it is time to go…I needed at least 30 minutes to get them out of the library and into the car…)

A quick side note: yesterday morning (before I had any knowledge that someone would want to see the house later in the day and only give us 15 minutes notice to get it ready) I had the urge to vacuum. What?! I know! Sadie had been eating Cheetos in the living room, and I happened to notice. This is QUITE unusual for me. Normally I just let the orange crumbs lie until they start sticking annoyingly to my feet. But I thought, oh, since we already vacuumed the whole house, all I need is three minutes to make the living room look really nice again. Painless, really. Also, I made Sadie’s bed. Again, unusual. I normally just close her door and not think about it until she’s ready to go to bed again, and then I remember that I should be training HER to be making her own bed, but it’s too late since it’s bedtime, so I just throw it together so her covers can be right when she sleeps. Providential? I think so.

I don’t know what the young couple thought of our house, but as Dan keeps saying during this entire MADDENING process “It only takes one buyer.”

We shall see.

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Here’s what I should be doing: getting my house ready for our Big Open House tomorrow. Even after two cups of coffee and a lovely stroll around the neighborhood garage sales, I still can’t seem to gather up my motivation. SO MUCH needs to be done. Over and above  the normal stuff that already makes me cranky (i.e.  unloading the dishwasher…) It is just so painful. You’d think someone was making me staple my tongue.

I feel all this pressure, like if everything is NOT perfect, it will be my fault that the house doesn’t sell. This is irrational, like most thoughts that run through my head. And with a little effort, we can achieve a state of house bliss, but I must say, this house selling thing is getting old. I’m just tired of it.

I’m boring myself with my complaints. Bleh.

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