Home Management Binder: Schedules and Cleaning

As promised, here is a more in depth look at my schedules and cleaning sections in my HMB. Since my kids are still very small, and not involved in many activities, my schedules is more a rough structure to the day and week than a rigid calender of events. In order for my day to run smoothly certain things need to happen at more or less consistent times, and everything else falls into place nicely. I achieve this state of scheduling bliss an average of once a year. My day is broken up into several different routines that I try to follow, hoping that eventually the become, well, routine. This is an area that I struggle greatly with, so forgive me if this entire post comes across as hypothetical, because most days it is.

Following certain routines each day help to ensure that things are getting done on a daily basis

My morning routine starts as I roll out of bed. Right now I try to remember to pull the covers back up to the pillow. For a while I was beginning my days with a series of yoga Sun Salutations, and would like to get back into that practice. It really is a wonderful way to greet the day and really gets your blood and lymph moving. As the kids wake up, I need to get breakfast made for the family, and a lunch packed for Brad to take to work. Then I need to clean up the breakfast dishes, wipe down counters and table, sweep the kitchen and start the laundry and the morning routine is done.

Nap for the baby starts between 11:00 and 12:00, depending on when he woke up in the morning and how well he slept the night before. On a good day, he’ll be out for 2+ hours. If it’s a run around day, he may be lucky to get 30 minutes in his car seat between errands. I try to start lunch around 11:00, because the baby goes to sleep better after lunch than before. After I feed the kids (and myself) and put the baby down, I clean up the lunch dishes and wipe the counters again. Then I try to enlist the help of my 3 year old in the straightening of the living room, and do a quick sweep in there as well. Flip the laundry, and try to squeeze in some exercise while Connor naps.

The evening routine sets me up for an easy morning. I try to make sure all dinner dishes are washed and the counters and kitchen table are wiped down. I try to pick up the living room one last time, then brush teeth, wash face, and get to bed at a decent hour. I usually aim for 10:30.

If everything in my routines is getting done, then the rest of my day falls into a pretty natural rhythm.

After the morning routine is done, I allow myself time to putz around on the computer, knit, read, or sew. Then lunch and the afternoon routine. If we have any errands to run or play dates scheduled, these usually happen when Connor gets up from his nap. Then comes Daily Duties time. I have the (very small) house divided into 5 zones, one for each week day. In the Daily Duties I include a deeper cleaning of one of the zones per day. So in theory it’s never been more then a week since any part of the house has been scrubbed. I need a little more time to work with this schedule before I decide if it is really working for me, but it makes sense to me. In the evening we have dinner when Brad gets home from work, and then it’s the boys bed time. Brad and I spend some time together playing cards or watching TV, and then the evening routine and bed.

Here’s how I’ve divided up my Daily Duties:

Monday: Kitchen/Dining Room
~Clear and wipe counters and kitchen table
~Sweep and mop kitchen and dining room
~Clear off computer/sewing desks
~Baking for the week

Tuesday: Living Room
~Sweep under coffee table, couch, and chairs
~Mop living room
~Organize toy box and shelves
~Wipe down coffee table and play table
~Clear shelf under coffee table

Wednesday: Bed Rooms
~Put away clothes
~Pick up books/toys
~Declutter dressers
~Sweep bedrooms, hallway and stairs

Thursday: Bathroom
~Wipe down shower and tub
~Wipe down sink
~Wipe down outside of toilet and around base
~Swish toilet bowl
~Spray mirror
~Sweep and mop floor
~Change out towels

Friday: Focus Clean and Project
~Pick one Focus Clean area
~Pick one project to work on

Focus cleaning is a list of detailed cleaning that doesn’t need done on a weekly basis, but does need to get done. I include things like baseboards, inside the oven, the fridge and freezer, washer and dryer, that kind of thing. I keep a running list, and add to or cross off things as I notice things that need to be done or complete things on my list. Projects are a list of organizing and decluttering projects that need to be done. My craft heap in the basement, decluttering the closets, culling toys the boys have outgrown, sorting the boys clothing.

And there are my Schedules and Cleaning sections of my binder. As I mentioned before, this is an area that I struggle with a lot, but really want to make work. I feel so much more at ease when the house is presentable and my days flow smoothly. Soon I’ll put up my Menus section, because I think it deserves a post of it’s own.

Simplifying Christmas

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. I love being warm and cozy inside under an afghan with a cup of tea while the snow is falling outside. And I love any holiday that brings family together to eat. But Christmas time brings with it it’s own set of frustrations and stress, especially in light of my journey into simplicity. There’s the stress of finding a gift for everyone on your list. There’s the stress of dividing your time between families. There’s the financial stress of everything that goes into Christmas: the gifts, the decorations, the tree, charity, etc. There’s some stress in juggling the traditions you grew up with as a child with the ones your spouse did, and the new ones you want to institute in your young family. All of this works together to make a joyful holiday somewhat complex, and that’s the opposite of what I’m striving for.

We are not a religious family, and as such we do not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. This in itself both simplifies some things and complicates others. Most of my family celebrates Christmas as the Christian holiday and birth of Jesus, and when we celebrate with our family we join in their traditions. Although my children are still young, this does open up the door for some deep conversations on why we believe what we believe, and why it’s different than what Grandma and Grandpa believe. The flip side of that coin is the secular, industry driven consumption fest that masquerades as a holiday for much of America. This is something I strive to avoid at all costs as it goes against everything I believe in and am trying to accomplish in my family.

So how does one keep Christmas meaningful without religion or buying into the consumer driven holiday? Brad and I have talked a lot about how we want to handle Christmas in our family, what it means to us, and what we want it to mean to our children. We’re working hard to instill some traditions that are in line with our beliefs both spiritually and environmentally. We stress Christmas as a time to celebrate family, be thankful for what the previous year has been, give back where you can and to cherish the people you love. We’re having fun creating our own family traditions. Brad is learning Christmas carols on his guitar to sing as a family. Every year we’ve gone as a family to pick out a live tree and wreath for our door, and decorate it as a family. This year Owen had a blast “helping” me make a gingerbread house. (If you’ve seen that post, I admit I didn’t let him help very much. Maybe next year.) And as the kids get older we would like to start volunteering over the Christmas holiday. My first thought goes to a soup kitchen, but it would be fun to let the kids choose a charity to give their time to also.

We’ve gone the fairly simple route with decorations this year. We do always get a live tree and wreath. I love the energy of having live plants indoors. I love the scent of pine every time we walk in or out of the house, or come down the stairs. We do minimal holiday lights. We do have lights on the tree, but even when we own a house I don’t think we’ll do a whole lot of landscape lights. They require electricity to run, many of them contain led, and they’re expensive to maintain as they often need to be at least partially replaced each year. Also we don’t buy themed ornaments for the tree. Our tree is very eclectic, with ornaments from my childhood, our first married Christmas, and gifts from friends and family over the years. I like that you can tell the story of past Christmas’s at our home by the ornaments on our tree. Every one is special, and I know where each one came from. I remember as a child how much fun it was to unwrap the ornaments at Christmas and we would talk about when we got them as we put them on the tree. That’s something I want for my children. This year I had my heart set on a rosemary tree for the kitchen table. I was going to decorate it with popcorn and cranberry strands and tiny salt dough snowflakes. But I’ve had the hardest time finding one, all the nurseries I’ve checked (well OK the one nursery I checked) and both Whole Foods here in town are sold out. I’ve decided it’s not something to stress about. I’ll start earlier next year and get one before they’re gone. Then provided I don’t manage to kill it, we’ll have fresh rosemary all year, and a little tree to decorate the following Christmas too.

Another way we’re trying to simplify this year is with gifts. Brad and I got each other one large thing apiece that we’ve been wanting. We’ve gotten a few small things for each of the boys, and one larger gift for them to share. I got many of their gifts used. They’re young and won’t care yet, and buying used keeps things out of the landfills as well as decreases the demand for new production and all of the environmental hazards that go along with it. I’ve also made a lot of my gifts for family, either on my sewing machine or in my kitchen. This year my dad, who is an accomplished carpenter, has undertaken to make gifts for everyone. I have never been more excited for a Christmas gift. I’ve been given a hint as to what the boys are getting, and it’s everything I want for toys for them. Hand made, quality, open ended, imaginative play. Now there are so many people that love my boys, and you can never have too many people who love your children, that it stands to reason they will probably receive some gifts that I would not have purchased for them. We have a small apartment, and really don’t have a lot of room for extra “stuff”. So what to do when well meaning people bestow upon you the gift of clutter? If it’s something for the boys and they truly love it, it stays regardless of whether I would have chosen it or not. For anything else that just doesn’t work for our family, I feel fine donating it to a charity like Good Will. I believe that the people in our lives truly give out of love, and would be sad if I allowed a gift that we couldn’t use to remain in the house causing stress just to make them feel good. I know that if I give a gift that didn’t work for the recipient I would rather they pass it on to someone who could use it than to keep it and wish they hadn’t.

I’d love to hear more ideas. What have you done this year to keep Christmas simple? What are your favorite traditions?

Chicken Pox

My baby has the chicken pox.
It started with one spot in his diaper area on Friday morning, and has since developed into a full blown head to toe case. He’s doing remarkably well for how miserable he looks. Surprisingly, my three year old does not have them, even though he was exposed at the same time. Yes, that’s right. I’m one of those moms who purposely exposes her kids to diseases in hopes to get them out of the way when they’re young so we don’t have to worry about it later. I’m well aware that there is a vaccine for the chicken pox. So far it is the only vaccine that we have decided to forgo.

Vaccinating kids is a very complex subject with strong feelings on either side of the equation. I believe that, in general, vaccines are a good thing. When my little brother was a baby he almost died from haemophilus influenza type B. There is now a vaccine for this and it has saved many parents from the worry that my parents went through. To me, however, the chicken pox vaccine is a little different. First of all, the chicken pox is a very manageable illness and complications in healthy children with normal immune systems is very rare. Yes it’s a PITA, and the kids are miserable for about a week, but very very few children die from the chicken pox. Secondly, the chicken pox vaccine is a very new one, and not very effective at that. In the history of new vaccines, many get pulled after several years of use on the general population because risks are discovered that weren’t apparent in the development stages due to inadequate testing. I’d rather my kid not be the guinea pig. Also, the chicken pox vaccine is a live virus vaccine. Kids can actually contract the disease from the vaccine, and kids and catch the disease from a child who has been recently vaccinated even if they do not appear sick. And probably my biggest reason for deciding against the chicken pox vaccine is that it is not a lasting immunity like the wild virus. Chicken pox can be a very serious illness to older children, teens, adults, and especially elderly. The extent of the pox is much greater in teens and adults, and the risks of complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis is much higher. I would rather my kids suffer a lesser case as a young child when they won’t remember the ordeal and be set for life then get vaccinated as a child and risk being susceptible as a teen or adult when the risk is much greater.

So now that the little one has successfully contracted the chicken pox (we shared some suckers with a friend who currently had them) I am left trying to comfort a very itchy 14 month old. Sunday and Monday he had a bit of a fever, and really just wanted to snuggle all day. Fevers are a body’s way of combating intruders, in this case the chicken pox virus, so I didn’t treat it with anything other then extra hugs and cuddles. Last night was pretty rough, as he is now quite itchy and had a very hard time falling and staying asleep. To help relieve the itching so we could all get some sleep I did a few different things. First I applied tea tree oil to the spots. Tea tree oil is a very effective anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. While the tea tree oil was setting on his spots I drew a warm bath. I placed about a cup of oatmeal and 1/4 cup of baking soda into a thin cotton dish cloth and tied it shut. I placed this under the running water until the bath was cloudy. Then I popped my kiddo into the tub, and used the oatmeal cloth to sponge all his spots, squeezing the oat milk out all over him. He loved this, and he usually isn’t a big fan of bath time. Then I pulled him out, patted him down, and gave him a fresh clean double thick cloth diaper. The itching was soothed enough that he was able to sleep for several hours. My husband repeated the oatmeal bath in the wee hours of the morning, and we all managed to sleep until 8.

And thus has been our experience so far with the chicken pox. Please remember that I am not a doctor, just a mother who reads too much. It is important that you do your own research on vaccines and include your pediatrician in your decisions.


Welcome to my Blog

This is my blog. Please come in and make yourself at home. Leave your shoes by the door if you don’t mind. Can I get you a cup of tea or a glass of water? Once your shoes are off, feel free to put your feet up. Let me introduce you to my family. My husband Brad is the love of my life. I met him in my senior year of college, and knew at once he was the one. We were engaged within six months. He’s my hero, and it doesn’t hurt that he worships the ground I walk on. Owen is our oldest. He just turned three last month. He as the sweetest heart you’ve ever seen in a three year old. He’s my big helper. He was a happy surprise, and we were thrilled when we found out we were pregnant with him. Connor is my little one. He just turned one. He has the biggest most beautiful eyes I have ever seen, and his smile can light the darkest of rooms. And we have a cat named Gwenyvere. Brad hates her, but she was part of the deal when we got married so he deals with her. I think she goes out of her way to piss him off though. Evil cat. (I still love her, and she’s soft, so she’s got that going for her.)
Well, that’s the family, and we’re all happy to have you as our guest. Ever since I’ve become a mother I’ve wanted to raise my kids close to the land. I want them to grow up understanding where our food comes from, and how our actions impact the earth. As my dream of land to roam on is still several years away I am striving to implement the urban equivalent. I do my best to cook from scratch, eat local, use environmentally friendly products in my home, avoid consumerism, and simplify my life. In this blog I want to document our journey as we strive to make green lifestyle choice and mindful decisions about our home. Hopefully you will learn something new, teach me something new, and we’ll all leave better people.