Productivity is in the eye of the beholder

On the days we clean, we follow an operational process – sort of. I have a list of all the tasks we need to complete and because I believe a little competition is healthy, my children sign up for them on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Feel like sleeping in today? Be prepared to scrub toilets. Didn’t hear me the first time I asked? Cat boxes for you. You snooze, you lose.

It’s a pretty long list but not as long as my pre-children days when I was apt to spend a Saturday morning cleaning out the inside of the fireplace or dusting the furnace (I know, I know). No time for those tasks anymore. My standards are considerably lower than they used to be.

Lest I leave you with the impression I am actually organized, I must confess that we do deviate from the list – for example, on the Saturday our mercurial dishwasher decided it wasn’t going to cooperate. The door kept popping open in mid-cycle and then guess what? It doesn’t run. After I’d closed and restarted it about twenty times, I assigned my youngest to sit on a stool in front of the dishwasher until the cycle ended. A productive use of time? It was that day.

We’re not cleaning today. Instead I’m enjoying the blissful silence of an empty house. But later, just for fun, I might dust the furnace.

Any great suggestions for accomplishing those mundane weekly tasks?


There ain’t no cure for the January blues

Wow, is it dark this morning. Where is that extra two minutes of daylight we’ve been promised each day? And why is it so cold?

Oh…my January blues must be setting in.

winterJanuary is often a slow work month for me, and once the kids go back to school I’m at loose ends. I wish I was the kind of person who could just pick up a good book and go back to bed until February, but I’m not. Instead I respond with a frenzy of well-intended but poorly executed projects.

Decorations must be stowed. Closets must be cleaned. Walls must be painted. There’s so much disruption around here it looks like we’re moving.

So here’s the good in this activity:

  • Walls really do look better with a new coat of paint. A lot better. Especially when your  kids swing baseball bats in the house and (literally) climb the walls and leave footprints behind. New paint can give you a new lease on life.
  • It is easier to work in an office that is not piled high with wrapping paper, bows, and assorted gift boxes. That stuff really looks awful after the holidays. Maybe even during.
  • Holidays are hard on a refrigerator. A lot of mystery food accumulates. Holding your nose and pitching it in the trash is cathartic. And think of all the empty calories you’re throwing out.
  • When you’re stuck in the house it’s the perfect time to wash, sort and store all the summer sports gear that’s been lying around since school started. Wow, it almost seems as if I’m planning ahead!
  • When you have a few moments, you can make a list of all the errands you need to run when the temperature soars above 10 degrees – library, grocery store, post office. Car wash is at the top of my list.

So I express my gratitude to the vacuum of time that is January. Thank you cold, dark, and wind chill for reinforcing my core belief that doing something is better than doing nothing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a wall to paint.

How do you get through the longest month of the year?

Oh, laundry – it didn’t have to be this way

In my heart, laundry, I feel like we could have had a better relationship, you and I. Perhaps if you’d waited for me in the orderly fashion I desired – whites with whites, delicates with IMG_0472delicates – we could have found a way to coexist. Or if you’d made even the slightest effort to stay folded in the drawers instead of ending up in a wrinkled, tangled mess. But you’ve made no attempt whatsoever to make my life easier. If there is to be any future for us, laundry, you must not, anymore:

  • Hide under beds, at the bottom of closets, in gym bags, and under car seats. Even though I know you are there it is agony to seek you out, over and over again.
  • Show up in the laundry basket when I know you are clean, in fact, just washed. Oh why, laundry, do you punish me in this way?
  • Exceed many times over what is practical for the number of people in this household. I see them each day, wearing the same clothes they not only slept in, but wore the day before – how is it possible that you multiply so? Is it just to taunt me?
  • Appear before me in such a disgraceful state – soiled, wrinkled, smelly, stained with God knows what. It tears me apart, laundry, it really does.

I know, laundry, that I could improve, too. I know I start out with the best intentions, laundering you in a practical, reasonable way – carefully sorting and calibrating the right water temperature. But I admit that after a day with you, I often find myself throwing you into the washer at random without any regard to your care label, not caring if you shrink or pill. And I’m sorry, truly, but at some point I hit the limit of what I can endure.

So how shall we go forward, laundry? Is it to stay this way between us always? Or can we change, coexist peacefully, get along even for just a day? Tell me – what is it to be? I just heard the buzzer on the dryer so the time for truth is now.