Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Why I Get "Nothing" Done All Day

If you're a HuffPost reader, you may have seen an article published recently written by Janie Porter of {a blog I happen to enjoy} explaining why SAHMs get nothing done all day. I am one who is frequently trying to explain to my husband why the house looks like a disaster area even though I was home all day. Sometimes I look around myself and think, "GOSH, look at this place! What the heck did I do all day??" And then I remember. I take care of a 4 year old and 15 month old all day. While I really enjoyed reading her explanation of why she gets nothing done all day, there were some striking differences between hers and the reasons I get nothing done all day {spoiler alert: her housekeeper arrived while she was trying to get ready for a play date... that has never happened to me}. And so I was inspired to document a typical day around here and share my own version for what it's worth.

6:30 am - Josh's alarm goes off. It doesn't totally wake me up, but sleep becomes light and intermittent as I hear him up and about getting ready for work. Also, it's sunny.

7:30 am - Josh is about to leave for work and Carsen hears him. He brings her into bed with me so she doesn't wake Reagan. He kisses us goodbye and is on his way. Carsen wants to snuggle. In case you're wondering, by "snuggle" I mean she wants to lay with her forehead pressed against mine and pinch/play with the skin on my neck while she sucks her thumb. Just to clarify.

7:45 am - Carsen is bored of "snuggling" and asks to watch DisneyJr on the Kindle. I hand it to her and reclaim my neck skin. I close my eyes in a somewhat more comfortable position while I listen to an episode of Sheriff Callie in one ear and Reagan stirring around on the monitor in my other ear. If you're unfamiliar with Sheriff Callie, I'd urge you to pull up a clip of it on YouTube and then try to close your eyes and relax while it plays. Doing this in your last 30 minutes of potential rest/sleep for the next 18 hours will help give you the full effect.

8:30 am - Reagan is undeniably up for the day. Carsen jumps up to go in and talk to her while I get dressed, put in my contacts, and brush my teeth. I get clothes for the girls and we head downstairs.

8:45 am - Reagan can not function in the morning until she nurses. She just refuses. I don't even try to do another thing before nursing her, because she's already yelling at me about it before my feet hit the living room floor. I nurse Reagan while Carsen whines about how she's hungry and wants me to feed her first.

9:00 am - Head into the kitchen to get breakfast for the girls. On most days they want some combination of fruit, Greek yogurt, and Cheerios. The order of which varies day-to-day. Today everyone had yogurt first. Since our kitchen table & chairs sold on Craigslist 2 weeks ago, we've been eating on the living room floor. So, we head back to the living room where Carsen feeds herself, and I feed Reagan. I turn on the Today show so I can have a clue what's going on in the world today, and I learn something useless like what's trending on Google.

9:15 am - The girls are ready for their 2nd course of breakfast which today is Cheerios. Carsen asks for hers in a bowl with milk and Reagan gets hers on the tray of her high chair. Since they can both manage this themselves, I'm free to make something for myself for breakfast at this time. I pull out the eggs to make my usual scrambled eggs with parmesan and whatever suitable meat is in the fridge. I also prepare two cups of milk to take out with me for the girls.

9:30 am - Momentarily the girls are finished eating. I wipe their hands and faces, give them their milk cups, and sit down to eat my breakfast. Both girls stand in front of me asking for my food. Carsen asks politely for a "taste" while Reagan frantically signs "eat" while yelling "ee, ee, ee, ee!" and climbs onto my lap. I share a few bites and shoo them away so I can eat. Carsen obliges, Reagan does not.

10:00 am - I manage to finish my breakfast and start hauling all the dishes into the kitchen. While standing at the sink I'm reminded to grab a mug for coffee. I place it under the Keurig and go back to the dishes.

10:05 am - Crises in the living room. Reagan is standing on the couch changing tv channels and Carsen needs help opening a bin of Barbies to play with. Reagan has pooped. I change her diaper and decide I'll try to catch the host chat segment of Kelly & Michael. Carsen is now playing the xylophone and Reagan wants to climb on me.

10:15-11:00 am - We play, dress up, cry, sing, fight, and read books.

11:00 am - I decide it's time to head outside for a little while. I go out onto the deck to clear spider webs from the night before and wipe out the water table. I spend about 10 minutes getting the water table wiped, positioned for maximum shade, and filled with water. Another 10 minutes passes while Carsen uses the bathroom and I get shoes on everyone.

Note: this photo was taken from inside the house after we played, because it hadn't occurred to me to take any photos of our day before this moment. 

11:30 am - We're outside enjoying some sunshine and splashing in the water table. This lasts about 20 minutes before the girls are too hot {bright red sweaty faces} and ready to go in.

12:00 pm - The girls play in the play room while I try to empty the dishwasher. I get about 3/4 finished before my help arrives.

12:15 pm - I notice my coffee cup still sitting under the Keurig awaiting the coffee I never made. I make coffee and join the girls in the play room.

12:30 pm - Reagan is signing to "eat" and wants a snack before her nap. I give her a banana, clean her up, change her diaper, and take her upstairs to bed. Carsen asks to watch Super Why while I put Reagan to bed.

1:00 pm - Back downstairs to make lunch for Carsen and myself. Since we're eating in the living room I let her continue watching Super Why while we eat. After lunch she lays on the couch to rest. I've decided that napping for 3 hours was just too much of her day at age 4. If she's not interested in resting on the couch, it's at least time for her and I to spend 1-on-1.

1:30 pm - While Carsen rests I have a minute to reply to texts, emails and FB messages about things I've posted for sale. I try to get back to everyone and coordinate times/days to meet up, answer questions, etc.

2:30 pm - I retrieve another half a dozen items from the basement that I need to take photos of and post for sale. I work through taking photos first, then start writing up the postings on Craigslist, then add photos and info to my FB "for sale" album.

3:30 pm - Reagan wakes up. She needs a diaper change and we play for a little while.

4:30 pm - We go back outside on the deck to play again. There's more shade in the afternoon so we get close to an hour of outside time.

5:30 pm - Josh is home from work. The girls are happy to see him and are immediately done playing outside. I clean up and drain the water table and head inside to make dinner.

5:45 pm - I prep dinner while Josh and the girls play. Reagan visits the gate in the kitchen doorway frequently to fuss at me and let me know she'd like me to hold her / she'd like to come in to play with the recycling and throw my dish towels on the floor. I simultaneously try to finish my cup of coffee.

6:15 pm - Dinner is ready. I cut some up and take it to Reagan. She's happy to see food. Carsen whines about her dinner which I'm on my way back to the kitchen to get. Josh feeds Reagan while I get Carsen's plate and my own plate ready. I return with our food while Josh goes to get his. Reagan is done with her food first and then proceeds to other family members to beg/borrow/steal from their plates.

7:00 pm - Dinner is finished and I clean up while Josh and the girls play a little more. After cleaning up I join them for some running around and giggling.

7:45 pm - We sit down to read a few books to settle before bed. Carsen doesn't want to read books. Reagan chooses a few of her favorites. Carsen sits down with us despite not wanting to read books and complains about the choices. I suggest she choose a few herself. She goes upstairs to her room and returns with the complete Beverly Cleary collection, Ramona Quimby - Ralph S. Mouse {a boxed set we have for her for later}.

8:00 pm - Reagan realizes someone is on the stairs and immediately wants to go up for bed. She's funny like that. I quickly change her diaper and put her in pajamas. She whines through hugs & kisses as they simply delay her getting upstairs for bed.

8:30 pm - I nurse and rock Reagan, then put her in bed. Josh lets Carsen choose a few videos to watch on his phone while they snuggle.

9:00 pm - I get back downstairs and have Carsen use the bathroom and brush her teeth. Normally Josh does bed time with her while I'm rocking Reagan, but I told him I'd do bedtime for both girls tonight. So I take Carsen upstairs, say bedtime prayers, and again "snuggle" with her, this time in her bed, for 5-or-so minutes.

9:30 pm - I'm back downstairs. This is the hour or so to accomplish anything that hasn't been accomplished today. It's also the only time Josh and I have to spend together without the girls. Much like my time with them during the day, it's hard to choose this time for chores. So, I straighten up a little and check back in with Craigslist/FB buyers. Then we sit on the couch for a little while, chat about things {mostly moving and what needs to get done}, and have a snack.

10:30 pm - It's time to head upstairs. I need to take a shower. Josh gets ready and goes to bed. By 11 I'm in bed myself. Most nights we don't hear anything from the girls, but I'd be lying to say they never wake up - they're kids. This particular night Reagan was up at 3:30 and wanted to be rocked back to sleep. Aside from that 20 minutes of awake time, I started this whole crazy routine over again around 7 the next morning.

So, it's not really that I get nothing done all day, it's just that I don't always get done what other people might think I should. I get plenty of playing, laughing, and caring for children done. I do art, and lessons, and reading. We run errands, attend story time, and visit friends and family. But this is why there is dust, and laundry, and crumbs. This is why some days we look around and every single thing we've done is evident, as well as everything we haven't done. What a mixed up world we live in that we consider a mother spending all day raising and nurturing her children to be getting "nothing" done. Yet the "something" we'd have her do instead is wipe dust off of end tables and fold laundry. Are we serious? If you're asking me, the things I accomplish are far more valid uses of my time as a stay-at-home-parent than if I were doing housework all day. Which of these has more impact on the world? Which of these is a more accurate measure of the person I am? Most importantly, which of these matters most to my family? Sure, a house needs taking care of and chores need to be done. Don't worry, mine get done {and not by a housekeeper}. I find the time here and there to do those things and we're all none the worse because a little dust sat around for a few days. This time that I have to be home with my children is so so short and the most important time of my life. One day when I look back on it, I don't want to remember hours and hours of chores or a sparkling clean house. I plan to remember laughs and snuggles and make-believe and tickles and kisses and dancing and stories. Hopefully I think of all the fun we had and struggle to recall how or when the chores ever got done at all.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Minimalist in Overdrive

Few things will give you a solid shove from being a minimalist-at-heart to a minimalist-in-overdrive like the prospect of moving three times in two years. While I've always been a minimalist-at-heart, as many people are, putting it into practice amidst everyday life and while married to a life-long collector is a whole different ball game. The problem is that once you realize you have way more stuff than you need, and that box of things you thought you might need at some point has gone untouched for half a decade, you then have to find the time to start sifting through it all. The take-away lesson here being: don't let the stuff accumulate in the first place. But alas, it happens. And sometimes it takes a huge life decision like moving your family of four out of your 3-level house and into a single bedroom and bathroom in someone else's basement to really light that minimalist fire under your rear.

Thankfully, we were making a lot of progress before the decision to move had been made. My collector husband reached the realization a while back that we would likely never own a home large enough to display the vast amount of toys he had collected over the years, and if we did some day own that much space we probably wouldn't dedicate it to toy display {I mean... seriously}. So over the past couple of years he has drastically reduced his stockpile. At the same time we've really paid attention to what comes into our house and have made it a twice-yearly tradition {once in the spring and once in the fall just before the holiday season} to donate any and all unused household items to a nearby shelter. We've pared down our wardrobes, toy shelves, linen closet and kitchen cabinets/drawers significantly. Still, despite these efforts we have a lot more than we need, and way more than we're willing to haul with us for a 3-part move.

Since we'll be in a 1-bedroom situation for the first 6 months, the majority of the things we keep will be in storage. We'd like for that to be absolute essentials and things it doesn't make sense to just replace later. On the other hand, inexpensive items or things that we're not sure we'll even want or need when we finally settle into our own place are all being sold or donated. The less stuff we have to store, the less money we have to spend on storage, and the more money we're saving for our future forever home. Beyond that, it's just less to move, unpack, and find a new place for when we do settle in a permanent house.

Here's our 3-step plan to dramatically minimize our possessions as quickly as possible:

1. Trash what can't be used.
Our HOA rents a dumpster twice a year for residents to throw out larger items that can't be put out for regular weekly trash pick-up. We knew that was coming up, so we planned ahead. We hired my niece to hang out with the girls one weekend so we could go through a bunch of stuff and set aside everything that needed to go when the dumpster was here. We had a decent amount of pretty big stuff, which was a great start to clearing out the clutter.

2. Sell what's worth selling.
This is where we are right now. In our sorting process, we set aside things that would be worth selling on Craigslist or eBay. I even created a Facebook photo album in case friends or friends-of-friends are interested in any of the items. A lot of it is nicer stuff that we just haven't used but aren't sure we're going to need and don't want to store "just in case." The first things that went were our kitchen table & chairs, our kitchen island cart, and an area rug. There have been a bunch of other smaller items that have sold and we still have lot of stuff listed. Since we're on a time schedule, we've decided we'll give our stuff 5 weeks on the market, and at that point we'll schedule a Salvation Army pick-up for whatever's left.

3. Donate what doesn't sell.
As I just mentioned, we have plenty of stuff in good condition that we just don't need to hang on to. We'd love to sell it since it's in decent condition- some of it is even new-  but we don't have forever to wait on that. So after 5 weeks, anything that's left will get picked up by Salvation Army and go to a new home!

That will be three weeks before our scheduled move. At that point we'll be left with only the things we absolutely want to take with us. If you've ever purged your space of unneeded items, it's a huge relief. You don't think it matters to hang onto a bunch of stuff in case you want it one day, but there's totally a freedom in letting go of it. That feeling is seriously intensified when there's a real need to part with the stuff rather than just a desire. This stuff has to go before we move, so watching it disappear day-by-day is not just a relief, it's sanity-saving. It will greatly simplify our entire packing and moving process. Perhaps best of all, when we do finally settle in to a permanent home we'll have much less extra "stuff" to instantly clutter our fresh new space. Instead we'll have just our necessities and most-loved items with plenty of open, uncluttered space to live in and enjoy. And we can't wait :)