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Archive for the ‘Time Management’ Category

1. Weekly laundry loads are really small.
Oh, oops. Did I wear the same clothes four days in a row? Did I remember to change for sleeping? (no)

2. Bed is made
See below, “creative procrastination.”

3. Nose prints on back window
When was the last time I went outside?

4. Creative procrastination
Made a cake in the middle of a Wednesday? Check. Swept kitchen floor? Check. Extended phone call with daughter? Check.

5. Oh, you get to “leave” work at 5 p.m.?
How cute.

6. What’s a “business line?”
Is there anyone who doesn’t have my phone number?

7. Don’t open the heating bill without a strong drink in your hand
No such thing as setting the thermostat for when people are in the house. People are always in the house.

8. Starbucks is my conference room
At least they clean their toilets regularly.

9. We call it a “perk.”
Remember that drink in your hand? Yeah, I have a drink in my hand.

10. You never shop on the weekends or after 5 p.m.
That’s when all the cube farmers are there.

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The problem with full time employment, aside from the annoyance of having enough money to pay the bills, is that macro-projects like the January Cure are hard to keep up with.

I’ve been telling myself that I did a major home reorganization last spring, so I don’t really need to go through my closets.

I don’t approve of cut flowers from an ecological viewpoint, but the bigger problem is that I live in the ghetto (ish), where there are certainly no florists, and now there are also no large grocery store chains. We are not the sort of neighborhood that the yuppie chains like Mariano’s find attractive. Buying cut flowers is a chore, not a joy.

I did of course do the kitchen, but not at the level recommended by the Cure. Although frankly, my kitchen is pretty clean and well organized as that’s where I spend most of my time. I think if I lived in a one room apartment, that room would have to be a kitchen, with the bed stuck in a little alcove.

I did not create a landing strip, but mostly because I’m not an accumulater. I just get rid of stuff I don’t need- papers, old clothes, cracked dishes, husbands…. In fact the moving on of the husband is the reason I don’t need to reorganize things like the kitchen and the bedroom and the paperwork. Been there, done that.

I also have not planned a get together, which is actually something I’d like to do.

Partly this is procrastination, and partly it’s fear, because the last get together I planned, half the people who R.S.V.P’d didn’t show up. I’m still getting through the leftovers, more than a month later. Who needs the stress, or the cost.

I am determined to get to my Goal Projects: boxing up my husband’s detritus from the basement (he is not someone who does not accumulate things), painting “blackboards” in key places, and organizing my necklaces (I have several dozen).

I figure I have 17 days before I have to admit defeat on that.

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I get it– spring cleaning because you can set the wash tub outside, and beat the rugs when it’s warm.

But my washtub stays indoors since, despite my pioneer-woman conceits I actually don’t use a scrub board to clean; nor do I beat the rugs. I vacuum them. I don’t want to be stuck inside cleaning when the weather is finally nice and I can get out of the cave for a few hours.

Enter the January Cure.  This is one of those internet things of which you’re vaguely aware for years.  And then a friend says “I’m doing this!” and you think, okay, why not. It’s great “Dark Days” therapy.

Last year my friend petered out after a couple of weeks, but I stuck it out and went the whole month. I confess some of the tasks struck me as silly (buy some mass-produced art), or inconsistent with the eco-friendly mandate (buy some cut flowers in the middle of January– they’re only the most ecologically disastrous industry on the planet!). But for the most part it laid a really useful and effective structure for cleaning. Last year I had an entire 10-room house to clean, which was a little more than the “Apartment Therapy” home site was geared towards. This year, I’ve contracted onto my first floor, so I should be able to keep up a little more.

I’m going to add my disaster of a basement to the mix (in fact I’m headed there right after writing this).

I’ll be going back to my regular Tuesday posting day for  reporting. (It seemed ridiculous to post about cleaning on New Year’s Eve- I don’t know about you, but on New Year’s Eve my aim is making messes, not cleaning them up!)  I hope you’ll join me in signing up through the Apartment Therapy site, and that you’ll chime in on the comments here about your successes, misses, and surprises.

Happy New Year!

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When I was in college and living by myself, I used to make a big pot of something– spaghetti sauce, pea soup, stew– on Sunday nights, and then eat it all week.  I mostly did it because then I didn’t have to cook all week.

Here at the other end of my journey, I find myself in the same predicament, but it’s more because I just can’t get the hang of this cooking-for-one-person thing.

I’ve actually come up with strategies– I work late on Tuesday and Wednesday, so I need something easy to fix when I get home at 8:30. I need leftovers. So I make my too-big meals on Sunday and Monday, and reheat on Tuesday and Wednesday. This doesn’t help much with Thursday, when I work at night, and have to come up with something early, which I hate to eat early, and I end up having cheese and crackers for dinner at 10 p.m.

Which I suppose is a step above a bag of oreos.

One of my cooking-for-one innovations (you’ll be amazed to hear this is my own innovation; no one in the history of living alone has ever come up with this, in case you need to know who to credit), has been the amazing ability of the top of the fridge to actually freeze things.

I mostly use this for breads. I’ve discovered (NO, I did not read this in Barbara Kingsolver, okay maybe a little) that you can make pizza dough in large quantities ahead of time, divide and freeze, then just pull a single-pizza size out of the freezer a couple hours ahead of cooking, and voila– pizza! Same thing with pita. Since I make it myself, it was such a drag when it would go moldy or stale on me, until I read on the internet figured out (ahem) that I could bake them one at a time. Of course, you have to heat the baking stone at 450 for 45 minutes, so it’s not exactly energy efficient, but I don’t waste pita anymore.

It works for scones, too, which I learned from a scone-baking class, figured out about a month ago! This is helpful not so much for the problem of scones going bad, as for the problem of scones going in my mouth a dozen at a time, because I’m really good at scones and they are delicious.

DSCN0242

What are you (not) cooking?

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Hard upon the (late) April repost of monthly planning from Jen at Unearthing This Life, here’s what to do in May (a day early)! My May will be taken up with continuing rehabbing (ish) of my house, and of course, getting the garden up and running.

Gardening:

  • Skip trimming shrubbery if you notice any nesting. Let those birds have some solitude!
  • Plant annuals if you’re safe from frosts and trim back perennials if needed in warmer zones.
  • Zone 4 and lower transplant tomatoes, peppers, cucurbits and other warm weather crops. Zone 5 and up– not til the end of the month!
  • Tidy up bulb foliage if it begins to die back.
  • Allow columbine and foxgloves to go to seed and collect some for next year.
  • Trim back blooms on roses and day lilies to promote re-blooming.
  • Keep shears and trimmers clean and available for deadheading and pruning.

Outdoors/Yard:

  • Set up and clean bird baths.
  • Clean Patio Furniture.
  • Clean grill.
  • Repair/purchase water hoses and fixtures. If appropriate, make sure water barrel systems are in good repair and have no algae buildup.
  • Make sure gutters are draining properly by watching them during a heavy rain. If there’s any overflow or tipping, you may need to have them cleaned or repaired.
  • If needed, have your air conditioner checked. Clean any debris and trim back plants to allow maximum airflow.
  • Start clearing paths to wild berries and keep them accessable until harvests are done.

Animals:

  • Consider weaning goats and sheep if necessary.
  • It may not be to late to purchase chicks and other fowl from your local farmers co-op.
  • Watch for hummingbirds to return. Be prepared with clean feeders and simple syrup (four parts water to one part sugar).
  • Bees – make sure you can locate queens and that they are laying. Check for foul brood, varroa mites, and hive beetles. Is your honey coming in yet? Do you need to feed your bees? Watch for swarming.
  • Look into stocking your ponds with fish now that the cold weather is gone.

Indoors:

  • Change air filters and adjust thermostat a few degrees to save on electricity.
  • Clean ceiling fan blades and shades.
  • Invest in a good window/box fan.
  • Get your furnace and water heater serviced
  • If you don’t already have one, prepare an emergency kit with 3 days worth of supplies and locate your safe place for severe weather.
  • Locate and organize your picnic gear – get out there and enjoy the beautiful Spring weather at a moment’s notice!

*****

What projects do you have lined up for this month?

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Our wonderful Jen at Unearthing This Life has been posting these great month-by-month planners for a few years. Just because she’s not writing here anymore doesn’t mean we stop the reposts!

I’ve been pretty productive this April– completely reconfigured the usage of my house to reflect the new reality of being in it alone. Lots of painting, moving and patching. The garden’s been a bit neglected through all this, but I’m hoping to get back on track. You can follow my garden progress at MyFolia.com/gardeners/Xan.

Here’s Jen’s April planner:

Gardening:

  • Tilling garden beds where necessary to work in compost and get rid of weed seedlings
  • Edging beds or digging the last of the new beds
  • Add supports to garden beds for plants like tomatoes, peas, gourds, roses, peonies, and beans.
  • Sowing outdoor hardy annuals
  • Sow last of the peas, potatoes, and onions. Continue starting beets, lettuces, cabbages, radishes, and carrots.
  • Planting rooted raspberry canes and strawberries
  • Hardening off and planting of vegetable seedlings
  • Plant any remaining saplings and transplants
  • Rake around fruit trees to help with invasive bugs and/or treat for them. Use treatments only after flowers are gone.
  • Questions about what to plant when? Go to Mother Earth News!

Outdoor house and yard Chores:

  • Clean up fallen branches and sticks, nuts, and leaves.
  • Hang bird/butterfly/bat-houses. If you’re not a beekeeper consider hanging a mason bee box. Set up bird baths and drinking holes for beneficial critters like bees.
  • Tidy up gutters and look for winter damage.
  • Bring out water hoses and setting up water barrels.
  • Repair screens check caulking/insulation around windows and repair if necessary.
  • MORELS!

Animals:

  • Purchase/raise chicks
  • Consider any expansions and rotations for this seasons’ critters.
  • Repair fencing.
  • Add supers to beehives. Check brood.

Indoors:

  • Wash windows and curtains.
  • Organize and collect glass canning jars.
  • Clean out freezers and storage for this year’s crops.
  • Plan simple, yet filling meals for lots of energy.

What will you be working on this month?

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I’ll be reposting Jen’s wonderful series on monthly chores and tasks throughout the year. Here’s January, originally posted on January 7, 2011 by Unearthing This Life.

So many of us are working our way toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. With that in mind we here at NDiN wanted to share some general guidelines of what to plan for on a monthly basis. Whether you’re a gardener, a beekeeper, a forager, or you keep animals, hopefully our monthly guides will help you plan ahead for the month. Depending on your exact climate you may find you need to adjust your schedule depending on your region.

Now that Winter is officially here most of us will be spending a lot more time indoors. For those in the more Southern regions, outdoor work is manageable on warmer days. It’s a good time to focus on the indoors, keeping warm, and getting a jump on this year’s activities.

Indoors:

  • Take down and store holiday ornaments and decorations.
  • Update your address book from holiday cards and gift envelopes if you’ve saved them.
  • Clean out your files in preparation for tax time. Rid yourself of out-of-date warranty cards (update if necessary) and manuals. Schedule service appointments for extended warranties.
  • Clean out dryer vents with a wire hanger and vacuum cleaner. Wash mesh filters with soap and a scrub brush to allow for better air flow.
  • When finding new homes for holiday gifts, clean out unused items and donate those in great shape to your favorite charity.
  • It’s also a great time to photograph your belongings, room by room, for insurance purposes.
  • Start planning your spring garden. Look at gardening catalogs, websites, and blogs (like us!) to get ideas for what to do this year and when. Purchase seeds by March to guarantee delivery and stock.
  • Research and prepare for any animal purchases for the year.
  • Keep a tray of water and spray bottle near indoor plants to adjust humidity levels, especially if you have central air. Running the heater can dry them out quickly and cover leaves with dust.

Outdoors/Garden/Wildlife:

  • Keep fresh water available and free of ice for birds and wildlife.
  • If you’ve already begun to put out birdseed continue to do so. They’re now relying on you as a food source.
  • If you live in a climate with mild winters, this month may be a good time to dig new beds. You may also want to repair or build new composting bins to be prepared for this year’s cleanup.
  • Keep driveways and walks free of snow and ice. Have shovels, plows, and salt/brine accessible and stocked.

Animal Husbandry:

  • Early birthing will begin late next month for some of you. Make any preparations necessary to help mammas and babies along.
  • Keep barns and other animal shelters clean to help prevent illness and discourage wild critters from nesting. Change hay often, keep tools cleaned up, and be sure to keep water free of ice.
  • Put a light out for an extra two hours in the evening for your chickens. It will help keep their coop warm on colder evenings and promote more egg laying.

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It’s not so much “having it all” as it is “how’s it all going to get done.”

Because this is the problem. It all needs to get done– the child care, the cooking, the shopping, the sex, the yard and the garden. The commute and the job; the vacation and the “me time.”

Just because I’m a liberated woman, married to a liberated man, and raising liberated children doesn’t mean the world has somehow liberated itself from the need to eat and clean.

Hiring a cleaning lady and eating at restaurants doesn’t count. For one thing, it just reassigns the work; it doesn’t make it go away. For another, those options come with significant cost in both money and time.

What we have done as a society is to reassign, not just the work, but the value. We have decided that activities comprising housewifery are not valuable. And I’m not talking about the trope that we deeply honor traditional “choices.” I’m talking we literally place no value on it, as in “not included in the GDP” unless you pay cash money for it (i.e. cleaning ladies and restaurants, not that anyone who isn’t seeking a high level political appointment is actually declaring their cleaning lady’s income on their tax returns).

Labor is no longer, can no longer, be divided in industrial societies by gender. That horse has left the barn. So now it’s divided either socio-economically (there’s that cleaning lady again), or inefficiently, household by household. At my house I do all the cooking, and he does all the dish washing. At your house he does all the car pooling, and you do all the teacher conferences. Across the street, she mows the lawn, and he does the laundry.

Of course, if there is no “he” to go with the “she” (or vice versa), the division becomes more challenging still. If the head of that household is your cleaning lady it’s more complicated still, with a nice political guilt trip thrown in.

Well off women can catch a little break, as can families willing to sacrifice prosperity (i.e. double income) to living traditional gender divisions. Families whose income derives from a source other than wage labor–farmers, craftspeople, shopkeepers (the old fashioned kind, that own their shops), can find it easier to make sensible labor divisions, although I think in these families you’re still more likely than in the past to see him cooking and her feeding the livestock, or driving the tractor, or stocking the shelves.

Perhaps the culprit is not the loss of God in industrial lives, or the greed and hubris of feminists, or the lure of the double income or the need to do something with that PhD. Perhaps the culprit is time, specifically time that we spend in cars. Get rid of the commute, and the car pool, and the after school activities, and the remote far flung grocery stores, and it will be easier to divide our time among the labors that we need to live.

The labor will be divided, because the work has to be done. Maybe, if we did it a little closer to home, it would be easier.

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Waiting

January is a suspended month.  The poets describe the month as forlorn, though Hal Borland quips that “there are two seasonal diversions that can ease the bite of any winter.  One is the January thaw.  The other is the seed catalogues.”

This year we’re actually, oddly, waiting for winter, which seems reluctant to even start. The shrubs, also waiting, are confused and have started to bud. I’m waiting for my amaryllis to bloom, timed, for once, to properly bloom on my birthday next week, which is what I was shooting for. I planted winter greens this year, two types of arugula, and I wait for them to sprout and grow, wandering casually past the seed station several times a day to see if maybe they’ve gotten tired of waiting and have decided, instead, to suddenly be mature and ready to eat.  I planted basil too, and found a new marker to wait for–there’s a point at which they start to smell like basil.

When I was a young mother I used to wait for my children to sleep so I could get, something? done. I can’t remember anymore what that was I was trying to do. While I was waiting, they went and grew up. We wait each day for the sun to hang around a little longer,  as “imperceptible as the growth of a child.” I count the days until I can pull out the seed starting mix and plant the early crops, and then the tomatoes. But I won’t be satisfied after I’ve gotten there and done that; I’ll just start waiting again, to be able to take them outside and harden them off, and then to plant, and then to grow until the cycle comes around another time, with me, still waiting.

Gardeners and cooks spend a lot of time waiting. Waiting for the spring, for the sprout, for the fruit, for the harvest. Waiting for the bread to rise and the milk to scald, and the foam to settle. Waiting, even for the dishes to be washed or the table set.

I would have included a photo with this post, but I’m waiting for the camera to recharge.

As I write this, I’m waiting for a cake to bake. Getting impatient, I whipped the left over egg whites for meringue cookies, not thinking that they would need to sit for an hour, and then another hour while the oven cooled down. In the meantime, they slumped, and then separated, and I had to throw them out. I guess I should have waited.

What are you waiting for?

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Gardeners like to plan things. Despite the wild appearance of some gardens (ahem), and the tendency of plants to have their own ideas, we’re an orderly lot. We plant things in neat rows, or square foot grids. We weigh and measure, label and stack. We plan our days, and color-code our calendars. We map our vacations and set our alarms.

But the world is full of the unexpected. A broomcorn tassel emerging from a storm-damaged stem. A forgotten plant. Too many cucumbers. A missed turn that leads to an alpaca farm, or a wind farm, in the wilds of Illinois.

Or you might meet Mrs. Rice, the 94-year old proprietor of an enormous “antique mall” in Freeport, Illinois, encountered only because we were waiting out the rain, and hear about an Illinois farm girl going to “business school” in 1934, in the building that she now runs as a flea market-cum-museum.

Take the wrong turn every now and then. You never know where it will lead.

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