Archive for the 'Organization' Category

Mostly Martha

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

I’ve been on a home-making tear. Starting Sunday, I weeded our yard and cut down the hostas. I roasted a pumpkin, then toasted the seeds and pureed the flesh. Yesterday I managed to do laundry AND put it away. I made pumpkin chocolate-chip cupcakes with maple cream-cheese frosting* for Drake’s preschool snack today. (He’s getting better at baking: he didn’t sneeze in the batter. I’m getting quicker: I stopped him before licking the frosting utensils at least three times.)

I’m not sure what’s prompted this nesting phase; perhaps it’s the looming of winter. But I’m exhausted. I’m off to make sure those cupcakes turned out well. (Again.)

*Recipe from the Jessica Seinfeld cookbook, Deceptively Delicious that all the moms I know are talking about, and which my kind mother-in-law brought me as a gift when she visited. It’s given me minor notoriety among friends: Gasp! “You HAVE it? Can I SEE it?” I’ve tried a few recipes, like sneaking pumpkin into mac and cheese, or sloppy joes, or cupcakes. She goes too far in making the recipes low fat, though, so she’s sacrificed both flavor and texture in the recipes I’ve tried so far. But it’s a lovely, hardcover, spiral bound book with good photography and clever “talking head” illustrations. The art director should be proud.

Flight Plan: Toiletries, and TSA Restrictions

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

Don’t want to check bags? No problem, as long as you’re familiar with the most recent Transportation Security Administration guidelines, updated last year to restrict liquids and gels. Interestingly, though, they are now more lenient with grooming tools such as nail clippers and tweezers.

To sum up, passengers are usually allowed two carryons–a small suitcase and a personal bag. Liquids or gels in carry-on bags going through security must be in 3-oz or smaller containers, and all fit in a quart size zip-top plastic bag. This can be tricky if you’re not checking a bag, and going somewhere longer than overnight. Here’s an ample sample plan, with examples from brands that carry travel sizes:



Hair product

spf moisturizerFace lotion w/ SPF

moisturizerNight Cream

body lotionBody lotion

Eye drops


Hand sanitizer


Evian mist

Cortisone cream

Other items for the kit that don’t need to be plastic-bagged:

disposable razor (use it and lose it!)
eyelash curler
lip balm
eye pencil
bandages for blisters
prescription meds (keep in original bottles for unexpected refills)
decongestant and ibuprofen
hair elastics

And one of my all-time favorite, most useful products

Dove sensitive skin barDove Sensitive Skin bar

OK, I’m off to test my theory….After about 30 minutes, I’ve got all the stuff from the first list fitting comfortably in a quart bag, and the rest of the stuff in a gallon bag. I tweaked the lists a bit, and I think this should leave me prepared, not weighed down, and get me through security.

Getting Off the Junk(Mail Lists)

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

I thought a few pieces of our regular junk mail were inevitable–the weekly supermarket circulars, and the handful of coupon mailings addressed only to resident. I am happy to announce that I was wrong. Each marketing piece has a website, and each website has contact information, and I’ve removed myself from four of these nuisances recently. Kicking the junkmail can be daunting, but it’s worth it. There’s so much less coming into our house, and therefore so much less that I have to consider, sort, and throw away.

Letting Go of Lists (or Trying To)

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

I love lists. I make them. I cross things off. There are a few problems, though.

One is that I don’t throw away lists every day. If there are things left undone, I keep the lists, but still make new ones. Is this a cause or effect of my anxious nature? I don’t know.

Another problem is that I have a very active monkey mind, and tend to write whatever pops into my head on a list, with no regard to whether it’s reasonable, achievable, or quantifiable. So my lists are not only always setting myself up for failure, but they’re also accumulating to remind me of my “failure” to achieve these ridiculous, impossible goals.

(Do you, like me, often mis-type “goal” as “gaol”? Significant, I think.)

I refer not only to task lists, but also to amazon wish lists, reading lists, listening lists, and watching lists. My lists for these have become so bloated that I hardly check them anyway.

I have a practice that I’ve abandoned for a while, and I think it’s time to resurrect. It’s to stop making lists. Instead, it’s to take the moment, when it arises, and calmly consider the next thing to do/read/buy/etc. It relies on trusting both myself and the universe to remember intriguing things, and to remind me of them enough times to fix them in my consciousness. If a book, or cd, or movie, is meant to be in my life, I hope to be reminded of it enough times that I don’t need to write it on a list.

It’s a sound plan. I have considered, and quailed before, the idea of deleting and throwing away all my current lists. Right now it’s all I can do not to make new ones. That is significant progress, so I’ll leave it at that for today.

Just Say No

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

I yearn for a simple life, without literal or metaphorical clutter. Two kids, a house, and modern life, though, seem to conspire against me. Near constant vigilance is required to stem the tide of too much stuff. I give baby items my boys have outgrown to friends. I donate regularly. I take myself off mailing lists, but still, the crap creeps in. One of the most superfluous bits of modern junk is the podcast. I steer clear because life is too short, and my limited time too valuable.

M. from Mental Multivitamin periodically expresses the need for “no”. I recently agreed with Lazy Cow that I often hear M’s advice in my head, and count myself fortunate for it. She is a passionate advocate for the value of one’s time, especially as it relates to learning and writing.

I recently attended a writing workshop. I enjoyed it, and thought the writing within the group was very good. When the address list for the class was passed around, though, I didn’t add my email address. I feared looking snobbish and exclusionary. But I couldn’t subject myself to a mailing list, no matter how well intentioned. Some might argue that it’s quick and easy to delete. But it still takes time, and consideration that I want to spend on my current emails from friends and family, and the considerable backlog of correspondence I’ve got dating from when Guppy was born. The address list went around a second time. I think the woman sitting next to me thought I’d been skipped on the first time around. I steeled my resolve, though, and passed it on. I wish the others well in their writing, but I want to spend what little time I have on my writing, not on email about writing.


Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

When I lived by myself after college, I had few belongings, and I cleaned my apartment weekly. It was usually both tidy and clean.

After I married, I cleaned bi-weekly, and usually kept things tidy.

After I had my first child, and after the first sleep-deprived, bewildering months, I cleaned about once a month, and had trouble keeping things tidy in our small apartment. The influx of baby clothes and toys made things more difficult. Our place was mostly clean, but cluttered.

After I got pregnant with a second child, things really went south. Cleaning fell to the bottom of the priority list. We’d moved into a two-story house with a finished basement. While we didn’t have a lot of square feet, it was still double what we’d had before. We had more clothes, and more toys. We’d accumulated more things, since we had more space to put it in. Our house was neither clean nor tidy.

After I was diagnosed with post-partum depression, my sister Sydney kindly offered to help by paying for a cleaning service. I gratefully accepted, though I was stricken with guilt. Shouldn’t I clean my own house? But since I was struggling inwardly with my emotions and outwardly with parenting, I decided to accept whatever help was offered, and try NOT to feel guilty about it.

Then, as my depression lessened with treatment, my guilt crept back. Shouldn’t I be able to clean my own house? Especially since I now would have a few days to myself with the boys at daycare? I decided to have someone in once more, and see how it went.

It went beautifully. She cleaned while I organized. I got around to projects I’d put off for years. I realized why I’m so bad at cleaning my own house: I can’t just clean. I stop to put things away, or I do laundry AND clean, or I slow down when I have to figure out what to do with something. The benefit of having someone else clean was I could set the priorities (bathrooms, then kitchen floor, then dusting, then vacuuming) and she did them efficiently in that order. She had no connection to what was in her way. I could spend time on the things that usually interrupt my attempts to clean while she cleaned. It was a good combination.

I still feel unreasonably guilty that I am not able to cook, clean, read, write, and care for the boys even if just part time. But seeing that it’s a tandem working relationship, with me organizing while someone else cleans, feels like a much better, and healthier, interpretation.

Catch Up? I Can Barely Keep Up!

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

For the past several years, and the past three domiciles, I’ve wanted to get organized, and catch up on all the magazines, and bibs and bobs of paper and photos that have accumulated over the last decade (ulp!) or so. Two moves and two children made getting my act together all the more difficult. I’ve got boxes full of drifting and shifting piles.

I am beginning to suspect that if I am ever to make a dent in the backlog, I’ll just have to throw all the old stuff out without looking at it or reading it, and then more fiercely police what comes into the house. Already I’ve reduced our magazine subscriptions to four, I recycle whatever we can, I donate frequently, and I take superfluous books to Half Price Books. On bad days, it feels as if I’m barely making a dent, which is further reason for me to consider a virtual fire of all the old stuff, and start anew.

Email Rehab

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

My husband G. Grod sent me a link from Boing Boing to Merlin Mann at 43 Folders on “The strange allure (and false hope) of email bankruptcy“. This was the first I’d heard of the term, though Mann posted previously about it, and it may date from as long ago as 1999, according to this WaPo article. The popular lit agent/blogger, Miss Snark, periodically referred to “hosing out her inbox” in a similar bid to start fresh. Mann has another suggestion for managing email that he calls the “email DMZ“.

The WaPo piece notes that many tech-savvy and email-inundated people are backing off from (or even out of) email in favor of the telephone. Since having baby Guppy 16 months ago, I’ve attempted the opposite, as I found phone calls more difficult than email.

As I noted recently, though, I’m buried in my inboxes, both at home and for the blog. They’ve swelled to a grand, cringe-inducing, and possibly paralyzing, total of 580. Mann captures my feelings on this, exactly:

Email is such a funny thing. People hand you these single little messages that are no heavier than a river pebble. But it doesn’t take long until you have acquired a pile of pebbles that’s taller than you and heavier than you could ever hope to move, even if you wanted to do it over a few dozen trips. But for the person who took the time to hand you their pebble, it seems outrageous that you can’t handle that one tiny thing. “What ‘pile’? It’s just a fucking pebble!”

To all the kind friends and family who have emailed me, I will again quote Mann, in reply to you.

I’m not prepared to declare bankruptcy just yet, but if you were kind enough to email me a pebble some time over the last few [YEARS], there’s a very good chance that I still haven’t found the time to do something appropriately nice with it. Which makes me feel awful. I sincerely apologize if your lovely pebble is still in my very large pile.

I’m currently on a sort of break, so I have the usual hope/delusion that I’ll be able to “catch up on everything” that this piece from the Onion skewered so wonderfully. Please be patient if (when?) I don’t get through all 580 pebbles in the next few weeks.

Naming My Delusion

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

I know, from experience and professional training, that unrealistic and vague goals are destined to fail. In defiance of this, I have decided 2007 will be the year I get my sh1t together.

Deluded? Probably. For purposes of this delusion, I define my sh1t as: disorganized finances; blowing and drifting piles of paper; teetering piles of magazines; unopened boxes from the last x? moves; bookshelves crammed with unread books purchased long ago; random stashes of junk throughout the house (why, yes, I do think I should keep these seven keychains, because I never know when I might need this exact one.)

I have to stop there. I’m just depressing myself.

In preparation for this unrealistic and amorphous goal, I’ve done a little acronyming. The 2007 goal is hereby named CMP. Take your pick what it stands for: Crap Management/Minimizing Program, or Clear the Crap, Manage the Money and Purge the Paper.

See, all those years spent in corporate America weren’t for nought. Now if only I could get a budget for snacks and authorization to conscript a team:

Drake, Guppy, it’s time to clean house. Put your toys away! Pick up those crayons! Get that train out of your mouth! If you do, we’ll have a post-mortem meeting with Cheddar Bunnies, Veggie Booty, and juice.

Questioning the Plan

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

My vague goal for 2007 is to get organized–clear the crap, purge the paper, detox from magazines, curb impulse buying at Target–but I was reminded of this article from the Onion.

I’m doomed.