Top Five/Bottom Five: Household Chores Edition

I had a lot of fun writing my Christmas-themed Top Five/Bottom Five posts. And, based on the comments section, some of you have very strong feelings about Christmas music, food, and movies.

Once again, I’m borrowing the idea from Mix and Match Mama; this round is all about household chores.


I had to think long and hard to come up with five household chores I like. Coming up with five I dislike was a piece of cake…

MY Top FIVE chores

  • Organizing/decluttering. I know this is a broad description, but I’m going to label it as a single “chore”. I like putting things back into order; fluffing pillows, smoothing down blankets, putting unused items into a donation bag for the thrift store. I enjoy straightening shoes in the entryway, stacking books on my bedside table, and just generally tidying our living spaces. In the right context, decluttering doesn’t feel like a chore to me at all and I view it as a form of enjoyable self-care!
  • Wiping down counters/the kitchen table. While I typically just use hot, soapy water, I’m a big fan of Method sprays (they smell so good!); if I need a quick mood boost, I spray the counters with my favourite scent – pink grapefruit – and scrub away happily.
  • Mopping. No one is more shocked than me to see MOPPING on my favourites list. I used to hate mopping. Like, Hate with a capital “H”. We temporarily hired someone to help with cleaning a few years ago and the main chore I wanted to outsource was our floors. Now, Eufy does the vacuuming for us, and our Vildea spin mop (comparable to the O-Cedar EasyWring in the US, I think?) does an incredible job in the mopping department.
  • Washing dishes. I enjoy hand-washing dishes, especially if I’m playing music on the kitchen speaker or listening to a podcast.
  • Paperwork/schedule management. I love writing cheques. I don’t mind filling out forms for school events (permission slips, activity registrations). And I enjoy sitting down with the calendar and fitting things in like a Tetris game.

MY Bottom FIVE chores

  • Laundry. I don’t mind gathering dirty clothes, adding some detergent to the washer, and starting a cycle. But everything after that point I hate. Moving items to the dryer (and separating out things like wool socks that need to be air-dried)? Hate it. Pulling clothes out of the dryer? Cleaning out the lint tray? Lugging a full basket of clean clothes upstairs. Ugh, ugh, ugh. Sorting, folding, and hanging clothes? Detest it all. And don’t get me started on matching socks. I’ve tried to convert it into a fun game. The only problem – it’s not a game and it’s not fun. I’ve tried a dozen different options for getting laundry completed more efficiently or more enjoyably but, at the end of the day, this is a job I just really, really dislike. I do think the best solution for me is to do laundry frequently so it doesn’t accumulate. I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on ironing, which fits under this general category, but tops my least-favourite list. If someone said: You can either unclog a toilet or iron this dress shirt? Hand me the plunger. I’ve gotten to the point where I only touch an iron once or twice a year and even that stretches me to my max. It is incomprehensible to me that some people enjoy ironing!
  • Cleaning mirrors. Half the time they look worse than before I started and there are always streaks or little flecks of dust or paper towel/rag lint.
  • Putting away dry dishes. While I enjoy washing dishes (we air dry), I loathe unloading the dish drainer. Abby is responsible for emptying the dishwasher, but I often help her out. In that context, putting away cutlery is my least favourite, but cups and mugs are also a big nuisance since little divots at the top often retain puddles of water (that end up on the floor as we’re unloading items).
  • Cleaning the bathtub. I should start by saying “bathrooms” in general don’t rank very high on my chore list. But the bathtub is my least favourite. It takes so much effort to scrub and I have short arms and, apparently, not enough muscle power.
  • Putting away groceries. I don’t mind making a list or shopping, but I hate unloading things when we get home. To be fair, John often spearheads this; he likes an organized fridge and does a great job of maximizing space (which is important because we only have an apartment-sized fridge). Unpacking items and shuttling them around to different places in the house feels like such a hassle – fresh fruit goes on a bowl on the counter, lots of things need to go in the fridge, and various items go in our two “pantry” spaces; then there is the small standalone freezer downstairs and longer-term storage on shelves in our basement (extra toilet paper, paper towel, canned goods). I love to eat, but sheesh there is a lot of work that goes on behind-the-scenes to get food on the table.

And there you have it – my top/bottom five selections in the category of household chores.

Your turn. What would your top five/bottom five chores be? What’s your favourite cleaning tool or hack? Tell me – how can I dread laundry (slightly) less?

Header photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Drumroll: My Word of the…Week?

Around the blogosphere posts have been filled with recaps from 2022, goals for 2023…and exciting reveals with “word-of-the-year” intentions.

I love these posts and tend to jump in with two feet. You want goals? I’ll give you 23. Highlights and favourites? Done. It’s the one-word theme that has a tendency to trip me up.

About 8 years ago, I jumped on the bandwagon and picked the word Simplify. At that point, we were living in a small, two-bedroom apartment that served as our home office, living space, and a storage facility for large work equipment (think eight drones; yes…EIGHT of them). Also, we had an infant and a preschooler. For obvious reasons, I was craving space and order and…simplicity.

And I think setting that word as a year-long intention did help. I wrote it out on a little sticker that I pasted to the front cover of my planner. Sure enough, I’d periodically take time to pause and say “no” to a commitment or “yes” to downsizing a storage tote in light of my goal to Simplify.

Last year I proposed the motto of Be Kind. I wanted to be kinder to:

  • my kids
  • my spouse
  • my friends
  • strangers
  • myself

Honestly? While I tried to exemplify kindness (hopefully at least quasi-successfully), I didn’t spend time reflecting on this being a year-long intention. It was a nice idea, but the impact may be debatable.

As I’ve been reading background stories and plans for “word-of-the-year” ideas (e.g: Jenny = Nourish; Gretchen Rubin = Wave; Elizabeth Craft = Scale; Sarah = Deliberate), I’ve smiled and silently cheered for each person and their decision, before realizing I wasn’t interested in coming up with my own word.

Then…

I was walking home from school drop-off on the first day back post-Christmas break. When I got to within eyeshot of our house, I could sense my body physically drooping (I even felt a bit light-headed) and I thought: Wow. I’m really tired.

It’s an abrupt transition to go from holiday scheduling, company, and home life back into school and work routines. I had a long list of tasks that needed doing, including the final dismantling of Christmas decor and organizing an important work meeting (for which scheduling has been a nightmare).

And in that moment I told myself: Elisabeth, be gentle with yourself this week.

Lighting bolt! I had a word for the week: Gentle.


I think one of my big hangups with a one-year theme is the fact that I may be craving polar opposite intentions during different seasons. Maybe I want to Think Big in January…and need to Think Small by April; I might want to go Fast and then Slow (I guess Pace could cover all the bases?). I might want to Expand in the New Year, but be craving Simplicity by the following Christmas season. Words like Adventure, Vibrant and Celebrate can be broadly applicable, but many choices seem a bit constrictive if life events throw a major curveball.

I wrote the word Gentle in giant cursive letters at the top of my weekly planner spread last week. This week, I chose two words. Rest and Restore. I’m still feeling a bit more tired than usual. Things are still slightly off-kilter from the holidays. I want to prioritize rest – and restore those things that need to be put back to rights (from routines to leftover holiday clutter – though, for now, the downstairs tree is staying).

Next week I may (or may not) choose a word but, where applicable, I really like the idea of setting short-term intentions.

Your turn. If you select a one-word annual theme, what word did you pick this year? Would you ever consider approaching this on a week-to-week basis?

Header photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

It’s Inbox Declutter Time

While we all spend a lot of time managing physical clutter, in the modern age, we have to contend with digital clutter, too.

Over the last week or so, I’ve been methodically unsubscribing from the various newsletters and digital flyers that come my way.

I almost didn’t notice the increasing deluge of e-mails coming in over the year. I’d swipe left – Delete! – and move on with my day. But my heart also sank when I saw my e-mail count in the morning, even though so many of them weren’t relevant.


So…

My local grocery store that distributes a weekly e-flyer (which I have never read a single time, despite receiving this e-mail for years)? Unsubscribe.

All but my very favourite newsletters? Unsubscribe.

Those “Microsoft Viva Insight” e-mails automatically delivered to two work e-mail addresses every single day (which I never, ever consult)? Unsubscribe.

Mealtrain.com? I organized a meal train back in October 2020. It’s time to…Unsubscribe.

Removal from a few local mailing lists required more specific attention: a youth choir Abby is dropping in 2023, weekly e-mails from a church we no longer attend. The extra step of preparing/sending a personalized message did feel like a hassle, but I put on my big girl panties and distributed the relevant messaging (in under a minute) and I’m now off those mailing lists, too.

I’ve been shocked at how many times over the last week I’ve been able to click Unsubscribe without a moment’s hesitation. And I can’t tell you how liberating and light it makes me feel each and every time. The last few days, when I check my e-mail, it’s mostly messages I want – or need – to receive. Which feels…refreshing!

Happy New Year to me…and to my inbox, too.


Your turn. Do you subscribe to a lot of newsletters, mailing lists, or other alerts? Do you mind having excess e-mail clutter? I didn’t think it bothered me, but I’m amazed at how much more pleasant it is to check my e-mails after hitting unsubscribe a few dozen times.

Header photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

My 2022 “Ta-Da” List

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas. I’m still in a post-holiday haze, complete with fevers (yes, really) and canceled plans. Despite more brushes with illness, we made many wonderful memories this season and I’ll recap them all…eventually…when I start sleeping through the night again. Which will happen. Right?


While I love the structure of my annual goals list, I appreciate the complimentary nature of a Ta-Da list. This record is an art, not a science. I don’t keep an exhaustive list; some items are basic and ordinary (like taking the kids skating), others are arbitrary (I recorded buying a treadmill desk attachment, but didn’t think to list getting two robovacs), and others feel momentous (like finally deciding to take next steps toward scheduling a hysterectomy).

Periodically I flip to my Ta-Da list – maintained on a bonus page in my planner – and get a real morale boost from adding new items. I forget lots of things and don’t have any regimented tracking method, but enjoy the process and find it motivating.

Here is a random assortment of Ta-Da’s from 2022:

Ice wreaths!
Treadmill desk (attachment)
One Line A Day Journal
Took kids skating (three times; each time inviting friends) at outdoor rinks
Ordered treadmill desk attachment (8 Jan)
Confirmed with OB/GYN about going ahead with a hysterectomy (10 January)
Survived online learning with kids (10-17 January)
Submitted T4’s + corporate taxes online (February)
Made ice wreaths with the kids (+ woods walk to collect natural materials)
Took kids + friends sledding (17 January)
Took kids to after-school skate at the arena
24-hour water fast (22 February)
Ordered house number (24 March)
Finished paint + caulking in living room
Ordered 2023 ski passes (31 March)
Went to PEI (8 – 9 April); completed daily walk on Haunted Woods Trail
Met “The Knitter” (went to her house for coffee + hosted for supper)
Got a Pap Smear + tetanus shot
Ran my old running route – 8.34 km – (19 May)
Trip to Toronto, NYC, Maine (June/July)
Laser treatments (x3) to remove a spider vein on my forehead; $115 total and so worth it
Applied for NEXUS/TSA Pre-Check (July)
1st pedicure (August)
Survived summer company
Meatball joined the family (12 July)
Got fall mums for our front step (September)
Painted shed to match new house exterior with a friend (participating in any home improvement task feels like a huge deal)
Bought a new-to-me yoga mat (didn’t really use it though; sigh)
Took our own family pictures!
Exercised final stock options
Booked two 2023 trips to maximize 2022 flight deals (Rome + South Carolina)
Began eating “intuitively”
Walked outside a minimum of 1 km daily (technically on two occasions my 1 km happened inside airports – it was the best I could do)
Completed NaBloPoMo
Made several (anonymous) appearances in Laura Vanderkam’s Tranquility by Tuesday book.
Completed a cooking competition with the kids + neighbours (minutes after a kitchen flood)
Performed in the angel choir at Live Nativity
Wrote in my One Line A Day Journal every day
New York City
Daily walks – including one on the “Green Gables” property
We became pet owners! Welcome to the family, Meatball!

There you have it – some Ta-Da’s for 2022.

Your turn. Do you actively track “Ta-Da’s”? If so, how do you monitor, record, and/or celebrate these non-goal successes and accomplishments?

Header photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

A Festive Brain Dump + My “Christmas Spreadsheet”

So I could separate these thoughts into a few different Christmas posts but, instead, I’m going to throw them out there in one chaotic, festive mess and let the wrapping paper words settle where they may.

It all started when a friend texted to say: You know what you should blog about? Regifting.

I felt more than up to that challenge, and then I started thinking about a variety of holiday topics. So in no particular order, here are some thoughts:

  • I stumbled upon Sia’s Christmas album last week. There are a lot of earworms, and I cannot get Snowman out of my head. I think this would be the perfect album to exercise to over the holidays (such great beats). But beware – you’ll be humming these songs in your sleep.
  • Part of me feels like a giant hypocrite. I talk regularly about minimalism and avoiding clutter, but there will be quite a few gifts under our tree this year. That said, I’m satisfied that most items align with my “gifting philosophy” that things should:

gift giving

A few people have asked about strategies for spending less:

  • Buy fewer gifts. I’m not trying to be a Scrooge and I really appreciate the gesture of gift-giving. That said, it’s okay to not exchange gifts with every living creature that breathes. Over the years I’ve slowly stopped exchanging gifts with most of the people in my life! First it was siblings (we all live long distances from each other + most of us have kids – so it’s a lot of money and logistics to exchange gifts), then it was university friends, and now almost everyone but immediate family members and my closest friends. Some people truly love giving and receiving gifts but, for the most part, I think the majority of us would be happy to take a few items off our to-do lists. I still send cards out to all these lovely people and for those that live locally – COVID times aside – we’ve switched to favouring in-person gatherings over stuff. If you’re not sure how someone feels, ask them: I’m curious if you’d be interested in having a little get-together this holiday instead of exchanging gifts? I’d love to spend more time with you, and I’d appreciate making this a more streamlined and clutter-free Christmas. Thoughts? Or, one of my friends simply texted and said: Hey. Would you be okay if we stopped exchanging adult gifts. I was more than okay, I was DELIGHTED!
  • Regifting. I have zero qualms about regifting as long as I am confident it will not deeply offend the gift-giver. When a gift doesn’t match either an emotional or practical need, I re-gift the item. Our kids’ school hosts a holiday bazaar and is always looking for new/like-new items this time of year. It’s a great way to recirculate unneeded gifts (though be on the lookout, as it is common for those exact items to get selected by your own kids at the bazaar; it hasn’t happened to me but has to multiple friends and I always show our kids what we’re donating!)
  • Buy second-hand. If you’ve been reading here for any length of time, you know I am a huge fan of thrifting. ZERO shame. There are regularly gifts under our tree that have been purchased second-hand. Clothes (the kid’s Christmas Eve pajamas every single year), games, electronics (my Kobo!). Second-hand doesn’t have to mean dirty or damaged. A second-hand laptop could be in pristine condition…and cost a fraction of the same model brand-new. I realize mileage on this could vary based on geography and personal stance on “used” gifts. But for our family, there will be plenty of second-hand gifts under the tree including: a robe for my Mom ($7), a game for Abby (I bought it new for $28.50 but then returned that when I found it at a thrift store for $8), a new game for Levi ($3, still in the shrinkwrap), a multi-sport ball for Levi ($3), a like-new Puma track set for Levi ($2), a like-new Levi’s shirt for Abby ($7; consignment store) and probably another dozen items? I also look in Little Lending Libraries throughout the year; I’ve wrapped up all sorts of free books for this Christmas…and when the recipients are finished reading, they can easily pop them back into another Little Library (we have 4 in our tiny town).

REDUCING CLUTTER |

If there is one thing I dread about Christmas, it’s finding room for new (or new-to-us! don’t forget to consider thrifted items) stuff.

  • I try to think through where an item will fit before I buy it. That giant tumbling mat set looks like a lot of fun, but will it actually open up fully inside your tiny family room? A month ago I was almost sucked into buying a tabletop air hockey table after one child mentioned how much they enjoyed playing air hockey at an event. I had a set in my cart (thankfully, John talked me out of it)…and in hindsight, storing it would have been an absolute nightmare. Phew. What a close call! He can play air hockey in the church rec room each week, and I can keep my dining room table clear. Win, win.
  • Give gifts that don’t take up any space. A subscription – to a magazine or to an entertainment platform (The New Yorker, Spotify). The lady I boarded with in university once received a flower subscription from her grandson, which meant she received a gorgeous bouquet every two months. There are sock and book club and graphic T-shirt subscriptions. While clothes and books can add to clutter issues, they are also consumable in a way (socks and shirts wear out; you can pass along books once you’re finished reading them). Gift cards can actually be quite personalized; a friend of mine loves various non-chain eating establishments and back when we were exchanging Christmas gifts, I would get her a certificate to one of her favourite places. This wasn’t a generic card to Starbucks and I couldn’t get the gift card at Walmart. It showed I had paid attention to her preferences and put in the time and energy to go to that location and get a gift card for her.
  • Give experiences. Buy someone lessons or book your parents an overnight at a spa. We put together a coupon book last year for the kids and it was a huge hit. They got coupons like: add a grocery item of your choice to the list; have a weeknight sibling sleepover; get a free pass on a daily chore (for Abby this specified emptying the dishwasher, for Levi garbage duty).

WRAPPING MISCELLANY |

  • Buy wrapping paper, tags, cards, and tape on sale after Christmas. Not only is it a lot cheaper, it’s also nice to cross one item off a to-do list for the following holiday season.
  • Use gift bags. This is a game-changer for me. A few years ago a friend brought over presents for the kids. Her love language is gifts and she always spoils Abby and Levi. Each child received multiple (small) gifts and every single one came in a gift bag. Then and there I decided to start using more gift bags. For most things that come in a square/rectangle, I use wrapping paper. Everything else goes in a bag. If it’s a stocking stuffer, I just tape it shut at the top, a “main” gift gets tissue paper (which I fold down after Christmas and reuse). I reuse gift bags over and over and over again. It is so much less clutter (they collapse down into almost nothing and it allows us to cut our wrapping paper waste wayyyy down) and they last for YEARS.
  • Keep the front of Christmas cards for free tags. I do this every year. I love to look back at the previous year’s cards, and they make for giant, beautiful tags.
  • Keep wrapping paper scraps in a separate tote. Does anyone else absolutely hate the long tails that get left on wrapping paper rolls when you cut a piece to size that doesn’t use the whole length? I hate those tails. I used to wrap them around the roll and use them up on stocking stuffers. But they were a nuisance to keep track of and seemed to constantly get wrinkled or torn. This year any leftovers get rolled up tightly and stored in a separate plastic tote. They don’t get crushed and I make a point of trying to match small gifts with those scraps as I’m wrapping.
  • Where appropriate, remove extra packaging before wrapping! I’ve only recently started doing this more consistently. For example, I bought Levi a self-inflating Whoopie cushion for his stocking but it came with extra cardboard/plastic packaging that I knew would get ripped off Christmas morning and tossed to the floor. So, I removed (and recycled) the cardboard and plastic…and wrapped just the Whoopie cushion (in a gift bag – no tissue paper). He’ll be able to use it immediately, and the cleanup will be more streamlined on Christmas morning. This does NOT work if it’s an item you expect to return and I probably wouldn’t do it for an item I was giving outside my immediate family. This is another huge perk of buying things second-hand as, usually, all the packaging has been removed! If an item has a lot of screws or twist ties – maybe loosen those before the big day? If something takes batteries – what about installing them before you wrap it up?

Moving right along…

My Christmas spreadsheet

Last year I wrote a post called: Christmas Debrief: Why I Track What Works (and What Doesn’t).

I have loved tracking what I buy/do/make each year. But this year my system got an overhaul after Sarah (from Wool + Home) suggested creating a Christmas spreadsheet.

GAMECHANGER.

I have two tabs in my spreadsheet. The first is devoted to food, holiday to-dos, and general notes (e.g. the address for an incredible light display, how tall our tree can be, and our go-to menu around Christmas). I also listed key ingredients that I should purchase in advance. Things like butter can be hard to come by in the last few days before Christmas, so I try to stock up on necessary items when they come on sale. I bought graham cracker crumbs on sale in November, knowing I’d be needing them in December!

The second page is where I list gifts for immediate family members. This is a bit outdated, and I’ve blacked out specifics because – hello, surprises! I only record an item after I’ve purchased it, so this isn’t an “ideas” list. I keep a running list on my phone using the AnyList app, but once that is translated into purchasing something, I add it to my Christmas spreadsheet. I have listed both stocking and main gifts. So while Abby’s list looks very long, it includes things like “pens” and “a whiteout roller”. Also, by virtue of being Meatball’s owner, her list also includes some presents for our favourite little hamster (think: chew sticks for his teeth, a large exercise ball, and yogurt drops).

And that’s it from me today!

Does anyone else save the fronts of Christmas cards to upcycle as nice gift tags? What are your favourite tips and tricks for saving money, reducing holiday clutter, and tracking Christmas to-dos (does anyone else maintain a spreadsheet from year to year)?

Header photo by Skön Communication on Unsplash

It’s A Lovely Idea, But I Don’t Even Own A Coffee Table

A few months ago I read Catherine Newman’s house tour on Cup of Jo. It is a popular article for good reason – the story and pictures are inspiring.

The featured home looks welcoming without a hint of pretension. This is a space that clearly brings the homeowners great joy. A couch in the kitchen! A whole wall full of pictures of pears! A dining room complete with floor-to-ceiling shelves for board games! Vibrant pops of colour on the walls! Piles of laundry on the chair that practically scream: real people live here!

It’s a tour that leaves the reader (well, this reader at least) wanting to break through the screen and sit down in the cozy kitchen to share a cup of tea (while sitting on that kitchen couch, perhaps?).

But I have to admit, by the end of the article, I was feeling…bad? Maybe that’s not the right emotion, but I couldn’t/can’t put my finger on it exactly. In reflecting on my gut reaction – articulated or not – I can isolate a few specifics that made me think long and hard.

First, when Newman talks about her couch she says: We have a houseful of teenagers all the time, and kids will spill stuff and say, ‘…I’m so sorry!’ But we truly don’t care, and I’m very happy about that. 

It made me feel overly rigid because I do care (moderately, at least) if people spill things on my couch. I mean – it’s fine. I’ll deal with the mess, I’m sure it was an accident…but I’d really rather someone didn’t spill things on my couch.

But the thing that hit me the hardest, oddly enough, was her coffee table. Here’s the description:

When the kids were tiny, we covered the coffee table with white paper. It was fun for them to draw on the table, and their friends would come over and draw, too. It became a 20-year habit. Now, at Thanksgiving, someone will doodle a perfect thing or a portrait, and I’m like, okay, I’m cutting that out and keeping it! We score games on it, I take notes during phone calls, I figure out recipes on it. 

That felt so fun and whimsical and I swear when I read that line I decided then and there my children’s lives are ruined because WE DON’T HAVE A COFFEE TABLE COVERED IN PAPER for them to doodle on.

But guess what.

We don’t even own a coffee table.

And do you know why? Because when we bought our house one of the primary features we loved was the open loop that tracks around the upstairs. We have one long hallway that all the bedrooms open up into which feeds into our living room/dining room which feeds into the kitchen and then back to the hallway.

We debated getting a coffee table but opted to prioritize leaving that space open so the kids could – literally – run circles around us.

In fact, just a few days after we moved in, a friend suggested a different configuration for our couch (which would have been cozier, admittedly)…but we didn’t even entertain the idea because it would have prevented the kids from running around “The Loop”.

We’ve played countless games of chase (this is how Levi split open his chin) and hide-and-seek tag; the kids have cartwheeled through the living room and regularly sprawl out on the open floor to play charades or chess and leave messes of an assortment of doodads and doohickies.

So we don’t have a coffee table…but the kids do occasionally doodle on the kitchen whiteboard and little pads of paper that end up everywhere (though, obviously, not on top of a coffee table).

We also don’t have a couch where I encourage people to hop around with drinks in their hand, but we bought a less comfortable couch for our family room specifically because the colour and material would minimize the appearance of stains. (This one was a bitter pill to swallow; there was an incredible clear-out sale on a very nice couch, but it had light fabric and so we opted to pay more – yes that hurt! – for a less comfortable, less visually appealing, very utilitarian option but I distinctly remember saying to John: The kids HAVE to be able to play and live life on this couch! And it truly doesn’t show a single stain despite a variety of sources – including Dorito-covered fingerprints from movie nights and, sadly, one case of vomit several years ago).


When I read the article, I wanted to be “that Mom”- the one with the doodling paper over her coffee table for two decades. But I’m not. I’m me. A lady without a coffee table.


Your turn. Did you read Catherine Newman’s house tour? If so, what was your favourite feature? Mine was definitely the coffee table art, even if it did leave me feeling temporarily conflicted! If you tend toward the Type-A/planner/Upholder personality, do you ever feel guilty or unsettled when you see someone who can embrace a different level of spontaneity and devil-may-care attitude?

Header photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Life Lately: What’s Working (And What’s Not)

When I read Katie’s post earlier this week, I had to wonder if she has been brushing up on her mind-reading skills. She wrote about what systems were working well as part of her fall routine and her post came on a day I was drafting my own thoughts on the same topic!

I spend a lot of time tweaking things that aren’t working well in my routine but don’t always take time to appreciate what is working. The next step, of course, is to find ways to promote the continuation of these positive behaviours and routines!

Without further ado…

things that are currently working well

  • Bedtime. This has been so much better in September. I would say at least 5 nights a week I have been in bed – lights out! – by 10:30 pm. I still regularly feel tired, but at least I know I’m getting to bed at a reasonable time and suspect much of my exhaustion is just carryover from our busy summer when my sleep hygiene was horrific!
  • Reading less. While it’s very normal for me to slow down book consumption over the summer, I was feeling guilty about how I haven’t transitioned back into a reading routine (either solo or with the kids) now that we’re settled into the back-to-school season. But then I thought: what I’m doing is actually working for me. In between a sharp uptick in the extracurriculars the kids are involved in, work and home responsibilities, my focus on getting outside and exercising every day, time spent writing here, etcetera, etcetera…there hasn’t been a lot of excess time to read. And that’s okay! Although I enjoy reading, I don’t want it to become a tedious “to-do” I have to check off. I’m reading solo 3-4 nights a week for 30 minutes, and probably spend about 2 hours over the course of the week reading to the kids which feels like a good balance for our current stage of life.
  • Scheduling work e-mails to send in the morning. I know this “hack” is old but it is the first time I’ve used this option consistently. Even though I work from home and my hours are flexible, it can feel like I should fit every task into the confines of a normal 9-5 working schedule. This doesn’t actually happen, though, nor is it the most efficient way for me to complete work tasks. I typically receive an influx of e-mails between 5-7 pm. So, a few times a week, I’ve been doing an evening “shift.” I set all the e-mails I draft to send the next morning at 8 am (or, if I’m doing it over the weekend, 8 am on the next weekday). I’m able to put in a bit less working time each week while feeling more efficient/effective in my role. I’ve been doing evening work for years, but always sent emails immediately, which meant in the morning I’d have an inbox full of responses. This new layer of automation is definitely working well.
  • Middle school independence. I’m only a bystander to her experience, but I am so, so happy with how excited Abby has been about the new opportunities of middle school. On Sunday, after helping with preschool-age kids during the first church service along with a whole gaggle of other middle-schoolers and then attending her own middle-school group (all independent from her brother and parents!), she was positively glowing when she said: “Mom, I love youth group soooo much.” Her enthusiasm is wonderful to see. Drama camp, choir, school soccer, various groups and clubs – this weekend even involves an overnight camp retreat! It’s an exciting time in the Frost household.
That sandwich came out of the freezer seconds before I snapped this photo!
  • Freezing sandwiches. Yes, you read that right. Freezing sandwiches. This is a trick my sister taught me when we visited South Carolina. She has a big family and a VERY hectic schedule. One of her time-saving hacks is making up a batch of sandwiches and freezing them. I was skeptical at first, but it works like a charm. It takes about the same amount of time to make 12 ham and cheese sandwiches as it does 2. We’ve mass-produced (and frozen) ham + cheese, butter + jam, and egg + bacon. I just pull two sandwiches out the night before and put them into their lunchbox frozen. I might add something like mustard, mayo or lettuce/spinach to the sandwich at this point, but there are no crumbs to deal with and no cheese to slice. We do still prep fruit/veggies the day before, but not having to make a fresh sandwich has been a game-changer.
  • My Sprouted planner. I have been LOVING my Sprouted planner recently. To be fair, I’ve loved it all year (*not paid or perked!*), but I feel like I’ve made it work extra hard in September and it has been invaluable for keeping me on task. I’ve come up with some new tracking systems and have settled into a daily routine of maximizing the heavy lifting my planner can do.
  • Limiting coffee. A few years ago I had a Meridian Stress Assessment done and was told to eliminate coffee from my diet. For months I avoided coffee completely (tea and other caffeinated beverages were fine). I do not find coffee gives me a jolt of energy, so consuming it was all about taste and the pleasant relaxation of sipping a hot beverage. If I drink it consistently, though, it really upsets my stomach. Demerit alert: I had been back to drinking way too much coffee. Lately, I’ve been allowing myself one cup a week – and my stomach is so much happier.
  • Intuitive eating/no scale. For months now I have just been…eating food. Nothing has been off-limits. I eat when I’m hungry. Sometimes I eat emotionally. Sometimes I skip a meal when I’m not hungry at a prescribed time. Sometimes I have a late-night snack. Sometimes I eat carrot sticks, sometimes I eat a chocolate. After two decades of either dieting and/or eliminating foods to try to get to the bottom of health issues, this is a very, very big change. I also used to track my weight each day and haven’t touched a scale in months. My clothes might be fitting a tad snugger but such is life. I’m active and healthy and it’s (mostly – see below) working well to spend less time dithering over food.
A Sunday afternoon family walk post-hurricane. We were so relieved (and surprised) that our favourite woods path emerged completely unscathed.
  • Daily walks. These continue to be a great tool for my mental and physical wellbeing. Do 12 minutes outside each day solve all my problems? Nope. But it has felt comforting to have a daily ritual in place that I know is so good for me. Occasionally it does feel like a burden, but the majority of the time I recognize and celebrate the fact that it is such a blessing to have a body that is strong and capable of walking; that it is such a blessing to have clear air and safe streets where I can walk; that it is such a blessing to have the flexibility to make this activity happen daily.

A few things not working so well

I would be remiss if I didn’t address a few things that are NOT going well…

  • Phone use. I’m back to spending too much time on my phone. On Tuesday I picked up my phone 125 times – 125 times?! – and responded to 91 notifications. Allow me to throw out a few flimsy excuses. Excuse #1: this fall has had a lot of logistics to juggle. This means plenty of texting to coordinate rides and schedules. Excuse #2: I have two e-mail accounts at work that require 2-step authentication for sign-in, which means I have to access my phone regularly (every time I switch between accounts which could be a dozen times a day) for the Authenticator app. Once I pick it up to confirm sign-in, I have a bad tendency of checking texts or the latest news headlines. These excuses are legitimate but, if I’m being honest, most of my pickups are superfluous and it’s starting to make me feel icky and restless. I think I might go back to tracking my time + pickups each day? It is frustrating to be back in this place after doing so well with reducing phone use in the spring. What’s that Japanese proverb? Fall seven, rise eight. I guess it’s time to get up again..,and put down the phone!
  • Fruit and veggie consumption/menu planning. While I’ve worked really hard to retrain my brain to think about food less critically and to eat more intuitively, I definitely feel like I’m in a cooking rut. We’re eating fine. I’ve made several soups. We consume fruits and vegetables every day, but I don’t feel like there is any rhythm to food prep these days and I’m definitely often throwing something together out of convenience. For years I had a very concrete structure for what I always had available (e.g. homemade salad dressing and fixings for salads) and I’m just not energetic or organized on the kitchen front right now and I’m not sure how to jumpstart my enthusiasm. While I want to eat intuitively, I also want to make it easy to make choices that will fuel my body to perform well…and that takes a bit more mental bandwidth than I’ve been allocating to the task lately.

Your turn. Any current routine that is working particularly well for you (or not) as we transition into fall?

Header photo by Tetiana Padurets on Unsplash

A Cleaning Hack: Move the Rags

It’s Labour Day! Is anyone else feeling positively giddy this morning? Just me? The holiday feels especially momentous this year as the kids go back to school tomorrow. I repeat: tomorrow. This summer has been jammed full of adventure and work and company, but we’re all ready to ease back into a more settled routine.

In the meantime, a revelation from my end.

Last year I blogged about how I Moved My Deodorant…And It Kinda (Slightly) Changed My World. In similar fashion, last week I was on a cleaning blitz of both upstairs bathrooms when I started thinking about the benefits of resetting a room at the end of each day. I do this relatively frequently in the main bathroom – this is where we all shower and the kids brush their teeth. But I’m more likely to wait for a weekly deep-clean to touch our en suite. So if I see some toothpaste residue on the counter it will annoy me, but I’m likely to leave it until my weekly cleaning regime rolls around – even though it would only take seconds to handle the problem.

After five years of this behaviour, I stopped to ask myself Why? Why leave toothpaste spackle on the counter when it annoys me? (To be fair, since the kids don’t use our bathroom it stays dramatically cleaner than the main bathroom).

The answer? I store all my cleaning rags in the linen closet of the main bathroom. The ensuite contains its own little cache of cleaning supplies, but no rags.

Hopefully you can sense from the title of this post where this thought process led. Yup, I put a handful of cleaning rags under the sink in our en suite and now I can easily do a 30-second reset of counters and mirrors every day or two. No extra thinking – or trip to the linen closet – required.

A little change but, as is often the case, it feels disproportionately impactful.

Happy Labour Day! Now it’s your turn – has anyone implemented a little “hack” lately that has felt momentous in how it streamlines your routine or boosts your happiness?

Header photo by Brian Patrick Tagalog on Unsplash