Saturday, 31 March 2012

Cutting the Clutter

One of my main goals this year is to do more.  Over the past few months I have realised that a lot of this is to do with productivity – using my time more effectively – so I can fit in the things I want to do and stop wasting time on things that don’t help me to enjoy life more.

I am really pleased so far with what I have achieved and I plan to report on that soon.  For now though, I wanted to share with you a great find.  Idly browsing the magazine shelves in my local WH Smith’s I found a gem of a magazine book.  Called “Organizing” it is part of ‘The best of Martha Stewart Living’ series.  Now, being British, I barely know who Martha Stewart is, and really don’t care either.  However, she appears to be one organised lady.  It took a while to absorb all its loveliness at once but I just couldn’t put it down.  I am someone who does love organising:  people, stuff, I don’t really mind what.  I like things to have a place.  I like tidy rooms and believe that it does influence my state of mind. 

As someone who is trying to work from home, I am finding this truer than ever.  I am not lucky enough to have a study or home office so I have to find a space in the usual living area of the house.  It is difficult to clear my mind and settle down to something when there is clutter everywhere.

I think that’s why this appealed to me when I saw it.  Being back at home with the little one after being in the office is opening my eyes to ways the house doesn’t work as well as it could.   After reading “Organizing” I managed to get the motivation to tackle some specific key areas of the house and I was surprised by how quickly I was able to do it and, more importantly, how much difference it made.

Back in January I persuaded husband to help me reorganise the kitchen and I am really pleased that we did it.  Once I realised how much easier things would be, it was a no-brainer to give up an hour or so to change things around.  However, after reading my Martha Stewart treasure, I have taken it one step further and re-discovered an unused drawer in the kitchen.  Then I made dividers for another drawer from tubs and boxes I already had in the house.  This won’t save much time when cooking, but may save a lot of swearing and scratches on my arm as I wrestle with utensils to find the right measuring spoon. 

I have also organised the hallway spot where all the keys and bits and bobs get left (you have one too, I know you do!).  I have made husband put another shelf up in the lounge, allowing me to put more things away properly.  I then spent 20 minutes making two caddies for the table out of an old box.  This got rid of a box that was lying around ‘in case we needed it’ and now husband and I each have somewhere to put the cr*p we accumulate on the dining table.  At work, this might be called a ‘pending ‘ tray.  Now, when there is too much ‘pending’ we know it’s time to have an empty out and they can be quickly removed to the new shelf when we need space on the table instead of having a wobbly pile.

For the rest of the book, I will just dream about having a house that has so much space to organise. 
Overall, my fiver was well spent as this is a publication I will keep for a long, long time.  I will aim to revisit it every year just to make sure I am doing as much as I can to keep my house in order.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Springtime fitness

Well, the sunshine certainly gives me the feeling of more energy and I want to get out there and get some exercise. However, I have noticed that it really does help.  This week has been full of sunny walks with the little one, bending and stretching putting the washing on the line, gardening and running up the stairs to shut the windows on my way out.  Let's hope the sunshine stays so I can eat more biscuits guilt-free!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Boys and Girls

In many ways I am pleased that the little one is a boy.  Although as a girl I enjoyed playing with dolls, I also really enjoyed playing with cars and guns (a cap gun never seemed to bother people in the ‘70’s the way it does now).  Although I get roped into playing tea parties and shopping now, I’m pleased that the main themes here are construction and trains.  

Today I questioned my influence as a Mum; on how much am I skewing his interests to fit my own.  What if my preferences are more naturally boyish than his and I am pushing him more towards the cars and trains than he would naturally go?  Then, I realised that every time I have to build the Lego train station, or play with one that husband has built, I’m  always adding ‘girlie’ touches such as flowers by the door (sometimes on the roof....but they always end up somewhere).  I also tend to make sure that there are seats on the platform for the Lego people to rest their weary plastic legs or a cafe next door.  Left to themselves, the boys are content with a platform and a train.

On a day when the differences between men and women are under scrutiny for nagging, it makes you wonder how real the divide is between the way the sexes function and how early it really starts.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Help me!

Is there a book called “101 things to do instead of ironing”?  If so, I need it.  Have done two ironing sessions this week so clearly I’m struggling to come up with excuses.  FFS, soon I’ll have to de-scale the damn thing.  Oh, my word.....

Sunday, 18 March 2012

When shops were shops

Do you remember when shops were defined by what they sold?  Did you go to the ‘paper shop’ as a kid?  I know I did.  Every Sunday with my big sister to get a newspaper for Dad and some sweets from the penny mix, if we were lucky.   Then there was the baker’s, the butcher’s, the chemist, the florist, greengrocer.  I often long for this simple existence that I know still exists in many parts of the country.  I wonder how many young people around here though realise what it was like, not that long ago.  Do they realise how commercial their lives have become?
Did we actively make the choice that we wanted shopping to become a hobby or is it because we no longer go to church?  Or because we no longer have manual jobs so we are no longer shattered at the weekend?  Or because we no longer live near family, or close communities so there is no one to visit.  Is it because we are sold all this stuff by clever marketers and believe it all?  Or is it simply because they are open?  I have previously questioned my own desires being manipulated by lovely shopping displays, but I am also wondering what sort of weekend pursuits my little one is exposed to.  He has been able to recognise a certain coffee shop logo from a very young age.  He is certainly familiar with a weekend afternoon trip for a hot chocolate and is also familiar with the layout of several large shops near us.  He doesn’t question me going shopping on a Saturday night or as a family on a Sunday.
I think it may be time to make sure that shopping doesn’t become a default activity for us.  Remember when shopping was something you did because you needed something?  
I think I might be turning into a hippy....are there any communist countries left I can join?!?!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Bathtime fitness

In my determination to fit more into my day, I decided to use the time that the little one is in the bath to do some stretching.  Now, our bathroom is not big and I only have an 'L' shape to work with.  This does mean I have to have a certain level of flexibility and my legs are wedged between the bath and the loo when I sit down.  Standing stretches are also a bit tricky due to the number of cabinets, door handles, sink, etc.  However, I do have plenty of places to rest my book of stretching and I can at least follow most stretches for my shoulders and back.

So far it is working out just fine and the little one is actually quite encouraging.  The only downside is that bathtimes are now just calmer.  I stretch, we chat, he plays calmly.  This sounds good, I hear you say.  This is true, but I do miss the more raucous, splashy fun bathtimes. 

Do you have any other suggestions of how I can fit in more fitness?  Aside of course from heavy lifting (little one) and running up the stairs?

Thursday, 15 March 2012

A confession: I love my carpet sweeper

I know I sound like a housewife from the 1890’s, but I love it.  I inherited our current vacuum when I moved in with Husband and it is a man-sized, cumbersome beast.  It was invented by a man (you know the one), for men who don’t know what to look for when buying a vacuum.  Husband refuses to replace his vacuum, so I refuse to clean the floors with it.  This has worked just fine in the past when we had mainly hard-flooring, but in this house, it is a problem.   Not content to be stuck with one pass of the vacuum a week (when Husband is free at the weekend), I use my humble carpet sweeper once a day instead.  

I love it because it is so light for carrying upstairs and it’s a bonus that it doesn’t use electricity.  That means I don’t need to find a handy plug, be careful with the wire, warn the little one about the noise or pay to use it.  No fancy attachments or instructions means it is also easy to use and easy to empty.  

It is sad that so often automated products are seen as best.  We have been sold the idea that the vacuum is the only answer and now they are supposed to wash as well.  And for a small spill, it has to be a handheld power vacuum rather than a dustpan and brush!*

So, next time you are perusing the ‘laminated book of dreams’, do give the carpet sweepers a glance, you might be surprised how cheap and wonderful they are.

* Notes:
·         Of course, vacuums are great and should be used to get rid of dust.  For crumbs and general sock fluff issues, though, a carpet sweeper rules.
·         Dishwashers are of course fantastic and the only way to deal with the washing up... I miss mine...*sob*. 

Monday, 12 March 2012

Monday compartment

Last week ended in some chaos and after a calm weekend away, I was determind to start the new week well.  Today was a good example of how my new idea of compartmentalising works when I put it into practice.

I managed to keep a calm toddler, cook a meal that will last more than one day (and some for the freezer!) and get some housework done.

It has meant that I have had to forego time on my laptop and ignore it calling out to me all day.  What I feel tonight though is a great satisfaction that I was a good parent today and that is, after all, my primary job.  I did also manage to have time to do some of my own stuff as well as a little time for some mind-numbing telly too.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

A Mother's Work Meme

Still getting used to all this stuff, but going to have a go at this anyway as it is a cause I believe in.....

A Mother’s Work Meme
Please post the rules
Answer the questions in as much or as little detail as suits you
Leave a comment on so we can keep track of the meme
Tag 3 people and link to them on your blog (gonna ignore this bit, as not sure I know 3 to tag, or how!)
Let them know you tagged them
Tweet loudly about taking part (well ok, that isn’t a rule, but how about if we start a hashtag – #amothersworkmeme)

1.  Did you work before becoming a mum?
Yes, I did.  However, I took a step down before getting pregnant as I took a brave move to relocate to be with my now husband, with the hope that marriage and children would follow.  When I got pregnant I was contracting, so maternity leave was not something I had to deal with. 

2.  What is your current situation?
I am at home with my toddler at the moment.  I spent the first two years with him and then last year I went back to work while husband became a SAHD.  We have swapped again and now I am looking to do some work that will fit around bringing up the little one.  We both want one of us there for him over the next few years and working around school hours was not something we thought of when planning a career! Money is not easy though and nor is being at home doing the housework.

3.  Freestyle – got your own point you’d like to get across on this issue? Here’s your chance…
Rant 1: So Too much of being a SAHM is about housework, which is tedious - especially without a dishwasher! I would be happy to stay at home and do mummy things, if I could have a maid to do all the food planning, shopping, cleaning and cooking.  I often feel like SAHM is actually a misnomer as the 'Mum' part is just a part, and some days not a big one, of what you have to do as the parent at home.  I prefer 'Director of Home Affairs'....just wish the salary matched the title.

Rant 2: Society seems to have changed so much that there are so few SAHPs ('Parents' so as not to disrespect my dear husband) around these days.  So, actually, being in an office provides adult conversation, a chance to complain about kids, childcare, sleepless nights, etc. in a way that being at home doesn't. 

Rant 3: When did parenting your child/ren become a luxury?  We struggle on one income so we can steer, educate and give our child some manners and morals that we believe in.  I think kids should be kids for a while when they are young and institutions are for when they're older. 

Rant 4: I wish that flexible working opportunities were better, but understand why.  I wish that kids were taught more about being parents at school in relation to careers so I didn't get to this age and feel a bit miffed that no one thought to point all this out.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

No time to daydream

All this 'doing more' means I have found myself using any small amount of time to do something productive.  Whether it's my usual bedtime reading or waiting for food to cook or brushing my teeth, every moment is now accounted for.  Trouble is I am missing having a good daydream. 

So, today's plan is to fit in some time to get my thoughts in order by letting them drift in all directions.  The waiting room for an appointment this afternoon with our beloved, but much waited for, NHS should provide ample opportunity.