Monday, May 14, 2018

After Easter update and some new finds

Easter, with its jellybean colors and fluffy bunnies has passed, and it's now time to create another look for spring, one that will last until I change things out for summer.  I thought I'd take a break from all the discussion of the nitty-gritty practical details of housekeeping and show you what fun I've had with just a few items.

The tablecloth is my Grandma Ellen's--the namesake for this blog-- and probably about 70 years old.  The dishtowel on top of the toaster was one of a set made for me by a dear friend and was featured in a previous post on this blog. And I'm sure that many people out there will recognize the familiar Pioneer woman motif on the pitcher and rolling pin!  Both were Christmas presents from my dear mother-in-law.

One cool thing about being an artist: there is not a shortage of wall art around here! I decided that the new apple piece would really pop with my grandmother's tablecloth, and the other bright artwork is from a series of postcard sized abstracts I did a few years back. I spend so much time at the kitchen sink; I am always dying for pretty things to focus on while I scrub out that last dirty frying pan!

An office chair, found outside by our dumpster. I believe the hydraulics are worn out in it, but we are short people and find the chair quite comfortable. A bit of Lysol and a damp cleaning cloth to spiffy it up, and it is like 'new'. 

A sprig or two of Dollar Store silk lilac updates the formal parlor. 

Hopefully, this year with the gardens we are starting, there will be REAL daffodils on the way. Meanwhile, artificial silk ones suit the bill. The light in our downstairs family room is always strange; sorry about that.

I thought it would be fun to show what I like to do with our bookcases. Someday, I'll take you through a tour of our library. I like to follow the English style, and tuck little meaningful momentoes among the books. A touch of vivid yellow is off-centered by dainty blue 'Asian' vases. The tiny cup and saucer were trinkets bought on a vacation to South Dakota when I was a teen. Boy Scout memorabilia is near hubby's Boy Scout manuals, along with one of many items brought back from his years overseas.

You might notice that I change out the same exact areas seasonally. Just changing out certain focal points makes decorating much simpler!  Having a small cupboard to tuck away a few boxes of seasonal decor helps, too.

 Another find at the same dumpster. I can't really say I'm a 'dumpster diver' per se; but when things like this are literally outside your seems rather providential. I plan to strip this little sweetie, paint it a luscious color that goes with the house, and arrange some brimming pots of flowers around it.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Home Binder--Weekly Home Schedule

First of all, let me confess I have almost always been a 'neat-nik', except for a brief sojourn into sloppiness as a teenager. But even that didn't last long...the picture to the right is me as a very young-soon-to-be mom. Already our first trailer house was quite clean.  I tend to lean more on the obsessively tidy side, so my problems in home-keeping were--and are--much more about keeping things manageable without working myself to a frazzle.

Oak Tree Beauty, Cory Jaeger-Kenat
My system has evolved from many sources, beginning with Emily Barnes book, "More Hours in My Day", and culminating with the famous Flylady system detailed in her book "Sink Reflections". I've done a great deal of tweeking over the years to get things just right to fit my current life, and my system works quite well.

On the third page of my home binder, is an overview of the scheduled tasks that happen every week.
is nothing fancy, just a piece of paper put in a plastic sleeve of the binder.  It incorporates for me not only my housework, but also my schedule as an artist in the studio.

I do these every day:
  Every day includes a 'daily tidying time'. Here's how it breaks down, following the Flylady system. I wish I could say that I follow this every day to the letter, but I try to get close. It's amazing how much time is saved and how much my well-being goes up when these things are done in this order. It really bothers me to still be in my pajamas at ten a.m.!

1.) I get up and make our bed.
2.) I get dressed, made up, breakfast eaten, medicines taken.
3.) I then finish daily tidying, when means I sweep the floors, put away the clean dishes from the previous night, do a load of laundry, and put away the clean laundry from the previous day. This is usually about an hour.
4.) I spend 10 minutes wiping down our bathroom, the sink, making sure the toilet is clean, as well as the mirrors.
4.) I also give myself what I call a 'studio hour' in order to get my painting time in.

But here's how my week breaks down:
Monday is Desk Day
I like to ease into the week by facing paperwork. On this day, I work on my website projects, organize files on the computer (including getting rid of pesky old emails!), work on menus and grocery lists, balance checkbooks, and work on any correspondence I might have. This is the day to write out thank you notes and cards, a vanishing art that I hope to keep alive.

Tuesday is a Project and Zone Cleaning Day
I like to keep this day open for things that randomly come up. So, I might spend an entire morning working in the studio, or I might concentrate on yard work. This is the day that I do any of those tasks that are easy to procrastinate on, and sometimes I even try to exercise or get in some yoga. Sometimes this is the day I might do a large baking of bread and cookies or put together some freezer meals, or even do some canning. It might be purging files, de-cluttering, cleaning the vehicles, or whatever else needs doing. I also work in the particular room in the house scheduled for detailed, deep cleaning; this is called Zone Cleaning, and I will get into it in the next post.

Ode to a Stove, Cory JaegerKenat
Wednesday is Errand Day
I try to fit all of my errands into this day.
This is the day to stock up on groceries for the next two weeks and go to the bank. It's also the day to eat out for dinner with hubby. :)

Thursday is another Project and Zone Cleaning Day

It is so helpful to have two flexible days per week. That way, I don't feel tied to an iron-clad schedule. I do things mentioned above, or I might schedule other appointments, or I might work heavily in my studio. Again, I will also work on the scheduled room for detailed cleaning.

Friday is Home Blessing Day
This is the day that I dig deep into house-cleaning. Here are the things I do, and I do each task for between 15 minutes to a half hour tops. I love a clean home, but even this domestic geek doesn't want to spend the whole day cleaning.

I damp-mop all our floors for about 15 minutes.
I put clean sheets on the bed--this takes about 15 minutes.
I vacuum for about 15 minutes.
I take out all the trash, which takes less than 15 minutes.
I spend 15 minutes cleaning a particular area of the kitchen, like wiping out my oven or a cabinet.
I run a Swiffer/feather-duster on all the flat surfaces of the house, nothing elaborate just where dust is noticeable, and again time myself for 15 minutes. 
The Home Blessing Day and the Home Cleaning Zone ideas come from the book 'Sink Reflections' by Marla Cilley, otherwise known as the Flylady. I have been doing this system for nearly a decade and it really helps me to get things done. Check our her channel on youtube or catch her site on the web-- not only does she have great ideas, but she really is like a housecleaning fairy godmother, with a sweet Southern drawl. More to come on Cleaning Zones, and how they can keep us from never having to a massive Spring Clean overhaul ever again!




Monday, April 23, 2018

My Home Binder: Mission Statement and Contacts Page

Okay, with no further ado, drum roll please, my home binder...

Being the proud tightwad/cheapskate that I am, I spent no money on this. I used one of my husband's spare 12 pocket plastic sleeved binders, and  some Christmas gift wrap with a homey theme to slide into the front cover to make it pretty. 
I decided that the first page should be sort of a mission statement, detailing how my homemaking contributes to our household. My list goes as follows:
As a homemaker, I contribute:
Good food
Order and organization
A Haven/Sanctuary
A Flawed, but Sincere Example of Jesus' servant-hood and also Godly Womanhood.

Also I wrote my favorite calming and strengthening verses from Scripture:
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
"The Lord will fight for you, all you need do is be still. " Exodus 14:14

I like to refer back to this page on those 'lack of motivation' days that we all have from time to time. It may sound a bit self-absorbed to write such a complimentary list, but in a today's society, where homemaking is so scorned, these powerfully positive words are ways to get me feeling valued again. Also, the Scripture helps me to stay balanced and courageous even in these tough economic times. 

The next page is all about emergency contacts.  It includes:
1.Our address and all personal phone numbers, in case someone else had to use this book.
2. Our work phone numbers and contacts.
3. The names of our family doctors.
4. Names and phone numbers of our hospitals.
5. Any allergies that we might have.
6. Emergency and non-emergency numbers for police, natural gas, water and electricity.
7. Medical insurance contact information.
8. Car insurance contact information.
9. Life insurance contact information.
10. Next of kin (family addresses and phone numbers)

You could also include a list of PINs, passwords, and the like, but be sure that they are hidden in your home or office. I didn't feel comfortable listing them in this binder.

I also included:
11. The name and number of a carpenter we liked. (We are always doing home repairs, it seems.)
12. The name and number of a fire restoration company that I had heard good things about. Hopefully, we'll never have to use it.
13. The name and number of a reliable tow truck company.
14. A good hauling and odd jobs company that we have done business with.
15. The name and number of an appliance repair technician.

The next page, because my husband is a police chaplain includes a list of frequently called pastors and other church contacts. It also includes people we have worked extensively with in ministry, as well as human resource numbers for my husband's regular job.

There is no right or wrong way to do this. I just started thinking of the kind of numbers we were always frantically looking around for, and decided to put them in one place. Although we are in an age of smart phones, I cannot tell you how often my husband I grab for this book. In the next post, I'll dive into the home management section.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

My Home Binder

from the book 'Little House in the Big Woods'
After this was done, Ma began the work that belonged to that day. Each day had its own proper work. Ma used to say: 
"Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday."
                    ---Laura Ingalls Wilder
                    'Little House in the Big Woods'  

Over the past few years, I have become fascinated with the topic of home binders. Plug the term in any search engine, and you will see homemaker after homemaker displaying the lovingly constructed notebook she has made to keep her housekeeping, menu-planning, appointments and other tasks all neatly categorized and arranged. I can't get enough of  hearing these lovely ladies share how each day has its own special tasks, strung on the week like differently colored beads. The binders are as individual as their creators, but in general they are an interesting blend of the practical and the fanciful, printed with pastel computer fonts, quaint little graphics of home blessings and curlicue flowers. Some are laminated so they can be written on, others are quite luxurious and look a bit like an office planner. I believe Martha Stewart's company now makes their own version, which really shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

These videos are oddly fascinating, and yes, comforting to me.Their popularity says that I am not alone in my love of an organized home. Again and again, I am reminded how varied in style and function home-making can be. Some women manage homes that are working towards self-sufficiency; their home binders contain elaborate inventories of their home-canned goods and the meats packaged in their freezers. Others are the opposite end of the scale--glitzy society ladies who focus on lavish holiday preparation, complete with perfect gifts for everyone in the PTA and differently themed Christmas trees. Others are the matriarchs of large families and meticulously record clothing sizes of their growing children, so they are always ready if they come upon a good second-hand deal of jeans or T-shirts. Others have the year mapped out in Bible study lessons, or a home-schooling curriculum, while still others construct ledgers to budget tightly and eliminate credit card debt. And almost all of them contain my very favorite part--the cleaning and maintenance schedule. These ladies rotate every task you could think of, from cleaning the oven to organizing the attic, with a precision that would make any CEO sit up straighter. 

My humble little planner, which I use every day.
I am of German ancestry, and one of the mottoes I always heard growing up was, "If you're going to do it, do it well." And that's what these videos demonstrate--how much it takes to really run a home to its ultimate, and how many widely different skills are involved. There's a whole heck of a lot of self-discipline, attention to detail, time-management and well--stubborn devotion--that goes into taking care of the relentless physical needs of other human beings. There is a reason why nurses, chefs, accountants, chauffeurs, professional house-cleaners and the like are paid quite well for what they do, and one could even argue that they should be paid more. A homemaker touches on all of these areas, to name a few.

'Woman at Desk Writing', Albert Chavallier Tayler,
Since the tsunami of feminism, housework has been viewed in one of two ways. One camp seems to see it as non-work-- as something that can be squeezed in haphazardly once a year, and that's really all that's necessary. These are the folks who frantically throw everything in a closet when company comes, and hope the door won't burst open. They are also the ones who seem so mystified when rush hour hits yet again, and there is nothing in the fridge for dinner--or they stare dumb-founded at the tower of dirty underwear that seems to have materialized from nowhere.

The other camp thinks that housework is work, but it is work made for idiots--or chimpanzees. These are the folks who will wash a dish here, or pick up a few things off the floor there, but they do it as if it is a life insult, glowering at their bad luck and, looking for anything or anyone to free them from their shackles. They loathe what they are doing, don't think it matters at all, and even thinks it devalues them as a person. These are the ones who scream at the kids and the spouse to pick up after themselves, even though no one, including the screamer, is doing any picking up. They can't figure out why work that seems so basic, so menial, is so hard to keep under control. They don't realize that ALL work requires skill, and that is where very smart people are not being very smart.

I believe that both camps live in a perpetual state of anxiety and exhaustion, no matter how much they proclaim that 'they like things just the way they are.' It's sad, because they think that organization and maintenance are synonyms for perfection or outside judgement, like an unknown someone inspecting their coffee table with a white glove. Repeat: this is not about perfection. In reality, home care is just another way to care for oneself, and the standards that you set are just that, YOUR standards. There is no shame, despite what feminism tries to tell us, in making our homes a top priority. Remember the hair color commercial that says, "you're worth it." Well, having a home that nourishes your soul is every bit as important as any cosmetic.

If we are truly honest with ourselves, we know that any project, no matter what it is, can not expect to go well without care, respect and planning.  If we abandoned those principles in our outside employment, we would be fired in a heartbeat. Everything from a wedding to a weekend fishing trip requires planning--and yet somehow, the care of our homes is something that for many has become slapdash or simply ignored.

Having solid home routines and even a home binder conveys self-respect. It is a statement of self-worth, that says that we deserve to live in a home that is not only neat and pleasant, but also run in such a way that there is no need for rush or guilt. Chores can be organized and broken down in such a way that they, although a constant in our lives, are easier to complete. Ironically enough, the more 'business-like' we are about tackling our homes' demands, the more 'haven-like' they will actually become.

I've done the 'hurry, scurry before company comes' dance many a time, and I've certainly wished myself anywhere but over the kitchen sink, AGAIN. This explosion of dirty dishes is a daily challenge, in fact this picture was taken just this morning. But I will clean it up with gratitude, grateful for the blessing of another homemade meal, and the satisfaction of yet again creating order out of chaos.
After preparing oatmeal cookies and enchiladas for dinner.
Not a clear counter in sight.

But over the years, I've come to realize that a funny thing happened when I began to respect my home and the work entailed to maintain it.  Respect is really sloppy stuff, and it managed to splash all over my four walls and even onto me. The more I planned my work, the more I saw what I got done and the more clearer my goals became. And the more I had a place to rest and to dream.   

This post is getting rather long, so I'll show you my system, learned through trial and error over many decades, in part two.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

I wish I had a Housewife

The U.S census-taker was tapping earnestly away on his lap-top. I sat across from him, trying to be polite, although I was a little ill-at-ease with this bureaucratic stranger asking me financial/governmental questions I really wasn't in the mood to answer. It was the middle of the morning, and I was in the middle of my work, and I really didn't want to hear that short awkward silence that inevitably arrives when anyone asks me my occupation. 

"Are you employed?" is a question that can throw me for days on end.  Someone asks me that and immediately, my mind flashes over all the things I do in a day, the baking, the cleaning, the washing, the budgeting, the organizing, the shopping, the phone calls, the projects, the planning, culminating with the last sink of dirty dishes at about 8:00 at night, and every time, because I have no societal value as a wage-earner, I must answer, "No."

I've coped with this in different ways throughout my life. For many years, I would quickly say, "No, I'm just a housewife", often followed by the wave of a hand and a scrap of self-deprecating laughter. Sometimes, if I was really feeling pathetic, I would go into a long ramble about my outside work credits, how I had once been a professional artist, worked in the psychology field...blah blah blah, like some 'has-been' rehashing 'glory days'. And if things were really down in the dumps, I would skip the dreaded housewife word entirely and just say that I was a working artist in some sort of slump. I never failed to feel like every approach was not only a lie, it was a betrayal. It felt like I was in the witness protection program, lying about my real identity.

Fact is, I have always loved being a housewife--and still do. I was one of those little girls who played with china tea sets and truly believed her doll needed special treatment when she was 'sick' and I dreamed of having an Easy-Bake oven. My favorite game when I was in the bath was to pretend to be 'washing' the washcloths and hanging them on the edge of the tub to dry. I was cross-stitching by the time I was eight. Even when I was working out in the career world, I spent many a frantic year, doing last-minute house tidying and insisting on hot, homemade breakfasts for my kids replete with cloth napkins and gingham place-mats, all before we would charge out the door to conquer the chaos of work and school. I read interior decorating books along with my college textbooks, pored over cookbooks for fun. I still feel a deep sense of satisfaction when I have mopped a floor, or polished a coffee table. And although I have worked as a cleaning professional, the thought of having my own maid--which many women dream of--simply fills me with dread. My hands always itch to put things in order, to make them gleam, to puff up pillows and make things cozy.

And of course, the census-taker turns to me and yet again asks the question. And I reply, "I am a homemaker." Simply, without apology. As the years go by, I am slowly learning that the least said is the easiest way to power through it. And of course, we clarify that I am making no income, and thus by implication, what I am doing with such joy and attention is 'worthless.' Same drill, different day.

He continues typing, and suddenly looks up, pausing for a long moment. His gaze seems to take in the abstract painting of blues and greens in front of him, the books so neat and dignified in the case nearby, the silver teapot carefully placed on the lace tablecloth. "My," he says, with a happy sigh, "I wish that I had a housewife. This place is"

He tries to finish his sentence with a variety of adjectives; 'quaint' and 'nice' seem to head the list. He tries to finish, but I can tell that he hasn't found the word he is searching for.  He is an older man, a veteran, in many ways an old-fashioned gentleman. It seems to me that he is recognizing something he once knew much better. It is like he is staring at a faded photograph. He is sincere, and I understand what he is unable to say.

The sense of feeling at home, surrounded by order and beauty, is much out-of-fashion nowadays. Big screen TVs and dual incomes are how we make meaning out of our lives today. I am not only out-of-fashion, to some I am an insult, a brain-washed block in the way of progress.  But each day it is easier, each day something more is built in response to this modern-day madness, with each bed made, each dish washed, each day that the morning sun is slanting through clean windows. 

Each day, I am a homemaker, making something so important that we barely have words for it.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Getting things blooming for Spring

When I was in elementary school, my teachers picked up on my ability to draw and I was chosen to put the new bulletin board art up every season. For a little girl who always felt like an outsider and more than a little bit odd, creating Pilgrims in November and leprechans in March that all of my classmates would see when walking down the hall, was quite the heady experience and almost like being 'popular'.  I've never lost that sense of how fun that was, and it's reflected in my obsession for seasonal home decor. I'm delighted to see that there is a whole community of homemakers on youtube that share this view.

Nothing seems to freshen the house and make it seem almost 'new' more than bringing out things that have been tucked away in cupboards and boxes, nearly forgotten for a full year. I like to sprinkle these little touches on endtables and kitchen counters; I even go so far as to hang a few different pictures. And in a record winter like the one we are currently having, where snow pack and temperatures haven't been this frigid in forty years...well, seeing a few pastel colors gives me hope that someday things will bloom again.

All of what you see below is done with items I already own; I bought nothing new. 

(Oh, and I almost forgot...I haven't posted in ages...this is an entirely new house...more posts on our adventures with that later.)

 Mixing and matching patterns on my kitchen chest freezer. I believe that I bought the little silk flower pot at Walmart for under five dollars last year; it is the only new addition that I have. Back in the 1990s, I used to snap up all the cloth placemats from Goodwill that struck my fancy. I believed that there was nothing more elegant than cloth napkins and placemats, and I used them almost daily when my kids were growing up.  Although I still use them for meals, I enjoy using them anywhere I want a bit of color. 

 A view again of our tiny retro kichen. Another placemat on our antique drop leaf table, which we figure is almost seventy years old.The painting on the wall is from an art show I did for a cafe, and featured scenes of delicious goodies. I change these out seasonally as well.

 I have two sets of nesting dolls; one blue and one red. This is the season for my blue ones. I like to twine different colored ribbons in the branch wreath on the wall, and the image framed on the wall is from the back of a Lifeway sales brochure. Although I am an artist, I must admit that I find greeting cards and other found objects to be quite charming when put in a frame. 

I believe that the birdhouse frames came from the Dollar Store, many, many years ago. What can I say?  I am old. :)

Just a touch of green downstairs in the sitting room, with some hand-made crocheted eggs tucked in. My dad made the wooden bowl.

This arrangement is in our front 'parlor'. Just a grouping of an old silver teapot I got at an antique store, a candle gift from Christmas, some Dollar Store silk flowers, an heirloom tray from hubby's grandfather, and a couple green  napkins from, you guessed it, Goodwill.  I suppose I should polish the teapot, but I have to admit I kind of like the tarnish.

Thank you so much for touring the spring version of my home. Things don't have to be expensive, new or fancy to bring a sense of warmth and prettiness.Check out what might be hiding in a drawer or storage box. You might just have some charming surprises waiting to trim your castle.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Big Three and Sometimes Four

I think of home as a production center. Home is a place where comfort, orderliness, and peace should roll off its 'assembly-line', each and every day.  While this may seem like an unattainable goal, it really isn't. It's all about making sure that some basic, but very crucial, things get accomplished so regularly that they become almost unconscious habits. You wouldn't think about leaving the house without brushing your teeth, and these home maintenance chores are at the same level.

There are three things that I do every day, with the exception of being mortally ill, and then I have them done by someone else...usually hubby.  I think of these three as being the foundation from where all other homemaking tasks begin. These three things have been proven and time-tested through my years of raising children, working outside the home, and even when I had an in-home daycare.  They aren't everything that home-making entails, but they have gotten me through tough and ridiculously-busy times.

1. I get all the dishes done by the end of the day, at the latest. This works even if you don't have a dishwasher; after years of standing over the sink, I can attest to this. I pick my time, but I make sure that they are done once a day, every day.  Garbage, if full, is taken out.

2. The bed is made. This job, in my view, is a loving gesture to yourself and your family. There is nothing better than to pull the sheets back from a neatly made bed at the end of an exhausting day.

3. I do a load of laundry. I have a pretty wicker clothes basket, and I like to finish the load, fold it, and put it in there to be put away the next day. The next day it is put away consistently, and I do the next load. Remember this is a mindset where laundry is done every day.

 4. This is optional, but this idea helps too. I try to figure out what we are having for dinner, and if I have the time I try to put it together in the morning. (Yes, I have made spaghetti sauce at 6 a.m., before I really had my eyes!)  Crock pots are your best friends here, and it's also helpful to cut up some vegetables, toss up a salad, make some jello, some various forms of preliminary food prep. If I can, I try to make up casseroles and main dishes in the morning, because I'm one of those crazy morning people.  That way, you can just pop it in the microwave or oven in the evening, and it almost feels like someone else made your meal...almost.  At least, try to have an idea of what you want for dinner. This will relieve so much stress come 5:00, and as you sail past the fast-food joints back to a home-cooked meal, you'll be glad you did.
No matter how crazy the world outside is--and we all have those crazy times-- if these three things are done for your household, your home will welcome you with open arms.  You will also have three of the most important things a home provides, clean dishes, clean clothes, and a clean place to rest. 

(Image: "Study of a Breezy Window" Colored Pencil by Cory Jaeger-Kenat, 1998)