The Glories of Chores

I’m a firm believer that children who don’t do chores grow up to be adults who don’t know how to care for themselves. 

It’s all well and good to assign chores to your children, but without consistency, motivation, and/or consequences, chore time turns into a game of frustration and nagging.

Enter, the chore chart.

Seriously, guys. If you have more than one kid (or roommate for that matter) chore charts are the best. It may seem daunting at first, but setting it up is really no biggie.

Step 1: List your chores and frequency

20161206_155441.jpgNot every chore needs to be done everyday, but some desperately do (or multiple times per day). For us, emptying the dishwasher, feeding the dogs, and setting the table are daily chores. Other things like washing the windows, vacuuming, and cleaning the bathrooms are weekly tasks. Make a list and prioritize so that it’s easier to assign tasks later. 

Step 2: Consider your audience

Flipflops and MacGyver are 13 and 11 respectively and are responsible for their own laundry. Little one is 8 and Swiffers the front hall.

When doling out chores, consider the ages, abilities, and preferences of your brood. One kid may like to vacuum (or doesn’t mind) while another would rather scrub toilets than clean carpets. Older children can probably handle laundry, while little ones might turn all their whites pink. Continue reading

How much do you want for this? | A guide to stress free yard sales

Saturday, Mom and I hosted a yard sale.

Yard sales. The very term brings back memories of waking up on a Saturday morning to find my parents had been awake since before dawn and were selling all of my toys. It should have been traumatic, but there were always donuts, so I got over it. No matter how many yard sales we had, we never seemed to have any less stuff. I think it has something to do with the curvature of spacetime. Maybe we’re just hoarders.

These days, yard sales are no longer the simple affair of yesteryear. Social media sites and online vendors have turned the “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” mantra into a platform for global commerce.

A stress free yard sale is a snap with these three simple steps:

  1. Caffeinate 
  2. Wear comfortable shoes
  3. Go find a yard sale

Seriously, unless you’re just shopping, yard sales are stressful. With the gathering, sorting, purging, and schlepping, you’re exhausted before you even begin. Then comes the people who show up an hour early, the 700º heat, and the 489% humidity and (I am not making this up) fuss at you for not having a sign up yet. It’s a party.

I do have a couple of gems that I humbly offer for those who feel the need to invite strangers to their homes to sort through their junk:

  1. Use the dot method – Instead of marking everything with a price, use colored stickers to quickly label things and then post a key that explains the colors. Alternatively (if you have enough tables) group items of the same price and label the table/section.
  2. Hydrate – Lest you feel like a prune by the end of the day.
  3. Start Early – It’s going to take you longer to sort, stage, and price your items than you think. Give yourself plenty of time. Better yet, do it in stages.
  4. Post Items Online – Most communities have yard sale Facebook pages. List large items like furniture or exercise equipment online to increase visibility.
  5. Advertise – Put up signs directing potential shoppers to your sale, especially if you (like me) live off the beaten path. Put the word out on social media and keep your phone with you if someone messages you for information or directions.
  6. Ditch the leftovers – call Goodwill or schlep it off to the Salvation Army. Unless the item has real value (furniture, etc.) whatever small things are leftover at the end of the sale are obviously things you don’t want or need in your life. You may even get a tax deduction for it, and some charities will pick up your items if you have enough stuff!

Exhausted, sunburned, and filthy from head to toe, I nevertheless felt like this weekend’s sale was a huge success. We were able to divest ourselves of a lot of really nice things, and a bit of the crap, too.

I didn’t feel at all bad when I picked up pizza for dinner. Not even a little at first.

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day 11 – Monday Musings: of eusocial formicidae invasions…

1) It is a truth universally acknowledged that a girl in possession of a day off is in want of a disaster.

Fridays are the day that I get to catch up on things. No students, no jobs, no classes, just me and a huge cup of coffee and my never ending list. It is on these kinds of days that I like to really cook. Not just prepare a meal, but make something that’s good for the soul as well as for the tummy. This past Friday, the menu included Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs in a homemade marinara. Yum. While not a difficult recipe, per se, this isn’t something you start and stop. Once you’ve committed, you kind of need to see it through.

I’m wrists deep in seasoned raw ground beef when I need to throw something away. No biggie. I walk over to my kitchen trash can which is when I notice that we’ve been invaded. By ants.

Ants!

ants

In an ordered line stemming from the back door down into the trash, they go. Marching one by one, or so I’ve been told. Abandoning my meatballs, for the moment, I wash the meaty goodness off my hands and all but hurl the trashcan onto the back porch, where, I reason, they are at least not in the house. Then, I take a broom and sweep the visible ants out the door. I feel I have temporarily ameliorated the situation until I notice that they are unperturbed by me and continue their march.

A quiet voice in the back of my brain reminds me that I once read on the internet somewhere that you can use cornmeal to get rid of ants, and I’m in full on panic mode. I know that an invasion can quickly turn into an infestation and I’m Not Having It. So down the cornmeal goes on the floor. I hope that I may at least contain the problem.

By that evening, there are only a few visible ants and by the next morning, they are GONE. They are still outside climbing all over the trashcan, but that’s a problem for a different day.

The meatballs, by the way, were delicious – and ant free.

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day 2 – We need a list, and other shenanigans

Tell me what is more satisfying than the kind of exhaustion that comes after a day of accomplishment. I dare you. On a recent Saturday, just before my mom headed out of town on a business trip, we had one such day. In an effort to encourage each other to complete all of the small tasks that get shuffled from list to list, we tackled them together, discovering that indeed, the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts.

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09:17 – Mom says, “We need a list.” I smile in idiot-like glee.
09:18 – Armed with multi-colored pens, a protractor, and graph paper , we develop 3 lists: Out and About, Outside, and Inside. Each list has three items, satisfying my need for parallelism.
09:58 – Mom adds a 10th item. I fear the imbalance may cause a rift in spacetime.
10:04 – After deciding to do the out of the house errands first, we prepare to leave. But first: we’re going to need a picture-hanging kit later in the day, and are unsure if we’ll need to pick one up. A brief search commences.
10:10 – Picture-hanging materials secured.
10:13 – Actual departure time. We congratulate ourselves on our alacrity.
SUV
10:17 – We realize we failed to bring the schematic of our garden, which we’ll need to purchase seeds. We double back.
SUV10:20 – We depart, more humbly.
10:43 – Arrive at the bank. I need to close my checking account and am told to sit in a waiting area and wait for a personal banker. There are two customers ahead of me. Mom (an accountant) wanders off to find things to look at. I
81c+oaASK6L._SY355_contemplate the wisdom of letting a numbers person loose in a bank. She returns with pamphlets on investing and seems pleased with herself.
10:53 – My turn! A nice woman named “Teri” tries to convince me to keep my account. I am resolute!
10:57 – Success!
11:06 – Arrive at the pharmacy. I need to pick up a prescription and change my insurance information. I’m convinced that there will be some kind of interrogation or alien probe. Mom is there for backup.
11:22 – The irony that it takes longer to change insurance than close a bank account strikes me. I feel this is societally indicative.
11:26 – Arrive at the seed store. (Mostly) resist the urge to look at baby chickens. We need 17 varieties. Seeds, not chickens. Unable to reach/see the seeds near the ground, I sit down on the floor while Mom rolls her eyes at me.
11:45 – We decide Rosemary may, in fact, be a tree and head for the register.
11:50 – Coffee stop. Obviously.
12:12 – We congratulate ourselves on a productive outing, and our ability to go door to door in under two hours. Apparently, the humility was short-lived. Heat up Smart Ones for lunch and revel in smug sense of healthy.
12:48 – Wardrobe change, time for outside. Tackle fall leaves from last 10 years. Smugness wears off.
13:07 – Decide a leaf blower is the best way to handle this situation.
13:10 – Fend off attacks from homicidal extension cord.
14:15 – Leaves wrangled and ready for burning, it’s time to plant our garden. This is the first year we’ve planted a eatable garden. I’d like a word with whoever decided that carrot seed should be microscopic.
veggies14:53 – Open burning doesn’t start until after 4, so we head inside. Hang the aforementioned picture in the dining room in manner of experienced handymen. Smugness returns.
15:10 – Finally put away the last of the Christmas decorations. Whatever.
15:31 – Instigate non-list project of toilet paper roll corral. Mom will be relieved when Vacation Bible School is over and I stop collecting supplies. Until then, we’re the world’s weirdest hoarders. Time to work on deck building permit.
15:35 – Clean kitchen.
15:40 – Mom whines about permit. I insist we actually do it.
15:41 – Mild whining.
15:43 – Slightly more vigorous whining.
15:46 – Begin work on permit. Not as bad as she thought.
16:41 – Head outside to take measurements. Stuart decides to put on a show and rolls around in dirt in adorable fashion.
17:04 – Burn leaves. Pile the size of Buick becomes small pile of ash. Smugness is overwrought by exhaustion.
18:30 – Abandon Mom with small amount of remaining leaves to make dinner and treat sunburn. Everyone sleeps well tonight.

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Banner Photo Credit: JD Hancock

Monday Musings: of vocabulary lessons, office overboard, and a world of nope…

Happy Monday!

1) My mom and I spend a lot of time together. I mean, a lot. Which means we talk a lot. So much, in fact, that it’s a wonder that we have anything to talk about anymore. I guess the secret is talking about really inane things. At a recent dinner out, we were discussing…I dunno, something. The conversation took a nerdy turn:

Me: So they feel ostracized?
Mom: No, just left out, there is no…
Me:…
Mom: I don’t want to say ostracizing, but I can’t think of what it should be.
Me: Ostracization?
Mom: I don’t think that’s a word. I don’t know the noun form.

Out come the smartphones, of course for a Google search.

It’s totally ostracization, by the way…

2) In an effort to supplement my income, I’ve started doing office work for a friend who has a business headquartered in her home office. My first task has been to scan an ENORMOUS box of documents, receipts, invoices, bills, and statements into a computerized filing system. That, of course, isn’t good enough for me, and I felt the need to organize the chaos as well.

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Just when I had my compulsiveness under control. Oy.

I’m really enjoying it, maybe too much. I love to organize and sort and set up systems. The work is a little mindless at this point, which is completely awesome. As a bonus, you can only scan construction documents for so long before you start to pick things up, so I’ve learned a ton about the construction industry. I’m always up for learning new things!

3) I don’t want to jinx it or anything, but I think spring has sprung!!!!

*cue epic late blizzard*

But seriously, it was finally warm enough today to open the windows and let a little fresh air into the house. Of course, this made me want to clean (what else?!). First stop: laundry. Because, you know, it takes the longest and I can do other stuff while it runs.

Off I go to load the washer and in the bottom of my laundry basket I find THE. BIGGEST. SPIDER. I’VE. EVER. SEEN. So I did what any normal person would do. I ran away.

Spider Nope

You know what’s worse than finding a spider in your basement? That’s right, losing a spider in your basement.

How important are clean clothes, anyway?

Featured image by FictionChick

Step 1: Admit you have a problem.

May I just share something with you, without the inevitable scrutiny and eye-rolling? Probably not. I’m going for it anyway. I, Simone, being of sound mind and relatively sound body admit that I did knowingly and with intent spend in excess of 2 hours rearranging the pins on my Pinterest boards. *Shame* But it felt so good. As of press time, I have 1,941 pins on 42 boards. If you’re doing math, that is an average of 46.21 pins per board, a manageable number. Before I reorganized, I had hundreds of pins on fewer boards with generic titles and I couldn’t find anything!!!!!! How did I do it? I’ll tell you: subheadings. Pins HeadboardTake, for example, my board of future home decorating. Instead of 1 board with a whopping 216 pins, I divided it into:

Home, Sweet Home – Floor plans
Indoors, Beautifully – Whole room decorating concepts
Decor and more – Individual decorative elements
Organization and DIY – Pretty self-explanatory
Holidays – Decorating ideas throughout the year

Now my boards are indexed and arranged for maximum efficiency in retrieval. Yeah, I know I have a problem. Here’s one more example. I had a board of references and ideas for my classroom and tutoring students. Now I have all 371 pins sorted by subject matter

Classroom Organization
Ideas and Tips
Earth/Space
Life Science/Biology
Chemistry
Higher Order Thinking
Students with Special Needs
Professional Development
Super Tutor
Vacation Bible School

It sounds crazy, I know, but there is a lesson to be learned here. What in your life is so jumbled and messy that you can’t see your way through? Maybe it’s a relationship issue that needs to be resolved or a closet packed so full you can’t find anything. The task may seem daunting, but the payoff is a sense of peace and accomplishment. Start small, start cleaning out the clutter in your life.

Monday Musings: of cleaning products, a rug in a bag, and a great lady…

It’s Tuesday, but that isn’t alliterative with “musings” so I’m just going to pretend. Mmkay, pumpkins?

1) When I get stressed out, I clean things. Seriously, the morning after my dad died, I cleaned my entire kitchen and bathroom. I couldn’t control what was happening in my life, but I could absolutely control how clean my house was when “the people” started showing up.

One of the things I hate about cleaning is the headache I get from cleaning product fumes. I can’t help feeling like I’m inhaling cancer or something when I start to scrub. Then I discovered Honest Cleaning Products. Free from toxic chemicals and harsh scents, the line includes not only cleaning products, but items for home and baby, as well. I started out with the glass cleaner and the bathroom cleaner which is appropriate for most hard surfaces. Don’t let the pleasant tea tree oil scent fool you, this stuff works. I was blown away by the incredible cleaning power. I even tackled a deep cleaning of my dreaded shower/tub and it was unbelievable.

2) So my mom bought a rug for our dining room. If you’ve never seen my dining room, it has a kind Williamsburg Blue and white thing going on with accents of yellow and pale green. Very nice.

Anyway, this rug was on sale and it was pretty and it came in what the manufacturer called “gold” but was more like yellow.  When it arrived, it was decidedly not yellow. It was, in fact, orange.  I mean, orange.  At first we thought it was a case of color misrepresentation on the internet, but upon further inspection, the tag on the rug identified the color, not as gold, but as pumpkin.

Pumpkin.

Here’s a question: how many women does it take to shove a rolled up area rug back into its packaging?  Answer: two, but they’ll certainly dissolve in to giggles more than once before it’s over.

With a good bit of heaving and shoving and general foolishness, we got the 80 lb rug back into the plastic bag/tube in which it was delivered and the very sweet UPS guy came today to pick it up.  I kind of want to give him a hug, knowing that he delivered it the first time, only to pick it up, and bring back the appropriately hued piece.

View More: http://birdsofafeatherphotos.pass.us/maggie-and-david-wedding3) Besides being election day (did you vote?!) today also marks the birthday of one of the most amazing and most important women in my life, my Mama Pat.  My paternal grandmother, it is from her that I get my writing talent, my French pronunciation, and my penchant for Britcoms. She is every bit the kind of lady I’ve always hoped to become; enduringly kind, unequivocally hospitable, and a haven for grandchildren, both real and by association.

Happy Monday(ish)!

If this is going to ruin our friendship, just walk away…

So Emily has this problem….

I call it “Waytoomuch(stuff)ititus”.

Between moving from home to school and back again and trying to keep her ever burgeoning wardrobe under control, she’s in way over her head, and has been lamenting her plight to me all summer.  So last week I finally relented and offered to help.  We each took the day off of work today and started early, tackling the project head on.

Now, in case you’re thinking, “Hey, it’s just her bedroom.  How bad could it possibly be?” I offer you photographic evidence:

Yeah.

Emily prefaced this adventure with the words (no joke), “I’d like us to be friends at the end of this, so if, at any time, you feel like you’re going to hate me forever, just walk away.  I swear I won’t be mad.”

We filled 2 giant trash bags (42 gallons each) an enormous bin for charity and reorganized a ton of stuff. Along the way, we found several humorous and largely unexplainable items.  These are my favorites.

6 hours, 1 pizza, 1,849 bobby pins, and 5 times vacuuming the carpet later, and it looked like this:

I’m good, yeah?

Ultimately, I knew I could do it, but there were definitely moments when I wasn’t so sure.  In case you have a messy space (though hopefully not that messy) that you need to clean, here are my top 6 tips for cleaning and organizing.

6 – Do It…NOW

Set aside a day (or an hour, or a weekend) to clean.  Designate that time and finish the job in one sitting.  If you swear you’ll get back to it, I swear you never will.  Have your meals and snacks delivered or pre-made, so you don’t lose focus making food.  Keep drinks handy so you don’t have to stop.  The name of the game is MOMENTUM!

5 – Prioritize

Think seriously about the things you keep available.  We sorted Emily’s shoes into ones she wears regularly for work or casual wear, and the ones she wears rarely, or seasonally (like boots). Everyday shoes went on a rack in her closet and seldom used shoes went in an organizer under the bed.  This is a good strategy for dealing with anything seasonal, or just items you rarely use.  After all, you’ll want to keep the latest novel or two by your bed, but there’s no need to keep an entire library there.

4 – Relocate

If sheer volume of the items in your designated area is overwhelming, take it all out and start from scratch.  In this case, we relocated everything in Emily’s room to the guest room (and the hall, the staircase, the bathroom…it was a LOT of stuff).  By getting everything out of your space, it’s easier to bring back in one thing at a time and fight small battles.  Just remember that when you lay it all out, it will look like even more stuff, so don’t get discouraged.

3 – Quick Sort

When dealing with boxes with varied content, do a quick sort.  Health and Beauty here, Office and Electronics here, Books, Clothes, whatever.  Don’t spent a lot of time trying to figure out where everything goes, just sort them into piles and move on.  This will help you get rid of trash quickly, and start to create order.  Since things of the same category are likely to end up in approximately the same place, pre-sorting is the first step to more refined organization.

2 – Phone a friend

It’s always easier to organize and clean if you have someone with you.  Even just having someone there to give you permissions to throw things away that you don’t want, can’t use, but feel guilty getting rid of.  It’s nice to have someone to talk to, commiserate with, and laugh at all the ridiculous things you find.  A friend will also be a lot less sentimental about the whole thing, so she’ll keep you going, even when you want to sit and look through a box of baby pictures.  Make sure you have boundaries though, like providing lunch and never NEVER asking your bestie to clean your bathroom. Also, you’ll want a deep, firm friendship for this; it isn’t the kind of thing that a fledgling friendship is likely to survive.

1 – Singular Focus

Focus on exactly one thing at a time.  If you are on a mission to round-up all of your shoes and put them away, don’t get distracted untangling electronics cords.  It seems ridiculous to pass up an easy job if it’s right in front of you, but that’s how you get pulled away from finishing anything.  You’ll end up with 27 half done things and nothing to show for it. Finish one job and then move on to the next.  You’ll be making room for yourself as you go, and you’ll feel accomplished.

Seriously, the best thing to do is just start, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.  If you stress about everything you have to do, you won’t get anything done, so take it easy, and just dive in.  It’s amazing how accomplished you feel.

Happy Monday!