Do you work too hard?

Photo by Drone Trotter on Pexels.com

Not long ago, I told a friend that saying I’m tired is like saying the Titanic experienced a minor snag. True enough, exhaustion has been part of my life as a mom, spiking during periods like new babies, moving house, holidays, and other types of overwhelm.

I’ve been told it’s normal. Normal to want some quiet time. Normal to dream of moving to New Zealand.

Maybe you’ve just had your first baby. Maybe you have children with special needs. Maybe, like me, you are trying to juggle the needs of several different-age kids and your freelance writing business.

Either way, I’m going to share five questions I’ve asked myself to help myself let go of unrealistic expectations (pffft) and put mental health first.

One, do you work too hard? No, wait. That’s not a question. Start over.

Do you iron? Ironing is seriously overrated. A few wrinkles on a shirt haven’t killed anyone yet. Besides, wrinkles straighten up, more or less, while you wear the item.

Do you do too much laundry? Around here, clothes get tossed into the hamper when they are dirty. I separate darks and lights, but otherwise, everything gets shoved in the wash together, including underwear, bedding, and towels.

Do you cook too complicated? It’s best to choose dishes that request not just little prep, but little cleanup as well. Soup is a perennial favorite.

Do you delegate? Do you let people do what they can for themselves? If a toddler can pick up her toys, great. If a tween can clean her room, fantastic. So what if it’s not perfect? It fosters healthy independence and helps lighten your load.

Do you take the time to recharge? Do you remember when you last watched a movie? Read a book just because? Called a friend? When I realized that my answer to these was “I’m not sure”, I acknowledged I was on the verge of burnout. I began making an effort to eat and sleep better and to do more things that refresh and rejuvenate me.

5 places to start decluttering

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

As I was putting the house in order before Pesach, I was amazed, like I am every year, at the sheer amount of stuff that was going out for donation or recycling. The holiday is over, but I’m still decluttering, because I’ve started to overhaul the closets for summer.

I’ll tell you a dirty secret: the reason why I love decluttering so much is that I hate cleaning. Or, at least, I hate spending a lot of time on cleaning. The less stuff you have to take care of, the easier and more straightforward cleaning becomes.

So here are my suggestions on where to start freeing up valuable space.

  1. Closets. Most of us own stuff we’ve forgotten we have. Some of it can actually be put to good use. Other items go in the donation bag. Kids have things they have outgrown, socks with holes, and that shirt with paint stains I can never get completely clean.
  2. Kitchen cabinets. I’m a secret container addict and can never resist buying pickles in a pretty glass jar, then washing it and stashing it away for future use. While recycled glass is frugal and eco-friendly, at some point my jar collection threatens to take over my kitchen space.
  3. Toys and books. From my experience, only a handful of toys and games are worth keeping longterm. We get more gifts of toys and books than we can use, some of them double sets, and while I cherish every gesture of friendship, there’s only so much we can keep.
  4. Yard. For me, it’s extremely easy to forget everything that isn’t actually in the house. This includes cracked flower pots, broken tiles, and various odds and ends.
  5. Storage. It’s easy to forget about items that have been sitting in the depths of my storage shed for years. But storage isn’t supposed to be a “shove inside and forget” concept. It should be a convenient place for useful things that simply aren’t used regularly, or seasonal items like rubber boots and umbrellas.

With every trash bag that leaves my home, I feel like I can breathe a little easier. I hope I can stay in the momentum and keep gaining space, peace, and order.

Spring is coming

One of our pullets enjoying some fresh greens.

With the days getting longer and warmer, and everything around lush and green after abundant rains, it’s probably the most beautiful time of the year. It’s also the one I hate the most.

From last week: Oznei Haman, the traditional Purim cookies.

Never mind the odd shapes. You know what this means, right? Purim is behind us and Pesach is ahead. A time of chaos and stress in so many Jewish households.

I’ve struggled with this time of the year so long. I’ve tried to embrace it. But now I’m finally done pretending and can say with total honesty – I hate Pesach prep.

I hate what it does to my schedule. I hate that it makes me miss out on beautiful healthy outdoor time at the loveliest season of the year. I hate that it makes me brush my children aside. I hate the exhaustion and rumbling stomach from not having time to cook. I hate having to overhaul my kitchen twice in one week: all-year to Pesach dishes and back again.

I do what is probably considered less than the bare minimum in most Jewish households. And yet for me, it’s always too much.

So I’m done trying to find something nice about this period of intense cleaning. I’ll just mark the end of Pesach in the calendar and wait eagerly for the time when I can get my life back.

How to deal with interruptions

I love this image: this is me every day!

I’m cooking breakfast.

A kid spills a glass of milk and makes a huge mess.

I sit down to work on a writing project for a client.

A simmering pot bubbles up and spills all over the stovetop.

I’m trying to do some yard work.

A neighbor drops by and engages me in conversation over the fence, totally oblivious to the dinnertime pressure the late afternoon hour means for me.

Life is full of interruptions – especially when you live in a house with kids who cry, fight, don’t want to do their schoolwork, and constantly mess up their surroundings. You might feel like you’re about to tear your hair out in frustration when you know all you need is an hour to finish a project, but you can’t even get 15 quiet minutes.

So how do I still handle things without going crazy?

Answer: I don’t. There are days when I feel I’m about to crack under the strain, but I do find that a few things help me keep the balance.

  1. I get up early in the morning. At least, I try, as tempting as it is to get a few more minutes of shut-eye. I have found out that my best chance of getting stuff done is early, before anyone else is up. But to do that, I need to go to bed early the day before – if I push myself to be productive after only 3-4 hours of sleep, I’m groggy all day long and won’t be much good for anything.
  2. I expect interruptions. I know I won’t have long quiet stretches of time throughout the day, and set realistic goals.
  3. I break up tasks into increments. Rather than say, “OK, I have an article to write/closet to rearrange/kitchen to clean and it will take one hour,” I say, “Now I write a few paragraphs/clean a couple of shelves, and it will take 15 minutes. After that, I’ll go on if nothing’s in the way.”

Even if I’m super organized and set my priorities just right, I can never do all I’ve planned – but usually, I have something to showcase at the end of each day, which is better than nothing.

5 Game-changing laundry hacks

Hemp Woman Face Beauty Pinterest Graphic

Laundry is the kind of perennial chore I always try to make more efficient. I have four children and line-dry all our clothes, so you can imagine I always have a load either to hang, fold, or put away. Still, with a few handy hacks, I keep my laundry basket from overflowing.

1. Baby wipes for small stains.

Many stains will disappear miraculously if you treat them quickly by rubbing a baby wipe over them. I know there are wipes made specifically for this purpose, but I have found baby wipes to be quite efficient – and much cheaper.

2. Air rather than wash.

At the end of the day, if the clothes I’m wearing are not exactly dirty but could use freshening up, I will often hang them up on the line (not over the back of a chair). Often, a bit of time in the sunshine and breeze will leave the clothes crisp and fresh as if they had actually been washed.

3. Use vinegar.

In lieu of fabric softener, combined with water to soak particularly smelly clothes, or with baking soda to clean your washing machine.

4. Pre-treat sweat stains with shampoo.

Works a treat on those pesky underarm areas and soiled collars. A paste made of baking soda and vinegar is another treatment option.

5. Pre-sort the laundry by having two different hampers.

I thought everybody does that, but was surprised to find out that some people have one big hamper for everything and sort right before washing. It’s a lot less hassle to keep darks and lights separated in the first place.

 

 

Last post before Pesach

DSC_0553

By this time, I have cleaned both my refrigerators and things are rising to the feverish pitch that will culminate in the Seder night on Wednesday, but we’ve still had some time to spend in the garden lately and I even sneaked in a couple of short walks with the children (strictly keeping to empty, lonely places). Last week we saw this flock of cranes right next to our house.

IMG_20200331_232724_900

These birds sure aren’t doing social distancing!

DSC_0552

One of our little house geckos. The kids love to play with them.

IMG-20200317-WA0001

Shira tried to make a smiley egg face here, but this didn’t quite work out. 🙂 I am so extremely grateful for our plentiful and healthy eggs these days. The stores are just empty of eggs at the moment, and I’ve read they are forced to import to meet demand – no knowing what the price or quality will be.

Overall, though we are holding up pretty well, there’s just no denying the situation in the world is kind of crazy right now. I’m so looking forward to the time when it’s possible to lift the quarantine at least a bit – I miss day trips, going to the library, and getting together with friends. There are so many people around the country, from Rehovot to Maalot and from the Shomron to Ramat Beit Shemesh, who are often in my thoughts, and though social media and email thankfully make it easy to keep in touch, nothing can replace a good ol’ cup of coffee together. So this is my post-quarantine resolution: make more time to visit with friends in person.

I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy, and enjoying spring despite the necessary limitations. No better time to start a garden if you haven’t yet!

I’m off to take all the stove knobs apart and give it a good polish.

On the Purim-Pesach highway

Purim is in two days, which officially marks the beginning of my least favorite time of the year: the weeks between Purim and Pesach.

I always say that all the Pesach prep is probably meant to really help us get into the shoes of the enslaved Israelites in Egypt. It’s more than just spring cleaning, which many people around the world do. It’s practically overhauling one’s whole house. It’s getting obsessively neurotic over every crumb and every trace of leavened bread. It’s packing and unpacking dishes, cookware, and practically all the kitchenware – twice in the span of a week.

By the end of that time, I’m just left with my tongue hanging out, desperate to have my life back.

But there is a silver lining. This period is also the absolute best time of the year to acquire various roadside finds, as people are going through their houses and closets and throw away things, often in excellent condition. You know what they say – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. A big part of our furniture consists of such timely finds that have been serving us for long years now.

While I’m generally a big fan of saving space and getting rid of stuff, sometimes you just happen to be in need of something, and then you’re actually driving by and it stares you right in the face – like for example this good-as-new bed frame we had hauled home last week. After a thorough treatment with furniture polish, I can already envision how it will shine in its intended spot. Naturally, I don’t buy furniture polish – I’m currently experimenting with a few homemade, eco-friendly versions.

Happy cleaning, everyone. Remember not to work too hard and just enjoy this beautiful time of year when the earth seems to be stirring awake.

DSC_0509