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

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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

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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.

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These birds sure aren’t doing social distancing!

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

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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.

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“Should be” vs. “Is”, or the Kitchen Sink Saga

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Last week, I discovered a massive leak under one of our kitchen sinks (yes, we’re lucky enough to have two). After mopping up the mess and emptying the cabinet under the sink, I did what any reasonable woman would do: asked my husband to fix it.

Unfortunately, my husband declared that he’s too busy in the next few days, and that I can just use the other sink in the meantime.

Now, the second sink was OK as an emergency backup, but I have always used the first for my meat dishes and didn’t want to mix them up.

So basically, I had two choices here:

I could stomp my foot and get angry, and rave about how inconsiderate my husband was and what’s the point of having a man in the house if not for such emergencies?!

… Or I could roll up my sleeves and get the job done myself.

(There’s also the option of paying someone else to do it, of course, but it’s kind of out of our budget right now).

I swung by the hardware store, bought a piece of piping after consulting the nice man behind the counter, watched a couple of YouTube tutorials, and dug in.

Did I do the job perfectly? No.

Did I accidentally poke myself in the face with the loose piping, split my bottom lip, dribble blood all over my front and, for the next few days, look like a poster girl for a battered women’s shelter? (I wish I were joking).

Um, never mind.

But is the sink usable again now?? Yes!!

And every time I wash the dishes, I experience this warm glow of satisfaction: I did something that I thought I was incapable of. And you bet it feels a whole lot better than sitting around and grumbling about how unfair it is and how I’m not supposed to also work as a plumber while taking care of four children, running a household, and doing my best to pay the bills.

This little kitchen sink episode illustrates a truth that had taken years and years to penetrate through my thick skull: it’s so much better and healthier to take a deep breath and deal with how things are, rather than keep getting hung up on how they “should be”.

And this, my friends, is – in a nutshell – the difference between the younger me and the me of today. I spend less time thinking about the discrepancies between ideal and real, and more time rolling up my sleeves and getting things done to the best of my ability.

In case any of you Freejinger ladies are reading this (you know who you are!), that’s the process that has brought me to the point where I am today.

I have heard a lovely metaphor, that life treats us like sea glass: the waves, sand and rocks create constant abrasions that smoothe out our sharp edges, tone us down, and shape us into something new and beautiful, and much more pleasant to handle than prickly glass shards.

For me, this process has included internalizing that dreams, ideals and self-appointed rules sometimes don’t match reality, and you have two choices: roll with the waves and become a piece of sea glass, or…

Shatter on the rocks.

I’ll bet you can guess which choice I’m making every day.

Strategies for minimizing mold

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Ever had a mold problem? It’s one of the biggest challenges we’re dealing with in our current house, and though it’s an ongoing battle, I’m happy to say we’re gradually getting the situation under control. Read more in my latest Mother Earth News post:

“Mold isn’t just unsightly and nasty-smelling. It can have potentially serious health consequences such as respiratory problems or symptoms akin to allergy and asthma. Treat it promptly and uncompromisingly as you would a dangerous enemy.”

I’m telling you, in the first weeks of moving here it was like battling some malicious, purposeful enemy rather than colonies of fungus. Every spot that wasn’t completely dry, toasty and thoroughly aired would be covered with ugly black mold dots within days. Persistent airing and copious amounts of bleach made these attacks recede somewhat, but we still have to be extra diligent when it comes to maintenance.

By the way, when we first came to see the house, it was impossible to know there was a mold problem at all. The place was spotless! Which is something I always keep in mind whenever I feel challenged. It’s definitely doable.

I’m ready to try methods other than bleach, because I hate the way it smells. Vinegar and baking soda did not make an iota of difference. Anyone has any good tips?

Image source: Wikipedia

When you’re buried in housework

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I have come across a truly eye-opening post about why we are really overwhelmed by housework. It’s kind of oldish, but trust me, it’s a real gem!

‘Sometimes in my life I have not been overwhelmed by housework so much as just overwhelmed. Sometimes life sends stuff at us that is just hard. Sometimes we might not even want to acknowledge that stuff, even to ourselves, so we look around at the mess we are in, at the housework that is not getting done because we are so consumed by other hard stuff, and think, ‘If I can just get the house sorted and clean and pretty like every single other person in the world seems to be able to do, then maybe all this other misery will go away and we can be the Brady Bunch, and every area of my life will be Pinterest worthy, and then I will be happy.’

I have never stopped to think about any aspect of this except having babies and small children in the house, which obviously makes one slower. However, I did not often stop to consider that many of the times I was overwhelmed and frustrated supposedly with housework were not really about the housework at all.

Lately, I’ve felt I’m really struggling, chasing my tail and not really getting much done. I was too busy and tired to stop and think that it’s not really about the number of loads of laundry I have to do each week, but about some adjustments I’ve failed to make.

One is having my husband at home full time. He freelances, which means he often strolls into the kitchen for a drink or snacks or just hangs around. Now, I’m sure I’m not the only one who absolutely hates doing any sort of housework beyond bare maintenance when there are people around. I need space and quiet and can’t handle having to shoo people away while I’m cleaning. So I often find myself waiting for my husband to get out of the house to really get into gear, and it just doesn’t happen all that often. Now I tell myself, don’t wait for the perfect time to do whatever it is I should be doing, just jump in with both feet and get it done!

Another factor is living, for the first time in my life, in a house with stairs. Our previous house had a compact shoebox shape, and getting from one room to another took about half a second. Now I find myself wasting a lot of time running up and down the stairs whenever I need something or forget something. I’m slowly teaching myself to group my tasks so that I spend a chunk of time upstairs working on things that need to be done there, and then go downstairs for other tasks. I also keep some things I need on hand, like diapers, both upstairs and downstairs.

Finally, I’ve taken an extra commitment at the beginning of this year when I started working from home as a copyeditor. I love the financial perk and am grateful for the fact that I work with one company rather than having to hunt for new freelance gigs each month, but work is work and nothing gets done by magic. So some things just had to go, like ironing. It’s a delicate balance, and we all just have to keep at it, doing the best we can with what we have.