Of kitchen sinks and gratitude

Image result for kitchen mess comic

Illustration photo: Huffington Post

Last Friday I awoke to the sounds of gushing water from the kitchen. It actually sounded like a small, gurgling stream. Bleary-eyed, I rolled off the bed and went to see what’s the deal; I discovered a small lake spreading out from under the kitchen sink.

Of course, I did what any rational woman would do in such a situation – I ran to shake my husband awake, panting, “Quick! Quick! There’s an emergency! We’re all drowning!”. My husband opened one eye, stepped into the kitchen, took a look at the whole thing and closed off the pipeline leading to the sink. While I was mopping up this miniature Lake Windermere, he remarked, “Well, at least the kitchen floor will be clean.”

He explained to me that there’s something wrong with the kitchen pipeline (you don’t say?!). Did it rust through? Got nibbled on by mice? Punctured by evil aliens? I didn’t care; I just wanted the use of my kitchen sink back. It didn’t help that Friday is the busiest day in Orthodox Jewish households, growing progressively crazier as the clock ticks toward afternoon and the lighting of Shabbat candles.

In case you are wondering, washing dishes in the bathroom sink is not very convenient.

I’m sure my husband, who is a real handyman, will put this right eventually, but this kitchen sink incident got me thinking of all the other things we normally take for granted – our comforts and conveniences, the abundance of food and clothes, our spacious, well-heated homes, our civil rights and freedoms, our families, health, and very life. So let us stop for a moment to appreciate it all. Celebrate the kitchen sink!

This week we marked our son Israel’s second birthday. I am so happy and grateful to be the mother of this little boy. With my older girls, I was very young and newly married and it was Mommy Boot Camp all the way for the most part. But once Tehilla, our second daughter, was out of her toddler years and I realized I might never have another baby again, I shed many tears. When Israel was born all felt like a gift; it still does. For the past two years, I am grateful to say I have been able to appreciate so many things about his infancy and toddlerhood – just relax, enjoy and let go. We all sit on the floor a lot, playing with Lego, blocks or toy trains, and I no longer have that itch telling me I have to get going and move on to do something more important.

I guess this post is just a record of thanksgiving. For children, families, life, and comfortable homes with modern conveniences. I thank God for what I have, really I do.

Just please, fix that kitchen sink.

Mean Green Cleaning Machine

Do you like to clean? I think I see a couple of you shaking their heads and smiling… yes, I mean you. And I’ll be brutally honest – while I, in fact, appreciate a clean bathroom and floors, there are many other things I’d rather be doing – like baking cookies, taking a walk with the kids, digging in the garden or writing.

However, cleaning must be done in order to maintain a livable, inviting atmosphere, and while I’m at it I’d rather avoid harsh dangerous chemicals as much as possible (and save money along the way, too). Check out my latest Mother Earth News post on this subject:

“When standing in the household supplies aisle in a supermarket, it’s easy to be dazzled by all the various cleaning agents in colorful bottles and packages. However, most of that stuff isn’t just outrageously expensive, it’s harmful for the environment and can even be downright dangerous. Luckily, it’s possible to clean house simply and effectively, just the way our grandmothers did – combining simple materials which don’t cost a lot and aren’t dangerous to keep around small children.”

citric acid crystals

Above: citric acid crystals – one of my favorite green cleaning little tricks.

One-minute household chores and e-book giveaway!

How many times have you looked around the house and experienced this sinking feeling that there is a million of things to be done, and no time to do them? Well, apparently the key to success is to break the million things into one-by-one, and just head in and do something, even if it is something little. The sense of accomplishment will motivate you to go on, and efficient planning will enable you to make good of those little pockets of time during the day.

Here is an excellent list of household chores that can be done in one minute.

I do have to say, however, that sometimes those little things may take longer than we estimate; for example, it really is only a minute to change your kitchen towels – if you keep them readily available. I personally don’t have much cupboard space in the kitchen, so my kitchen towels are kept in the closet in the children’s room and I have to walk there and then back to the kitchen to get the towels. I also need to drop the used towels into the laundry basket.

If you really only have a minute or two, work in the space where you already happen to be, or near it. For example, if I’m watching over a toddler playing in bath, I might use up that little slot of time to wipe down the bathroom mirror, sink and tap, and perhaps to scrub the toilet. If I’m watching over kids while they are playing in the yard, I will clean the outside of the living room window (yes, the one with fingerprints and nose prints all over it!)

Logical storage strategy is another important thing. I’ve already mentioned kitchen towels; by necessity, I keep them away from the kitchen, but I realize it would have been better to make room in one of the cupboards. The little sponge I use specifically for wiping sinks, I keep in the bathroom so it’s within easy reach. I’m forced (again by necessity of space) to keep some of our clothes in the storage shed closet, which is larger, but I make sure those are the clothes we use less often, in particular during the warm months (coats, jackets etc).

Then it’s important to assess whether a chore really takes up only a minute, or we are run away with our fanciful imagination. For example, I’ve been known to step out to fold the laundry, saying “it only takes a minute”, forgetting that with little ones in tow, it most certainly does not. In that case I must either allot more time for the chore, or delay the task until later.

And of course, this doesn’t mean every last little moment of spare time must be filled with housework! Sometimes, when you only have a couple of minutes, it’s better to take a deep breath, have a glass of cool water or a little snack, or read a page or two of a good book.

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Giveaway announcement: starting from now and until August 31-st, you can download my natural health e-book, Nurturing Hands, from my Payhip store for free! Simply proceed to checkout and use the 100% discount coupon I have activated. Of course, you are most welcome to share this giveaway on your own blog, Facebook or Twitter and let your friends know! Coupon code: 783CZRSQDP

I have also included a 50% discount coupon for The Practical Homemaker’s Companion, which will be valid until September 7-th. Coupon code: E1KQKKJURV

In addition, following requests, The Practical Homemaker’s Companion is now also available in paperback for only 5.38$. Since it’s a short, very condensed book and my aim was to make it as affordable as possible, I chose the lowest price setting allowed.

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From the back cover:

“Our job as wives and mothers is of tremendous importance and eternal impact, but it’s all too easy to get bogged down and discouraged by the mundane. The dinner got burned; the mountain of dirty clothes in the laundry basket is growing at an alarming rate; you have outstripped your grocery budget; your kids are squabbling; you lose it and yell and feel guilty. You go to bed with a nagging headache, wondering how you’ll get up and begin all over again tomorrow.

We’ve all been there. We’ve all done that – are still doing that. Opening a fresh page every day, doing our best and hoping it’s enough.

This book is a compact combination of inspirational articles, practical tips, and advice for making a small income go a long way. From encouragement to take heart in your job as a homemaker, to stockpiling, wise grocery shopping and keeping chickens, it’s based on the homemaking and simple living tips I have found most useful over the years.”

The work that is never done

I believe the thing about housework that makes many wives so stressed out over it, is the fact that it never ends. The same things must be done over and over again, such as:

* Dishes to be washed

* Laundry to be washed, hung up, sorted, folded and put away

* Ironing for items that need it

* Floors to be swept and mopped

* Dusting shelves and other surfaces

* Meal planning and shopping (better in this order than the other way around)

* Food to be cooked and meals to be served

* Garden upkeep, if you have a garden

* Taking care of your animals, if you have any

* Making up the beds and changing the bedding

And of course, in addition to these and other tasks which must be done daily or weekly, there are countless other missions, seasonal or annual, such as re-arranging the closets and pantry shelves, getting rid of clutter, major planting or harvesting done in the garden, etc.

If you’ve ever woken up to the thoughts of everything that must be done and felt overwhelmed, I’m with you. That’s the main difference between office work and housework: in your home, you can never be really “done”. You can’t even walk away from the things that aren’t undone, because your home is also your working space (and your living room table, perhaps, serves for dinnertime, school, sewing, ironing and your husband’s computer business).

So what can we do? We can fret over everything that hasn’t been accomplished yet and turn our life into a pressure cooker, or we can ease up a little, slow down, and do what must be done with a smile, not forgetting to seize the moment for small joys of life – a particularly fine morning on which we choose to head out to a picnic at the park, delicious meals served at a table which perhaps still has computer parts piled at its end, and evenings of relaxing in the garden while sharing ice-cold watermelon for a summer dessert.

And accept the fact that neither today, nor tomorrow, nor next year there will be a moment when we are “done” with housework.

Just to make sure we’re on the same page, I’m not saying all this as an elaborate excuse to do nothing. Orderliness and cleanliness are the cornerstones of a peaceful home, and I’m all for scheduling and planning, cooking and baking, cleaning and scrubbing and getting to all those nooks and crannies once in a while – only it isn’t really possible to have it all together in one day, and even if it is, some things might be more important. Better split a large project in several days than become impatient and brush your whole family aside.

There are of course also those things where your work can be simplified and/or reduced, especially during the busier periods of your life. For example, since Tehilla was born, I haven’t done much ironing. I also deliberately choose to buy clothes which do not require ironing. In your garden, you can choose plants which are easier to care for; meals can be a simple affair. Around here, during the week I usually serve simple one-course meals such as soup, crustless quiche or pasta, or bread and an array of cold salads on those days which are so hot that you can hardly bear to cook.