I’m very disorganized, and I know exactly why

disorganized paper

…what my paper problem feels like

I love all things Organize. Anything at all relating to organizing. Books, blogs, articles, products… I love ’em. I have so many books, bookmarked blogs, Pocketed articles, and yes, products, that they’ve become clutter, and now contribute to my chronic disorganization.

Just last night, I was trying to find the invitations I’d purchased for my daughter’s birthday party, and I knew right where I’d put them (to keep them safe, of course), but they weren’t there. I knew I’d placed them in the spot where I was looking, but when they didn’t turn up there, I didn’t trust myself enough to believe that I would have left them there. That trust would have prompted me to check in the immediate vicinity, and without it, I began a whole house search for the invites. My clever husband checked behind a nearby play kitchen, and found them wedged between the cabinet and the back of the play kitchen. Whew!

I believe that part of my problem with being disorganized at home (because I’m incredibly organized at work) is that I have never paid much attention to how I or my family actually function in our home. I’ve read enough organizing advice to know that every organizing system will fail if it doesn’t match up well with how a family actually lives.

Monitoring how we live and discerning why the clutter piles up has always seemed like so much work that I have never devoted any time to it at all. I just make assumptions about stuff, and institute a new organizing solution. When that solution fails, I get frustrated, but move right along to the next one. And the next one. And the one after that. I can’t tell you how many mail sorting solutions I’ve instituted, and abandoned. The one we have now isn’t working, either. But it was expensive, and it looks nice, so I’m keeping it for a while longer. Not sure why, but I am. So there.

Knowing that the real solution to our clutter and organization problems lies in studying US, not our STUFF, I need to bite the bullet and just start really paying attention to how we actually handle ourselves and our stuff when we walk in the door. Oh, and I should probably place a moratorium on buying any new organizing products during this time frame, too.

Are you satisfied with your level of organization? Have you always been organized, or did you teach yourself how to be organized?

Moving from escapism to being present

I rely greatly on escapism. I believe that the pursuit of ways to change myself (the blog itself) is a form of escapism. I have never really learned how to be alone with myself. I listen to the radio in the car, watch TV at home, read books, magazines, websites, blogs, and surf social media sites in order to escape being alone with myself.
Hagiwara Japanese Tea Garden in San FranciscoOne of the reasons I started this blog was to force myself to look a little deeper at this need to escape “me”. To discover the reasons behind the driving need to change, improve, press forward, but never looking inward. What is it that I dislike so much about myself that I don’t ever want to be completely alone with my thoughts? It’s still early in my journey of discovery, but I’m already practicing being more present with myself.

I was happy to have the opportunity to conduct the savoring experiment. It was exciting because I thought the exercise could teach me how to ignore the desire to escape the moment, and to be fully present for a variety of activities. And it did! For a month now, I have been actively looking for ways to focus on me, on an experience, a moment, a feeling…  And it has become much easier to get into that mode, as I have practiced savoring daily. The full summary of the experiment (coming on Saturday, March 2) will have more details about what I discovered, and how I might incorporate these findings into my daily life moving forward.

I’m no closer to figuring out why I have tried so hard to avoid being “me”, but I believe I’m much closer to being comfortable being alone with myself, as I am today. If you haven’t yet tried savoring, I highly recommend it. It’s habit-forming in a really good way!

Craving more of the benefits I’ve experienced through the savoring experiment, I went looking for more information on being present. In no time at all, I found a post on Zen Habits from 2008 that was just the thing. Check it out – it’s a great article.

Have you tried savoring yet? What about being present? Do you find yourself seeking out escapism?

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Preparing for a beast of a race

Photo credit: phoenixblue0

I signed up last fall for the Spartan Sprint in NY in June. At the time, it seemed so far away (I had approximately 6 months to train for it). Since then, the weather turned cold, I got the flu, and my incredible cross training routine fell to shit.

Now, the race is in three months, I am less fit than I was when I signed up, and the prospect of RUNNING UP A SKI HILL suddenly has me crapping my pants with fear.

And that doesn’t even touch the obstacles – jumping over fire?! Climbing shit? Army crawling through mud? BURPEES????

I honestly don’t know what the hell I was thinking. But, I’m committed – not only have I purchased my spot in the race, and joined a team, but I bought tickets and pre-paid for a hotel room. So I’m GOING to the race. I’m going to BE IN the race.

The only question is: Will I survive it?

Yes.

I have to train for it. I have to run up and down stairs, and then big, big hills. I have to buy trail shoes, and break them in on actual trails. I have to lift weights, and do burpees, and run some more.

I have to do all of this very, very soon. I need to start as soon as possible, or I will not only be letting myself down, but my teammates, too.

Hey, if you’re up for it, let me know if you want to help me train! I’m in desperate need of some local accountability and training partners.

Recipe: Krys’ epic mac-n-cheese

This recipe is based upon a legendary batch of gourmet mac and cheese made by the head chef at the Washington State Convention Center back in 2009. It was so good, we begged for the recipe. The wily chef left out his secret ingredient, so I’ve customized the recipe a bit, and think I’ve hit upon just the right combination of flavors.

The quality of the cheese makes all the difference, so use the highest quality you can afford. I buy Tillamook vintage extra, extra sharp white cheddar from Costco, and use a nice parmesan/romano blend, though I’ve used plain ol’ Kraft parmesan before with good results.

This recipe can serve as the base for some cool variations, too. Lobster mac, buffalo chicken mac (topped with blue cheese!), spinach mac… The possibilities are endless!

Ingredients

Gourmet Mac N Cheese

  • 1 pound of elbow macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Topping:

  • 1/4 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Boil macaroni according to directions on packaging. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt butter, then mix in flour, whisking until smooth. Add heavy whipping cream, and whisk until smooth. Add 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese and 2/3 pound of cheddar cheese, stirring until cheese is fully melted. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  4. Remove the sauce from heat, and pour over macaroni. Stir the macaroni and the cheese sauce until all noodles are well covered.
  5. Pour mixture into a greased baking dish (I use a 2-quart round glass pyrex baking dish), and top with cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, and then panko bread crumbs.
  6. Bake uncovered until the top browns, approximately 15-20 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutritional Information

  • calories: 873
  • total fat: 55
  • carbohydrates: 66
  • protein: 28

Finding Zen Experiment: Savoring

Update: Week 3

I observed myself living more in the moment on a day to day basis, wondering less about what else I should be doing at any given minute, and instead focusing more on what I was actually doing. This was good for me, but not as good for the experiment, as I didn’t feel as much of a need to savor a specific thing each day – I was truly savoring everything more than I ever have before.

Saturday, February 16

My little girl missed her mama this week while I was in San Diego, and she did not want to let go of my hand as she slept for her nap. She was in her own bed, and didn’t fuss about napping, but she refused to let go of my hand. Even after she passed out completely, she had a firm grip on me. Initially, I tried to extract myself, but then I realized that this was a prime example of something I should simply accept, and enjoy. My daughter needed me, and I needed to slow down. I sat on the floor next to her little bed, and held her hand, stroked her hair, and thanked God for the sweet, perfect little girl I have been blessed with.

Sunday, February 17

On Sunday, I took my daughter on our big monthly grocery shopping trip, and we hit up four stores which took us three and a half hours. I wouldn’t say that I savored this trip, precisely, so much as I marveled at how incredibly well behaved Emma was the whole time we were out. She entertained herself, she obeyed my instructions, and she was simply amazing all day long. It was one of the most delightful shopping excursions we’ve ever been on, and I wonder if it had anything to do with the fact that I was fully present in the moment throughout the trip, responding to her questions, talking with her about what we were doing, engaging her as we walked around each store. I’ve done these kinds of things on other trips, but my mind has typically been on other things as we shopped. This time, I didn’t worry about anything else – I just took my daughter shopping for groceries, and it was actually fun!

Monday, February 18

A couple friends of mine and I were off work on Monday, and we decided to take our kids to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago for the day. One of the moms and I carpooled, which gave us a wonderful opportunity to talk, while our daughters chatted away in the back seat. We talked about all kinds of stuff, from ourselves, to our husbands, to our homes, and cars… We talked a little bit about the kids, but not as much as one would expect. I focused on my friend, and really truly enjoyed getting to know her better.

Tuesday, February 19

My husband and I were both feeling under the weather, so I made chicken tortilla soup for dinner. It takes a long time to make, so I let Emma watch a movie while I cooked. The methodical rhythm of cutting up all the vegetables and chicken that go into the soup was therapeutic, and a few minutes into it, I realized that I was savoring the experience without consciously deciding to do so. Time seemed to slow down as I moved from one step to the next, stirring, measuring, tasting, seasoning… The soup was delicious, and I took great pleasure in making it.

Wednesday, February 20

Godiva makes some incredible chocolate, and I hadn’t savored any since the beginning of this experiment, so that’s precisely what I did! Bite by delicious bite, I closed my eyes, held the chocolate on my tongue, and just let the flavors and texture transport me to a place I like to call Bliss.

Thursday, February 21

I’d been fighting a cold all week, and my productivity at work has suffered. On Thursday, I dove into work in order to get a few really urgent things accomplished, and it was interesting how easy it was to do them, once I chose to make them my “savoring” for the day. Savoring work is different than savoring chocolate, in that it’s not inherently pleasurable. However, the “savoring” manifests itself in the blocking out of the rest of the world; the exclusive focus on the task at hand. It wasn’t precisely “fun”, but I did actually end up enjoying myself, without meaning to do so.

Friday, February 22

Oh, spicy, creamy, sweet creation known as the Chipotle Steak Burrito, why has it been so long since I last ate you? I savored the hell outta that burrito!

What did you savor this week?

Simplified workday scheduling

One can find inspiration in the unlikeliest of places… Today’s nugget comes to us from a blog post on Alice.com (yes, the online home essentials store – neat, right?). They have a very brief post from last May that describes how to plan your day in just four steps.

The original post appears to focus on planning a day for someone who works from home, but I think that it could easily be applied to office work, too. What appeals to me about this method is that you’re really only focusing on getting up to four things done on any given day. The hardest part may actually be choosing only four things to focus on!

Here’s my interpretation of their four steps.

  1. Pick three “must do” things for the day. These are the three things you can’t leave the office without accomplishing.
  2. Add another priority task. This is something that is important but not urgent, and likely is something you’ve been wanting to get to for some time. It should be something in addition to your three “must do” items.
  3. Routine tasks. This includes checking email, voice mail, filing paperwork and things like that. These tasks will fill in the blanks in your day.
  4. Leave yourself open time. Give yourself plenty of buffer time to accommodate those urgent things that always seem to pop up.

Pulling it all together is the trick, though, isn’t it? How do you decide when to schedule all of these things? My suggestion is to schedule your top three for as early in the day as possible, with breaks in between, and leave the priority task for later in the day, with your routine tasks falling around the time of day when you always seem to fall into a slump. The routine tasks generally don’t require a lot of brain power, which is ideal for that lower energy time of day.

If you’re like me, and you don’t really know when your low energy time of day is, you might try tackling your routine tasks during breaks between your top three and your priority task for the day.

Do you think this would help you? Have you done something similar? Did it work?

My revised laundry plan

Source: moderncountry.blogspot.comI have already established that I will not be winning any awards for having the tidiest house, despite having the most incredibly detailed weekly cleaning schedule on the planet. I also mentioned that I am trying to reframe my view on doing the dishes, so that I’m more apt to actually do them.

I made some good progress this past week on keeping up with the dishes. I wasn’t perfect about it, but I did get the dishes cleaned up more often than I didn’t, so I’m doing better than I had been. The past two days, I’ve even emptied the clean dishes from the dishwasher before leaving for work, so that my sweet husband can load the dishwasher throughout the day. And, if he doesn’t get around to doing that, I can load the dishwasher with their dirty dishes when I get home tonight.

So, now that I’ve made my peace with dishes and feeling good about that, I want to try to use that momentum to try to get back on track with laundry. For the past few months, my husband has been doing most of the laundry. However, his version of laundry and my version of laundry (when I bother to do it), are different. I like to take things out of the dryer immediately, and hang or fold them, so that I don’t have to iron anything. He doesn’t mind ironing, so he tends to leave laundry in the dryer for a couple days, and pulls that stuff out when it’s time to do the next load.

I can hardly complain since he’s doing my laundry for me, but I still get frustrated at having wrinkly, clean clothes. But, hey – rather than be grumpy about having to iron, I could take 10 minutes out of every couple days to do a load of laundry, right?

Let me explain how I get off track with laundry in the first place.

I have been working from a schedule where I do a load of laundry every day. Whites on Monday, lights on Tuesday, darks Wednesday, kid clothes Thursday, bath towels Friday, a rotating batch on Saturday (kitchen towels, dog mats, or bath mats), and bed linens on Sunday. The problem with this schedule is that once I do one week’s worth, the following week, I don’t have enough for a full load for the first four days, and then I’m immediately thrown off my routine.

I know I should simply be grateful that I don’t have to do a load of laundry every day for eternity, but if I don’t do the exact same thing when I get home every day, then I start getting into a different routine (sit on couch, play with kid, make dinner, go to bed).

So, I started to think – what if doing the laundry didn’t mean doing a load every single day, and I still followed my basic routine, but I did a load every other day, and the routine just took a bit longer to work through? I could still have a laundry chore every day – on day one I run the wash and dry cycles, and fold and hang the clothes, and on day two, I put the clothes away. Then I start the following day with the next load, and two days later with the next load… I’m still making my way into the laundry room every single day, which is the habit that I need to develop, but I’m not running out of clothes to wash, because my routine takes two weeks instead of one week.

Here’s my new two-week-long routine:

  • Monday/Tuesday – Whites
  • Wednesday/Thursday – Lights
  • Friday/Saturday – Darks
  • Sunday/Monday – Kid Clothes
  • Tuesday/Wednesday – Bath Towels
  • Thursday/Friday – Bed Linens
  • Saturday/Sunday – One of the following: Kitchen Towels, Dog Mats, or Bath Mats*

*I thought about doing two loads of my rotating batch items each cycle, but the reality is that for the past few months, I haven’t been washing these items at all, so washing one of them every 2 weeks seems like a huge improvement.

I’ve created a little printout of this routine and will post it above the washer/dryer, so that my husband and I both know what day is what, in case he has time on his hands and wants to help out with the laundry now and then.

Laundry routine

There are a bunch of clean clothes in the laundry room that need to be put away (thank you for doing laundry, my love!!!), so I’ll work on doing that tonight, before starting my routine mid-cycle with Darks tomorrow.

How do you keep up with laundry? Do you have a routine that you stick to? Or do you do laundry once a week only?