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Entries in housework (10)


Mom to Mom: The Perfection Fetish

The Williams-Sonoma catalog sends me into an irrational rage.

Who has a playroom like this? Not the author of this piece. Photo by eren {sea+prairie} on Flickr.That wasn’t always the case. I loved perusing the glossy pages laden with gorgeously set tables and photographs of food I could almost smell.

I would sit on a Sunday morning with a pile of catalogs, drinking coffee and earmarking pages featuring items I would never buy. Christmas was my favorite time, when each trip to the mailbox resulted in another armload of aspirations.

Now I can’t stand the sight of them.

This constant influx of perfection started to make me me feel … exhausted. It made me feel inadequate. It made the stains on my carpet and sofa stand out in stark relief.

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Mom to Mom: Being Gentle to Myself

Guest columnist Rachel Engelhardt wrote this post for her own blog a number of months ago, soon after the birth of her third child. Engelhardt owns “A Closet of Her Own” and is a member of our Mompreneur Directory. Even if you don’t have a newborn in your house, I think her column will give you lots to think about. - Tara

“I am gentle with myself” reads one of the affirmation cards that are posted on my refrigerator. I put that card up shortly after the birth of my third child, in November of 2010.

The author's baby daughter, caught in the reflection of a frame around an affirmation card.Caring for a 5-year-old boy, a 3-year-old girl and an infant fills my days (and nights). The minutes are filled with the caretaking. The laundry is piled high, the dishes piled higher. There are toys, games, markers, balls, dolls everywhere. There are meals to be made, diapers to be changed, and books to be read. Do this all today, and repeat again tomorrow. And most importantly, there are children who want to be present with me, right now, always now. These children live so easily in the ‘right now.’ They know that now is the best time for enjoyment. I try to learn from them.

Being gentle to oneself probably means different things to different people. To me, it mostly means acceptance. It means that I accept where I am right now in time. In fact, I not only accept it, but I embrace it. 

It means that the house is often messy, even though it’d sure be nice if it were clean. It means that sometimes macaroni and cheese is dinner, even though I’d prefer to cook homemade meals.  (To be honest, it means that sometimes a bowl of cereal is dinner!) It means that I’m unafraid to look in the mirror and I’m happy in this size of jeans, even thought it isn’t the same size that I used to wear. (Actually, I’m really happy if I’ve managed to make it out of my sweats and into a pair of jeans for the day!)

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A Go West Mom You Should Know: Suzanne Thibeault of the 500 Things Project

All of us who feel like we’re fighting a losing battle with clutter in our homes will find some inspiration from our latest “Go West Mom You Should Know.” She’s Suzanne Thibeault, and she lives in Naperville with her 18-year-old son Sam and her husband Paul Deffenbaugh.

Suzanne Thibeault. Photo provided.Thibeault has a blog called the "500 Things Project.” Each day she chooses to get rid of something and then explains its history, value, how she feels about parting from it and where it went. It sounds like a fun way to tackle clutter, right? But for Thibeault, there is a lot more behind the project than just having some clean shelves and extra closet space.

Thibeault, 49, is a writer and editor who volunteers extensively with Families Helping Families, a DuPage County charity that provides transitional housing and other resources for formerly homeless families.

Her husband is a writer and magazine editor with over 20 years experience in the housing industry. When both the journalism industry and the housing market nosedived  during  the Great Recession, Deffenbaugh lost his job. They were worried about losing their home. Meanwhile, they faced the prospect of sending their only son off to college. Suddenly, it was very clear how little their “stuff” really mattered.

Read on to find out why we think Suzanne Thibeault is a Go West Mom You Should Know.

Q. Can you describe for a reader who has not seen it yet your "500 Things Project"? The inspiration for it? And how it is organized each day?

A. My family has been in a vulnerable position over these last few difficult years. In 2009, my husband was laid off, and our son would soon be applying to college. We faced losing our house and launching our child. I decided to chronicle this time of crisis and opportunity by creating a blog about the downsizing, both expected and unexpected, we were confronting. I call it the “500 Things Project.” 500 was simply a calculation I made in March of 2010 for how much longer Sam would be living with us. Each day for 500 days, I choose something to get rid of, to downsize, and explain how it relates to what we are experiencing in our lives and what we have learned.

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The Housekeeping Diaries: Onwards and upwards!

Well, it’s finally time to provide an update on how my trial of a new “housekeeping system” went. The short answer? No so good.

Photo by iStock photo.For my very first system, I decided to try focusing on one room a day. Clean the living rom on Monday, my daughter’s bedroom on Tuesday, etc.

I can see how this approach could work for lots of families. It allows you to break cleaning into smaller, manageable chunks. If one week is particularly crazy and you don’t get to truly clean the dining room one week, you know you can attack it with vengeance the following week.

But I just never got comfortable with this approach, for several reasons.

  • My house is small. So if I’m going to pull out the vacuum cleaner, I’m going to vacuum the carpets in the living and dining rooms, and likely the floors in the kitchen and back room, too. Same for dusting. If I get out the dusting rags, I might as well do the entire first floor.
  • I’m not big on daily routines. Neither is my husband. This can be a good thing: Our schedules aren’t rigid, so we’re often up for last-minute fun and outings, and we can often help out a family member or friend in need quickly, too. But it’s bad when it comes to fitting in regular exercise, meal planning or making time for daily housework.

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Keeping Up Appearances -- Just Don't Go Upstairs!

I owe you all an update in my "Housekeeping Diaries." But here's something even better, a column that first appeared this winter on Amy Bordoni’s blog Don’t Stamp the Baby. 

Today my cousins who we rarely see or spend time with surprised us by coming to our church to hear Andrew "preach." As we stood chatting after the service I knew we should ask them over. I wanted to ask them over. I loved the thought of having them over. But inside I was cringing. Our house - as per usual when we're not expecting visitors - was a disaster. But I asked them anyway. And they came.

Photo by kjoyner on Flickr.I'm not sure what they really thought about the counters piled with mail and papers (seriously, piled), the dirty dishes in the sink, the floors that clearly needed washing. I'm pretty sure they noticed the bathroom sink that doesn't drain, the garbage cans that needed emptying, the fifteen pairs of boots and shoes piled by the back door. I pray they didn't go upstairs, open the refrigerator, peek behind the shower curtain or look under the couch cushions.

While they were here, I tried not to apologize too much. I was reminded of a gut-wrenching moment in the movie “What's Eating Gilbert Grape” when the mom, who has become so grossly overweight she can't get out of the house, says to her son's girlfriend, "I wasn't always like this."

Neither was I. In high school, I couldn't go to sleep if I knew that my dirty clothes had missed the laundry basket. I was a housekeeper at summer camp, five years in a row. When I was single, I washed my floors weekly, on my hands and knees.

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