Oct 24, 2014

Prepping for company

Yesterday on FaceBook, someone asked the question: "Do you like having friends stop by unannounced?" Ninety percent of the responders didn't just say, "No" - they went on to state how stressful having company is, and how they truly disliked having company of any kind.

I think it's safe to say those 90% negative responders have a disorganized house and would be embarrassed to have anyone see it. I remember those days.

I once had a family friend, an older lady, write to me weeks in advance to tell me she would be driving through our area and would love to stop in, visit, and spend the night. I had weeks to prepare my guest room and house for company, so of course, I agreed.

And then I forgot she was coming... Didn't write it on my calender, didn't plan a meal, didn't make sure she had a calm, loving home to visit, or a warm, comfortable place to sleep...

On the day she was due to arrive, she phoned to say she was an hour away. Huh? You're what? But but but...

Talk about stressful. Talk about a family scramble. Talk about me screaming at my husband and kids to start picking up, start cleaning, DO SOMETHING! If I remember correctly, I instructed everyone to grab "stuff" (clutter) and throw it (literally) into the guest room/office. Yes, I'd even forgotten she wanted to spend the night.

A stressed out family can get a lot done in an hour, so the downstairs was "presentable" (which, at the time, meant you could sit down on the furniture and actually see the kitchen counters and table), but the family was stressed out, angry, tearful and embarrassed. Stressed out people do not make good hosts, believe me.

It wasn't until she arrived that I realized that she intended to spend the night. There was no way to even attempt to get all the junk (clutter) piled to near ceiling height, out of the guest room and give her a clean, comfortable place to sleep.

So I had to say no.

I've never forgotten how bad I felt, how embarrassed I was, and how mortified I was at my lack of housekeeping skills. I felt bad for my husband and kids, I felt bad for our friend that had driven for 6 hours and was tired, I felt like I was just the worst person ever...

 Fast forward twenty-five years...

Last week we had wonderful friends come stay with us for two nights. Well in advance, the dates were written on my calender. All I needed to do in the guest room was put on clean sheets and take out two empty laundry baskets that I store in there. I didn't have to dust or vac, because that's done on a weekly basis. I planned meals ahead of time, but didn't even have to go grocery shopping because everything I needed for the meals was canned or in the freezer. I wasn't stressed out about their visit and enjoyed their time here more than I can tell you. And I believe they were comfortable here and felt welcome.

In a few days, my son and his family arrive for a quick visit. And here I am again - all I need to do is put clean sheets on the bed. I planned out meals and some activities to do with the grandchildren a few days ago. I can't wait to see them. I can't wait to have all my family here under my roof. I don't have to spend the next few days cleaning or cooking or decluttering. I will just open my door to them and enjoy their company.

"Home" is a place where all friends and family should feel comfortable and welcome. Twenty-five years ago I had a dirty, cluttered, disorganized house (and life) where even my own family didn't feel comfortable or welcome. Now, I am proud of my home and work steadily to maintain it so anyone can stop in any time without me being mortified and embarassed.

Until you get there, it's hard to understand how much easier and less stressful life is if your home is always organized, clean, inviting and comfortable. It takes a lot of hard work to get it to that point, but once you do - life just gets easier!

Life is good. Stop in and have a cup o' coffee anytime!

Oct 23, 2014

Topsy Turvy Week, Schedule-wise

Today is Thursday and supposed to be a light cleaning day (a simple dust, vac, clean bathrooms), but of course, life happens, and it's now errand day.

Errands included:
Car to mechanic's for oil change
Sam's Club

It's a beautiful day outside, so I certainly didn't mind running errands! I'd much rather spend these beautiful Fall days outside as much as I can. However, some days you just have things to do inside that can't wait.

Here is my To Do List for today:
mmmm... can you smell them?

Put Dishes Away
Windex appliances
Wash/Dry area rugs
Slice and dehydrate last 5 lbs of lemons
Call Doctor for prescription change
Wash Kitchen, laundry room and hallway floors
Put the flag out
Collect all trash, upstairs and down (Jeff)
Go through fridge and check for food that needs to be thrown out
Wipe up any spills in fridge
Good all over general pick up
Move canning jars to new laundry room cabinet
Jeff is also in charge of cooking dinner tonight. Yay!

I have three totes of boys' clothing that my daughter cleaned out of her house. I need to sort by size, take photos, and sell on a local "yard sale" group on FaceBook. My daughter could use the money but doesn't have time to do it, so I volunteered. (Added later: I got all the clothes sorted by size, three photos taken and the pictures posted to the Facebook group. Lots more to go, but I hope to finish tomorrow.)

I will be picking Grandson Riley up today at 5:00 at daycare. He's going to spend a few hours with us, including dinner. I need to pick some carrots from the garden and cook them up for his dinner.

As I write this, everything but sorting the kids clothes and picking and cooking carrots is done. I may just pick Riley up early and get outside for a walk today!

Until then, though, I just pulled up an old season of Survivor on the TV (Roku) and I'll sit here and sort clothes for awhile.

I will say that the smell of dehydrating lemons beats any air freshener you can buy in the store. My house smells so good right now!

Oct 20, 2014

Canning Day not Cleaning Day

Monday is supposed to be the "big" cleaning day around here, but I had some canning I needed to do, so Cleaning Day this week will be Thursday. This works well  because we have company arriving on Sunday and the house will stay nice and clean for just those few days between Thursday and Sunday. How's that for logic? LOL  Jeff did go ahead and do the "big cleaning" upstairs today because we had company last week and the guest room needed clean sheets and to be vac'd, the guest bathroom needed scrubbing. So that's all done and he'll just have to do a light re-cleaning on Thursday.

Got up this morning before the alarm went off at 7:30. Love that. Hate alarms. (They alarm me!) Had lots of energy and got up, dressed and got going right away. Of course, I do my Daily Chores first. I had dishes to put away and a couple of tea cups from last night to put in the dishwasher. I wiped down the counters and stove top, cleaned the sink and threw a load of kitchen linens (cloth napkins, kitchen utility towels, table cloth, dish cloths) into the washing machine and got it going. Then I swept the kitchen floor, straightened up the family room and was done.

I have a thing about canning and sanitation. A bit of a fanatic that everything is extra clean before I start food prep for canning. So I wiped down all the counters, my work table, and the sink with a bit of household bleach. You can't be too careful.

I store all my jars in the basement, so went down and got three boxes of jars - 1 of quart size and 2 of pints. UNfortunately, I should have done that last night because they were new jars and needed to be washed in the dishwasher. While I was waiting for jars I got the pressure canner out, all my utensils ready, pulled the appropriate jar lids and rings, got last night's soup heated up, got the two roasts cut into 1.5 to 2 inch chunks and popped half in a dutch oven and put it in the oven (for shredded beef), and put the other half in a pan of seasoned water (for plain beef chunks).

I spent the day canning. I was disappointed that I'd figured quantities wrong, and my final tally was only 8 quarts of Beef Vegetable Soup, 6 quarts and 6 pints of beef chunks in broth, 3 pints of shredded beef in BBQ sauce, 4 pints of  Mexican-seasoned shredded beef (for tacos and burritos), and 4 pints of broth. I still can't figure out where I went wrong in my calculations, so I'll have to figure that out for the future. From my 20 lbs of beef purchased at $2 a pound, we will get 34 meals (pint jars of shredded beef are good for two meals for us) plus the beef broth, plus the soup we ate last night, plus a container of soup in the fridge for tomorrow night. 36+ meals. Good, but not great.

The one thing about canning is you spend a  lot of time waiting. Waiting for jars to wash, waiting for the canner to come to boil, waiting 10 minutes while the canner vents, and then meat products, depending on the size of the jar, take 75 to 90 minutes in the canner and you have to be attentive to the canner during that time. Then you have to wait 15-30 minutes for the pressure to come down, 10 minutes for the jars to cool in the canner before taking them out... and then repeat it all over again for the next batch.

Today while I was waiting, I finished the load of laundry (wash, dry, fold, put away!), wrote a blog post, cruised FaceBook several times, printed out some medical forms I need, caught up on my Amazon reviews, read some of a book I need to review, re-organized the contents of the refrigerator (am I the only person that likes the contents of the fridge to be organized?! No one else seems to get my "like with like" theory when it comes to the refrigerator!), and played a game on my Kindle. Oh, and watched a taped episode of Project Runway while putting my feet up and having a cup of coffee this afternoon.

The canner is still huffing and puffing as I write this, but it's the last batch and will be done shortly. I've got all the canning stuff washed and put away, jars not used put back in the basement, counters wiped down (again with bleach - it was meat!) and the kitchen straightened up -- just in time to cook an easy dinner (scrambled eggs, bacon and toast for Jeff - leftover soup for me).

Getting things DONE

In the past, I was the world's worst procrastinator. Why do it today when it will be there to do tomorrow? No more. I thought I'd share how I push through and just "get 'er done", after seeing Sarah post on FaceBook today: "My biggest obstacle...getting off this stupid computer so I can get stuff done!"  Been there. 

First, we have a weekly schedule that let's me see how much free time I actually have (a lot!). When creating a schedule, it's always important to give yourself time to do the things you really want to do - computer time, sewing time, playing with the grandchildren time, etc. Here's what our schedule looks like:

Monday: Big Cleaning Day (4-6 hours)
-- Jeff: Clean upstairs (dust, vac, clean bathroom, empty all trash, change sheets)

-- Me: Clean downstairs (dust, vac, mop floors, clean bathroom, empty all trash)

Tuesday: Daily chores, grocery shopping or errands if needed, then Free Day

Wednesday: Baking, canning, laundry, daily chores
-- Jeff: Plan and cook dinner

Thursday: Good general pickup and light cleaning (1-2 hours) then Free Day
-- Jeff: Upstairs
-- Me: Downstairs, vac kitchen and family room, clean guest bathroom
The afternoon is designated to get out of the house - walk, park, movie, whatever we feel like.

Friday: Daily chores, free day

Saturday: Laundry, outside work, garden, clean and vac out car

Sunday: Out to do something fun, family day or Free Day.

With the exception of the Daily Chores - which MUST be done every day (no excuses!), our days are flexible. We can swap a Monday for a Tuesday if the weather is nicer on Monday and we want to go out. We can swap Saturday for Sunday if grandkids want to come over. It's flexible BUT it all needs to get done. 

If you are organizing and decluttering (which, believe me, I had to do once my kids were out of the house), you can schedule in a half a day a few days a week for doing that chore. And understand, once you get through it all, it will STAY done if you stick to your schedule!

Daily Chores List:
Dishes out of dishwasher, dirty dishes in

Wipe down stove top, counters
Sweep kitchen floor
Trash out
Clean kitchen sink
Wipe down bathrooms, check supplies and towels
Good general pick up - put things away if needed
Vac kitchen area rug if needed
-- Jeff: Make bed, straighten his bathroom

So use schedules and lists, but understand if you don't schedule in time to do the things you want to do (vs the things you need to do to maintain a clean and organized home), you'll burn yourself out in no time. Set short term goals for big projects -- instead of "I need to clean and organize my entire house!" try "Today I will clean out two junk drawers and find 20 items to donate." Think in small chunks, rather than huge, overwhelming projects.

It's so important to think in small steps and not get overwhelmed with the larger task at hand. If you get overwhelmed, you will put it off. If you put it off, it will NEVER get done.

Don't let this be you!