Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Household Journal #4 -- Getting Back into the Routine After a Break

Though I enjoyed my respite, it can be sort of fun getting back into the regular routine. Usually on Mondays I have to be gone for a good part of the day, but today my husband is running the errands so I got to stay home. I thought I'd write out a "getting back into the routine" routine.

(It's a bit disturbing, by the way, to find yourself using the word "routine" not only twice in the same sentence, but twice in a row, using the first one as an adjective modifying the second one. But I won't dig into that right now)

I started this on Monday but am posting it on Tuesday which is when I USUALLY have more time to get the house, so it's all good.

Here's what it looks like outside today, by the way!
It's pouring rain and gusting winds.

I took this picture on the way back from bringing Sean to the bus stop.
I feel like making donuts and having a fire, but we're all out of firewood --
it's supposed to be spring here!

One thing that helps me is doing a modified fast when I'm trying to jumpstart a return to habit. During Lent I tried for a peanut-butter-and-bread fast twice a week... that is, I had PBB for breakfast and lunch and a small normal dinner. Fruit in the afternoon for a snack. That's not really a severe fast, but it got rid of the loaf ends of the bread that usually no one eats. I liked it and made up my mind to keep fasting occasionally during the rest of the year, but I haven't done it since Easter! Too much chocolate and good stuff around!

Today I am not fasting, exactly, but I'm trying to stick to PBB and fruit (and coffee) until dinner. One of my routine-disruptors is eating too much and the corollary, trying to decide what to eat. It clutters up my mind and zaps my energy. So it works for me to stick to light plain food when I have a household project going.

Aidan likes to have breakfast first thing in the morning.

Secondly, I make time for devotions. I'm just mentioning it because it's a trap of mine -- to get "too busy" to sit down and pray. So I do that right after I see the boys off and start working on breakfast. I always have trouble making myself sit down but I'm always very grateful that I did. There is nothing so bitter as doing chores for virtue's sake and then realizing just how cold and unsatisfying virtue is when it's not informed by grace. It's taken nearly half a century for this to sink in. So I pray, and one of the side benefits is that as St Francis de Sales says, then you can take a "bouquet" of the flowers of your quiet time with you as you go about your day.

Third, I stay away from the computer even to check the mail until I've done a lot of work and really need a break. Otherwise my time gets zapped and I get demoralized feeling the pressure of staying on task.

Fourth, I've figured out a simple way to re-approach the household cleaning when I've been out of the habit for a while. I visualize a spiral. ... or if that sounds New Agey, I do the opposite of the grocery shopping advice to shop the outside aisles first. I start with the heart of the house; ie I get the great room (composed of living room, dining room and kitchen counter since those are all in an open central space) basically clean and tidy and nice. Those are the rooms that visitors first see when they walk in and they are also the areas that depress me the most when they look bad.

After I get the center of the house looking presentable, I work outwards. The other important spots are the bathrooms and the laundry room and the upstairs loft. If those are all looking OK I have time later in the week to do the perimeters -- the closets, the corners, the cupboards, the walls, the undersides of non-central furniture.

Kevin just put high-powered energy saving fluorescent bulbs in the kitchen track light system so it's nice to come back inside to the kitchen after I've dropped Sean off.

What does it take to get that center area clean?

First, it helps to have decluttered so that nothing much belongs out in the open in those rooms. I've moved most of our "stuff" away from the center so mostly it's just furniture, and a book box for my 7 year old who likes to read while he's eating. If anything much else is there, it doesn't belong, so I put it where it does belong.

Simple works better for me.... IF I can keep it that way.

I have dust-covers on all the furniture to protect it from boys and mountain dust and ash and of course dog hair, so I change all the covers and replace them with new ones.

  • Then I sweep and vacuum.
  • Then I mop.
  • Then I polish the surfaces.

Meanwhile, I am dumping all the dirty laundry from all over the house into the laundry room. I change bedding, etc. I grab everything that doesn't try to get away from me, basically.

Fifth, I make muffins. This serves several purposes: it keeps the boys happy when they awaken, it gives Aidan something to think about (he loves cooking), and it gives me a way to interact with my kitchen -- I wash and organize and put away whatever needs it while I am baking. Finally, it makes the house smell good and makes me feel domesticated. And muffins aren't a food trap for me so long as I'm not starving. I'm just fine with the peanut butter bread.

On this day I made lemon-yogurt muffins. I'll try to post a recipe and pictures some other day -- today went too fast.

Still lots of clutter in the background -- which is fine, we live here.

Lastly, I don't aim for perfection with my cleaning ... I already mentioned this but it's important, especially if you happened to see my house right after I did one of these cleaning. If you remember, I'm starting in the core and moving outward, and I'm returning to clean mode after a sabbatical, so I am not overly concerned with shining up windowsills and grubbing out corners at this point -- just getting it so it looks clean and tidy where your eyes fall. I find that if the big picture looks OK then the cleaning and maintenance takes on something of a momentum of its own.

No perfection here!

I may write a follow-up of this post -- journaling the "second day" of restoring the house. But this took a looong time, so I have to go make waffles -- another nice rainy-day comfort food : )

One more outdoors picture -- the boys want to go for a walk -- Nature Study up close!


  1. Wow! Snow still?? We usually have snow here in Minnesota this time of the year, but we don't (I knew those other groundhogs knew what they were talking about vs ol' Punxsutawney Phil!).

    God Bless

  2. Your home is amazing. I could go there and spend a week on vacation!


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