Planner mania

It’s the season for planner mania — all the planners and organizers marketed for 2020 are being pushed everywhere, not least on YouTube. I found one from a gal who actually uses a lot of the accessories for planners (stickers, washi tape and so on) who did a video saying, basically, “you don’t NEED all the Things.”  Gotta love someone with the guts to say it, when everyone else seems to be saying, “Oh, you NEED the Things!”

Confession: for years I was one of those who bought the Things thinking they would somehow elevate me to being the sort of person I imagined the promoter to be: savvy, sophisticated, ducks in a row, etc. etc.  In a word: lovable.

NEWS FLASH:  they don’t work.

I don’t have the time, nor the inclination, nor the artistic bent to mess with all the Things. I want a planner that will allow me NOT to forget my schedule (when little Tommy’s make-up piano lesson was scheduled, this week?) and will give me an opportunity at the end of the day to say, “Ahhh, good, I did these things on my list. It’s been a good day.” or, sometimes, “Eh, need to tighten up on . . . “whatever got neglected or overlooked.

With that in mind — and because I do need beauty around me (topic for another blog post, soon) I have invested in a Franklin Covey BLOOMS, 2 pages per day, planner, which I will be using for recording me ToDOs, writing word counts, music lists. . . whatever.  I’ll be hybridizing it with a dot grid “bujo” style paper to keep track of various projects and misc. lists that have to be dealt with. I love the soft pink and green background on this planner so I will enjoy looking at it as I use it, and I’ll use it several times a day.

I have a basket of washi tape that I bought on impulse and may or may not ever use . . . and a couple of pens, mostly black, but also the ever-reliable Pilot Precise V-5 in assorted colors.  I had bought a few sets of color pens, including “brush” pens, in hopes of pushing myself into the Artsy realm. . . but that was a flop and I gave the pens to a teacher friend to use in her classroom.  She and her students will get far better use out of them than I would have done.  There really isn’t any point in spending money in other Things — because I’m not going to use them. I like keeping things streamlined with a fine-point black pen. <shrug>

The point is, a planner doesn’t have to be elaborately decorated in order to be useful. What do you need to record? Dietary and exercise achievements? Word count on a writing project or time/pages of editing and revision?  Appointments? Household routines and tasks? Music practice? Stickers might be a bribe to do more for some people, but I’m not one of those people. Just let me get on with the task and not waste time trying to figure out whether the sticker needs to be in the right-hand upper corner or  somewhere else.

I DO, however, practice using a nicer handwriting in my journal. I am teaching myself Spencerian script, and I’ve been using a French 5-line paper to practice. But that’s because I love pretty lettering and calligraphy, and I feel it reflects my sense of self-respect. When I’m hurried . . . my handwriting isn’t so nice.

Do what you need to do in order to accomplish your goals. You can always ADD embellishments as they reveal themselves to be relevant. Easier than diving in over your head and becoming discouraged because you didn’t do it “perfectly.”  The only PERFECT planner is one that helps you to be a better you. And it doesn’t have to cost buckets of cash.  So relax and just do it.

And God bless you!

Why all this talk about the home?

I’ve known it all my life, but only recently begun to practically achieve it:

A woman’s primary function is caring for her family, which care includes creating a loving home.

My father was largely absentee. He was a long-distance truck-driver and spent most of each week on the road, driving up and down the Eastern seaboard for a major textile company. When he was home, he was rarely home. He’d get in his pickup and come out to the homeplace to visit his sister and her family, visit with neighbors, go to town before bed and drink coffee with the locals and catch up on local news and gossip. My mother resented his absenteeism enormously and complained about it frequently —

But she gave him nothing to come home to. Our home was in a constant state of chaos. Dishes sat on the counter, dirty and unwashed, until the cabinet was empty and it was wash dishes or do without a meal. Laundry sat in piles — dirty on the floor by the washer and dryer, clean on the picnic table that served as the folding table where the ironing board was set up (and rarely used). I’m ashamed to say it but my dad’s room (he and Mother had separate rooms) stank. Mom didn’t change his sheets or make his bed or air the room or collect his dirty clothes — when I got to be old enough I tried to take care of him but it was more than I could manage. He didn’t complain much, he just put up with a lot that no man ought ever to have to put up with.

If my mother had put forth even minimal effort to signal to my dad, her husband, that he was important and respected and appreciated, he would have thought he’d died and gone to Heaven.  Instead, he went where his stories were enjoyed and his generosity toward others was appreciated. Never “another woman.” He was very old-fashioned and principled. But he occupied himself away from home as much as he could. Our house was not a home for him. Or for me: I couldn’t wait to escape.

Nowadays, we talk about our rights as women, and men sharing in the drudgery of keeping a house in order. I suppose it’s not unreasonable when both spouses have full-time jobs, but oh! what a cost!

The idea of women, especially mothers, working outside the home is another issue. But let’s think about this:

You know of the idea of love languages? That people have different ways of experiencing, demonstrating and receiving, love. Quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation,gifts, acts of service — one or maybe two of these convey love in ways the other methods don’t. My two big ones are physical touch (hand on the shoulder, one-armed hugs, hand-squeezes. . . ) and quality time. I have a friend who goes all mushy in the stomach and brain when a man gives her a nice gift. I like getting gifts, am downright childish about it, in fact; but I don’t miss it or feel any deficiency when I don’t. But I’ve never met a man for whom acts of service didn’t rank HIGH on his love language list. He goes out to work, to provide for his family, to fight dragons in the public square so his wife and children, his loved ones, can be safe.  “Of course I love you – I work to make a home for you, don’t I? To give you nice things –” etc.

But too many women don’t recognize acts of service as Love. They don’t realize that, when they demand their husbands help with the laundry and the dishwashing, they’re demeaning his acts of service already rendered. They’re nonverbally conveying that they don’t love him so very much. We think men just want sex? Men want respect and appreciation. They want to be loved in ways that they can interpret as Love.  Daddy sometimes complained, “I don’t bust my butt driving up and down the Eastern seaboard to live in a mess like this. Can’t you even see that I have clean clothes to wear to work?”

He showed his love for his family by working; he needed to be loved back in a similar way. She could have done it, too.

This is an idea that very decidedly goes against the grain, against modern feminism. Women have protested for generations that they are good for more than scrubbing toilets. Women have fought for generations for the right to use their God-given gifts and abilities alongside men. Women serve the world as doctors, lawyers, educators, business executives . . .  and I admit that I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing for society as a whole, and certainly not for the woman, herself. After all, I know from personal experience how frustrating it is to have no outlet for one’s gifts and abilities, to have them bottled up inside with no visible hope of an outlet.

But the fact is that we’ve paid a high price for our so-called equality. Children raised in commercial daycare don’t, can’t, have the same emotional and moral grounding achieved by children raised in the family. We have a generation of young adults who cannot function with any degree of maturity; they are demanding, whiny, quick to violence when they don’t get their way. This is behavior learned in commercial child care, where the undesirable behaviors get attention, and good ones are not rewarded as vigorously (attention is the sought-after reward).

We are seeing men emotionally emasculated by women’s demands and ascension to power. All this talk about “toxic masculinity” — what nonsense! Toxic feminism, yes! The demand for the “right” to self-fulfillment, even at the cost of the destruction of one’s own children is a curse upon our nation. Toxic loss of authentic masculinity, yes! as men, influenced by infusions of female hormones into the environment and even more by a deliberate suppression of masculine energy and drive, by this toxic feminist culture, become more and more insipid, uncertain, indecisive, and immature.

Society is collapsing, and at the root of this collapse is the loss of a strong sense of family and the home.

The only way to save ourselves is to restore a sense of proper order. Let women be willing to recognize that we are not inferior to men, only different in function. A woman’s innate instinct is to protect her children and to serve her Beloved; this is the very heart of Home. And we are the heart of home and family! Men, by nature, are dragon-slayers. Individual women might wield a sword well enough, but it takes a grave toll on us, emotionally and spiritually, when we have to wield it again and again and again. When we don’t have to, but choose to wield it, we can become warped. Distorted.

I teach piano, and several of my students are from military families. I’ve observed that the military wife serves the Nation as surely as her husband does; by providing a solid place of Home — of refuge and rest  — for her soldier husband, she helps make it possible for him to better do his job in the field. Usually, she’s not really aware of those wider-reaching influences she exerts, though; she’s just thinking about being sure things don’t fall apart while her husband is on deployment. But, when he returns, she usually helps him find a restored balance to daily life at home.

We are engaged in an even greater battle for souls. The Church is called the Church Militant because of this battle. I call it the Great Battle. And in the past few years it’s heated up to an alarming fierceness. Women need to raise their own children — and frankly, to be directly engaged in their education — in order to help protect them from diabolical influences. Yes, I advocate for home schooling. Best students I’ve ever had were home schooled — and the most mature, overall.

Our men also are engaged in these serious battles. Men have to deal with a lot of nonsense in the public square.  Having unpopular opinions can result in repercussions with a man’s career. They might enjoy the battle to some degree, but when they are done for the day, they want (and deserve) to be able to lay their sword down when they walk in the door of their own home. They ought not to have to be competing with their wives for dominance, or having to fight her for a sense of sanctuary in that home.  It’s not fun scrubbing toilets or folding laundry, but by golly! These are the chores that help to create an atmosphere of calm, peace, and order in a home.  They are tangible ways of saying “I love you,” to our families.





Making improvements: TOOLS

It’s no good just tossing stuff and simplifying if we don’t also use our imaginations to improve our — let’s call them our systems. Our systems are the way we do things and the tools we use to do them. Mine needed some serious overhaul.

My office baskets – I spend a lot of time in this room, but I don’t get a lot done. I realized that the clutter and disorder has been a major distraction and energy-suck. I had too much furniture in the room – desk, wheeled microwave cart repurposed to hold the printer, a wicker settee, two other chairs (including the desk chair), and two older file cabinets.  In addition, books were double-shelved, one row in front of another, for most of the shelves — and I’m pretty sure that if I live another 62 years I won’t read half of them.

I had a bookshelf that is a real clutter collector, and I wanted to rehome it. So I started there — pulled the writing books out and sorted which ones I find useful and which ones never have helped. The latter are on their way to a free share shelf at the local post office. Some of the domestic books are headed the same place, and the rest are now replaced in the main shelves.

When I purged my paperwork, during Hurricane Dorian (which skirted my area but left my joints stressed), I consolidated six drawers full down to three. Yeah, I had that much paper clutter. One of the three drawers was my journal collection. I’d like to purge those, but a friend is urging me to tell my story, and I am using them . . . not fun, but probably needful. That means five drawers became two.  I bought two sets of two woven baskets off Amazon and put all that stuff in baskets in my main shelf.  They look quite pretty.  When I buy the shelf I’ve decided to get for the printer, which will fit under my Ikea desk, it will have an extra shelf for my extra printer paper, so I will probably have more shelf space freed up. The journals fit into an Amazon box I’d been holding on to, and are now stored in the closet.

Vacuum cleaner. One of the tasks I badly procrastinate on, due to back and knee issues, is vacuuming. I have a really good, efficient Bissel vacuum cleaner,  but it’s heavy and I find it hard to stand to use for more than a couple of minutes. So I am trying out a plug-in “stick” vacuum from WalMart — I like it a lot and find it useful for light maintenance. Once I figure out the best way to clean the filter, I’ll probably use it more.

Mop. I also bought an O Cedar mop with a removable, washable cloth head. WOW!  Where has that thing been all my life!  There’s a spray bottle where you put the water and cleaner (I use cleaning strength vinegar) and spritz . . . and run the mop over . . . and I don’t know when my floor has been so clean. Not since it was installed, I’m sure.  I bought the mop plus two extra heads through Amazon, and used two heads the first time I mopped. Yeah, that’s how mucky my floor was. That’s why women used to mop on their hands and knees with real rags — to avoid swirling the dirt around and simply redistributing it. Which is what I’ve been doing for (ahem) years, evidently.

Dish drain. I wash my dishes by hand, and I’ve been using a large enamelware basin for washing, one sink for rinsing, and the other side of the sink to hold my standard dish drain. Living in a small trailer, I don’t have counter space to leave a drain with a mat. But I also don’t like having to take up the sink with the drain. — I came across an advertisement for an over-sink dish drain. I’d never heard of such a thing! But it’s a brilliant concept. I ordered one, it arrived yesterday, I put it together last night and inaugurated it today. It’s not perfect — the water dripping of the draining dishes is kind of an unpleasant addition to the work. But it’s a big improvement over what I had going, so I’m well pleased. Also available through Amazon.

Those four things — baskets, vacuum, mop, and dish drain — have made such an enormous improvement in my ability to stay on top of my homekeeping.  What tools do you need to re-figure or upgrade to make your work more efficient and pleasanter?


Success so far . . .

So far — I have dumped some 30+ bags of trash:

Paper trash – documents I can access online if I ever really need them again.
Owners manuals for appliances that died and left the house years ago. Incoherent scribblings that may or may not have been transferred to one of my many notebooks. Old gift bags and tissue paper I have not, in however-many years, pressed to look fresh and new, and probably never will.  I have some OLD tax papers that I’m going to burn now that cooler weather has arrived.

Plastic. I was raised by parents who grew up during the Great Depression. One is not supposed to throw anything away because it can come in handy at some point. Well, I threw away bags of plastic — custard cups, lunch meat containers. . . mismatched and incomplete sets of “nice” plastic bases without lids, lids without bases. . .

“Nice” stuff. Under the kitchen sink I had some glass jars that I probably could have washed, sterilized in boiling water, found new rubber rings for, and reused.  But I don’t think I would ever get past remembering that mice had climbed (and pooped) all over them. . .  and it’s not so easy to find replacement rings for german jars as ought to be . . . so into the trash they went. I hereby apologize for my prodigal squeamishness.

Broken stuff and the misc. bits to fix them. The small bedroom of my trailer had become my “junk” room. A couple of plastic coffee cans filled with misc. hardware bits and pieces are now gone — as are the broken bits of the drawer I haven’t fixed in x number of years and am not likely to do.

Old textile stuff. Some old pillows I’d thought of recycling or upcycling to some other project are now gone, as are some very old, torn clothes that — I had thought I’d hang on to them to wear when I need something grubby to put on, but let’s face it: one is always creating new worn grubby clothing. So out they went. I lost track of how many bags came out of this room.

Old food. My “pantry” shelves are also in the junk room, and I had a few cans of things that are not only past their expiration date, but they were rusting, so they went. Some other items had been infiltrated by mice (such neat round holes they make!) and those are now gone —

I mentioned sorting out several hundred books? Some went to a friend in Raleigh, who jumped on the chance to have some more Catholic books and some resources she can use with her homeschool setup. More are going to another friend who enjoys these particular novels. A few particularly academic theological works are going to a new friend who is working on a Master’s Degree in Theology. A few things like the old dish drain, duplicate and unused cookware, a craft gadget, a coffee pot, a couple of pictures I quit loving a few years ago . ..  in the car to be distributed as I go by the destination locations.

I still have a couple of pockets of disorder to sort out, and my big closet needs to be tackled, too. But I feel I’m in control — and will be even more when a friend comes this weekend with his pickup to haul some of the big things away for me. I’m so grateful for the improvement.

I have to admit – I hate my trailer; it’s never been what I wanted, but it is what I could get after going through the divorce. But I remind myself that there are people even in this wealthy, over-privileged, resort county who would consider themselves rich as Croesus to live here, and I thank God for what I have.

And, with the clutter out of the way and access to run the vacuum and to mop and generally keep things clean(er) and tidy/tidier, I find that I love my home.

Getting control of the house thing

It’s a gray, rainy day. The sort of day when one wants to curl up on the sofa, wrapped in a soft, plush throw, cup of coffee close by and a deliciously fine novel in one’s hands. Jane Austen, anyone?

It’s a bit more than three months ago that I started this amazing decluttering, take-control journey. More than 30 bags of trash, several hundred books (and more than that remaining on my shelves) – big stuff tucked in a spare room until a friend can help me haul them off in his pickup.  The difference in  my home is absolutely amazing. . . and I’m still “in process.” But I have to tell you, I’m loving this.

I never thought of myself as a domestic woman, or for that matter even a feminine one. My poor mother was a very sick woman — frequent debilitating migraines* and some other health issues that left her more often than not simply incapable of coping with life, much less a strong-willed little girl with more energy than she knew what to do with (what happened to that energy, now that I need it???)  Mom “managed” me by using mental beratement instead of actually teaching me things I needed to know:  “If you had any common sense. .  .” put the blame on me for not knowing how to sew, or cook, or . . . when the truth was that the poor woman simply had no energy or mental resources for dealing with me, for teaching me. No — Nor for doing any of these basic things, herself.

I remember the dishes being washed only when the clean ones were all used up — and we had a lot of dishes because Mom collected them from whichever store was giving them away as a bonus for shopping there. The living room was marked by a narrow pathway from the door to the television to the sofa and Mom’s recliner. . .  the rest filled with old newspapers, books, Hardees coffee cups and holders, overflowing ashtrays. . .

Children need to see home being cared for, as their first step to learning. I didn’t have that. They need to be allowed to work side by side with Mother in keeping home dusted and tidy. I didn’t have that, either. “You’re getting on my nerves . . . giving me a headache . . . ”  — and Mother’s headaches were the stuff of my childhood miseries, as she lay in a perfectly darkened bedroom, emerging only to go to the bathroom to vomit. . .  leaving me to eat far too many “meals” of peanut butter straight from the jar with a spoon.  The house had to be kept q-u-I-e-t. . .  I could be sitting with my nose inches from the television, the volume barely audible, and she’d beg me not to have it so loud . . . from the other end of the house. So the threat of a headache was enough to cow me into submission and to quell my enthusiasms.

But I grew up believing that I had no sense, that I was incapable of doing ordinary things. I don’t blame Mother for being so sick — that was out of her control. But for years I hated her for making it my fault, and for controlling my behavior with insults. Now I just feel sorry for her. And as a mature woman I can teach myself and prove her wrong, most of all to myself.  Thank God for YouTube! Right?

So the sense that It’s Time! and just a general eagerness to have a different sort of life than I’ve had, before, converge and . . . more than 30 bags of trash, gone, several hundred books, big stuff ready to go when the friend and his truck can come.

I was looking forward to doing several things around the house, this morning – more taking charge, establishing routines, etc. — but this cold weather system (we’re supposed to drop to the low 20s tonight, which is typical for January, not November!) is coming through with all this rain and my joints are locked up.  I’ll do a bit of gentle stretch exercises in a few minutes, but if the bathroom doesn’t get wiped down today, I’ll try it tomorrow.

The big thing today — well, there are two:  this afternoon I plan to take some of the smaller, nice stuff that I’ve decluttered to a local thrift/consignment shop. This is another task I can postpone if the joints don’t recover as the rain clears out, by mid-afternoon.  But I’m looking forward to clearing out the back of my car! —

The other is that I have been carefully, frugally been adding some organizational and cleaning helps over the past couple months.  I have ordered an over-sink dish drain from Amazon, and it’s scheduled to be delivered today. That will be a huge help (I hope!) at least by freeing up my sink from the current dish drain. I live in a single-wide trailer and counter space is at a premium; I’ve been using a big dish pan set on the counter to wash, one sink to rinse, and the other to hold the strainer. Now I can use my sinks to their stated purpose and have my countertop freed.  I think it will be wonderful.

I also have undertaken a small sewing project — small in terms of complexity, that is. I bought a set of curtains for the living room from Amazon, more than a year ago, and I really like them . . .except they are very light and — well, it’s getting COLD and I need a  bit of insulation. So I am taking those curtains and inserting drapery lining, which I bought at the local Hobby Lobby. I did the first one yesterday — well, made a good start on it. I pressed the curtain, lined up the liner, pinned, cut, turned under and hand-pressed a seam allowance, and hand-stitched the two pieces together.  Top stitch only. I put the one curtain over the window, last night, and it’s hanging well — I appear to have lined things up well! — so today I will topstitch another as a quick remedy for drafty windows over the next couple of days. . . . then I’ll take the other pair and fully stitch them in, and, piece by piece, get the project done.  I had YouTube videos going in the background to keep me company (when I’m doing house stuff I like the company of another human voice; writing, like this, I listen to music), and the time passed very pleasantly.

Off to do a bit more stuff. It’s still raining, but the sky is lighter.  I think more heavy rain is on the way, though, so I mustn’t get too excited.  Still, the rain is beautiful, isn’t it?

God bless you all.