July 27, 2014

Put the Load on the List

      Anyone who knows me knows I'm fussy about my house. It's not about cleaning so much as about a wonderful place to be. I am a firm believer in the saying, "There's no place like home". When I leave for any length of time, no matter how much fun I have outside, the feeling I get when I walk into my own front door beats all. I have lived on the west coast, New England and several states along the east coast and driven across most of the country. No matter where it is, my home is the best. That is why I am fussy. Of course like most people I don't want to spend my entire life on maintenance and the sometimes mundane everyday things that come with keeping a house but there are days when it feels like that is what has become of my life.
      I'm busy, but organized. I have my home and my writing and I am still running my cleaning business, although I have been fortunate enough to cut back to two days a week, and I have great friends I see often. It is a balancing act and I am always looking for ways to enjoy more quality leisure time.
      In my last book, The Matter with Margaret, I took an adventure back in time to 1920. Margaret Hobart is overwhelmed and disillusioned about being a modern woman in the year 2000. She time  travels and sees the world from a perspective before the impact of liberation, a time my grandmother spoke of often. While researching the novel I took that trip not only in my imagination but I incorporated some of what I learned about those amazing ladies into running my own household. I now keep a gallon of white vinegar stuffed with lemon wedges in my cleaning closet. It's strong and smells great after the lemons have stewed for a couple of weeks. This concoction has made my wooden floors look like they were just refinished. I learned a lot of things about running a household from Margaret. The women of the twenties took great pride in raising their children and running their homes. They understood the wonderful balance of teamwork for successful entertaining and respect for one another's responsibilities at home. I have always said that I was born too late. I'd like to go back to the turn of the century but 1920 certainly seems to have its charms.
      One thing those ladies did religiously was keep schedules. They had days of the week for certain activities and many of the local businesses adhered to that. The bread man came one day of the week, the egg man another. They knew that on certain days the ladies shopped and on others they cleaned etc. If you were a vendor you wanted to work on the schedule that best meshed with the needs of your customers. On Sunday everyone stopped for other things.
      While writing Margaret, I too began a list. I listed all of my daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal chores. Ordinarily I clean on demand. When my family room downstairs begins to look dusty I find time to dust and vacuum down there. Of course with this method there are some problems. Houseplants for example get watered when they are too dry. If that were on a list, I reasoned, they would grow better with timed watering.
      In comes Pinterest. If you are not familiar with the site you are missing out. It is jam-packed with inspiration for art and fashion and decorating and organizing. In fact it's so fun you can spend all day on there doing none of those things but just looking at pictures of what you could accomplish if only you got offline. On Pinterest my daughter saw a list. Not just some scrolled down to-do thing. This was a gleaming, framed work of art with each task having room for a check mark. The glass on the picture frame is perfect for a white board sharpie allowing you to check off your tasks neatly. So, being the organizational divas of the modern world we each made one.
      They both had a nice responsible list of all the housework we could think of. This was mine, to match my kitchen, of course.

My darling daughter made one in green, her kitchen color.
She even expanded the idea and added tiny clothespins for more tasks. That's my girl!

Now, they weren't perfect. Mine had the lists out of order and hers says she needs to do laundry twice. I think that with two very young sons she probably does.
      The first day I used the list, because it was late in the month, I tried to get those checkmarks going. If I got all the monthly tasks done I would be a big winner when July ended. I got plenty of things done and I learned something too. Lists make me crazy. The pressure was staggering.
      Instead of feeling accomplished with watered houseplants and dusted family rooms, I never got to the woodwork at all, I was a nervous wreck. Then it dawned on me. Before the gleaming list I got the house cleaned just fine. I hardly ever ran out of towels in the bathroom and no one once came over and wrote their names in the dust on my coffee table. I was going about this completely wrong. So I took down the frame and trashed the lists. Instead I made up new lists. These lists are the things I wanted to do in the first place that I never seemed to find time for. This is what I was after all along. I feel so much better! 
      So now I can cross off one item. Ain't life grand?
   Here are the lists:
Knit/Spin/Make Lace/Weave
Putter in the Garden
Kiss Someone you Love
Take a dip in the pool
Take a Nap
Go for a Walk
Call a Friend
Love up the Cats
Listen to a New Song
Go Antiquing
Watch an Old Movie
Make Cards for Loved Ones
Primp Like a Teen-Ager
Thank you for visiting!

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