Friday, August 30, 2013

Winter Skeleton Wardrobe

Ooops, it's nearly Spring, and I have a day or so to post my winter skeleton wardrobe.

Actually, it's exactly the same as the autumn skeleton wardrobe with the addition of:


Black winter coat


Black puffy parka. I had to get new metal poppers put on it at the cobbler's shop at the beginning of the season.

I wear one of these coats every single day in winter, with a selection of scarves from the autumn wardrobe.

And some shoes:



Black boots, brown boots and hiking shoes, which do very little hiking, and a lot of tripping along suburban pavements in the rain.

So, why the skeleton wardrobe? Well, I really hate shopping for clothes. Uggh, all that dressing and undressing and unflattering changing room mirrors. So a couple of years ago I decluttered my wardrobe, and realised I only really wore a few of my favourites. So that's all I kept. Now I have a few clothes. They are mostly black or neutral. They work very hard because I wear them all the time. It could be seen as a bit boring. OK, it is, but I have an outfit for every occasion. Yes, one. And I have a really roomy wardrobe!

And occasionally, I buy something new, and it is super exciting, and generally goes with lots of other things I already have, so I get a dozen new outfits. So much fun!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Decorate With Something Useful


I may be alone in this, and if pinterest is anything to go by, I am, but when I see pictures of cute vintage homes filled with open shelving and delightful little vignettes of antique knick-knacks, I shudder, and think, 'But what about the dusting?' This makes me officially not part of the cute-house club. But just because I think knick-knacks should stay between the pages of magazines, or in the houses of people with 'staff', doesn't mean I don't decorate, it just means that I like my decor to earn its keep.

I am a fan of the permaculture concept that elements in your house and garden should perform as many functions as possible. When we planted a hedge to screen out the neighbours (function one), we chose lemons because we can eat them (function two), and as a bonus it looks and smells divine (function three) and attracts bees when it flowers (function four). I like to decorate on the same principle. The things I love to collect and display on shelves and tables are baskets, vases, bowls, candlesticks, lamps, jugs and plants, oh and a free pig money box from our insurance company that we put all our 5c coins in for the yearly charity coin line at school.



Here are the craft drawers next to our dining room table and the living room. Vases, baskets, and an old world globe from an op shop. What I love about having a limited number of 'things' is that you get to know each one intimately, and develop little routines for using them.


The vases I grab all the time to use on the table, especially the teeny milk bottle ones at the front (thanks Aly, darling sister-in-law who always gives good presents), the baskets are regularly filled with fruit, or whatever I have brought in from the garden. The flat baskets are the perfect size to fit in the gap between the top of the refrigerator and the cupboard built above it, so I use them to dry herbs and flower petals on top of the fridge. The deep basket is the perfect size to fit a packet of chips, so is known as the chip basket, when it isn't being used for apples or walnuts.

The globes have been so useful over the years. Whenever we are talking about a country at the dinner table, or are discussing something on the news, or the children are doing their homework at the table, the globe is right there. I bought the little one recently, because the old one still has the USSR on it!

I mostly decorate with food though. As you can see in the top photo, we eat a LOT of fruit, and we bring in a lot of produce from the garden. It has to go somewhere, so I figure it may as well be displayed gorgeously in my favourite bowls and baskets as be stored in a plastic bag on the kitchen bench. Actually, my kitchen bench currently has a giant ceramic salad bowl of apples, and a basket of slightly squishy pears ready for stewing.  When you try to live thriftily and organically, with gardening and cooking being major elements in your day, you can't just have a nice little fruit bowl in the corner with three apples and a banana in it. You need space for storage, and also space to cook in. I have quite a small kitchen, so around the corner in the dining room is a long sideboard which I try to keep clear apart from a large pot plant, so that I can stack my big baskets and bowls of fruit and vegetables there if I need a clear bench for a big cooking project.

Sometimes these jugs hold custard, sometimes daffodils. Obviously jugs need an extra good scrubbing by hand as well as a trip through the dishwasher (or a soak in boiling water) if you are going to use them for both flowers and food.

I do like William Morris's principle that everything around you should be useful or beautiful - but I think that most things can be both. My house is too small, and my time too short to surround myself with things that are just beautiful, and it would be so sad in our short lives to be surrounded by ugly things whose only virtue is their function.

Kindling basket that was our ex-laundry basket. Sitting on an old shoe cupboard that now stores firewood.


Now, over to you - do you like the vintage, eclectic style of decorating with lots of bits and bobs and dusting, or do you choose not to dust? Or do you embrace minimalism? Or do you long wistfully for minimalism but live with the reality of duplo, barbies, and children's art all over the fridge? If you are a gardener or farmers' market cook, how do you organize all that food?

Disclaimer: There are a small number of knick-knacks in my house that I am sentimentally attached to. But I happily dust them because I love them. Also, I have a very large number of vases. Including a whole cupboard devoted to them in the laundry. The Man sometimes looks pointedly at them. But they are so USEFUL. Because you can put flowers in them, and... you know, sometimes even small branches...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Words from a Wise Mama



Do you live a life that is a little different? Do you homeschool, try to live without plastic, eat out of your garden, buy clothes at thrift shops? Do you turn off the TV, say no to ipods for your eight year old, encourage your children to be creative and individual, not passive and one of the crowd?

Does it break you heart when they crash smack-bang into an element of contemporary culture that threatens to crush their sense of self-worth?

Here are some beautiful, wise words from  mama Shannon Hayes, farmer, homeschooler, author of Radical Homemakers.

And here are some more.

We are having crazy days moving furniture around, and cleaning out an entire filing cabinet. I am drowning in paper!


Last summer's teepee village with old bedspreads, tomato stakes, pegs and string

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Housework Routine Posts - It's a Wrap, or the Why of Housekeeping



Well, what a week. Do our houses sparkle or what? I have had a ball writing about house work. It has really made me think harder about what I do, to see if I can tweak bits to make them more efficient. It has also made me rethink the roles we play within the family. Are we all doing a fair share? Why am I doing all this cleaning? Is it all really necessary? What am I trying to achieve with housekeeping anyway?

I don't think I am doing it just to have a clean house. I am doing it to create a space, our home, that has its own unique flavour. The rhythms and habits of each household will differ, but whether you live alone, or with ten other people, the flow of daily life, the spaces you create, form a structure that gives meaning to the everyday lives of the people who live there. Security and stability flow out of routine, and space for creativity in minds that aren't anxious about how the details of daily life are going to be achieved.

And those little details of daily life aren't insignificant. They are what makes up the background of living. How you sleep and eat, and whether you can relax in a pleasant environment after work - these things have a significant impact on your quality of life. And stay-at-home parents and little children - the home is their whole life, and it needs to be a place where they can thrive and learn and grow.



The reason I prefer the term 'housekeeping' to 'housework', is that it is not just about mopping the floors, but about everything you do that makes home a good and significant place to be. Housekeeping gives meaning to daily living. Raising children and growing food, caring for animals, creating beautiful things, even beautiful bowls of oranges, or salads that make you want to eat well - that is such a significant way to spend a large part of life. Or you could spend an equally large part of life running around hunting for your keys in the mess. Less satisfying, on the whole.

There was a lovely line in Lucinda's decluttering post today : 'How can I honour things that are worthy, that have significant memories, if they are surrounded by rubbish?' We have too much clutter, which masks what is beautiful and precious, and mars the spaces that we need in our houses to do what we really want to do.

So this is why I do what I do - to create spaces and structures to help grow my family, and to honour what is precious, both 'things' and relationships.

It's more than housework.

What do you think?

Again, if you ever post your thoughts about how or why you do housekeeping at your place, let me know in the comments, and I'll link to it. It would be lovely to see how other people go about making house into home.


Images today from my brother and sister-in-law's serene and beautiful home. Housekeepers extraordinaire.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Overwhelmed by Housework? Friday Routine



Look, we've made it through the storms of the houseworking week, and here we are, washed up on the shores of Friday.  Today we can practically whiz through daily chores with our eyes shut. OK, probably a bad idea. Keep your eyes open, and enjoy the view. Is the house tidier and less cluttered than it was on Monday? Have you been finding homes for little bits and pieces during the week to make tidying easier? Did you do some serious decluttering yesterday? Right, let's crack on:

Open the curtains and blinds, and windows depending on the weather.
Wake up the family. Get dressed.
Throw a load in the washing machine. Washing to the bottom of the basket for the last time this week.
Unpack dish drainer and dish washer.
After breakfast, make the beds, dress small children. Put PJs away.
Clear the kitchen table and benches.
Now here is a surprise - DON'T pack the dishwasher. Leave the dishes on the sink for now. All will be revealed.
Empty compost, bin, recycling.
Wash dishes if needed, rinse compost bin.
Wipe down the benches and table, wipe out the sink.
Change over hand towel, tea towel and dishcloths.
Tidy the living areas, hallway, bathroom.
Change bathroom hand towel.
Anything you need to prepare now for dinner?

Today we vacuum again (if needed). Living areas, hallway, bathrooms (or just the main bathroom): wherever the dirt seems to collect most often. Today we are sprucing up the house so that the weekend will be gloriously free for family activities and sheer self-indulgence. When you have finished, park the vacuum cleaner in the kitchen.

A quick bathroom facelift - clean the toilet, wipe over basins and mirrors. Remember to dry them so they sparkle!

And today's cleaning  job? The kitchen. It is a space that has worked very hard all week, and now we will be giving back some love. It is already clear and tidy from morning chores, except for those dishes on the sink.  A good start, but it wants more!

Now it is time to do that yucky job, Scrubbing the dishwasher filter. Pull it out and scrub it under hot water. I use the sink brush. Fill the sink with hot, soapy water and leave it to soak for a bit. Put the dishwasher on for a short wash, empty. I do this twice, once with bicarb soda sprinkled in it, and once with white vinegar (about a cup) poured in the bottom. While it is washing, wipe over the oven, fridge, microwave and cupboard door fronts. Check the fridge for nasty food that needs to be composted.

Replace the filter when it is clean (rinse it well). Wipe over all the surfaces of the dishwasher and repack it with all those dishes on the sink.

Now we are going to deep clean one wall of the kitchen. The kitchen contains so much that needs a regular clean that I can't fit it all in one day, so I take one wall of the kitchen per week. I have four walls (one of them is the breakfast bar). If you have less, such as a galley kitchen, you can have some weeks off!

Give everything on that one wall a really good clean. Pull everything out of drawers and cupboards and vacuum. Wipe out if necessary, and dry before you put things back in. Wash out the bin and the recycling bin with warm, soapy water (I do this in the laundry). Clean out the fridge, microwave, or oven. The easiest way I have found to clean the kitchen is to fill the sink with hot soapy water, and clean everything possible with that. It makes sense that you clean the kitchen with dishwashing detergent, which is designed to remove food and fat. I also use my home-made bathroom paste (or substitute plain bicarb soda, or a gentle cream cleaner) for stainless steel, or stubborn stains on cupboard door fronts. Be very wary of using anything abrasive like this on a painted surface. Test first. Wash the rangehood filters in warm, soapy water, dry, then drip dry, preferably outside, or on an old towel, because they tend to drip the last of the fat out. Nice. I guarantee you will be swearing to cook with less fat after doing this!

Now, if all your appliances are in one bank on a wall, there will be way too much work for one week, so maybe assign appliances arbitrarily to each of the four walls to make it fair. I have cupboards to the ceiling on one wall, so I ignore the high cupboards until I get there with The House Project, when I can climb up on the ladder.

Last of all, vacuum the kitchen floor. I have a bagless vacuum cleaner, so I empty it on Fridays before I put it away.

Now there is just the rest of the laundry to finish, and the evening chores:

Sorting mail and children's school papers.
Unpack and repack the dishwasher or wash dishes before you start dinner.
Bath the children and wipe out the bath. Tidy the bathroom.
Clear away children's toys.
After dinner, dishes, wipe stove and benches.
Check tomorrow's menu,and check diary for tomorrow.
Make sure children are prepared for school and activities tomorrow.
Make sure children put away clothes and 'things' from the living areas.
Tidy living areas and bathroom.

There, a week's housekeeping done. Our houses are tidy and clean, and we have the lovely, lovely weekend ahead. There are no jobs assigned for the weekend, so enjoy! If you keep up with daily chores, the house will stay tidy until Monday. In fact, although daily living, especially with children, can create enormous messes, keeping up with these daily chores means that the house will be tidy at least twice a day all the time. And if we clean up twice a day, there is no chance for the really scary messes to develop, the ones that get added to over days and weeks. Gone forever!

Now I do want to be very clear here - I very rarely ever complete every job in this weekly routine. But if I miss a job one week, it gets done the next day, or the next week, and it is not a big deal. I almost always do all the daily chores, because that keeps the house livable. And if it all falls apart due to illness or crisis, there is a blueprint to get the house back to normal within the week, so no panicking necessary. 

Routines are tools, not rules. Incredibly useful, but not as important as friends, family and living.

I hope you have found something useful here that you can play around with to make a routine that suits you and your family and situation. My next post will be a wrap up of thoughts on housework, and I would love to link to other posts on household routines. If you have one now, or develop one, let me know in the comments, either now or in the future, and if you post it on your blog I will link to it, and hopefully will be able to create a compendium of household routines from all sorts of different households and lifestyles. It can be a quick overview, or a detailed plan. Clearly, I have gone for detailed. Very, very detailed. Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Overwhelmed by Housework? Thursday Routine



Welcome to Thursday! Today there is only one cleaning job, apart from daily chores, and that is to wash the children's sheets and remake their beds. Easy peasy. My two oldest children wash their own sheets on the weekend, so I only have two beds' worth of sheets to wash. Lucky me!

Let's race through the chores:
Open the curtains and blinds, and windows depending on the weather.
Wake up the family. Get dressed.
Unpack dish drainer and dish washer.
After breakfast, make the beds, dress small children. Put PJs away.
Clear the kitchen table and benches.
Pack the dishwasher.
Empty compost, bin, recycling.
Wash dishes if needed, rinse compost bin.
Wipe down the benches and table, wipe out the sink.
Change over hand towel, tea towel and dishcloths.
Tidy the living areas, hallway, bathroom.
Change bathroom hand towel.
Anything you need to prepare now for dinner?

Today is errand day. I have a list that I add to during the week. Anything that is not groceries that needs to be bought - hockey socks, new pillows, the wish list for the op shop. Bags of clutter to be dropped off at the op shop. Cards, presents posted. Dry cleaning, banking. I try to schedule appointments for today - dentist, vet etc. And then there is the fun stuff - the library, walking with a friend. I like to bundle all these things together on one day for reasons of economy. Time and energy and sanity saved from not popping out for half an hour every day to do a job. Money and the planet saved on fuel, and those short trips that are apparently so bad for the car's engine. Then I come home and read library books until 3 o'clock. Bliss!
Let's finish off the day..

Sorting mail and children's school papers.
Unpack and repack the dishwasher or wash dishes before you start dinner.
Bath the children and wipe out the bath. Tidy the bathroom.
Clear away children's toys.
After dinner, dishes, wipe stove and benches.
Check tomorrow's menu,and check diary for tomorrow.
Make sure children are prepared for school and activities tomorrow.
Make sure children put away clothes and 'things' from the living areas.
Tidy living areas and bathroom.

On the home straight now - it's nearly Friday. Tomorrow we will be doing laundry and vacuuming again, and cleaning the kitchen. What could be more jolly?

Does anyone else 'bundle' errands? Or run around and do everything while children are at after school activities (isn't that exhausting)? Or do you do a couple of jobs a day during lunch at work? Who else blesses the internet every time they pay a bill on-line instead of IN line at the post-office? And then feels slightly guilty because now all the small post offices are closing? Sigh. 

Sleep well after sitting up late with a good book.



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Overwhelmed by Housework? Wednesday Routine



Well, good morning! Are you feeling a little more positive about your house today? Is it good to wake up to a clear kitchen? Did you have a long bath in your sparkly clean tub last night?

Today we are going to do fun projects (well, more fun than cleaning the bath). But first, the morning routine. I'm sure you have the gist of it now, so we'll go short-hand this morning.

Open the curtains and blinds, and windows depending on the weather.
Put on a load of washing. We will be washing to the bottom of the laundry basket again today. If you have less than three children, and none of them are in washable nappies, you may be able to get away without washing until Friday, which is the next general laundry day.
Wake up the family. Get dressed.
Unpack dish drainer and dish washer.
After breakfast, make the beds, dress small children. Put PJs away.
Clear the kitchen table and benches.
Pack the dishwasher.
Empty compost, bin, recycling.
Wash dishes if needed, rinse compost bin.
Wipe down the benches and table, wipe out the sink.
Change over hand towel, tea towel and dishcloths.
Tidy the living areas, hallway, bathroom.
Change bathroom hand towel.
Anything you need to prepare now for dinner?

Wow, we are zooming through chores today.

This morning, I will be vacuuming the living areas, back porch, laundry and bathrooms again because we are terribly dirty here at Blueday. If you don't have children or pets, you may get away with not vacuuming until Friday, or even next Monday. The lure of not having to vacuum is a definite motivation to be careful about where you eat cereal during the week..

After vacuuming, we will mop. I only mop once a week (OK, let's be honest, I often only mop once a fortnight..). Some people with crawling babies, children with allergies, pets, or lord help us, white floor tiles may need to mop more often. It would be simple to mop Monday, Wednesday, Friday after vacuuming with this routine, or after sweeping the floor every evening (if you are super keen).

When I vacuum Wednesday I tip all the chairs upside down on the dining table and vacuum their felt-tipped feet. Ditto breakfast bar stools. To mop I add a little dishwashing detergent to hot water in a bucket, and add a capful of eucalyptus oil.

Now we are going to do something different. Every Wednesday for half an hour I continue with The House Project. You know all those jobs that need doing every few weeks or months, that you don't remember unless you are actually staring at them, thinking, 'I must do that..but I don't have time right now'. Well, now is that time. And the wonderful thing is, you don't even have to actively remember them.

Here is how it works. I start at the front door, and work my way around every inch of the house, room by room, cleaning all those bits that get missed in the daily and weekly cleaning. Cobwebs on ceilings, dirty light fittings, sticky finger marks on all the walls, unmentionble things behind couches, mould on the ceiling, yucky shower curtains, cleaning the windows. It will all get done every couple of months, so it doesn't need to cause anxiety when you suddenly see something upsetting on the way out to the dentist with the children.

So, I start by refilling the mop bucket with hot water and dishwashing detergent (why dishwashing detergent? It's gentle, it's designed to lift dirt and grease). Sometimes I need a step ladder or the long-handled duster. This is not the time to clean out cupboards - it is time to actually clean the house. I just work for thirty minutes, then stop. Next week, I will start where I left off. When I finish I rinse out the bucket, dry it and put it away in the laundry cupboard. I have to do this so that Posy doesn't pinch my cleaning bucket to fill up with her witchy brews in the garden. Or The Man doesn't take it to mix up grout in. They have their own buckets in the shed to play with..

Ok, now we have completed The House Project, we are going to do a house project. One of those little jobs that we want to complete, or even start, but never get around to. Well, today there is a half hour spare to devote to that project. This is a good time to clean out cupboards. Last week I tossed out the Barbies with Posy. This week I want to fill up the pot on our front porch with potting mix. During the week I will think of something to plant in it. Then I want to clean up the clutter that has accumulated around our back door because it has been raining for two weeks and no-one has ventured more than two steps outside.

But a really exciting thing to do in this half hour is to DECLUTTER. I love decluttering. I am a late convert. I was once very attached to all my things, but I hated the giant mess. I thought the answer was to discover the perfect storage solution, but no, it turns out the solution was to get rid of about three quarters of my stuff. It's all right. Turns out I don't miss it at all. I promise you won't either. And you will LOVE the spacious feeling of your house with less stuff in it. And it will be so much easier to clean.

So we are only going to do this for half an hour. If you have a houseful of clutter, start in the living room, because this is the room you want to relax in with your family, and have a pleasant place to drink your tea, read your book and have visitors in. Start with the floor, because no clutter on the floor equals an easier space to clean. Are there bags or boxes or piles of things there that you need to sort, get rid of, store elsewhere? My philosophy of decluttering is this - never create a pile. Otherwise you will end your decluttering session with piles of stuff that just got moved several feet, and will now live in this new location, because you got distracted before you could relocate them.

Take the first object from the top of your clutter pile, and make a decision regarding it. If it is rubbish, put it in the kitchen bin. Or recycle it. If it has a proper home and you want to keep it, put it away. If it is an important piece of paper, file it. If you have no filing system, put it with all your other important pieces of paper. At least they will all be together then when you need them. If it is a piece of paper that requires action, write that action on an appropriate date in your diary. Then put the piece of paper in your 'To Do' box or basket (mine is in the hall table drawer). Don't worry about it after that, we will get to that job later! If it is an object that you want to donate, put it in a bag or box. At the end of twenty nine minutes use the last minute to take that box out to the car/bike/front door. Don't worry about it after that either - we will deal with it tomorrow. If you want to sell items, clear a shelf somewhere before you begin, and store them there. Later we will be looking at admin jobs, and you can list them then.

This seems like quite an inefficient system, because you are only handling one item at a time, and jogging around the house with it. But you only ever handle that object once, and it is dealt with. Decluttered forever. And you get all that exercise. Multitasking!

If your floor is clear, move on to the horizontal surfaces, and then go from room to room. Each week, start where you left off. Even if you never do any decluttering apart from this half hour, you will eventually get on top of it. And remember, every morning and night you are tidying your living area. Every week you are tidying bedrooms, and every morning and night putting away clothes. Every day your house is becoming more like the home you want it to be.

Now, bringing in the washing, folding, sorting, putting away.
Sorting mail and children's school papers.
Unpack and repack the dishwasher or wash dishes before you start dinner.
Bath the children and wipe out the bath. Tidy the bathroom.
Clear away children's toys.
After dinner, dishes, wipe stove and benches.
Check tomorrow's menu,and check diary for tomorrow.
Make sure children are prepared for school and activities tomorrow.
Make sure children put away clothes and 'things' from the living areas.
Tidy living areas and bathroom.

Edited to add: Oops! Important omission. While the children do their homework, I do boring paperwork.
First, tip out your handbag (or manbag..). Oh my goodness, how did all that get in there? Throw out the rubbish, note down the receipt totals if you are tracking expenses. Any important pieces of paper? Note down dates and actions in your diary.

Now get out the 'To Do' basket of papers. Pay bills, fill out paperwork, write cheques. File papers. Get presents, parcels ready to post. If you are going to sell any decluttered items, list them now.

Pile the letters and parcels on the hall table ready to post tomorrow.

I have to admit, I am really bad at keeping on top of this job, as anyone who has ever waited for me to post them something knows (waves to Lucinda)..

How did you go today? Did anybody do any decluttering? I see there are some new followers on the sidebar. Welcome! I would love to hear how you are going if you are following this routine at all. Even if you are not doing it this week, but have a go in the future, come back and leave a comment to let me know how you went. Does anyone out there have any really useful housekeeping tips? I really want to know about them too. Have I missed things out or been unclear on things? Do you have a routine that you follow faithfully? If you post it on your blog, let me know in the comments, and I will link to it on Saturday's wrap-up post.

Whisper: I almost never do everything on these lists. I do most things. But some days I just skip, and do them next week. Or tomorrow. But it's nice having a list so I know what I'm not doing!

Sweet dreams! Thursday is a dream housework day. Almost no jobs. We are going out to do errands instead. Yay!


Monday, August 19, 2013

Overwhelmed by Housework? Tuesday Routine




So Tuesday is here. Welcome! We are going to start today by opening those blinds and curtains again. Hope there is sunshine out there for you. If it is dark and rainy and cold, I do keep the house closed up to keep the heat in. But let the fresh air in if it is warm enough.

Now it is time to strip the sheets and pillow cases from the master bed, and pop them in the machine. Every other week I also wash the quilt cover, and any of the decorative pillow cases that we pile up to lean on to read in bed. I wash sheets on a hot setting, with a capful of eucalyptus oil in the fabric softener compartment to keep them smelling fresh and kill germs, and if they are white sheets, a spoonful of washing soda.

Now go wake up the children, and get dressed in something you want to clean the bathroom in. For me that is trackpants and sneakers. If pearls and gingham are more your thing, more power to you!

Remember to unpack the drainer and dishwasher so everyone can put their breakfast things in the dishwasher.

OK, I'm going to cut and paste here from yesterday. This routine is going to happen every morning. Make it your friend! When breakfast is over, everyone makes their own beds. You may have to make beds for little children, but they can put the pillow on top and arrange their teddies. Dress the children while they are in the room with you, and help them put away their pyjamas, or throw them in the laundry (PJs, not children).

If it is summer, close the windows again, and shut the blinds to keep the sun out. In winter, I open up the house as soon as everyone leaves to air it out for half an hour.

Do you need to hang out washing yet? After the sheets are done, collect all the towels from the bathrooms, and wash them next. 

It's time to clear the kitchen table and benches. Is there fruit in the fruit bowl that needs to be used? Put it on the bench for lunch. Have the flowers reached the end of their life? Put them in the compost, and rinse out the vase. Finish packing the dishwasher. Empty the kitchen bin, the recycling bin and the compost. Are there any dishes that need hand washing? On days when there aren't I just rinse the compost pot, but if I need to do the dishes, I scrub the pot as well. Wipe down the kitchen benches. Wipe out the sink. Change over the kitchen hand towel, tea towels, and dish cloths.

Now you should have a clear and clean kitchen. Wipe down the kitchen/dining table. The only things left on it should be flowers or the fruit bowl.

Next we are going to whiz around the living areas, tidying as we go. If you have a lot of clutter, don't despair, just concentrate on clearing the most vital spaces, no more than five minutes for dining room, living room, hallway. Head to the bathroom, and tidy that (I do it while cleaning my teeth). Change hand towels in the bathroom.

Aren't things looking better this morning? Was tidying quicker after yesterday's clean up?

Have a quick think about dinner. Anything you need to prepare now? 

We are ready to start our weekly job now - the bathroom. Hooray! Everybody's favourite! I am not very technologically ept, so I listen to the radio, or audio books while I clean.

To start with, gather your tools. I have a cleaning caddy with toilet cleaner, squirty spray cleaner and the bathroom paste I made a few weeks ago. I'm hoping to make more bathroom cleaners. Stay tuned. It also contains a grout cleaning brush, which looks like an oversized toothbrush with very stiff bristles. The Man found it at the supermarket, but didn't buy it, because he said he didn't dare bring me home a grout cleaning brush. He is such a sensible man :) I bought it myself though, because those toothbrushes just don't have the muscle that bathroom scrubbing requires.

I also equip myself with a toilet cleaning cloth, and a bathroom cleaning cloth (I buy them in different colours, because I like to keep them separate), and a stack of old teatowels, handtowels and terry cloth nappies for drying. Because I tell you, drying is the key to brilliant cleaning. Lastly, a big old towel.

If you have a room with a separate toilet, start there. General principle of bathroom cleaning. Start with the toilet, throw those cleaning rags in the laundry, clean the bathroom, shower and tub, then finish with the mirrors and basins. We have a separate toilet and basin upstairs, next to a large bathroom, and an all-in-one bathroom downstairs. My son and I take it in turns to clean the downstairs bathroom.  This is where it is an excellent thing to live in a small, old-fashioned house with one bathroom, whatever the inconvenience.

Anyway, squirt the toilet with cleaner, then leave it while you empty the bathroom bins, and refill the cupboard/basket with new toilet rolls. Rinse out the toilet brush holder in the laundry sink if it needs it, and dry it. Throw that rag in the laundry. Dust the window frames with a dry rag. Now clean the toilet with your general spray cleaner, remembering to clean all the way behind it, and the floor in front, especially if there are men in the house. Dry the toilet, then scrub the toilet bowl and flush. Rinse your toilet cleaning cloth in the laundry sink, and throw it and your drying rag in the growing pile in the laundry.

Take your general bathroom cleaning cloth and spray bathroom door handles and wipe around light switches. This is where I clean and dry and refill soap dish/soap dispenser, clean mirror and basin in our separate toilet.

Next, the shower. Take your big old towel and dry the floor. You don't want to be tramping around on a wet floor making mess and mud. Take all the toiletries out of the shower. Dry them, recycle and replace if empty. Add to your master shopping list if you need new ones. Soak shower caddy, soap container in laundry sink or basin if needed, or just wipe them clean. Leave all these things on the floor.

Now clean the shower. Start with scrubbing the grout, then spray the tiles. Always rinse, then dry. Use a glass cleaner on the glass. Don't worry about the shower curtain now. There will be a progressive cleaning plan for all those 'sometimes' jobs. Stay tuned!

After the walls are done, replace the toiletries, then scrub the floor.

Shower done! Now the tub. Pretend it is 1980s aerobics. Bend and stretch. We don't need yoga classes. We clean the bath! I clean the surrounds first, and dry them of course, then squirt the bath, turn the hot tap on and clean inside the bath. Then dry. Polish the taps and enjoy the sparkle. Now, before you put those plastic toys back on the edge of the bath, or in their stretchy bag hanging from the tap, how many of them are mouldy? Yukko, throw them away, don't want our precious petals chewing them. In fact, soft plastics (PVAs) in conjunction with hot water? A health hazard, as they leak chemicals. Those cute ducks above? Threw them away. Possibly the best bath toys would be silicone cooking utensils that you pop in the dishwasher after the bath...

Refill soap dispensers. Mirrors, basins. Rehang towels. You're done! Except if you have another bathroom... you will deserve a serious chocolate reward after doing the second bathroom. Did you know that cleaning an average-size bathroom uses 350 calories? Or possibly Kjs? I read that somewhere.

When the cleaning is finally done, throw the pile of rags you have used in washing machine. This is your last load of the day. But don't shut the machine door yet. Wipe over the laundry cupboards, the washing machine and dryer. Change over pet bowls, or wash it if you only have one. Wipe out the laundry sink. There. Now you can start the machine.

Remake your bed. Plump the pillows. You are a star!

So this evening is a repeat of yesterday evening. Yes, I have cut and pasted again.  Keep going with this routine and it will get easier every day. Don't forget to bring in the washing, fold it and put it away.

If you have children coming home from school, get them to unpack their bags straight away. Lunchboxes go straight in the dishwasher. Deal with their vitally important pieces of paper now, along with the mail.

The mail gets immediately recycled, filed in the study filing cabinet, or put in the 'to do' basket in the hall table drawer. If it goes in there, it also has a note in my diary reminding me what action to take on what day - pay a bill, ring for an appointment etc.

Before you start dinner, make sure there is heaps of space in the dishwasher. Unpack it if it has gone through a cycle in the day. Wash any dishes on the sink. Start with a clear space. As you cook, put ingredients away. Put dirty dishes in the dishwasher, or stack them next to the sink. If you hand wash, and have five minutes while you are waiting for something to cook, fill up the sink and wash some dishes. While you are cooking, keep an eye on the ingredients you are using. Now is the time to start next week's shopping list. I keep mine permanently in the pantry cupboard with a pen. Jot down anything that you notice you need every time you cook.

Now, is it time for little peoples' bath yet? After the bath, put all their clothes away or in the laundry basket and wipe out the bath with an old towel. Is the bathroom as tidy as you left it this morning?

When dinner is about fifteen minutes away, it is time for children to put their toys (or giant creative messes) away and help set the table.

After dinner, oh look, more dishes. Wipe down the benches and the stove.

Now check the menu for tomorrow. Do you need to defrost something in the fridge overnight? Check you diary. What do you need to schedule for tomorrow?

Sweep kitchen (if it needs it. To be honest, I often skip this!)

We have screen free time for homework between 7pm and 9pm.

Older children need to be reminded to put all their dirty clothes in the laundry and clean clothes away. Do they have everything they need for tomorrow at school and after school? Musical instrument? PE kit? Ballet gear? ALL their school uniform? Encourage them to lay it out. Pack school bags for tomorrow.

Before they go to bed, they need to take all their stuff to their rooms AND put it away (ha!). Before you go to bed, make a tour of main living areas again and tidy the day's bits and pieces away - newspapers, shoes, toys, laptops, glasses. Straighten the dining room chairs. Plump the cushions. Tomorrow morning your tidy living room and kitchen table will be like a happy house smile! While you clean your teeth, put away whatever is out of place in the bathroom again. There is generally something...

So Tuesday was a pain, because bathroom cleaning just is beastly. But it didn't take as long as yesterday, did it? And now we have broken the back of cleaning for the week. The whole house is clean, tidy and sparkling. Does it feel soooo good? Tomorrow we will vacuum again (if needed) and mop the floors. Then we will do some fun projects. Unbelievably easy compared to what we have already achieved. 

Sleep like a baby after all that aerobic exercise. See you on Wednesday!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Overwhelmed by Housework? Monday Routine



Good morning my lovelies! Here we are, ready for a week of housekeeping, Blueday-style.
First, open all those blinds and curtains and let the sunshine in. If it is summer, make sure all the windows are open to let in the cool morning air.

Did you think you were going to get an early morning cup of tea? Hold on, a couple of jobs first.
Throw a load of washing into the machine. Today we are going to be washing to bottom of laundry basket. Don't worry about sheets and towels - that is tomorrow's job. Just keep on putting the loads through until there is nothing left to wash. If you are likely to forget, put the stove timer on to remind you when it is time to hang out the washing and put the next load on. If there is anything that needs soaking, pop it into a bucket in the laundry sink now.

Do you have children to wake up? Do it now. If yours are like mine, they will growl at you and tell you to go away. I give them a five minute warning and go and get myself dressed. If your children are like mine were ten years ago, they will have been up since dawn, and you will be doing jobs around them. Good luck!
While everyone is blearily getting breakfast, and in between boiling the kettle and making porridge for the small person, I put away the dishes on the dish drainer and unpack the dishwasher. This means the family can pack all their own breakfast things straight into the dishwasher.

When breakfast is over, everyone makes their own beds. You may have to make beds for little children, but they can put the pillow on top and arrange their teddies. Dress the children while they are in the room with you, and help them put away their pyjamas, or throw them in the laundry (PJs, not children).

If it is summer, close the windows again, and shut the blinds to keep the sun out. In winter, I open up the house as soon as everyone leaves to air it out for half an hour.

Do you need to hang out washing yet?

It's time to clear the kitchen table and benches. Is there fruit in the fruit bowl that needs to be used? Put it on the bench for lunch. Have the flowers reached the end of their life? Put them in the compost, and rinse out the vase. Finish packing the dishwasher. Empty the kitchen bin, the recycling bin and the compost. Are there any dishes that need hand washing? On days when there aren't I just rinse the compost pot, but if I need to do the dishes, I scrub the pot as well. Wipe down the kitchen benches. Wipe out the sink. Change over the kitchen hand towel, tea towels, and dish cloths.

Now you should have a clear and clean kitchen. Wipe down the kitchen/dining table. The only things left on it should be flowers or the fruit bowl.

Next we are going to whiz around the living areas, tidying as we go. If you have a lot of clutter, don't despair, just concentrate on clearing the most vital spaces, no more than five minutes for dining room, living room, hallway. Make sure you can sit on the couch, clear off the coffee table, and the top of the hall table. Once you have decluttered (don't worry, we'll get onto that later in the week), this daily five minute whiz around will keep your living areas permanently tidy (well, once the children are out of toddlerhood!). Head to the bathroom, and tidy that (I do it while cleaning my teeth). Change hand towels in the bathroom.

Well, now your kitchen is clear and tidy, your living areas are respectable, your bathroom reasonably presentable. Doesn't that feel better? We will be following this little routine every morning, and by the end of the week, all these spaces will be a lot clearer, just for five minutes' tidying per room (well, ten, because we will be doing it at night as well).

This whole routine is possible to compress into the time before leaving the house for school or work. Easier, of course, without a bunch of small children, but still possible, especially as it becomes more routine, and especially if you have a helpful partner and children. Back in the day when I was homeschooling, we would start 'school' now, and I would keep doing the washing throughout the morning, but start the major housework jobs after lunch.

Now it is time to start the job list for Monday - dusting and vacuuming. Dust all the surfaces in the living areas and the hallway. I start at the door of my living room and work my way around the living room, dining room, kitchen and hallway. Again, dust around clutter if you need to. Don't worry, it will all be gone soon! Otherwise, lift up objects, dust them, dust underneath them, and run the duster along visible skirting boards.
Edited to add: If you have an open fire or woodstove, brush it out this morning BEFORE you dust. I forgot this morning and had to dust twice :(

Vacuum or sweep all the areas that you have dusted. Use the upholstery attachment to vacuum the couches. I also vacuum the back porch (mudroom), laundry and bathroom. While I'm in the bathroom, I vacuum the bathtub using the upholstery attachment, because my three girls have very long hair which they brush enthusiastically next to the tub each morning. There, now the house is visitor-ready. Tidied, dusted, with clean floors in all the living areas.

Do you need to hang out more washing now?

Next it is time to dust and vacuum the bedrooms, and less-used rooms. In our house that is the study and a downstairs family room (our main living areas are upstairs because our house is built into a hill). My three oldest children dust and vacuum their own rooms on the weekend, which leaves me with two to do. Now is a good time to evaluate - bearing in mind that there is still grocery shopping to do, do you have time to dust and vacuum the bedrooms? Sometimes I leave these until Wednesday, when I will be vacuuming the living areas again anyway. Edited to add: I knew I would forget something. Tidy before you dust and vacuum. Obvious I know, but I am obsessive, and felt I had to add it. Again, if there is lots of clutter, just tidy for five minutes or so. Eventually that clutter will be worn down by sheer persistence, and will go and live somewhere else.

Time for a well-deserved cup of tea. It is time to plan the week's menu, and write a shopping list. Remember to also plan for children's lunchbox lunches and snacks. Don't forget lunch for the stay at home parent and family lunches on the weekend. Are you having anyone over for dinner? Are you going out for dinner and need to take something? Is there a birthday party? Do you have a movie night with chips and popcorn? Picnics? What needs to be used up from fridge and pantry? The more comprehensive your grocery shop today, the less you will have to dash out to the shops during the week, which really eats in to your time and energy.

Is there something you need to do now for dinner? Defrost something from the freezer? Put the slow cooker on?

Right, how is the washing going? Done yet?

OK, off to the grocery store. If this doesn't work with your schedule now, you will have to tweak the menu to make it last until grocery shopping day, and then do your week's menu on that day.

Right, after you have put away the groceries, and put those reusable bags back in the car, you get to have a leisurely lunch and a nice cup of tea. Do clear up afterwards. Put the dishwasher on if it is full, or handwash the dishes. Clear the kitchen benches again.

Bringing in the dry washing, folding, sorting and putting away is the next task, then the major jobs are done for the day. Except for ironing. Is there much? If you have a big ironing pile, start on it now, just a few items every wash day over and above what you have washed. I don't iron much, just business shirts, the occasional summer dress, and summer school dresses. Winter school shirts are always under jumpers except for the collars, so I don't do them! I usually iron when I have about half an hour's worth (once or twice a week), and watch a gardening show on telly.

If you have children coming home from school, get them to unpack their bags straight away. Lunchboxes go straight in the dishwasher. Deal with their vitally important pieces of paper now, along with the mail, while you are drinking your tea and forcing them to eat fruit. I have a little black diary, in which I write down all the dates and information from the school papers. Then I put the pieces of paper themselves in a folder with plastic sleeves that I keep in the hall table drawer. It contains all the timetables for school and sport and ballet, the canteen price list, and all the school activity papers, because however much I write in my diary, there is always some vital detail I leave out. When I put a new sheet in, I do a quick check and pull out old ones for activities that have already happened.

The mail gets immediately recycled, filed in the study filing cabinet, or put in the 'to do' basket in the hall table drawer. If it goes in there, it also has a note in my diary reminding me what action to take on what day - pay a bill, ring for an appointment etc.

Before you start dinner, make sure there is heaps of space in the dishwasher. Unpack it if it has gone through a cycle in the day. Wash any dishes on the sink. Start with a clear space. As you cook, put ingredients away. Put dirty dishes in the dishwasher, or stack them next to the sink. If you hand wash, and have five minutes while you are waiting for something to cook, fill up the sink and wash some dishes. While you are cooking, keep an eye on the ingredients you are using. Now is the time to start next week's shopping list. I keep mine permanently in the pantry cupboard with a pen. Jot down anything that you notice you need every time you cook.

Now, is it time for little peoples' bath yet? After the bath, put all their clothes away or in the laundry basket and wipe out the bath with an old towel. Is the bathroom as tidy as you left it this morning?

When dinner is about fifteen minutes away, it is time for children to put their toys (or giant creative messes) away and help set the table.

After dinner, oh look, more dishes. Wipe down the benches and the stove.

Sweep kitchen (if it needs it. To be honest, I often skip this!)

Edited to add: Check menu for tomorrow. Is there something needing to defrost in the fridge overnight? Check diary for tomorrow's appointments.

We have screen free time for homework between 7pm and 9pm.

Older children need to be reminded to put all their dirty clothes in the laundry and clean clothes away. Do they have everything they need for tomorrow at school and after school? Musical instrument? PE kit? Ballet gear? ALL their school uniform? Encourage them to lay it out. Pack school bags for tomorrow.

Before they go to bed, they need to take all their stuff to their rooms AND put it away (ha!). Before you go to bed, make a tour of main living areas again and tidy the day's bits and pieces away - newspapers, shoes, toys, laptops, glasses. Straighten the dining room chairs. Plump the cushions. Tomorrow morning your tidy living room and kitchen table will be like a happy house smile! While you clean your teeth, put away whatever is out of place in the bathroom again. There is generally something...

Well, that was a long day! But we have achieved so much. The house is tidy and clean, and the washing is done. The mail and the children's papers are organised, there is food in the house and a menu for dinner for a week. Today was the hardest day. Tomorrow we will be tackling the bathroom, but don't worry, it almost certainly won't kill you!

Sleep well, and I will see you bright and early in the morning.


Overwhelmed by Housework? Start Here..



If you wake up in the morning and are absolutely overwhelmed by the magnitude of the tasks of the day - cleaning, cooking, childcare, more cleaning - tasks which are never actually completed for more than ten minutes at a time, then you are in good company. Somewhere between our Grannies' generation and now, there was a break in the tradition of training up children to run a house. We have made great strides in equality in the workplace, but instead of training up young men to be equally good at housework as young women, we abandoned the idea of 'housekeeping' as a worthwhile endeavour at all. So today we are almost three generations away from an era when everyone 'instinctively' knew how to keep house, because it was modelled for them every day, and they were expected to do their part from early childhood.

So this week I would like to offer my version of a housekeeping routine that I came to rely on after many, many years of living in complete chaos. I wanted to create a kind of housekeeping blueprint, so that if you want to, you can set up your laptop on the kitchen bench and just follow instructions throughout the day. You will need to tweak it to fit your own schedule, but if you do everything on the list, I guarantee your house will be clean and daily life will be less overwhelming.

But first, I want to be very, very clear about something - the most important thing to remember about housekeeping is that cleanliness is not next to godliness.

If you are a person who is kind to animals and other people and yourself and the planet and sometimes have secret thoughts in meetings about how stupid meetings are, then you are a perfectly adequate human being.

If you are a human being who is a parent and your children are well nourished and you love them, and you are teaching them to be kind to animals, other people, themselves and the planet, and how incredibly interesting bugs are when you look at them very, very closely, then you are a perfectly splendid parent in every way.

And even if your house looks like an episode of Hoarders and your children's socks never match and you can't ever find the keys, it is not a reflection on your character. Just saying. However, housework is a huge and amorphous problem for so many of us, a task without beginning or end. So much of it is in your head. A constantly changing list of cleaning and cooking and shopping and organising priorities that never gets less in number, no matter how much of it you accomplish, because dirt and hungry tummies keep on coming back. And it can be depressing and miserable to live in mess and, and being disorganised can make you very, very anxious, with vague nagging worry as a constant companion.

I wrote the other day a bit about my very slow personal journey to a place where I am at last comfortable and confident as a housekeeper. I was born messy, with a large capacity to cope with chaos and dysfunction - right up until that very moment that I snap, and have a shouty breakdown. Even before I had children I was chronically disorganised, and I collect things, mostly precious pieces of paper that I NEED. I married a man who collected Useful Things that he could build with, and yards and yards of technical magazines. Neither of us had a real grasp of order, forward planning, or even Picking Things Up Off the Floor. Oh, and then we had four children. And we homeschooled them. And we renovated our house ourselves while we lived in it. The potential for mess, clutter and the most appalling perfect storm of shouty breakdowns was almost unlimited.

At quite a low point in my life I felt I had to change something. Well, everything actually, about the state of our house, its clutter, cleanliness (or lack thereof), and the dreaded moment at four o'clock when everyone starts asking what's for dinner.

Being me I approached the problem in a typically inefficient manner. I wrote down everything I could find in old novels about housekeeping. I read vintage housekeeping manuals. I interrogated my organised friends. I began to see a pattern emerging. There are jobs that need to be done every single day to keep the house running smoothly. There are a number of jobs that can be assigned one day a week to keep the house reasonably clean. There are other jobs that only need to be done periodically, but that would drive anyone insane to remember and list them, and get around to doing them, but not doing them means the house is never properly clean. It is important to look at the week and month ahead in order not to have scary surprises. It is important to know what you are eating a week ahead so you only have to shop once. Important pieces of paper have to be corralled somehow, and acted on so the machinery of modern life does not grind you into the ground.

I slowly came up with a plan that covered all of these contingencies, that I can do without thinking nowadays. I feel that this is a very important reason for having a housework routine. Because otherwise you get up each morning and have to decide what the priorities are, and every new day starts with depressing decisions, choosing between a plethora of tedious necessities. With a routine set in stone, that element of energy-sucking decision making is taken away. It might sound boring to go through the same round of chores every day and every week, but for me it has been liberating. Without that element of housework-dread taking up head space, there is so much more creative brain space available for things I really want to think about and accomplish. And now I almost never lose my keys, although my glasses still mysteriously disappear..

A word about menus. Monday mornings I write a menu and grocery list, and do the shopping for the week. Here is some news for those of us who might get sidetracked by food blogs, pinterest, TV celebrity chefs and other, sometimes unrealistic food role-models. There is absolutely no reason why we cannot cycle through the same dozen family meals forever. In our modern global, wealthy societies there is so much choice, and the expectation that we can and should have an endless variety of life experiences, including new and 'exciting' recipes night after night. We forget that two generations ago our grannies had a roast dinner every Sunday lunch, which was recycled throughout the week as cottage pie, hash, then soup. Vegies and fruit were whatever was in the garden, the local shop, or preserved from the summer harvest. There is nothing wrong with that pattern of eating. There is also nothing wrong, of course, with cooking exciting family meals every day, if you want to and have the mental energy to devote to it. If you want to spend your energy on something else, don't feel guilty about serving repeats of your family's favourite meals ad infinitum. They will probably be pleased; they may not even notice!

Here is a list of meals that is practically all my family ever eats, unless I suddenly have a brainstorm and try something new. Here is a possible fortnightly menu that you could circulate until someone complains:

Spaghetti  Bolognaise with salad
Curry (meat or vegetarian), rice
Jacket potatoes with bolognaise sauce and salad
Chops/sausage/meat or veg burgers and vegies
Pizza
Pumpkin soup, bread, apple crumble and custard or icecream
Burritos, chocolate cake
Lasagne
Stiry fry and rice or noodles
Quiche with vegies or salad
Spaghetti carbonara
Roast and vegies
Chili con Carne and Rice, Corn, Salsa, Sour Cream, Guacamole, Salad, Chocolate Self-Saucing Pudding
Meat and vegie stew with mash, Apple Pie

If you cook double dinners each time you make dinner during the first week, that will give you dinner in Week Three as well, and so on. To anyone who loves cooking this will be rank heresy, but that's OK, because we don't all have to be brilliant at everything.

Now the next thing I need to say is that I am a Stay at Home Mum with all my kids at school. My situation may be absolutely similar, or markedly different to yours. If you are at home with babies or small children, the reality is that your house will never be tidy for more than ten minutes at a time. But take heart from the fact that the jam smears on the wall will be this week's jam smears, not last month's! And staying home with tiny children is sometimes (let's face it, shall we?) mind-numbingly boring, but whizzing around the house with mop and broom while they trot around behind with the banister brush, and making folding the washing into a colour sorting game is much more fun than actually playing proper colour sorting games or watching children's television. It will take much longer to get things done this way, but at least some of it will get done rather than not, and every step forward is progress! And the next generation will be learning about housekeeping..

If you are home with a new baby for the first time, resist the urge to run around and do housework while the baby is sleeping. When the baby is sleeping, you need to nap too. When the baby is awake, it can do housework with you in the front pack, or sit in its little baby capsule and watch you with its beady baby eyes while you clean the bath. Babies like to watch something going on, and like to watch you more than anything.

If you are working full time, the weekly jobs may have to wait until the weekend, but if you can keep up with the daily jobs, weeknights will be so much more pleasant. And if you work full time, with or without a family and have a great routine that works, we would all love to hear how you do it (and how you divvy up the jobs)!

And if you are a working single parent, you are simply a superhero. If you find something to help you here, I will be humbly thankful that I could help, but really, you can only do what you can do, and if you can't do everything, something has to go, and it is much better to not clean the light fittings than not go to the soccer game.

Now the first two days of this routine will be hard work, but will break the back of the housework for the week, and then will be mainly maintenance until the kitchen cleaning on Friday. There is grocery shopping on Monday, errands on Thursday, and finding space to complete house projects on Wednesday (decluttering, anyone?). And your weekends will be free to do whatever you want to.

I have deliberately made a very detailed plan which may look a little obsessive-compulsive, but I wanted to make a kind of housework blueprint. The idea is to be able to sit the lap-top on the kitchen bench and read out the jobs, and just do them. No thinking, no decisions. At the end of the week, evaluate, and see if you want to make any changes, switch days to suit your own schedule and commitments.

Tomorrow morning will be especially busy for anyone new to a housework routine, so if you want a slightly easier morning, you can get a start on it this evening. Do the dinner dishes until there is nothing left on the sink. Wipe over the stove top and kitchen benches. A quick tidy around of the living area will make everything seem so much better in the morning.

Let no-one convince you that housekeeping is not hard work, or can be magically accomplished in fifteen minutes a day. However, it need not be overwhelming, and you can, really, create a calm and pleasant home environment that is welcoming to come home to, is uncluttered and filled with your favourite things. You can make your home be whatever you want it to be, a safe refuge, a creative space, somewhere that happy memories are made. Onwards and upwards!

Find my housekeeping routine here but before you start, have a look at The Real Reasons We Are Overwhelmed by Housework.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Bordeaux for Fruit Trees


By some miracle it has not rained for twenty four hours now. At the first sign of sunshine yesterday morning I raced outside to spray the stone fruit trees, two nectarines, two peaches. Copper spray, or bordeaux mixture, is an accepted organic treatment for fungal problems of fruit trees. You can see it on my nectarine tree up above. It is a blue powder that you mix up with water and spray - except it always clogs up the sprayer, so I make a watery paste, and paint it on with a paintbrush.

My stone fruit suffer dreadfully from leaf curl, which deforms and curls up the leaves and stunts the growth of the trees, but for the copper spray to kill the fungus, it needs a reasonable dry period, so the spray doesn't get washed off too soon, just at the time that the buds are swelling. By the time the blossom comes right out and the leaves bud, it is too late. Stone fruit is a bit chancy in Northern Tasmania for that very reason - early Spring is so wet, that even if you can keep leaf curl at bay, it often rains the whole time the blossom is out, and the bees have to stay home due to inclement weather. So we gardeners hold our breath, waiting for a week of dry weather, just at the right time.

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, and get leaf curl, now is also the time to spray your stone fruit, when the leaves drop, because that's when the pesky fungus first gets in.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I Have an Idea (and Banish the Barbies and Make a Salad)


It has been raining for about three years, without cease. Well, maybe five days. Feels like three years. I am quite pleased we live half way up a hill instead of down by the river. There are torrents of water rushing through our yard from higher up the hill. I had to rescue my gumboots from the shed just to take out the compost. I hate to think what awful pests and diseases will be rife in my garden this year. It has been just too warm and wet to kill off garden pests this winter, and it is so wet now that I can't get the three dry days I need to spray the stone fruit for curly leaf. Oh dear, oh dear.

Today Posy has been home from school with a vile head cold, so she and I completed another step on the journey towards a tidy, lovely bedroom for her. She has been very good at keeping her decluttered surfaces clean by not putting things down on her bookcase or her newly cleared dressing table. Although she does redecorate them every week in her own inimitable style.

Anyway, today I brought up the subject of Barbies. I know, I know, I have been letting down the sisterhood by buying my girls big-boobed plastic dolls. And yes, they are vile and tacky. But the girls love them - not for their fashion (although they all adored the princess dresses), but because they needed adult dolls for their incredibly inventive creative games. The barbies have escaped from the cubby dangling on bits of string, been buried alive, flown on flying foxes, been scalped, gone sailing, swimming and sinking in the swimming pool in elaborately designed home-made boats. They have been mermaids, princesses, orphans, witches. Believe me, these Barbies have worked very, very hard. Many of them are headless, most of their original clothes are missing, and they have been reclothed by small, determined seamstresses. Most of them came from the toy stall at school fetes. But now, after, let me see, about thirteen years of Barbies in the house, their time has come. Posy hasn't played with them for months. She agreed to pass them along to a small friend, so we sorted out the good from the bad and the ugly. The really terrible thing about Barbies of course, is that when they are broken, they are unrecyclable plastic. Sigh. Out went a bag of broken Barbies and accessories. And another bag to the little girl up the hill (we are hoping they will take us in if the river floods too high. Although they are more likely to be kind to us if we don't give them Barbies). And here is the wonderful thought. I may never buy another Barbie in my whole life. Or give them house room. Oh, the wonderful march of time.

Another good thing. A couple of years ago I went out and bought a big lidded wicker basket to store those pesky Barbies in. Today I put that in my bedroom for a laundry basket, and took our old laundry basket into the living room to fill up with kindling for the fire. House cleansing and redecorating project rolls on..


I have been serving pretty boring midwinter salads. Various greens, topped with toasted sunflower seeds. Quite nice, adequate, but I am craving colour and crunch, so today I made a pink salad. Grated carrot, beetroot and apple. Juice of a lemon, a swirl of olive oil, a pinch of salt. Oh, I love it. Sweet, sour, salty, crunchy.

Pink Salad...


Mmmm...


Over the last couple of months since I wrote a post on my housework routines I have seen in the blog stats that people are visiting who have entered the phrase 'overwhelmed by housework' or 'need housework routine'. Oh, it breaks my heart. We have all been there.. well, some like me maybe more than most. I am so naturally messy, and have clawed my way to (mostly) tidy and (reasonably) organized over a number of years. I know the feeling of having numerous small children creating havoc, mess and chaos without surcease, and feeling like I don't know where to start to make things better. To be honest, I wasn't good at housekeeping even before I had children, so I can't blame them. Neither The Man or I are naturally organized, and together we were chaotic, but adding children made chaos into disaster. For the first few years of our marriage we got by because we moved every year and had to get rid of stuff. But then we moved into this house. Which when we bought it was divided into three flats. Oh dear. After a few years we had entirely filled the downstairs flat with useless junk. We were renovating upstairs. I was homeschooling. We had four small children.

At a low point I started to declutter, and develop a housekeeping routine. I started clearing one surface at a time. I read old housekeeping manuals and realised the value of a detailed daily and weekly routine which left no room for me to procrastinate. It eventually became so automatic that I can be listening to the radio or day dreaming and suddenly realise I've done all the jobs for the day. You know, except when there's no crisis, or interruptions, which of course is every other day. Still, I don't feel that sense of panic I once did about housekeeping, and I want to share the solution that worked for me for all the people who randomly turn up here at Blue Day desperately looking for some help.

So I am writing down a detailed plan of what I do each day this week, and will post every day next week with a daily plan. I would love to 'compare and discuss' my routine with all of yours in your different situations. Because housekeeping may not be a very exciting subject, but it is one we all have to grapple with every day.
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