Greetings, Martha Stewart Wannabes!
The other day, I had this sudden urge to post some Martha Stewart Know-It-All-ish piece of housekeeping advice, what with all the holidays coming up. Like, "Ten Steps for Surviving Thanksgiving With That Obnoxious Aunt!" or, "Make All of Your Holiday Gifts with a Ball of Yarn and Five Bucks!"
Then I was like, who on earth am I to give housekeeping advice?! Puh-leeze. I'm about as un-Martha clueless as they come. So I thought I'd talk about what I consider to be a useful tidbit from work last month, something that's stuck with me ever since, and has lately been governing the way I "keep house." Let's see what you think of this idea.
This idea came out of "Professional Development Day," which is where all faculty and staff at my school get to ditch work, go to taxpayer-funded yoga and sustainable living workshops that supposedly make us better employees, and take lots of cookie and coffee breaks. Hey, I can handle that. The workshop I reluctantly attended was called something like, "Balancing Your Life and Maintaining Sanity." I know: SOOO Women's Day Magazine, the same old crap we read over and over again while standing in the grocery store check out line, right up there with "Lose 10 Pounds in Two Days!" Tell me something I haven't heard before.
It was, in fact, basically a bunch of fluff talk, and I ended up doodling swirly designs on my day planner and daydreaming about cupcakes heaped with frosting. But there was one zinger the speaker tossed out, pointing to it enthusiastically on her Power Point presentation, and it has stuck with me ever since. I can't remember the exact wording, but it was something like this:
Economize your organizing efforts to get the most bang for your buck.
In other words, figure out those little things that take a mere five minutes to do, but that produce hours and hours, possibly even days or weeks, of positive, stress-reducing results. Five minutes??? That I can do. So here are a couple of my personal examples of Five Minute Sanity Savers (gak! already, I'm sounding like a magazine). There are many more - I've got a growing list that numbers at about six or seven.
ONE, inspired by a recent e-mail from a hoardworthy friend, is: CLEANING OUT THE FRIDGE. This is a classic example of a Five Minute Sanity Saver. First, I scrounge around in the back for "mystery Tupperware containers" filled with god knows what. I use my breath-only-through-the-mouth technique (a skill learned in the Peace Corps, back when I had to use pit toilets brimming with foul-smelling excrement); scrape the contents out into the trash (if I recall it being something particularly gross, like ancient refried beans from the Aztec era, I might pitch the entire container...wasteful and politically incorrect, but nobody's keeping track); purposefully unfocus my eyes so that I don't inadvertently see a carpet of fuzzy mold covering the contents; and immediately scrub the empty containers out with hot water and a soapy sponge. Next, I pitch any jars that contain just 1/8 an inch of content left - mayonnaise, jam, BBQ sauce, etc. Finally, I toss anything else that can be tossed, and reorganize everything left - putting veggies, meats and cheeses in their proper drawer, shoving beer cans onto the correct shelf.
Five minutes of mad organizing, dealing with potentially disgusting food matter, and inevitably feeling like a bad, food-wasting person, and then BOOM - it's done. And the benefit is literally days - weeks, even - of feeling more in control, more organized, more sane.
TWO would have to be cleaning and organizing the surface of my office desk space. Seriously. Every so often, I feel buried under grading and planning and going to meetings and everything else that teaching entails. So I discovered a few weeks ago a simple trick for feeling infinitely more on-top-of-my-game: staying five minutes late at work to organize my papers into neat and logical stacks, throw away unneeded things, put the pencils back in the pencil drawer and paper clips back in the correct metal compartment in my desk, and run a wet paper towel over the entire exposed desk surface. Five minutes, but MAN, what a difference.
So there it is: economizing! Bang for the buck, that is. Cleaning out the bedroom closet, on the other hand, can wait. It's a complete wreck, but I never look in there anyway - and that's a project that will surely take me more than five mere minutes. Bah!