How-To Tuesday: Organizational behavior, Stie style

Before I got married, I made all sorts of promises to the Husband. Promises that the now me rolls on the floor laughing at. Promises that, if made today, the Husband would double over with laughter and say, "I'm sorry, have we met?"

Yes, as a soon-to-be-newlywed, I naively said things like:

I am going to be dressed and ready every day before you leave for work.
I am going to make sure you always have ironed shirts waiting in the closet.
I am going to have a hot meal on the table when you come home every day.
I am going to devote hours of my life to keeping a clean home.

Bwaaahhhaaa, right?

Okay. So maybe I kind of do the last one. But the others? Took me less than two weeks to pretty much abandon the lot of them. Unapologetically, at that.

But one thing I did embrace was my inner OCD, and our home has been (for the most part) neat and organized ever since.

Keep in mind, short of laundry days, I probably only spend 30-45 minutes cleaning each day. Believe me, there are bigger fish to fry in my life. But with a little bit of planning and organization, you can stay on top of your work and enjoy a clean house, too. Here's how:

Number one: I do laundry twice a week, and only twice a week: Mondays and Thursdays. Laundry must be finished to completion. No loads are allowed to be left undone for the next day. Otherwise, you'll NEVER get caught up. Stay on top of it and fold each load as soon as the dryer is done.

Lucky for me, my dryer finishes a load about 12-13 minutes before the washer is done washing. (I know. It's awesome). I grab the dry load and have it folded before the wash cycle is done. Then it's a quick switch and I'm off to read blogs the next task on my list.

Number two: I clean two bathrooms on Tuesdays and two bathrooms on Fridays (we currently have four of them, so it means they get a thorough scrubbing once a week). I loathe cleaning the bathrooms, but it is a necessary evil. I have two boys whose aim defies the laws of physics. It is not pretty in there. But until I can convince the Husband to pay someone else to do it, the dirty job has got to be done.

Number three: I pick a problem area (be it closet, drawer, cupboard, desk or occasionally even a child's room) and clean it on Wednesdays. When I have more time, I tackle the bigger projects. But sometimes just cleaning out a drawer or cupboard in the kitchen makes all the difference for my sanity, and it takes very little time. I feel like I've accomplished something and it motivates me to keep going.

Number four: Multi-task. Key to this is speed and constancy. Don't let any one area get out of hand. Hurry and throw those breakfast dishes in the dishwasher right after breakfast. Dust while you're on a phone call. Sweep/vacuum quickly while the kids are doing homework. Wipe down a glass door while dinner is cooking. We are all busy. We all have no time. But ten minutes here or there can make a huge difference. You'll be surprised how much you can get done in a short amount of time.

Number five: Be organized. Everything has a place, and every member of the family must know where that place is. If you find you are constantly clearing the mail pile off the kitchen counter, then you need a designated spot for it. Get a cute basket or mail sorter and find a home for the wayward bills. If your kids are constantly leaving their shoes in a pile by the door, get a shoe cubby. It takes time to train your family to be organized, but I am living proof that it can be done. If there is a mess in the same place all the time, then it means you don't have a place for that mess. Find a place, train your people, and sit back and watch your house clean itself.

Well, almost.

Your turn. What have you got for us today?

P.S. A reader sent me a great suggestion: Leave what you're teaching in the linky rather than your name. Makes it easy to go back and search for a particular link without having to dig through piles and piles of posts, you know?

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The Ewww Factor

One day last week, after a busy morning of shopping for myself running errands for my family, I popped through the drive-thru of the local St. Louis Bread Co.

Also known as Panera.

Also known as Delicious.

I have found myself frequently enjoying their salads as of late, and treated myself to the bar-b-que chicken chopped salad. It is full of all kinds of tasty things that blend together to make a most delicious party in your mouth.

The only complaint I have with Panera/Bread Co (besides their affinity with Pepsi products. Ewww.) is that you can't really place a 'made-to-order' order. Everything is kind of already made for you, and they are unable to leave off bits and pieces from your salad that are offending.

Like the onions.

And the peppers.


But I know this about Bread Co and I choose to somewhat accept it. On this particular day, I picked the yuckies out as I found them, and left them in a large rejected pile on the side of my plate. (It reminded me for a moment of those days gone by when I would leave a pile of offensive food on my plate as a child and be forced to eat it all in one bite at the end. Major ewww.)

I've decided what I need is this: I need the Jessica Seinfeld con job for adults. Because if I can't see the onions, peppers, or tomatoes? I will gladly eat them and possibly proclaim the flavor combination to be the most delicious thing I've ever eaten. But if I get a glance at the raw, fleshy look of a chopped onion? GAG. I will not eat it. I know it makes no sense to like the flavor of a food, but not the actual food. And as an adult, I should be rationally able to convince myself that quite possibly I DO like onions and peppers.


[Just writing that made me throw up a little bit in my mouth.]

Do you think Ms. Seinfeld could talk to the fine folks at Panera/Bread Co for me? Maybe they could puree the nasties and slip them into my dressing where I won't notice them?

Anyone else have this issue or am I alone in my crazy?

(Daniel, don't answer that.)

Sharing my fascinating medical history, one rash at a time

Yesterday I went to see a dermatologist. Though I've had the bloody appointment for a good month now, it was the soonest they could get me in. Good thing I'm not dying of skin cancer or leprosy. Sheesh.

Impatient much?

ANYway, I went to the doctor because I've got terrible eczema on my hands. I've had it sporadically my whole life on various parts of my body. It's a vicious cycle that is the bane of my existence. I get it. I ignore it. I try and self-treat it, knowing it will take forever to get in to see a doctor. I get so miserable that I finally go in. I get a steroid cream. It goes away.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

This particular round, it is on my two pinkie fingers and my two ring fingers. And just this week, patches started appearing on my two middle fingers. It's like I'm this freakishly ugly, red, scaly mirror image of myself.

I mentioned this oddity to the doctor, and she very nonchalantly said that skin rashes tend to be symmetrical, even on different limbs.

I brought this bit of information home to the Husband last night. He laughed and said, "See! Even your diseases are OCD!"

I find a deep sense of satisfaction in knowing that my diseases are as crazy as I am.

After all, I am nothing if not consistent.

Just trying to obey my president

I feel proud in admitting that my life is anything but glamorous. Our daily routine is about as far as you can get from the paparazzo-stalked lives of those I see on the covers of my favorite smut mags at the grocery store.

Unlike a lot of the celebrities on those covers, I am not thin and starving. Vera Wang does not dress me. I have the unfortunate privilege of having to style my own hair every morning. And nobody is standing out on my front lawn hoping to catch a glimpse of me in juicy sweatpants, wearing no make-up.

Lord help us, that would be quite a fright for the paparazzos now, wouldn't it?

But what my life lacks in spontaneous excitement, it definitely makes up for in predictability.

And being the OCD freak that I am, I like me some predictability. It's reassuring and familiar. A warm blanket of routine and order. You can count on it to be there, come rain or come shine.

For instance, I can predict, with almost one hundred percent certainty, which of my three children will not like dinner on any given night.

I can predict who will be bored at which movie. And who will whine the most when dragged through which store. There is a certain comfort in the familiar and habitual behaviors that we all have.

Take this girl, for example. I know that my mini-me she will not willingly utter a word in the morning to anyone until after she's been fed:

[Sadly, I know that because she gets it from me. I feel you, girlfriend!]

I can also predict that each week, one of the little people in this house (whose name just happens to rhyme with 'Base') will always have a larger pile of laundry than the others. There's the same number of days between washings, but magically he seems to dirty more clothes.

(I'm pretty sure that he's just adverse to actually hanging the clean clothes up.)

And I feel confident in predicting that this little fashionista will never stop raiding my closet. Doesn't seem to bother her that our shoe sizes are not remotely the same either.

Who am I to deny the diva her most critical knee-high boots for afternoon playtime?

But in all the predictability, there is one area which is a source of constant scrutiny for me. It is my eternal struggle between what I want to do and what I know I should do.

Help me, dear friends.

Why is it that when I know I should be eating this:

All I really want to be eating is this?

I think Woodrow Wilson said it best when he said, "If you want to make enemies, try to change something."

Well, Mr. President, I definitely don't want to be making any enemies.

Warm bread and jam it is. If you insist.

Helping you poor, sad souls

I am a weird person.

I know, right? You had absolutely NO IDEA.

Shut up.

I think the quirk that is most annoying to the Husband is my unflinching, urgent need to have our family Christmas card done before Halloween.

Yes. You read that right.

I seriously start to panic and will sit bolt-upright in bed in a cold sweat if it's not done and in my hot little hands. I am not sure why, but it is something I have accepted and made peace with after years of struggling in vain to wait.

The Husband is now trying to work through the issue in therapy, however.

But since it is, after all, ALMOST HALLOWEEN, I thought I would offer my services to the rest of you (as my own cards have been done since before Labor Day). I have been designing some Christmas cards and am now offering them as part of my photography packages (click over for the full line). I've been very busy doing family fall portraits and figured this was the perfect compliment to that.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, are a few samples that I have put together:
(Yes, this is what I do with my free time. Judge not. My kids have been home sick for two weeks.)

If you're interested in working with any of these designs or have ideas of your own, email me at stiesthoughts at gmail dot com and I will be more than happy to help you out.

Because, really, if you don't at least have the picture for your card yet? You had better get crackin. Halloween is in, like, two weeks, people!

[Insert the sound of me breathing in and out slowly into a paper bag for you here]

Of trash and treasures

Last week, I decided to tackle a much-needed project in our house.

Specifically, a project that involved the place where the little people in our house live.

A place where I spent four and a half hours of my time, and uttered more than a few four-letter words.

I tried to let it be. I have ignored these spaces for as long as possible. Plugged my ears, closed my eyes, and sang, "la la la la la la" when walking past those rooms. I wanted to let them have a measure of control over their own lives, and learn the responsibility of cleaning up after themselves. But when I feared the board of health would quite possibly condemn us (and cart me off to bad mother prison), I knew action had to be taken.

I had to do this while they are at school because I don't like it when they sob, whine, and plead as I toss all their beloved treasures junk into the trash.

And you better believe there was a lot of junk.

Like three garbage bags full.

Is it a commentary on society today that children own enough things that you can fill three garbage bags full of stuff and they'll never miss it? Or is it a commentary on the state of my parenting that I overcompensate by filling their little souls with cheap plastic crap from Target instead of love?

Don't answer that.

Now, the thing is, I took some 'before' pictures to show you the great change, but they were SO BAD that I am unable to post them. Pride will not allow me to let you in on the sorry state of those spaces before I got my hands on them. So without further adieu, and for your viewing pleasure, I give you the 'afters':

Here's hoping they stay looking like this for, I don't know, at least an hour or two.

Now excuse me, I've got to run to Target and buy some more of my children's love cheap plastic crap.

Just kidding.

Sort of.