Monday, March 31, 2008

Weekly Schedule

I love being a homemaker. It really is my perfect job. I pretty much get to be the CEO of my own household, work as much as I want, and pick and choose which projects I want to work on, and when. I get to spend all day with my children, and spend time making my house into a home. The only drawback is that it seems my job is never finished. The laundry is never done. There will always be more meals to cook, and more floors to scrub, and no sooner will I finish cleaning something and it will start to get dirty again. Instead of allowing myself to feel overwhelmed by it, I decided to take a more proactive approach. A schedule.

Since I consider homemaking to be my "job", I try to approach it in the same manner I would approach any job. I try to do things as efficiently as possible, and try to make sure that everything that needs doing gets done. The only possible way I could do this, was to create a schedule. Before I had a schedule, I felt like I was running in circles all the time. My day was unstructured, and at the end of the week I was no further ahead than I was at the beginning. My to-do list got longer instead of shorter. Clutter was coming into my house faster than it was going out, so I felt like I wasn't getting anywhere. I was always afraid that someone might drop by, because my house was rarely company-ready. I always felt guilty doing anything fun, because I felt like I should be cleaning instead.

Before we had kids, it was easy enough to keep up with the housework. First of all, it just didn't get that dirty. And when it did, I would just take a whole day (or two), and clean it from top to bottom. And it would actually stay that way for awhile.

Then the children came. Time was a luxury I no longer had. Spending an entire day cleaning was no longer an option. My only choice was to break things down into manageable pieces, and do a little each day. Since housework is never really "done" anyway, at least this way I knew that everything would get cleaned on a fairly regular schedule. This also freed me of the feelings of guilt when we decide to do something fun! As long as our chores for the day are finished, we are free to do whatever we want. :)

The tricky part has been designing a schedule that works for us. I started by making a list of all the chores that needed to be done. I then broke them down into daily, weekly, seasonal, and one-time tasks. Once that was done, I had to figure out how I would work everything in.

Today I'm going to post about my weekly schedule. These are the recurring tasks that need to be done on a fairly regular basis, and somehow need to fit into a regular day!

I tried the task-a-day approach. You know, laundry on Mondays, dusting on Tuesdays, vacuuming on Wednesdays, etc. This was the type of schedule that I had read the most about, and seemed to work for a lot of people. It also seemed the most efficient, since I would only have to haul the vacuum out one day a week, and all laundry would be consolidated to one day, etc. However, what I didn't like about it was that it still didn't give me the opportunity to focus on a particular area of the house. It might be cleaned and dusted, but other things would get neglected - like making sure drawers and cupboards were organized, etc. Also, I hated...HATED...folding mounds and mounds of laundry in one day. I much prefer to wash, dry, fold, and put away one or two loads of laundry each day. It also allows me to take full advantage of the clothes line in warmer weather, since it pretty much takes an entire day to dry a load of laundry on the line. I was also finding it really difficult to fit the cleaning into my daily schedule. The kids didn't really like following me around the house while I cleaned, especially when they were babies. They mostly just screamed while I frantically tried to get things done.

I had a brief relapse, and returned to the clean-the-whole-house-in-one-day approach. I would wait until Saturday, when my husband was home to watch the kids, and clean the whole house from top to bottom. While it was nice to get it all done at once, I found it to be too much work for one day. It was exhausting, and I was bitter that I didn't get to hang out with my family on one of the only days my husband was home. Also, I wasn't really doing a good job - I was basically trying to get everything done as quickly as possible, and it didn't give me a chance to do any deep-cleaning tasks. Also, there were things around the house that my husband wanted to be able to get done on the week-ends, but he couldn't, because he had to watch the kids so I could clean. This didn't really seem fair, since I was home all week. Obviously, this method wasn't working, so I had to find a different approach.

So ultimately, the approach I have settled on is Zone Cleaning. I divided my house into 5 zones, and tackle one zone each day of the week. Whatever needs doing in that particular zone, I do it. For instance, I do bedrooms on Mondays. I strip the beds, dust, vacuum, and put away stray items. I then like to choose one additional task - clean out a drawer, re-arrange things, etc. I generally spend about 15 minutes working on the extra task. Overall, I spend about an hour each day working in a particular zone. So that's a total of 5 hours a week on cleaning. I like viewing the Zone as an entity - and focusing on the entire space, rather than just a task - like vacuuming. By doing it this way, I feel like each area of the house gets attention on a regular basis, and the whole house stays reasonably clean. I am no longer worried that somebody might drop by - in fact, I find myself wishing somebody would! Also, the kids can hang out with me while I'm working in a particular zone. As long as I bring a few toys, Owen is quite happy to hang out, and Norah is old enough now that she likes to help! I use only non-toxic, natural cleaners, so she's quite happy with a spray bottle and a cloth.

So for now, my weekly schedule looks like this:

Monday - Bedrooms
Tuesday - Bathroom
Wednesday - Upstairs hall/stairs/entryway
Thursday - Living room
Friday - Kitchen & laundry room
Saturday - Shopping & errands
Sunday - Family Day

While this might seem rather constricting to some of you, I actually find it very freeing! I know that when my zone is finished, I'm done cleaning for the day, and can spend time doing more important things - like hanging out with my kids. :)

Later I'll come back and post on my other schedules: My daily schedule, my monthly schedule, and my seasonal/yearly schedule, and how I manage one-time tasks, and scheduled tasks (appointments, etc.).

Do you have a weekly schedule? I'd love to hear about it! Feel free to post your schedule in the comments. :)

Bloggy Giveaway

Sorry I haven't been posting much lately - I've been busy trying to actually do stuff, which doesn't leave a whole lot of time to write about it. :) I have lots of ideas floating around in my head, and I promise to post about some of them soon.

In the mean time, I thought I would just post quickly to mention that Bethany over at BeppyCat & Co. is having a bloggy giveaway! I really enjoy reading her blog, and thought I would mention her contest.

She is giving away some of her hand-knit dish cloths and scrubbies. They're really sweet! To enter, you just have to share your dishwashing tips. :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My cutest diaper yet. :)

Well I liked the Mama Bird pattern so much, I decided to try it again - this time all in knit fabrics, and with a sewn-in soaker, rather than pocket-style. If I get ambitious (not tonight - I don't sew well past midnight! :), I'll make a lay-in doubler for extra absorbency.

This is my favourite diaper I've made so far - I LOVE it out of knit. The outer layer is a soft stretch terry, and the inner layers and doublers are made out of - you guessed it - more t-shirts.





Sunday, March 23, 2008

Trying my hand at cloth diapers.

Well even though my little guy is quite happy in his Fuzzi Bunz, I still felt this urge to try sewing my own cloth diapers. There is something about making things yourself that brings you closer to the whole process. I made use of some fabric scraps and some t-shirts that I had around the house to make them - can you think of a better way to recycle things you already have??

Here was my first attempt. This one was the Fern and Faerie pattern, and is meant to be made out of recycled t-shirts and such. It turned out okay, but the leg elastic went a little funny on one side. Not bad for a first attempt, though.

The next one I tried was the Rita's Rump pattern. I quite liked how simple this one was! There is no fastener on these, so you can fasten them with a single diaper pin (for ultimate adjustability), or you can just leave it as-is, and put a wrap-style cover over it. The nice thing about a separate diaper and cover, is that if you're just hanging around the house, or if it's a hot summer day, you can let them run around with just the diaper on (no cover), so that they stay nice and cool - and just change them as soon as you notice they're wet.

And then I made the Rita's Rump cover out of fleece, to go over the diaper:


I thought it fit quite nicely. :)

Next, I wanted to try making a "Butt Sweater". I had read somewhere that you could make a diaper cover out of an old wool sweater that has been washed in hot water and dried in the drier (this felts the wool and makes it waterproof). You cut a triangle out of the sweater and sew it up, leaving leg holes, and then cut the sleeve cuffs off the sweater, and sew them onto the leg holes. I thought this was really cute!

A friend of mine is interested in cloth diapering, so she asked me if I would mind sending her one of the diapers I had made, so that she could look at it and try to make some herself. I decided I would make a girly one for her, using the Mama Bird pattern. This was my favourite diaper so far: (Recognize the fabric? I used the scraps to make my menstrual pad). :)
And I had some fleece scraps laying around, so I decided I would go ahead and make her a cover, as well. Isn't it cute? This one was really quick to sew up - probably half an hour, tops. It was made from Katrina's Sew Quick Soaker pattern.

All of these are pocket-style diapers, by the way, so there's an opening where you can stuff whatever you want in there - a facecloth, a handtowel, whatever - to make it absorbent. I made them entirely out of things I already had in the house - fabric scraps, and some promotional t-shirts that Bruce had from a work event, that likely would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. You can also use receiving blankets, old sheets, old flannel pajamas - you name it! It just goes to show that you can do cloth without spending a fortune. (Wish I had known this before splurging on my Fuzzi Bunz - but I have to say, I love them and wouldn't trade them for the world!).

Kleenex

Well after my earlier post on disposables, I started contemplating Kleenex. We go through an awful lot of Kleenex around here, which costs money, and our forests. Not to mention our landfills, as I am sure the vast majority of people who use Kleenex do not compost. So today I pulled the last Kleenex out of the box, and measured it. (for those of you who are interested in making your own, they are exactly 8.5 x 7.5 inches). I was trying to think of something I already had that would be nice and soft, and not too thick, that I could start my Kleenex stash with. I remembered I had a change pad cover that never fit quite right, and was too flimsy to do the job anyway - it was a really lightweight flannelette. I was able to cut 8 "Kleenexes" out of it (I guess from here on in they will be known as hankies!) Using my serger, I put a little rolled hem around the edge. (For those of you without a serger, you can just as easily do a rolled him on your regular sewing machine, or do a zigzag stitch around the outside to keep it from fraying).

I then folded them in half and interlocked them, just like the disposables come, and returned them to the original Kleenex box! So as you pull one out, the next one pops up!

Voila...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

My shopping trip today. :)

Well in spite of the Easter Saturday crowds, I had a rather fun shopping day today!

Here is some of what I found:
















We're trying to replace our plastic kitchenware with stainless steel and glass alternatives, so I stopped at Value Village, and for $12.00 got the following:

A wisk. (Mine was broken!)
A really, really cool, old-fashioned ice cube tray. :)
Two heart-shaped cake pans
A cannister (I already put my coffee in it!)
A pie plate (can you believe I didn't already own one of these?)

Edited to add: Thanks to a heads-up from my cousin Tanya, it turns out that the cake pans and ice cube trays are actually aluminum, and not stainless steel. Since there are concerns about aluminum toxicity, I have decided to return these items. I haven't given up though! Has anyone come across a stainless steel ice cube tray in their travels? :)

















I also went to the Farmer's Co-Op, and got some things to get started on my organic vegetable garden. :) Not bad for $22.00!

















And finally, I stopped at Charlene's Nutrition Centre to get some organic dried basil, and ended up getting a bunch of stuff! Turns out it's an organic dried goods gold mine in there! I got some flour, honey, maple syrup, popcorn, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, kidney beans, flax seeds, almonds, raisins, and rolled oats - everything I need to make some granola bars!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Waste Factor: Disposables

One of the things I am currently working on is reducing the amount of waste my family creates. I have decided it is completely irresponsible as a citizen of this earth to send my family's waste to a landfill, to become someone else's problem (namely, our children and our grand-children).

One of the many wonderful benefits of being kinder to the Earth, is that it often saves us money as well!

Disposables
As our lives become busier and busier, companies monopolize on that, and sell us products that make our lives easier and more convenient. More often than not, those items are disposable. Ironically, by spending money on these things, you actually have to work MORE in order to pay for them, which means we have LESS time, and thus creates more of a dependency on disposable, convenient products!! Clearly, the convenience factor is a fallacy, designed to make us poorer and big companies richer, as I am beginning to see more and more as I move through this process.

I first started this exercise in order to find ways to trim our budget. As a single-income family, we needed to live within our means, so I was trying to think of various ways to cut back. I started making a list of all of the things we bought, and then subsequently threw away. The list looked something like this:

Diapers
Wipes
Pads
Tampons
Swiffer cloths
Paper towels
Kleenex
Toilet Paper
Razors
Q-Tips
Napkins
Batteries

I then sat down and calculated how much we were spending on this stuff. I can't remember the exact figure, but it was somewhere in the neighbourhood of $250.00/month. That works out to $3000.00 per year!! To think of what better things we had to spend that money on!! Not to mention I was ashamed of throwing these things "away". (Remembering that when we throw things "away", they really don't go "away", they go to a place).

I began to realize that although I believed these things were "necessities", it was actually the big companies that were making me feel that way. Commercials for Pampers and Huggies abound - any GOOD mother would keep her baby dry and happy in a disposable! Bounty, the quicker picker-upper! Cottony-soft toilet paper! Have a happy period with Always! Be a goddess when you use Venus razors! Swiffer gives cleaning a whole new meaning! Who are we kidding? By making our lives "easier", we were making these companies richer.

DIAPERS AND WIPES: One of the first changes I made was switching to cloth diapers and wipes. I could hardly wait to dispose of the disposables! I can't begin to tell you how good it felt to lovingly put a cloth diaper on my baby's bum for the first time. To lovingly wash those diapers, rather than throw them away with disgust. Oddly, it made me feel closer to my baby, and a little tiny bit closer to our planet. Once I did that, there was no turning back - I knew I was on the right path!

PADS AND TAMPONS: Now that I was using cloth diapers, it seemed kind of strange to continue using disposable pads and tampons for myself. After all, they were made by the same companies that make the diapers, and contain the same toxins, and are also filling up our landfills. I decided to purchase a Diva Cup. I also started reading up on cloth pads - and much to my surprise, thousands of women were already using them! What the heck did I think people did before disposable ones were invented?? So I searched around on the internet, and found numerous free patterns for sewing cloth pads. I decided to go ahead and try to make one - and not surprisingly, I loved it!
I made it out of flannel, and it was so much softer and nicer than plastic and paper. Go figure. I plan on making several more of these. What's better is that they're actually free when you make them out of old clothes and towels you have around the house. It's the ultimate in recycling!

SWIFFER CLOTHS AND PAPER TOWELS: For cleaning, I stopped purchasing swiffer cloths, and only use paper towels in the most extreme cases - like for cleaning up cat messes! Although I suppose I could use newspaper or something instead... hmmm... looks like another change is coming! For everything else I use rags and microfibre cloths. In any case, we buy the President's Choice Green paper towels (made of post-consumer recycled paper), and then compost it when we've used it, so it is not ending up in a landfill. However, it is still consumption, and still supports a disposable mind-set. I'll have to re-examine this one!

KLEENEX: This one is tricky, and something we are still using. I have allergies, and probably blow my nose a hundred times a day. I know that I am giving the facial tissue companies a lot of our hard-earned money. My husband says no way is he using a hankie. I'm thinking that since I am the one who goes through most of the kleenex, it would probably make a huge difference if I started using hankies myself. Change begins with ourselves, so by setting an example, maybe others will think it's not so "weird".

TOILET PAPER: Yes, we still use it. However, I am not entirely opposed to not using it. After all, I'm using nice, soft cloth wipes on my baby's bum. Why give myself any less respect? Even if the rest of my family refuses, I suppose there is no reason I can't do it. I'm not quite there yet, but perhaps in the near future... Again, we use President's Choice Green toilet paper... but could we do without it?

RAZORS: I stopped using disposable razors, which I have used every day of my life for 20 years. To think of all the razors I sent to a landfill. Oh well, I can't undo the past, but I can change the future. I switched to a permanent razor, where I only change the blade, and I only change it about once every 2 weeks. Better still, I find myself wondering if I need one at all. Is there a better alternative? Waxing? Nothing at all?

Q-TIPS: Really, come on. Why do we use these? To dig wax out of our ears that's actually supposed to be there? Can we wash them with a wash cloth like we do any other body part? Do you suppose the fact that they exist makes us think they are a necessity? We used our last Q-tip this week, and it will not be going on the list.

NAPKINS: We didn't use them much anyway, but one in awhile I would get them out. We got some perfectly lovely cloth napkins as wedding gifts that were sitting, unused, in a drawer. I decided to get them out and use them! It makes me feel special to sit down at dinner with my cloth napkin every night. :)

BATTERIES: Anyone with children ought to own shares in Duracell. Sometimes I wonder if the battery companies are sponsoring the toy companies who make battery-operated toys! I have put my foot down, and will only use rechargeable batteries. But wait. Again, is there a better alternative? How about avoiding battery-operated things to begin with? Is this a necessity or another get-a-company-rich scheme?

I can see that I've come a long way, but I know there is still more I could do in this area! Our goal is to have no garbage going to a landfill. We are currently down to one small, kitchen-sized garbage bag every two weeks. Babysteps!




Friday, March 14, 2008

Kitchen-Fest!

Friday is my scheduled "Kitchen" day. This works well, since I do my grocery shopping on Saturdays. I clean out the fridge, cook up whatever needs to be cooked up, and clean the kitchen. Today I discovered some wilted celery, a few carrots, some leftover creamed corn, and some potatoes that had seen better days! I decided some corn chowder was in order.


Of course, you can't have corn chowder without some fresh, warm homemade bread. :)



In making my corn chowder, I used up most of what was left of my home-made vegetable broth, so I thought I'd better make up some more! I save all the little bits and ends of vegetables and keep them in a bag in the freezer, and when the bag fills up I dump it in a pot and cook up some stock.




I also had 8 over-ripe bananas that needed to be saved from the compost bin, so I made a banana loaf, and mashed up the rest and froze it for another time.




And here is my newly cleaned-out fridge and freezer, all ready for tomorrow's shopping trip. :)