Housekeeping

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My favorite definition of housekeeping is: the replenishing of good things and the removal of unnecessary things.

I like this definition because it acknowledges that we need good things and we need to remove other things. One way I implement this definition is the “one in — one out” rule. If I buy one pair of socks, another pair must be ready for either the garbage or Goodwill (depending on why it is being removed). When our electric teapot dies, then I can get a new one. I don’t bring one into the house “just in case.”

Replenish the Good Things
I have monthly lists set up on Amazon, Akamai, and Grove that help keep our cleaning supplies, dog food, pen refills, 3-in1 bar, skin fuel, toothpaste, kitchen towels, etc streamlined. It takes about 5 minutes a month to double-check the lists and make any changes necessary.

This means when I go to the grocery store it is for food. I don’t get distracted by the other aisles and my grocery money doesn’t get spent on household needs. They each have their own line in the budget.

I keep a running list in the Notes app on my phone of clothing sizes, needs, and preferred colors/brands for each member of the family.

Lately, I have been bringing home plants or flowers to green up our indoors and provide some much needed cheer and color. We have so much green outside during most of the year, but late fall and winter can seem pretty bleak. It surprises me that I have such a hard time keeping indoor plants alive. I don’t know if I overwater or underwater or what other mistake might be at play. There is definitely a learning curve!

Removing the Unnecessary Things
This might possibly be my favorite part of housekeeping. Weird, I know.

There is always a bag sitting on the bench by the front door for donations. Sometimes it takes a week to fill, sometimes a month. Our current bag has been there for 4 weeks and still isn’t full. We are in a pretty good place stuff-wise since we undertook this journey mindset.

Garbage is another area where we are removing the unnecessary stuff. We sort ours into burnable (paper, cardboard, etc) and non-burnable. Our family of 4 adults fills two thirteen gallon bags per week. It is mostly plastic wrapping from frozen vegetables, fruits, vegetables, and meat trays. We have been trying for years, with varying degrees of success, to eliminate plastic from our lives. There are still days when the can seems full of strawberry bins and mixed greens bins. All I can do is sigh, break them down into small pieces, and wish for an easier solution.

Food scraps are another area of removal. We compost all that can be composted, but there are still bones, food with grease/oil, and other things best left out of a compost pile. Those end up dumped into the garbage bin. In fact, if it wasn’t for this bit we could probably get a way with paper bin liners instead of plastic. Those scraps bring raccoons and neighbors’ dogs from all around to the outdoor garbage can if we don’t have them wrapped in plastic.

I could go on and on about removing the unnecessary things, but perhaps that is another blog post for another day.

The Basics, Part II

Preface:  When we made a decision to live small so we could journey, I  knew I was going to have to cull my possessions to Fitting Life in a Suitcase or Living Small parameters.  As I work week by week, I’m finding it very helpful to think in terms of a foot locker or large duffel bag for the bulk of my “stuff.”

I’m going to start a list of Essentials, not for the sake of counting things, but so I can really evaluate what I think is essential.  First world problems, I know, but I do want to be mindful and careful moving forward.

Moving on to the bedroom (and the bulk of my personal possessions).

Furniture:

  • Bed + Pillows
  • Nightstand
  • Matching cabinet (made by my dad)

Bedding and Personal Possessions:

  • Sheet Set
  • Light Cotton bedspread
  • Wool blanket
  • Quilt (made by my sister)
  • Light cotton throw blanket
  • Fan
  • Bible + Book of Common Prayer
  • Journal + Command Journal
  • Sleeping bag
  • Carry-On suitcase
  • Backpack
  • Toiletry/Organizer bag
  • Sling bag
  • Green Side Effect
  • Tan, dark brown purse (every day purse)
  • iPhone (+ stand, charger)
  • iPad (+ charger)
  • Kindle paperwhite
  • Solar charger for phone, tablet, and kindle
  • Expandable Baton
  • Salt stone lamp
  • Yoga mat + strap
  • Servant sculpture (gift from church)
  • Turtle (Kelly’s mom made)
  • Angel (my Aunt Gayle)

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Books

  • Bookshelf my uncle made
  • 3 photo albums (small, curated collection)
  • 25 books that I would rather not part with.  I have a one in – one out rule for them.  All other books are on my Kindle.
    • Harry Potter (x 7 hardback)
    • The Road Back to You
    • Episcopal Books (x6)
    • Celtic theology (x3)
    • The Crystal Cave Series (x3)
    • Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God
    • CNA Edge (x2)
    • Room to add 2 more . . .

Things I’m considering:  Most of my “stuff” fits easily into a footlocker (not the furniture), but the books, oh the books.  They don’t.  I’m thankful that I already did the hard work of donating 3000 books to a Christian school library. I’m thankful these books take up one smallish bookcase.  I thankful for Kindles, so that my library can expand without taking up valuable Living Small space.

 

Cleaning Routines

One benefit to living small is that housekeeping and cleaning is much simpler.  Let’s define these terms.  Today’s focus will be on cleaning. Although, I will define housekeeping towards the end.

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Cleaning: To me, cleaning means: sorting, putting things in their proper place, wiping down surfaces, sweeping, laundry (wash, hang, take down, fold, & put away), and doing dishes. I call the above list “Tidying Up.” Then there are the deeper cleaning needs like: toilet scrubbing, shower scrubbing, changing sheets, dusting walls, dusting baseboards, washing curtains, washing windows (switch plates & doors), cleaning the stove/refrigerator, cleaning out the cupboards, etc.

When you have less stuff, tidying up can take only a few minutes a day. I spend about 30 minutes a day tidying up. That includes 3 loads of dishes (we hand wash) and laundry.  We use clothes lines and racks for drying all our laundry.  I set aside another 15-30 minutes for cleaning. Each area has its own day.  Monday = bathroom, Tuesday = bedroom, Wednesday = Free Day, Thursday = Living Room, Friday = Kitchen.

Each room also has an order in which the tidy-up or cleaning gets done.

Bathroom: 

On a tidy-up day the bathroom gets a wipe down after my shower. I spray the walls of the shower with vinegar and let it dry naturally, I use the washcloth from my shower to wipe down the sink and toilet. I grab all the laundry and put it in the washer before heading out to take my walk.

On Monday (Bathroom Cleaning Day), I start by emptying all the laundry into a basket just outside the door.  Then I drain the toilet basin, and spray down the inside, seat, lid, and sides with an environmentally and septic friendly cleaner.  That sits for a few minutes while I start the laundry.  I sprinkle a bit of baking soda on my toilet brush and scrub away. Next I wipe all the surfaces of the toilet, and give it a flush.  After my shower (first thing in the morning) on Monday, I sprinkle baking soda on the walls and floor.  After finishing the toilet, I use a bristle brush and scrub down the shower walls and floor.  Next up is the easy part.  Just a bit of the multipurpose cleaner on a cotton rag and I wipe down the mirrors, switch plates, counter top, and sink.  Followed up by broom and I’m done.

Bedroom:

On a tidy-up day, I throw the blankets back to let the sheets air while I’m doing bathroom stuff.  Then as I leave the bathroom (heading for the laundry room), I spread up the bed, return empty hangers to the closet, and put away anything not in its proper place.

On Tuesday, I completely strip the bed (folding the heavy blankets) and pillows and carry both the laundry and linens to the laundry room.  I start with sheets and cotton throw blanket on Tuesday, because they need lots of space on the lines. Then I return and sweep the walls, baseboards, and floor.  I dust the windowsills and windows, top of my cabinet and nightstand, check to see if the fan needs cleaning (it usually doesn’t). After that, I put new sheets on the bed, put the blanket/s back on, and sweep.  Done.  The sheets I washed today will get folded and put into the family linen cabinet for the next person who wants to change their sheets.  I do me, they do them. I only wash the heavy blankets/quilt and curtains when they need it.

Living Room:

On tidy-up days, the living room is mostly a case of returning things to their proper places, sweeping, and straightening up blankets and pillows.

On Thursday, I carry all the afghans and blankets with me when I go to the laundry room. They get washed first and hung up to dry.  (Except in winter when I wash them in the afternoon and hang them by the wood stove so they are warm when we sit down together in the evenings).  All the plants get watered (this is a new step), I sweep the walls and baseboards, every surface gets wiped down (including the knickknacks, stained glass pieces, switch plates, and electronics), the windows and windowsills get dusted, furniture gets moved around so I can sweep under everything, and finally I sweep it all up.

In the winter when we’re using the wood stove, I have to dust more often and will probably have to water the plants more often.  Wood ash leaves a fine coating on most of the surfaces on days we clean out the firebox.

Kitchen:

On a tidy-up day, the kitchen still gets a thorough cleaning.  I have a very specific way I move through the kitchen and this is done after each meal. I make hot soapy water while cooking.  After I eat, I clean off the table.  Everything gets put where it belongs and dishes are stacked beside the sink.  Then I use the hot soapy water to wash the table, the stove, the refrigerator door, and all the counter tops.  Then I wash the dishes and use the hot soapy water to wash the counter where the dishes were stacked, both sides of the sink, and the faucet.  The dish pan gets rinsed and placed over the drying dishes.  Then I sweep. After sweeping I take a walk (which isn’t technically part of cleaning, but it is part of my routine) . . . when I get home, I put all the dishes away and put the draining towel in the laundry room.

On Friday, the kitchen gets the same daily routine plus I sweep the walls, wash the wall behind the stove, sort through food left in the fridge and pantry, use more hot soapy water on the cabinet doors and pantry shelves, add items to my grocery list, and mop with super hot water.

Housekeeping: I use this term to mean the running of the household.  This is things like paying bills, making a grocery list, making a shopping list, reconciling the bank account, bringing in flowers, caring for plants, planning, cooking. . .

More on housekeeping coming up later.

 

 

The Basics, Part I

When we made a decision to live small so we could journey, I  knew I was going to have to cull my possessions to Fitting Life in a Suitcase or Living Small parameters.  As I work week by week, I’m finding it very helpful to think in terms of a foot locker or large duffel bag for the bulk of my “stuff.”

I’m going to start a list of Essentials, not for the sake of counting things, but so I can really evaluate what I think is essential.  First world problems, I know, but I do want to be mindful and careful moving forward.

So let’s start in bathroom.

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Bathroom:

  • Turkish towel (not shown) + 2 wash cloths
  • Akamai — 3 in 1 Soap, toothpaste, skin fuel
  • Salt Stone
  • Harry razor and extra blades
  • Mascara
  • Tinted Lip Balm (Hurraw!) and lipstick
  • Contacts, solution and case
  • Comb
  • Toothbrush
  • Nail clippers
  • Tweezers
  • Glasses
  • Small cup to hold things upright

My goal here was for everything to fit in my Organizer/Toiletry Bag.  It all fits and leaves plenty of room for my “travel laundry system.” Well, truthfully, the towel doesn’t fit, but I didn’t expect it to.

Things I am considering:  I am wearing my glasses more and more these days.  I still love the freedom of contacts during the bulk of the day, but I have to wear reading glasses if I have in my contacts.  So I’m wondering about getting prescription sunglasses and seeing if I can go without contacts.  It would be a huge shift for me, but I have never even considered it before.

 

 

 

 

Germany; 1992-1993

Germany: June 1992-April 1993

Our move to Germany happened very quickly. Shortly after Christmas 1991, I told Kelly that I wanted to get away. Family visits over Christmas had been emotionally charged and difficult.  I wanted a fresh start where our little family didn’t have to fit into anyone else’s pattern. So in late February, Kelly put in the paperwork for an “accompanied, overseas, extended long” tour of duty. We left the location open so that we’d be at the top of the list for “send them anywhere as long as they go as a family.”

In late April, Kelly called home at lunch and asked how I felt about Germany. I loved the idea.  “When?”  Six weeks!  By the time he got home, I had the bathroom and part of the bedroom ready.  We sat down and talked about the base. It was a base closure assignment: short-term and then you can choose your next base.  He signed the paper the next morning and the merry-go-round started immediately.

Passports (on rush), shots, medical clearance — all in the first week. Spouse counseling, international driver’s licenses, and loads of paperwork — week 2.  Movers for bulk shipment (by boat) — week 3.  More paperwork, more shots, and finish up all stateside business — week 4.  International bank account and movers for express shipment (by plane), pick up passports and exchange some dollars for DM, and say goodbye to Ohio. — week 5.  Visit Kelly’s family to say goodbye, fly to Atlanta to say goodbye to my family, and finally board the international flight from Atlanta to Frankfurt Germany — week 6.

We got to Germany and stayed in a hotel for a week and then we moved into a base apartment. Germany was an amazing experience. We spent our weekends exploring the country around us. We found our favorite places (Trier, for one) and picnics on the Moselle River (which was quite near our base). We traveled rain or shine and even in the snow.  We knew our time there was short and we made use of every free moment.

Germany was also the place where my kids got chicken pox, ate from street vendors, climbed over ruins, and learned that friends don’t always speak the same language.  We went to church where German, Croatian, Russian, English, and Sudanese were all spoken.  We had earpieces for the Sundays when the sermon language wasn’t English.

One Monday in early April 1993, the movers came again and packed up our express shipment (which went by air from Germany to the US and then on another plane from US to Turkey).  On Wednesday and Thursday they picked up our bulk shipment (which had to go from Germany to the US by boat before going by boat to Turkey).  Friday we took a shuttle from our base to the airport.  We spent the night in a hotel, and early Saturday flew to Turkey on a C-130.

When we left Germany there were piles of snow and it was cool (45-50 degrees).  When we landed in Turkey it was green and brown and 85 degrees. We knew we were in for a huge change.

 

Ohio, June 1990-June 1992

June 1990 brought a second addition to our family. A little girl with some trouble breathing entered this world on Fathers’Day. She came with nothing but her beautiful blue eyes. We spent the first four days in the NICU and several weeks after carefully watching her chest rise and fall.

Two kids in 18 months will tax any system put in place in a home. My home was no different. Suddenly there was at least twice as much of everything a kid needs. Or rather, what our society says a kid needs. We had beds, a walker, an indoor swing, an outdoor swing, push toys, pull toys, dolls, blocks, strollers, carrying slings, diaper bags, etc. You name it and we were probably given it.

What we weren’t given was twice as much “mom energy” and I realize how much of my energy had to go into maintaining our home and constantly putting things away. They helped from the time they were old enough, but still most of the “doings” fell to me.

Looking back, I would do things much differently. I would follow the Montessori principles much more closely.

By June 1992, a major move was on the horizon. I had no way of knowing how completely it would change our family.

faith journeys

Our co-priests are on sabbatical (May 14-Sep 3) and our parish is having all sorts of fun, educational, and just plain cool forums and presentations. Thankfully most of them do not involve “stuff” that I would have to bring home.

This project did. However, it has a lot of meaning wrapped up in one simple stained glass cross.  It’s small enough to tuck into any corner of a suitcase. Every time I look at it hanging in my window I am reminded of the lessons I am learning during this journey with my beloved parish.

Akamai, a review

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“We believe clean and healthy skin, hair and teeth can be achieved with far fewer products, chemicals and complexity.  We’ve taken a radically simplified, back to basics, truly natural approach.” — Akamai

I was introduced to Akamai on a Simple Living group. I try to keep my “upkeep” pretty simple, and I’ve been trying to use all-natural products for several years.  My main problem has been trying to gauge when a product is nearly finished so I can order more without running out or having too much sitting around my cabinet. So when I was told about this subscription service, set up your account and then a new box arrives every 2 months, which is just about the exact moment my current stock runs out, I was super excited.

Each shipment can be tailored to your needs, but the “Basic” includes: 2 3-in-1 Bars, 1 toothpaste, and 1 Skin Fuel.

“We believe in the power of nature in its pure, whole form.  You won’t find any toxic chemicals, things you can’t pronounce, or fancy chemistry, just whole natural products.” — Akamai

  • Powerfully effective
  • Truly natural
  • Biodegradable
  • Cruelty-free
  • Vegan
  • Paleo
  • Gluten-free
  • Non-GMO
  • sustainably sourced
  • Pesticide free
  • Not chemically processed
  • Many ingredients are certified organic

How does it work?

  • Create an account
  • Choose your kit (I like the Basics kit)
  • Every 2 months, you’ll get a new shipment
  • Shipments come USPS with very little extra packaging
  • 100% satisfaction guaranteed

But, How does it work?

  • Toothpaste:  put a pea size amount on your wet brush and just go to town like normal. It won’t foam, so don’t expect it to.  The clay combined with the scrubbing is what actually cleans your teeth. If you’re using commercial toothpaste don’t expect to LOVE this immediately.  Give it a couple of weeks and you’ll come to enjoy and appreciate a new clean sensation.
  • 3-in-1 Bar as shampoo:  Expect some adjustment time if you are using conventional shampoos.  The adjustment can take a week or two.  You may feel like your hair is waxy, heavy, or just plain weird.  Be patient. I like to brush the bar over my head a few times, then lather up, scrub with my finger tips, and rinse really well.  While transitioning add 1 TB ACV to 8 oz warm water and do a rinse with that, then rinse with cool water.  Don’t worry the smell will fade as your hair dries.  I do the ACV rinses each Sunday just to keep my hair in tip-top shape.
  • 3-in-1 Bar as soap:  Honestly, I just use the lather from my hair to wash my face and then all the “Stinky Parts”.  It works really well and my skin doesn’t get dry like it used to (even using other natural products)
  • Skin Fuel:  OH my Gosh!  I cannot say enough good things about this product.  For several years I have used Argan Oil with essential oils added in at night + Oil of Olay face cream with SPF during the day.  My skin has felt great and looked great.  But I still had the red patches on my cheeks from an auto-immune disorder.  I’ve been using Skin Fuel alone for 6 weeks and even the red cheeks are gone.  Skin tone is better too.  For SPF, I use a hat, sunglasses, and limit my exposure to short trips outside during the time when the UV Index is above 4.  So far, no tanning, no burning, and no freckling. . . so I take that as a good sign. If I was going to be outside for several hours or swimming, I’d look for a product to use for just those occasions.

Packing Essentials

Now that I’ve settled on which bag to keep, the purple from last week, it is time to think about all the other things I carry when traveling.  I didn’t list everything when I was trying out the bags, although everything fit in the bag and purse I normally carry.  I thought today would be a good day to write out my list of essentials that are non-clothing.

 

Green Side Effect —

  • This green pouch is a Side Effect by Tom Bihn, it is my normal everyday purse.
  • This is the only bag I open once seated on a plane.  Until seated, it is stuffed into the sling backpack
  • slim wallet (ID and money)
  • ear buds
  • iPhone
  • lip balm
  • Kindle Paperwhite
  • reading glasses, slim
  • bandana
  • snack:  apple, nutrition bar, or trail mix

Sling backpack —

  • green bag stuffed in until seated, so this is my personal item
  • solar charger and iPhone cable
  • iPhone stand
  • Kindle cable
  • 3-1-1 bag (Dr Bronner’s, antiseptic wipes, skin fuel, and toothpaste) — gets tucked into my red organizer/toiletry kit once through security and at the gate)
  • insulated Klean Kanteen
  • passport sized notebook and pen
  • sunglasses

Organizer/Toiletry Kit goes in main body of carry-on

  • contact case, contact solution (travel size)
  • toothbrush, tongue scraper
  • comb, razor, mascara
  • Dr Bronner’s soap, sink stopper, and clothes line
  • deodorant
  • Akamai soap/shampoo, skin fuel, and toothpaste (REVIEW coming soon)
  • glasses
  • very small foldable shopping tote (size of a small apple)

—–> Coming soon: minimalistic toiletries and an Akamai review

 

 

Trying out Luggage, 3

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LL Bean Carryall Rolling Underseat Bag
16 x 14 x 9 (24 L)

This bag/suitcase is only a tiny bit bigger than the small duffle from last week, but it is much easier to pack. I like that it rolls and therefore keeps the weight off my back and shoulders.

I filled it up and pulled it all over the place. It’s quiet, pulls nicely, and I didn’t have any trouble with the handle collapsing.

A couple of things keep it from being a perfect bag:  the gussets at the bottom of the front flap and the side pockets. The gussets are great if you plan to open the bag mid-flight as they keep the front flap up almost half-way. That makes for some tough packing moments though. I cut mine off and found my packing time cut nearly in half. I use my purse to hold everything I need mid-flight. The side pockets are nice, but if you stuff too much in there the bag begins to bulge.  Too much bulge will make it nearly impossible to fit it under the seat.

What I fit into the bag: (Cool/Warm weather)  :: A lot of things in my purse would also fit in this bag. I just like having them separate.

LL Bean fitness dress x3
undershort x3
cardigan (light) x2
shoes: flats
shoes: sport sandals
UV hat
swimsuit
pjs
LL Bean perfect pant
tshirt x3
socks x3
underwear x5
bra x2
Turkish towel
LL Bean small organizer/toiletry bag
3-1-1 bag

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I also had a purse with:
iPhone, charger, stand
solar battery pack
kindle paperwhite
Klean Kanteen insulated bottle
Snack: apple slices and nutrition bar
normal purse stuff

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