So, as predicted, I accomplished nothing around the house on Tuesday. I got the dog to his appointment and brought Irish brown bread and Irish soda bread to my work potluck. The brown bread is something I had when I went to Ireland, about 10 years ago. It’s a dense wheat bread, slightly sweet, that I had with breakfast most mornings. It’s really nice— one of my favorite kinds of bread, and one I don’t get anymore, unless I make it for myself. I only go to the trouble for St. Patrick’s day.
The soda bread is a family recipe, from my aunt. One of the things I like about it is that it calls for buttermilk, but it has a hack where you can use regular milk with some vinegar in it. Which has always been how I made it, so that I don’t have to go buy a big carton of buttermilk, which I’m unlikely to use for any other purpose, just for the 2/3 c. I need for the soda bread. But this year, I was multiplying the brown bread recipe by 1.5 (it yields two loaves, and it also calls for buttermilk) and tripling the soda bread recipe, so I went out and bought a half-gallon of buttermilk. I didn’t notice a difference in the brown bread, but I noticed a great difference in the soda bread. The texture is smoother and richer, the taste is more even, it’s delightful. My ingredients were a little dry in the soda bread, so I added more buttermilk to the recipe, and the crowd went wild! My coworkers all said “I’ve tried soda bread before, and it’s not my thing, but I totally love this!”
I had buttermilk left over. I’m not going to drink it, so in a flash of insight, I used it in the champ (mashed potatoes and onions). Also a win! Delicious, smooth— so good. I still have a smidge left over, and am excited to find something interesting to use it in.
Okay, so back to the cleaning I’m not doing. I told mom we were going to need to skip grocery shopping this week, because there has been no time for anything around the house. Also she shopped (famously) last Wednesday, Sunday, I cooked for her Monday and sent her home with leftovers, and we ate out Friday, plus Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. I gave her potato salad (again, famously), a loaf of brown bread, a loaf of soda bread, and leftovers from Monday’s dinner. She’s complaining that her fridge is overflowing, so I thought we could justify taking a week off. She tried to work the “well, I didn’t have great luck at the bakery the last time” before she remembered that I had given her two full loaves of homemade bread less than 45 minutes before. So she surrendered, but came over for dessert and St. Patrick’s Day presents Tuesday night while I wrote the test that the girls took Wednesday, and then Wednesday took her time at dinner, so I still wasn’t home before 10 p.m. Fortunately for me, the dog didn’t want a walk when I got home, so I was able to put away the clothes that were hanging on chair backs and things in my room before bed, though I couldn’t manage the laundry or vacuuming or spot mopping or other things I was hoping to do. But one of the big lessons of FlyLady, for me, was that something is better than nothing. Twenty minutes of sorting, folding, and putting away clothes from chair-backs yesterday means that I don’t have to do that before I do laundry (tonight? if physical therapy for the dog doesn’t end too late), and that mopping the bathroom or vacuuming in my room should be that much easier. Plus I got through the stretch of seeing my mom every night when things were contentious without making it worse. So we’re calling it a win.
So what to do about the fact that I’ve been focused on developing a cleaning routine, this Lent, and I’m two weeks from Easter and my place is no cleaner? Am I kidding myself about how hard I’m working on this, or just doing it wrong?
- Read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
- Consequently donated a bunch of stuff.
- Built cleaning caddies with products appropriate for each level of the house.
- I have dusted most major areas of the house, as well as come up with a better way of air-drying clothes that cuts my hanging and collecting time in fractions. It also keeps the body of the house less strewn with clothes.
- Sorted and shredded several months worth of mail.
- Dishes are not sitting for as long, before they get cleaned.
- Fridge and freezers have been sorted and cleaned, and I’m wasting less fresh produce.
- I’m getting better about saying “I need time to work on my house.” To my mother, to my exes who keep popping up, to my friend who wants to work out at a consistently inconvenient time. And actually cleaning, when I get a chance.
- Fixed the cart situation in the pantry.
- Have a more functional solution for upstairs recycling.
- I feel like I’m getting better at chunking my errands.
- Writing a lot more. Cooking a lot more. Those both have secondary benefits of making me happier and better-adjusted.
- Still no daily maintenance routine, not gaining traction with a weekly routine, either.
- The top of the dog’s kennel is starting to be a clutter catcher, which, when taken with the cluttered counter, makes the whole house look terrible.
- The table in the entryway is fully established as a clutter catcher.
- Have not yet filed the mail that I’ve sorted.
- When I fixed the cart situation, I uncovered another situation that needs fixing.
- When I started this, I thought the dog had a sprained ankle and would be getting better. He has angular limb deformities, and is getting worse. He’s also had a parasite. A lot of time I might otherwise have been cleaning, I’m trying to figure out how to help him, and also doing actual physical therapy at home, in addition to taking him to see specialists and playing amateur veterinary-sleuth.
- The complexity of the dog’s problem has required me to implement a budgeting system at the same time, which I didn’t foresee. It’s time that I thought I’d have for other things.
- I didn’t appropriately address time-budgeting for food prep. With the diet I was on, potlucks and special holidays, I’ve spent way more time cooking and preparing meals than I anticipated. I basically budgeted an hour a week for food prep, and am eating at home way more, and shopping way more. That’s good for my health and my wallet (even nice produce from the fancy grocery store is cheaper than buying in restaurants), but not great for time I meant to spend cleaning house.
- Even when I’m honest with myself, there are way more wins than losses.
- I feel like the mitigations are real things.
- I’m starting to realize that I don’t have 45 minutes to clean, most nights, so a routine that includes 45 minutes of daily cleaning won’t work for me.
- I’m starting to realize that I might need to do more of a routine that’s centered on big progress on, say, a Saturday, and smaller chunks on the other days.
- I’m understanding that I need to schedule myself much less, with outside interests. I’m my own biggest obstacle. My house is not failing to get clean because I spend a lot of time sitting, my house is failing to get clean because I spend a lot of time over-committed.