I dream of clean

I have a dream.  (In fairness, I have many dreams.  I’m just talking about one right now.  And in silliness, I’m sharing a bananapants dream about my mom shooting monopoly pieces in her forehead on IG.  Anyone else having all the crazy dreams these days?)

Anywho, I have a dream.  A dream where we live in a home that contains only beautiful and useful possessions.  We have the right amount of stuff, and all of the stuff has a place to live.  We have systems in place to maintain our stuff.  Because we have the right amount of stuff and systems in place, it doesn’t take too long to tidy up and to clean.

The end.

It seems simple and yet completely out of reach.

I had thought that moving would be a catalyst to start over and try again.  But that’s probably not happening for a bit, and I don’t want to wait.  Now that we are home ALLLLL the time and we are cleaning everything ourselves, I really really don’t want to wait.

Let’s unpack the steps a bit here.


We had naturally been doing this before our planned move, but we still have a ways to go.  One issue here is that it is hard to get stuff to the right people in our semi-lockdown world.  Also, because we are all home all the time on top of the stuff, it is hard to clear things out.  Nothing more fun than making a pile and having the toddler immediately dismantle it.  I’m also dealing with low energy on my part, and particularly low energy when I’m technically alone.  Believe it or not, but 9:00 pm is not a great time to get after it.  Lulz.

But we’ve had some success lately.  A friend called for baby stuff for someone in need, and I was glad to clear much of that stuff.  I cleared a few books for a lending library that is being developed.  It all felt good to do.  Baby steps.

Finding a Home for everything

I was listening to the Organize365 podcast (this episode), and I realized that this step is where we can particularly struggle.  Decluttering isn’t always easy, but we can do it.  It feels good.  But it’s not enough.  If we don’t organize the stuff that remains, everything will just fall apart again.

I have a few surfaces that I can’t seem to clear, and I’ve realized that much of that is because the objects don’t have a place.  They are part of projects that need to be completed or systems that need to be created.

We have some systems that work well.  For years, I’ve had a sewing box.  Anytime I need to do something sewing-related, I know exactly where I need to go for all my stuff.  Same for wrapping paper.  I’ve recently created an office supplies box.  All office supplies belong here.  It has been great for knowing where to find the extra tape at all times.

One thing we need for sure is to get a better art creation system/situation for the kids.  We had a beloved art cart that worked for a long time, but both distance learning and Arthur being able to reach everything in the cart have made it fall apart.  I want something that is convenient for the older kids to create, but is also far from toddler clutches.  But gathering all the things, sorting them, forcing them into a better system . . . Hopefully, it will happen one of these days, but it has felt bigger than I can tackle now.

Efficient systems to maintain

Then, this is the dream.  Figuring out systems so that we can all work together to stay on top of stuff.  And that staying on top of it doesn’t take forever.  I’m still trying to figure out a rhythm here.  I know some people have a daily tidying session.  Honestly, stuff on the floor or an epic blanket fort doesn’t bother me for a few days, but then I get cranky when we need to vacuum or have a dance party and stuff is everywhere.  But a weekly tidy leaves so much stuff that it seems overwhelming.  I don’t know.  Still working on this.

(I should have a daily moment to undo some of Arthur’s antics.  Right now we have TV remotes, measuring cups, things pulled out of the recycling and goodness only knows what else all over the house.)

I know very little about cleaning, but I do know that (1) having the right tools, (2) doing it regularly, and (3) having clear surfaces makes it much easier and therefore more likely to get done.  I’m more likely to tackle the bathrooms if I know they don’t have weeks of grime covering them.  I’m more likely to clean the kitchen counters when they are clear of crap.  I’m more likely to mop when we have a working swiffer (which we don’t at the moment.)  (We got reusable pads and figured out how to refill the cartridge for environmental friendliness.)

So yeah.  I’m trying to make small steps of progress toward the dream without doing that thing where I get frustrated/overwhelmed and make sweeping pronouncements about throwing all of our stuff in the trash.  This is not helpful/enjoyable for anyone.  I’m trying to focus on getting everyone on board with new systems that work instead of just decluttering.  We shall see.

Any advice?

So you want to stop snacking at night

A dear friend recently mentioned she is trying to stop snacking at night and asked if I had any thoughts.  DO I.  This is actually my bugaboo these days as well.  After a momentary pause, I’m back to snacking.  Every.  Night.  Some of this I’m fine with.  Some of it I want to stop.

If you are looking to slow your snack roll, these are the top strategies I can think of from a self-professed habits afficionado.

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Are they still toddlers if they sprint?

We interrupt your regular quarantine programming to bring a post all about Arthur.  This is mostly recording his current status so I don’t forget.  If you want to hear all about an adorable 15 month old, read on.  If not, I’ll catch you next time for more of the emotional roller coaster of lockdown life.

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Our top quarantine hacks

Please know that I say this with all the eye rolls.  I’m not winning at quarantine.  I’m not a life hacker.  These are just some things that are working for us right now.

As a recap, we are under the Movement Control Order here in Malaysia so we’re not going outside at all.  One family member leaves as little as possible for essentials (grocery store, pharmacy).

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Tiny signs of acceptance

Last night I didn’t have a snack in front of the TV before bed.

This would not be noteworthy in any way except that this is the first night in about a month that this has happened.  We’ve been snacking.  Popcorn.  Ice cream.  Chocolate.  This has been an adult time ritual that has made the day feel more manageable.  You made it through another day in quarantine.  Here, treat yo self.  I haven’t even been hungry some of the time, but that isn’t even the point.  It’s like an adult pacifier.  I do this, and I feel soothed.

And I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that.  Not in the slightest.  As a wise friend said, we need ALL of our coping mechanisms right now.

I just thought it was interesting that I was able to pull away from it.  Even a tiny bit.

We’ve also ventured into new TV.

Again, whoop di doo, but this is the first time in weeks.  We’ve been doing a ton of rewatching.  And rereading too, for that matter.  I’m not entirely sure why.  Maybe it seemed like more information would be too much.  Maybe we weren’t sure we could count on new shows to be the calming break we needed.  It seems crazy to say that we didn’t have the mental bandwidth to invest in new programming, but that’s exactly where we were.

We’re still doing some rewatching.  But some new shows and movies are starting to slip in.  Nothing too crazy.  I don’t know that we’ll ever get around to watching Mad Men.  But we did watch Ladybird and Logan Lucky.  We saw the first episode of Sex Education and will go back for more.  We’re starting to put ourselves out there again.  Mentally speaking.  Definitely not in a physical way.

These are pretty tiny examples.  Maybe they mean nothing.  Maybe I’m grasping at any sort of pattern or normalcy or anything to make sense of all this.  But I do think that they show signs of acceptance.  Of making a tiny bit of mental peace with the situation.  We still have plenty of anxiety and rage and sadness.  Just existing, however, isn’t fully taking up all of our mental space.  At least all the time.

I don’t think this is a linear process.  I may feel despair this afternoon.  I may be snacking tonight and every night this week.  That’s OK.  I just found it interesting that maybe there is a tiny mental shift.  Maybe.

Another ode to joggers

Are you shopping these days?  Online I mean.  I know many of us are struggling on this.  On the one hand, I do want to support business that I love.  On the other hand, when I think how many people have to be out there to send a package, it doesn’t make me feel good.  So I haven’t been shopping.  I don’t know if that is the right call, but that’s where I’m at right now.

I have found myself perusing sales though.  Particularly for cute clothes.  There are SO MANY SALES right now.  And then I remind myself to back away from the website.  Even before the lockdown, I was trying to limit clothing shopping.  I have a whole closet of things I don’t feel like wearing right now (zippers, and buttons, and nonstretch fabric, oh my!).  I really don’t need any more.

I was close to declaring an all out shopping ban, but I decided to limit myself to shopping from a list.  Are you curious?  This was the list:

  • Workout sneakers to replace my 5+ year old ones
  • Fashion sneakers to replace ones with a hole in the bottom
  • Black tank top
  • Jeans
  • Cream/white high quality sweater

I’ve made some headway on it during 2020.  I found a black tank top that I love.  (So much that I bought two which is not great for the point of this exercise, but it really is all I want to wear these days.)

I bought some black workout shoes that I love so much I wear them when I would need any “fashion sneaks.”  Two birds with one stone!  Also, I keep marveling at the advancements in sneaker technology.  The new sneakers are so much lighter than the old ones.  It’s insane.

The jeans and sweater I am deliberately holding off on.  Right now all my jeans are of the skinny, stretchy variety and might not even fit.  I’d like to dabble in some of these other denim silhouettes and styles the kids are wearing these days.  But do I need jeans right now?  Nope.  Same for the sweater.  I’ve identified a wardrobe hole, and I think this item would be useful.  But not right now.  No matter how many sales I see.

This lockdown lifestyle has made me thinking about an addition to the list.  Yup.  I’m talking joggers.

I’ve loved joggers for a long time.  They are comfy travel pants.  They are helpful for getting into churches and temples.  They are fantastic for when you want to feel comfortable but also show that you tried.

They are also the only thing I want to wear these days.  I have two pairs of pajama pants that I love, but they both SCREAM pajama pants.  Wearing them all the time does not help my mood.  And they both lack pockets so I misplace my phone even more than usual.

I’ve also found that I don’t like to wear leggings all the time.  I think they start off as comfortable, but then they switch to being restrictive.  Also, many don’t have pockets as well.  (Although shout out to the best leggings ever at Four Athletics that do have pockets.)

And we’re back to joggers.  My beloved black joggers also have over five years of wear and have developed a tiny hole in the backside.  It’s not super noticeable, but I was self conscious enough about it that I stopped wearing them out and about.  I started searching for a replacement before reminding myself that, conveniently, I’m not going out and about these days.  The joggers are fine.

But I would like to add them to the list.  Black joggers.  #joggersforever #joggers4lyfe  They are the best.

What are you wearing these days?  Do you have an amazing brand of joggers I should investigate?  How are you handling shopping these days?

Our lockdown routine

Do you guys have a set quarantine routine?  For us, each day is a little different, and our schedule is always evolving, but we’ve started to fall into a normal routine.  It mostly, kinda sorta looks like this.

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Can we just talk about distance learning?

OK, this might get whiney.  Let me preface by saying that I heart our teachers so much, and I truly appreciate all that they are doing.  I’m really not trying to whine about the teachers.  It is more me struggling with how to act in an unprecedented time.  We’re definitely struggling, and I know many other parents out there are as well.

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I’m not who I thought I was

So Malaysia announced yesterday that it is extending its Movement Control Order until April 14.  This was completely expected, and I’m very glad that Malaysia is taking proactive steps to (hopefully) get ahead of this and flatten that curve, but I still felt a bit emotional at the news.  Which is OK.  There are many ups and downs in this situation.

Do you guys follow ManRepeller?  As I try to buy less, I’ve been enjoying the site more and more.  Because so much of what they cover is truly high fashion, it isn’t even aspirational for me.  Just pure inspiration.  They have great interviews, pieces on remixing and styling, and info on taking care of your clothes.  But mostly I really like the writing.

Anywho, Leandra has been sharing essays from quarantine.  (Salty language warning.)  These have been fascinating and uplifting and make me feel like I’m not going through this alone.  Instead of mangling her words, let me just excerpt you from one of her essays:

Today is different from yesterday which different from the day before. I think that’s what it’s like when you’re in survival mode, right? I mention it because last night when I was FaceTiming with my mom, she said something like, “To be perfectly honest, I feel more in my element than usual. I’m a survivor.” It clicked for me as she was saying it that what I have been calling her “refugee mentality” for a very long time is actually the sensation of living in a heightened state of survival mode where no time exists beyond the time that’s right in front of you. There is no planning beyond the one hour, 12 hours—if you’re lucky, 24 hours ahead because there’s not enough information to think further out. All you have and all you know is what confronts you at the moment. Trying to prepare for any period beyond that frame is futile; too much is changing and it’s happening quickly. You know? I realize I’m most comfortable in this heightened state of paradoxically routine panic and chaos, too. It can make me feel like a prisoner of my own life when there is no reason to panic. Abie does not maintain this quality—he thinks years ahead of me. That’s one of the primary things that attracted me to him, this sense of psychological freedom I could feel emanating from him. I’ve never been able to identify that before this moment.

And I realized that this hit pretty close to home for me.  You see, I thought that I was our emergency parent.  Not the blood and guts parent.  That’s James.  (I’m not squeamish.  It just somehow ended up in his purview.)  I thought that I was the one who could hold our little family together, beat the odds, knock or wood or do whatever it took if the challenge arose.

But that is the operative word.  “Challenge.”  I like challenges.  You want help to run a marathon?  I will write your training plan, encourage you every step of the way, and then attempt to pull you over the finish by my sheer will alone.  Planning an event?  I got that.  Cleaning our your closet?  Taking a class?  Cooking a meal with three ingredients left in the fridge?  These are probably all terrible examples, but you get the point.  I like a challenge, but it’s a particular kind of challenge.  One with a finish line.  One you can plan to pieces and then execute.

But this kind of open ended, attempting to thrive in a time of survival?  I don’t got this.  I can’t plan my way out of this.  This whole accepting what is and doing what I can in the face of so much unknown?  I’m really struggling.  I’m not saying that this is easy for anyone, but I feel like I’ve had all of my attack strategies and coping skills brutally ripped away.  I don’t know how to handle this.

And that hurts.  Losing this piece of my identity.  If that sounds too harsh, at least realizing and letting it go.

I guess you could argue that I could plan what I can.  I could at least attempt to plan through April 14.  But I doubt that is actually the end.  Even if it is the end of restricted movement, I certainly don’t know what anything will look like then.  Instead of limited planning and taking advantage of this time, I feel like this New Yorker cartoon:

Day 6! Couldn’t decide between starting to write my novel or my screenplay, so instead I ate three boxes of mac and cheese and then lay on the floor panicking.

So yeah.  I’m not feeling motivated to learn a new skill or cook through a new cookbook or watch all of a series I always meant to start.  Which is weird.  There are times when I would have been overjoyed to have all of this unscheduled time.  All of this time together as a family.  This is certainly not how I would have pictured it.  It’s like a super weird staycation.  But it is a lot of time together.

On her Organize 365 Podcast, Lisa Woodruff talks about using this time to make memories.  She says she didn’t have a chance to bake cookies at Christmas, but she’ll be baking with her kids now.  So there’s that.

I’m curious how my thinking will change the longer this goes on.  Maybe I’ll start to get back some of my planning mojo.  For the most part, I’m giving myself permission not to “crush” this lockdown.  I probably won’t come out of this with a new skill or the ability to do pull ups or to speak a new language.  And that’s OK.  I’ll just keep repeating my mantra which is “All I have to do right now is to be at home with my family.”  Which seems reductive, but is also true.  I’m not going to plan for a future I can’t yet picture.  I’m not going to stress about all the unknown.  I’m just focused on this moment.  And all I have to do is be at home with my family.