This may sound unorthodox and maybe even a little bit grumpy, but consider this: Every Day is Mother's Day, so she might like a day off for a change!
All Mothers (especially those with young children) spend a huge part of their day doing things for her family. She might actually like the idea of having a whole day just to herself.
Make sure she feels loved and then disappear with the kids for the day while she re-charges her batteries and has time to miss you, then reappear around dinnertime with a takeaway so she doesn’t have to cook. Perfect.
Make sure you ask her, of course. And do give her enough lead time to actually make a plan, see a movie, visit a girlfriend, get her nails done (or even just pad around the house wearing nothing but a hair mask and a smile)! The point is, if you really want to treat your Mom, ask her what she’d like to do: even if that’s absolutely nothing. Just sayin.
Way before Martha Stewart made us all feel bad about ourselves for using paper towels as napkins, regular folks would use cloth napkins at every meal. Using an actual piece of fabric to wipe the vinaigrette from your chin had an obvious downside: eventually it had to be laundered, folded and maybe even ironed before it could be put back into service.
Score one for paper towels. Yeah, they’re easy and always available when you need them, but they’re also super wasteful and use up a lot of resources (namely trees) to make.
So, back to cloth napkins! But how to avoid endlessly washing and folding said napkins after each use?
Napkin rings, that’s how!
Today, napkin rings have been elevated to the status of tabletop bling, mostly reserved as a decorative item at dinner parties and special occasions. But that’s not where they started, oh no.
The actual point of napkin rings was to hold a (used) napkin for the exclusive use of the same dinner on multiple occasions until it was ready to be laundered again. Sometimes for as long as a week. That’s why they were plain silver and always engraved with the diner’s initials to keep them separate.
I know, to the uninitiated it sounds pretty gross to keep a used napkin in a drawer to use all week, but really, if you know how to use a knife and fork, it shouldn’t be all that dirty.
Having said that, I freely admit that when we are eating something saucy/messy and hands on (BBQ ribs come to mind) I opt for a paper napkin. But…as a rule, I don’t like to use them because it does encourage sloppy use of cutlery (there really shouldn’t be any vinaigrette on your chin) and I really hate the waste of it all.
I want to encourage you to swap out your paper napkins for real ones this year. You can find a cotton or linen napkin to suit any budget and likewise, you can find engravable napkin rings at any price-point. And don’t feel like you have to match them! Way back in the day, they were given as christening gifts with the assumption that he or she would use it for life.
We love having our own napkin rings. They’re an easy life upgrade and will make everyday dinners feel that little bit nicer. And who doesn’t love that?
Oh, Spring Cleaning, you have such a bad reputation! The very phrase conjures up long weekends of hard work and it’s tempting to just plop on the sofa, watch back-to-back Chef and eat a sleeve of Oreo’s instead.
It’s all about the mindset. I like to think about Spring Cleaning (or any cleaning, for that matter) as grooming. Whereas “cleaning” is boring and difficult, grooming is like a bikini wax: painful, but necessary (with a genuine benefit at the end)!
I have set up and maintained homes on three continents and I can say with a certain amount of confidence that the rules for a good Spring Clean sesh are universal.
1. Get your kit together. I am a firm believer in having the right tools and cleaning house is no exception! The right surface cleaner for each job is essential and will make it so much easier to get through. I also like to have at least a dozen clean, lint-free towels to work with. A few good brushes and sponges are good too. Try and keep everything together in an organized cleaning caddy. I make it easy on myself by keeping a small one under every sink, so I can easily maintain it and I don’t have to lug one around all the time.
2. Now. Let’s set the mood. I highly recommend cleaning to music. It just makes everything more fun! This season, I am into a Samba/Disco/Folksy vibe. If you don’t have one of your own, please feel free to download mine!:
3. Give yourself a hand. My friend, Rita Konig also recommends hiding little “treats” in various parts of the house to be consumed at the completion of each task. Her favorites are Violet Creams, but I like to buy a stack of new magazines and some fresh flowers for the bathroom. Even a 10-minute break to do your nails will do. Whatever keeps you going. The main thing is not to cheat until you’re done!
4. (Un) Dress the part. Proper House Cleaning is hot work. Dress for a cardio workout, or even better, undress and do it in your underwear and an apron! Rita suggests that if there’s even the remotest possibility that your man could walk in, put some high heels on and he’ll think you are a Goddess. If not, slap on face-mask and you are seriously multi-tasking!
5. Tackle the big jobs first. For me, that means windows. You may want to put some clothes back on for this bit. The thing about windows is that you don’t really see them…you feel them. Once they are done, everything looks brighter, more cheerful and just…better. If possible, choose a cloudy day (or early morning) to tackle the windows, as a hot sun can dry them faster than you can, leaving those nasty streaks.
Once you are inside (clothes off again, please) you can take it room by room.
6. Work from top to bottom. Start with a general tidy up. Open the windows. Even if it’s chilly outside, all rooms benefit from a blast of fresh air! Bang cushions together and drag them outside if it’s sunny. Vacuum under the sofas and move things around. It’s amazing where dust can accumulate, isn’t it? You should be good and warm by now.
7. Dusting down: Once the cushions have had a good vacuum and airing, I like to spritz all the surfaces with our Furniture & Upholstery Cleaner and wipe them down with a clean, lint-free towel.
After dusting, it’s time to strip the beds completely bare and let the mattresses and pillows breathe a bit. I use our furniture cleaner on that, too and let it air dry before making them again. I like to have at least two of everything for each bed (including mattress & pillow protectors) so there is always one ready for service while the other is being laundered.
8. Surfaces: The Kitchen and Bathrooms will be your biggest challenge (but also your biggest pay-off area). Start by removing all of the towels and throwing them in the laundry. Carefully remove everything off the counters and give them all a good scrub.
9. De-Clutter: I have zero patience for trying to find something I need, so my favorite seasonal activity is re-organizing the drawers & cupboards. Throw out all the half-empty shampoo bottles and out of date medications. Check the junk and utility drawers and toss out dried up pens, used batteries and all of the assorted stuff that’s clogging your life. Finish with the mirrors and stainless surfaces. Once your reflective surfaces are good and gleaming, you are nearly done. How’s that face mask drying? Time for another treat!
10. Do the floors last. Dirty floors, like dirty windows aren’t immediately obvious, but you really do feel the difference when they are clean! For the best results, you’ll want to sweep or vacuum first before mopping. Please don’t make the rookie mistake of boxing yourself into a corner. Clear the floor as much as possible by removing small furniture, trashcans, and rugs before you start. Work from the farthest corner to your exit.
I don’t even bother with a traditional sponge mop anymore. A good floor cleaner with a trigger and a Swiffer mop are much easier and faster than traditional mopping. Make yourself a hot cup of tea and leave it just outside the room you are working in. You’ll be done before it cools.
11. Stand back and admire your handiwork. Reward yourself with a nice hot bah or shower and your skin will be glowing from your exertions! Now that you’re done, the house will be clean and fresh and so much more comfortable. Now’s the time to plop down and watch your favorite show. Scoot over and pass the Oreos.
We love our children. And we are especially charmed by the art they create. So sweet! But children can be fairly prolific artists and if you try and keep everything they make at school, you will need to rent a separate storage unit just to keep it all. Have you ever asked your Mother for that box of your old art projects from school? Exactly.
So, you need a system. We’ve moved countries at least 3 times and each time, we have to edit down some of the precious artwork that the boys have done. But I hate to lose those memories and all of that special work they were once so proud of, so instead of keeping it all, I archive it.
1. Photos: After your child’s work has taken Pride of Place on the fridge, mantelpiece or bedroom dresser for a suitable amount of time, it's ready to be "archived". If it’s especially special, then, by all means, keep it in a clear Perspex display box (or better yet, give it to grandma)! But if that painted clay turtle is destined to live forever in a box in the attic, just shoot it instead! Take a great photo of it and keep a photo file with the name of the author, title of the piece and the date it was made. My boys get a real kick out of “naming” their works. They are endlessly pleased to see their long forgotten projects on my computer. So professional
2. Start a special Art Archive Box for those few pieces that you really can’t bear to part with. Try and limit it to one box per child, and once each box reaches capacity, it’s a one in, one out policy. Let them choose what to keep, but be firm and make sure you photograph and archive the outs!
3. Exhibit: If all else fails and you are still overrun with various art projects, you can always hold an exhibition gallery night! They can “sell” their art to family and friends and display the rest. IKEA shelving was practically made for this purpose. After a year or so, you’ll be surprised how little they care for it once they need room for their laptops and skateboards.
Poor old January – no other month carries the burden of expectation more heavily. Right from the get-go we launch ourselves in to a brand new year with high hopes and short memories. Damn You 2016. This year we will be different! We will lose those last 8 lbs, we will stop buying over-priced lattes so one day all those $3.50s will buy us a house, we will refrain from wasting our lives away on the life-suckage of social media. Poor Old January. No other month makes us feel quite so bummed when 4 days in we have stopped meditating, started smoking, resumed bitching and can be found feeding our feelings with a fat slice of cake washed down with tequila.
If an over-indulgent festive season has left you ripe for self-renovation, but this year you are determined to actually make it past week 1 with your resolutions still intact then let’s start by taking a look at what the hell we have been doing wrong.
Resolutions vs Goals? Most of the time our resolutions are not much more than lofty ideals. ‘This year I will be a better person’, ‘This year I will lose loads of weight’, ‘This year I will get out of debt’. I am afraid that bullshit is not going to cut it with our brains that are extremely effective in maintaining the status quo. It’s time to ditch these lofty ideals dressed up as resolutions and make the shift to setting specific goals.
That said, even goals can sound a little lofty if they aren’t broken down in to sizeable chunks. The 101 of getting anything done in life is to follow the S.M.A.R.T Rule (skip ahead if this is too elementary for you….).
It is said that the reason most of us fail at new resolutions or changes in our lives is because we aren’t actually going about them the right way.
Your Goals need to be:Specific: (what do you want to do?) – I want to Exercise 4 x a week for 45 minutes each session, I want to lose 6 kilos by the end of March, I want to invest $10k in my super by the end of the year. Be clear about the outcome.Measurable: (how you measure your success? – how will I know when my goal is accomplished?) – Being able to track your achievements ensures you stay on track and keeps you motivated. This might be about reaching a certain weight or running for a particular length of time or seeing the accumulated savings in your account.Achievable: (a close friend of realistic with a subtle difference) -an achievable goal is one that signifies improvement from current state but one set in the boundaries of reality. If you haven’t been 60 kilos since you were 13 years old it might be a tad unrealistic to think you will get back down there. Pick an achievable amount to lose or save or type of behavior change so you are not setting yourself up to fail.Realistic: (Keeping it real) This comes down to your own particular lifestyle. You might have set yourself an achievable goal to lose x or save y but are the ways you have chosen to do this realistic – can you actually run for 2 hrs every day? Will you never, ever buy anything except the absolute basics? Even if you could, how will this impact your work, your relationships and your wellbeing? Realistic/Relevant are pretty interchangeable here.Timely: (when will you get this done by?) Setting a deadline gives your goal focus and a sense of urgency. I will have saved x by June 30th, I will have lost 5% body fat in 4 months, I will launch my blog by my birthday.
But Wait there’s more………
The 4 Stages of Change – have you jumped the gun too soon?
Changes don’t just happen because we want them to. According to behavior change researchers James Prochaska & Carlo DiClemente, people change in stages. Stage 1 (pre-contemplation) is still at the newborn stage – you kinda want to give up frozen pizza because you know it’s bad but you aren’t entirely convinced. Stage 2 (contemplation) is starting to get up on two wheels – you do want to change but are worried about the downsides – you want to drink less but there is that party next week and that wedding in June and you are worried everyone will think you are boring. At this stage you think by talking about what you want to do you are in some way already doing it – sort of. Stage 3 (preparation) is when you can really start to visualize the change but still have a few doubts and reservations. Finding solutions to these obstacles (such as seeing a specialist or signing up to classes) and conquering your fear of failure see you chin up, shoulders back at Stage 4 – this stage produces the highest rates for success. So if January is looking a little premature for that particular change hold back or find something smaller to start with.
Biting off More Than You Can Chew? Don’t be a superhero.
Talking of smaller – my sister on the 4th January sent me a message assuring me she was on track with her resolutions – it seems she is going to the gym, has started playing tennis, has stopped week day drinking and also stopped smoking. Most of us get so excited about a fresh start – and what could be fresher than those hopeful first days in January – we often try to do everything at once. Anyone of the above goals is worthy (and do-able if the S.M.A.R.T rule is applied and you are in the right stage of change) but they don’t need to be done all-at-the-same-time. There are 12 months in a year – take a little pressure off poor January and take it one goal at a time. Beware too the ‘all or nothing’ mentality and remember even the smallest changes are good – just because you ate that one slice of pizza there is no reason to abandon ship and get Dominos back on speed dial.
Common Misconceptions: Telling people your goal isn’t always the answer:
Nearly every ‘how to’ list with regards to resolutions will say that it is helpful to tell people your goals and that in doing do we become accountable. Not according to Steve Salerno who wrote a mighty fine book called, Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless. His concern is that ‘the resolution takes the place of the action’ and people ‘think some magic words, some avowed promise, will magically transform their lives, when we all know that the real transformational work is tough, grueling, and usually involves sacrifice and unpleasant choices’. In essence we are already patting ourselves on the back for something we haven’t yet done. This quick fix mentality can set us up to fail which is why choosing our goals wisely (do we really, really want this and are we actually prepared to put in the hard yards?) is so vital.
And if that all sounds too depressing for words you can take some comfort in my final suggestion.
New Year’s Resolutions (or goals) don’t have to be Negative: Part of the reason we can be tempted to give up on our goals is because they are usually focused on stuff that we perceive as negative. We become fixated on stopping this or giving up that or doing less of something else (that we probably love). How about being a little kinder to yourself this year and setting yourself some weekly, monthly and annual goals that you will look forward to keeping. It might be committing to a weekly catch up with a friend, or a monthly massage in the name of stress management, or an annual holiday with those you love.
If you must stop this or give up that, why not make those sacrifices in the same spirit of positivity. Why not giving up feeling guilty about x or stop apologizing about y? Stop doing less of stuff and start doing more.
*This Get Happier Post is brought to you by Charlotte Sherston: (Someone who believes that January is awesome and failing that there is always Monday).
For more advice about how to be happier and generally more kick-ass, please go to: www.thinrichhappy.com