Confessions, Evaluations, and Gratitude

Remember those five goals I set a while back? Me neither.

Oh, I kid. I do, and I want to see where I’m at with them.

1. Buy nothing new. This is probably the easiest one. I really don’t want to buy stuff, because it hurts my budget and clutters the house, and I don’t even have time to shop. So I have done pretty well with the Compact. For instance, I resisted the temptation to buy a new dress for my nephew’s baptism. Err, mostly because I’ve put on some weight and shopping for clothes is depressing. But in the end, I’m not Princess Diana, I don’t think anyone really cares that I wore a dress that I’ve, you know, worn before. I went to Frugal’s “Ladies’ Night” last Friday with my friend Cara (sales, wine, hors d’oeuvres, fun!) and bought a dress there, but I looked more like Queen Elizabeth in it, so I decided not to wear it. I also have not bought the kids anything new for spring — it’s all eBay, thrifted, etc. (Except sneakers.)

Thank goodness the size is blurred out

Big Blue

Confession: I spent $24 on a skirt from Duck Duck Goose for my daughter that is “upcycled” from old T-shirts. Not sure what I was thinking. Bravo to whoever came up with that idea. Must be a hell of a profit margin. I really need to learn how to sew.

Confession: I bought my oldest an expensive, brand-spanking-new bike. I spent some time on Craig’s List last summer hunting down used bikes, finally finding one, and I got one for free from the Collingswood Bike Share. But the pedal fell off of one, and then he apparently grew a lot over the winter and went from a 16″ to a 20″… I just got tired of messing around with less-than-adequate bikes, and the bike store guy gave an impressive spiel about the quality of the bike over toy store bikes. I’m just going to call it an investment. I really want him to be riding; his brother can use it later. Etc.

Maybe I will get a Bike Share bike for myself so I can ride with him.

2. Cook. I’ll give myself a B minus here. Maybe a C+. We simply have to eat out less. It’s a real drag on the budget. When I do cook, I’ve been doing it from scratch and staying away from processed stuff, but I just don’t do it enough. If we have another super hot summer, it’s going to be even harder. Not to totally blame my kids and husband, but their pickiness continues to drive me crazy (except for my daughter). The things they turn their noses up at are ridiculous. I see all kinds of recipes that I would try if only I thought there was a tiny chance they might even taste it.

Right now I have a few no-fail recipes/meals that we eat very often, that nobody seems to get tired of. If I could just take some time to develop a few more of those, maybe it would help me order out less.

3. Homemade cleaning products. My citrus vinegar is still in the process of infusing. Hopefully that will turn out well. I’ve been subbing vinegar and baking soda in for other things here and there. I still have moments where I just take out the container of Lysol kitchen wipes and go to town. Sometimes, you just want everything to be really, really clean in a chemical way. I’m pretty much over the homemade dishwasher tabs. The Casacde tabs are just superior.

4. Use fewer paper towels, etc. I need to develop a metric to track paper towel usage. I feel like I’m using them less, but I don’t know for sure. I started using a new 8-pack of towels around April 15, and three are gone. So three “giant” size rolls in two weeks. That doesn’t seem too bad. This is truly a case where awareness is everything, and my awareness is through the roof. I clean up soooooo many messes every day, and now when I reach for the paper towels, I am aware that I am doing it, and I try to redirect to a rag. The best technique seems to be to pull out two rags each morning, one for cleaning kids’ faces and hands, and one for wiping the table/counters, and just soap them up, rinse and reuse them throughout the day. And then disinfect the table/counters every night (or… every other day or so) and, you know, bathe the children at night.

I know it seems crazy to think about these things, and when I get to the point where I’m thinking about how much a roll of paper towels costs, and thinking about number of sheets per roll and the size of each sheet, a catatonic state sets in. But I think it’s crazier to be throwing out garbage bags full of paper towels each week.

5. Make the house more energy efficient. Well, we got all new windows for the third floor last week. That was expensive. The End! Oh and I trail after everyone else in the house turning off lights and fans.

I really do kind of love figuring this stuff out. If you think of yourself as a domestic engineer, it doesn’t seem so nutty. I mean, this is my job. It would be even better if I had people to delegate to: housekeepers, gardeners, etc. Then I would just sit up here coming up with ideas and blogging. I would fire the housekeeper if I caught her using paper towels. I’d be like the Steve Jobs of household efficiency. Someday…

What I find hardest about motherhood is that it takes away your ability to throw yourself headlong into a project. The kids and their needs and schedules chop the day up into small segments. Everything that I do feels done on the fly, squeezed into a free moment, from throwing the laundry in to ordering the groceries to looking up recipes to making phone calls to planting one pack of seeds to thinking about our financial future… on and on. It drives me crazy. Some people like to operate this way, but I like to focus on one thing at a time. I’m a unitasker, not a multitasker. For instance, I’d love one whole day to plant the garden, install the rain barrel, paint the garden fence, weed and mulch the roses and lilacs, etc. So when I look at these goals and when I look around my house, I see progress, but in dribs and drabs. I have to remind myself that overall, in this year now that I have been at home full-time, things are a lot better in a lot of ways than they were when I worked. Cleaner, greener, more organized and healthier.

And I have to give a special shout-out to my nanny Steph, who comes over eight hours a week and without whom there would be no projects, no blogging, just misery; my in-laws and my parents, who also help me out a ton; and my awesome husband, for everything. Thanks guys.

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