If you’re going to let Marilyn drag you out, don’t count on getting home anytime early and plan on having the time of your life. Marilyn Kleinberg came of age in New York City’s brilliant West Village ’70s jazz scene and knows exactly where to find what’s left of it. She knows everyone and is an amazing jazz singer herself. Tonight, we went to the Fat Cat, which to me is about as close to a West Village smokey jazz cave as you’ll get these days. You may not have caught her set the other night at Sweet Rhythm, but you can order her CD here or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Prepare to be blown away.
Order = Calm, Part 3, Down To Business! September 19, 2008
By Julia Pantoga
List of tasks to complete in hand, with time carved out to get the first few done, where do you begin? I’ll address that at the end of this essay, but first I want to share some principles that apply to most any housework project you would undertake.
Make It Easy to Put Things Away
You greatly increase the likelihood that you will put things away, if you make them easy to put away. I’ve identified three factors that impact the ease of put-away-ability
1. Room to put things away. If your drawers are so packed that it’s hard to shut them when half of your clothes are in the laundry, you aren’t going to put your clothes away automatically. Take clothes that you don’t wear out of your drawers and your closet now, and make going through them and deciding their permanent fate another project on your list.
2. Containers that work and that you like to put things away in. It’s enjoyable to put clothes away in a dresser that you love where the drawers are all the right size and slide out easily.
3. Location of storage near where things are used. If you put your pajamas away in a drawer that is right where you change in the morning, putting them away is just as easy as throwing them on the floor.
The best example I have of put-away-ability involves my shoes. I like the way my shoe display looks and it is located right next to the spot where I usually change my shoes. You will notice from the picture that my shoe storage is full at this point, which means that when I acquire more shoes, I will have to either get rid of some, put some in storage, or move somewhere where I can install another shoe rack.
My nemesis in keeping the house picked up is BOOKS. There are books in every room of my house, but the only large bookshelves are in my office. All my bookshelves are full and putting books away is a big job. But, I am always bringing more books into the house! Putting books away on my bookshelves is not an everyday task; moving books from various places around the house into my office is.
The Three Container System
I learned this method from a social worker. Every time you start a sorting/putting-things-away job, take three containers with you: one for items to take to another room, one for items to throw away and one for items to give away. The containers don’t have to be attractive and match, but wouldn’t it be more fun, and don’t you – you who are doing all of this hard work of putting your house in order – deserve some fun?
The real beauty of this system is that you can stop at almost any point in your work and a) not have a mess and b) be able to start work again at any time without retracing steps.
Know Your Stopping Points
Know when you can stop working on a project and not leave yourself a mess or put things back into disorder again. For example, when you have just dumped a drawer out on the kitchen table, you are not at a stopping point. When you have gone through the contents of that drawer and done your three container sort on them, you are at a stopping point. You can quickly wipe out the drawer and return the items that belong in the drawer, even if you don’t have time to order that drawer in the adorable drawer dividers you bought for that purpose. One of your goals is to never leave a mess for yourself.
I keep: a trash basket, scissors, tape, pens and paper in every room of my house. These items never need to be put away in other rooms because they belong in the room that they are in.
Where to Begin
I’m all about playing mind games with yourself, so I think that your first priority has to be the space that is your private space—your bedroom. That way, you are giving yourself the message, “I am important; I am putting things in order for myself.”
Next, I’d work on the kitchen, because that’s where you spend a lot of time and, if you’re anything like me, that’s the place you are most likely to have other people visit. After that, it depends on what’s coming up. If I have an overnight guest coming soon, I might want to work on my three-season porch, because that’s where I have guests stay. If the school year is about to start, and I know I’m going to need my books, I might work on the bookshelves in my office.
You are doing this for yourself, so you really need to prioritize based on what will make the most difference to you. For example, I’m easily embarrassed, and it would be quite embarrassing to me if someone showed up to spend the night at my house, and the room where I was going to have her sleep was a mess. I would make it a priority to put that room in order—to prevent an anxiety-producing scenario for me, rather than to impress her.
I was telling a friend of mine about this column and I said, “I didn’t expect to spend three weeks in a row on housework” and she said, “We never do, Julia, we never do.” Well, housework never ends, but things get a lot better as you put your home in order—as long as you keep doing your basic tasks every day. And, mark my words, if you decide that it’s important to you to put your house in order, you’ll do it. But it takes time, and I implore you to be patient with yourself while you’re working on it.
Now we’re going to take a break from housework (not doing it, just talking about it) for a few, maybe even, several weeks. When we come back to it, I’d like to address a really interesting question that a reader asked me that I didn’t have an answer for, “How do you keep your house neat if you’re an artist living in a small space, and you need to keep your supplies and projects out to work as you are inspired?” She added, “My ‘projects’ are spread out in my living room, which is the first thing that you see when you walk in the house. I don’t have any extra space or rooms to keep things out and out of sight of visitors.” Good question. Any thoughts?
Fashion Emergency September 18, 2008
Fashion really can save your life. I have proof-positive.
In mid-June I was out walking my 100 lb. golden retriever, and he dragged me to the park. Once there, he darted for a ball, and the leash got tangled in my feet, and BAM! Down I went, in a concrete face plant. The loud crack was all I heard, and then a woman was shaking me, asking me if I was okay. I was pretty dazed; my hand flew to my face to make sure my nose wasn’t broken. She kindly walked me home (Brooklynites are big-hearted that way) and then realized that it would probably be wise to get checked out in the emergency room.
I took the taxi over to LICH and sat in the waiting room, feeling slightly foolish and over-panicky. The doctor who saw me wiggled my nose and determined it not broken, asked if I lost conciousness (I did briefly, but I didn’t recall), asked me if I was seeing double (no), had me follow her finger with my eyes, and pronounced that I would live. I explained that what hurt most was my cheekbone because I had been wearing these big ol’ Ralph Lauren sunglasses, and the curved bruise from the lower lens rim was already showing on my cheek. “Those sunglasses probably saved your life,” the doctor clucked. And you know they didn’t even have a scratch.
A Shout-Out to Lone Star Vintage Clothing September 17, 2008
Here’s a shout-out to Heather Lewis and her Lone Star Vintage Clothing site and blog. Heather is the mastermind behind the cool weekly projects here on Athena and the Mattie Reid site, but she hasn’t been able to post lately because she evacuated out of Houston last week and hasn’t been able to get back home yet. Since we can’t have her project this week, I’m offering up a little budget style on her site. Then you can read about her Hurricane Ike adventures. Happy Trails to you, Heather, and get home safely!
Watch This! “Editing is cool” and “It’s a Woman Thang” September 16, 2008
Here are two great music videos, “Editing is Cool” and “It’s a Woman Thang” from a Facebook friend, Allee Willis. I just love them both. Allee is pretty darned inspiring. (Tip: If you click through to YouTube and click the “watch in high quality” link above the # of views you’ll see more detail.) When I came across this video, I had no idea that Allee wrote Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September”, which is my favorite song ever in the whole world. But I’m not at all surprised.
Inside the Fashion Birdcage September 15, 2008
If Fashion Birdcage isn’t a wonderful name for a fashion blog, I don’t know what is. Run by Enkha Balazic out of artsy Melbourne, Australia, Fashion Birdcage is about all things fashionable—designers, artists, music and more. But her truly fashion insights—as in garments—is spot on and I love to read her designer reviews and interviews. Check out Fashion Birdcage here.
Bridget Dearborn’s Luminous Art September 14, 2008
Bridget just happens to be a friend of mine, but if she weren’t I would buy her art anyway. Her watery-landscape paintings evoke a dream state, like another elusive world. She works layer upon layer to create this effect and as she says in her bio: “I am drawn to the way the paint pools in some places and flows in others.” Check out her website: I think you’ll fall in love with her work, too.
Waah, Fashion Week is over! September 13, 2008
Okay, we all have to go back to real life now, without a host of new duds to look at every night. It’s time to forget about living in the future and get into wearing (and making) our fab fall stuff. But before we say goodbye to the Spring 2009 shows, here’s a few of more of my favorites: Anna Sui; J. Mendel; Milly; and Oscar de la Renta. I’ve yet to see the Project Runway show, but that’ll be the icing on the cake.
Order = Calm, Part 2: Where to Begin? September 12, 2008
By Julia Pantoga
Last week I wrote about daily housework; this week I want to address the question of how to even begin when you’ve let your house get so out of order that you figure that it’d be easier to move than pick up your house.
As with any major change in your life, such as exercising regularly or eating healthily, the first step to a neat house is psychological. As I said last week, it’s going to take time to keep your house neat, which means that you are going to have to carve out time for housework – which is no small matter. If you are anything like me, your days are not filled with fluff; to make time for housework, you are probably going to have to make difficult choices such as cutting back on hours at work, volunteering, relaxing with your spouse and children, or exercising. The price for a perpetually neat and orderly house can be quite high; deciding how you will pay for it is the first step.
The next step is psychological too. You have to convince yourself that you deserve to have an orderly and (visually) calm house. When I came to the realization that having a tidy house would be good for my soul, I began repeating the following affirmation to myself several times a day: My home is neat and orderly because I need a calm house and I always take care of myself.
If regular housework is going to be a new habit for you, these preliminary steps are essential. The habit of picking up your house won’t “stick” unless you have deliberately made time for it and you believe deep down in your soul that it is important to you. Let me be clear that when I talk about how much time it takes to keep your house neat, I mean to be encouraging, not discouraging. That is, places that we live don’t just stay neat without work. Mine doesn’t; my mother’s doesn’t; none of your friend’s homes do; none of your mom’s friend’s homes do. If your house is not neat, it does not mean that you are necessarily doing anything wrong. You just have not carved out the time on a regular basis for picking up. Only you are qualified to make a judgment of whether that is right or wrong.
If your house is less orderly than you wish it was (and everyone’s is), you are going to have to carve out two chunks of time in your life. The first chunk of time is devoted only to everyday tasks. My everyday tasks are:
• making the bed
• loading the dishwasher
• washing my pans, knives and cutting boards from the night before (Martha Stewart reminds us to never put wood in the dishwasher)
• sweeping the kitchen floor
• dealing with the clothes I wore the day before (laundry or closet)
• putting things away (I’m particularly recalcitrant about unpacking groceries that don’t go into the refrigerator right away) that I left out the evening before
The following pictures illustrate the typical state of my kitchen after breakfast:
You need to make your own list; write each task down individually, then cross things off as you do them. It really makes you feel confident and efficient to cross things off your list everyday. In the beginning, you might even want to save all of your crossed-off lists in a place where you can look at them easily to remind yourself of how much you are accomplishing!
The next chunk of time you need to carve out is the time you are going to spend getting your house in order. Some people take three days off work for this, some people give themselves two hours every Saturday morning, some make time daily. Whichever time you choose, schedule it and protect it—and (of course) write a list of specific things you want to get done and cross them off as you accomplish them.
As you are planning your tasks, start to think about things that can do double duty time-wise. For example, when I had to put my drawer of plastic containers in order, I took the entire drawer out of the storage unit and put it on my sofa, next to where I watch TV, so I could get that done while I watched a movie. A friend told me the other day that she had her young son take a basket all around the house to pick up everything that was his; then she met him in his bedroom and helped him put everything in the basket away. She was getting some significant picking up done and spending one-on-one time with her son. (This friend also told me that she cleaned her refrigerator while she was making dinner the other evening, which I can’t even imagine, unless her family was having one of my favorite dinners: potato chips, ice cream and beer).
One thing that really helps me to get things done is to give myself deadlines that involve other people. I make plans for a friend to come over to help me carry some boxes of archived files into storage, then I know that I need to go through my filing cabinet before next Saturday morning so that I am ready when she arrives.
Next week this column is going to cover the process of actually putting your house in order. I have several general principles and tips to share with you, but if any of you have tips to share, please leave them in a reply to this column. In the meantime, you have the following assignments:
1. Look at your schedule and plan time for housework.
2. Write and begin saying affirmations that will help you convince yourself that housework is important for you to spend time doing.
3. Write a list of housework tasks that you can get done every day and begin doing them.
4. Begin a list of larger housework/putting things in order projects that you are going to work on.
5. Schedule help from other people that requires some preparation on your part.
If you must start Housework (with a capital “H”) before next week, please, please don’t start any project that you can’t finish. You don’t need to do anything to discourage yourself so early in the process—like make a mess.
Most importantly, this week, I want you to remember: The goal of putting your house in order is not a clean house that impresses other people; it’s creating a space that you thrive in.