Category Archives: housewifery

Konmari your drawers and help your kids dress themselves

Everyone knows what Konmari-ing is by now, don’t they? I’m usually last to any party, so I assume if I know about it you do too, but just in case…

This book, The Joy of Tidying it’s called, or something like that, has been popular lately in certain housewife circles. (I run with a wild crowd, I tell you.) In it, simplicity guru Marie Kondo advises you that if you throw out everything that doesn’t spark joy within you, and then fold everything else just so, your life will be perfect from then on.

I haven’t done any of it, to be honest, or even read the book, or even leafed through the book, but I’ve read people talking about it on the Internet and that’s a perfectly good qualification for all that I’m about to tell you. I did feel very smug when it turned out I’d been folding and storing my knickers á la MarieK all this time, and a couple of days ago while Mabel was in the bath I decided to fold Dash’s t-shirts and long-sleeved tops so he could see them better in his drawer.

Dash's t-shirts, folded in the drawer
I didn’t know he cared how his t-shirts were arrayed, but it turns out he loves it like this. The rightmost column are short sleeved and the other two are long, which helps him find things. He usually wears the same three tops out of all these, but maybe now that he can see them better he’ll pull in a bit more variety and/or I can toss out some that we both hate.

Spurred on, I went and did Mabel’s too. Normally in the morning I choose her clothes just to move us along a bit quicker, but I’d really like her to take more responsibility for this. Sometimes I try to get her to do it herself, or help me things out the night before, but she’s usually just not that into it; though she’ll have Opinions if I suggest something she disagrees with. (Purple is mostly off the table at the moment.)

Mabel's clothes

Thing is, getting dressed in girl clothes is hard. There are a lot more decisions than just top + pants, especially if jeans aren’t really your thing. It occurred to me that maybe what’s stopping her is also the idea that she’ll get it wrong. So last night we made a little chart to pin up beside her newly-arranged tops and bottoms and skirts and dresses and leggings and tights and knickers and socks.

Flowchart poster showing what she can wear with what

It doesn’t cover every eventuality (for instance, don’t put on socks if you already have tights on), but I think it might help. And I should have put the far right column first, probably. If you wanted to, you could also colour-code the little symbols on the clothes containers to match the items on the flowchart. Or you could let your child colour in the poster. But you get the idea. Infinitely customizable; just try to keep it fairly simple.


(Sorry the photos are a bit dark. I waited for daylight, but now it’s raining.)

In a few years, we might move on to phase two. It looks like this: of Buzzfeed and Amy Sly.


Imaginative play

Mabel is really good at playing. She has a gift, I would even say, for play. Solo play, by herself, with just her imagination and all the toys at once. On the floor. Together. All the furniture out of the dollhouse. All the doll clothes out of their tub, which is overturned so that the dinosaurs can stand on it while they’re lined up for school and so the clothes can become a nice soft beautifully laid out bed for a family of stuffed bunnies (who adopted a platypus).

Scene in the dollhouse

All the other stuffed animals are ranged across the floor because she was looking for Poby the red panda she got at the zoo and he was at the bottom of the basket. All the babies are on the carpet because their container is now a hutch, on its side and covered by the big fleece red blanket that belongs on her bed, for the red panda and his associates. There are acorns strewn around because they were snacks for tigers or squirrels or tiny beavers.

Toy beavers

Four three-inch-square blankets I knitted with my own two needles for the family of tiny rabbits (or beavers or owls), not being used for their original purpose but for something else understood only by their ruler. Plastic babies wrapped in baby blankets that once held my real babies. Teddies dressed in doll clothes; horses dressed in bunny clothes, turtles in hats. Markers and crayons and sheets of coloured paper and bits of yarn cut up and taped together and stuck to other bits of yarn.

Dollhouse scene

She’s like a very messy omnipotent being, and her realm is vast and ever-expanding.

Tonight I picked everything up for the first time in days. I put little people into one tub and little plastic animals into another and big animals in another and stuffed animals in their laundry baskets and babies in their baby baskets and furniture in the dollhouse and blankets in bedrooms. I put all the tiny bits of lego on the shelf and the acorns in the trash.

I’ll probably be in big trouble with the omnipotent being tomorrow, but for tonight, the wide open expanse of floor space is worth it.




One of those nights

On Tuesday I symbolically went to Target and did lots of useful things. On Wednesday – I don’t remember, actually, but let’s assume I did more useful things. Yesterday Dash had a day off school so I didn’t get much done with my two hours of free time, and today I think I’m just going to sit down with a book. Useful things can feck off with themselves. Though I may possibly take a moment to push a swiffer around the floor, because I think the dust bunnies are unionizing.

Last night was one of those nights that when you have a baby you think you won’t have any more when you have big kids.

11:00 I go to bed.

12:20 Dash has a coughing fit. I get up to see if there’s anything I can do. I can’t give him a dose of cough medicine because he’s not actually awake. I attempt a ritual laying-on-of-hands (i.e. putting my hand on his back for a few seconds), which was sometimes all it took to relax him enough to stop coughing when he was younger. Doesn’t work. I climb into bed with him, which also sometimes works, though it’s not exactly simple due to his loft bed, and the thought crosses my mind that I may be approaching creepy Love You Forever levels of mothering. It’s  not creepy to get into bed with your seven-year-old, right? To stop them coughing? Oh well. It didn’t work, anyway. Not for ages.

1:00 or thereabouts: I go back to my bed.

… some other time… I get out of bed again, I don’t even remember why, maybe it was Mabel. Maybe it was more coughing.

… And again.

… And again.

All I know is that I returned to my own bed at 1, 2, 3, 5, and 5:30 this morning, with the intervening periods spent sleeping and/or not sleeping in one of my children’s beds. Then my wonderful husband did all the morning stuff and didn’t wake me till 8:30, when I had just enough time to stick my head under the shower, throw on some jeans (jeans! It’s jeans weather! At least before 9am it is), and run Mabel to school.

New-obsessions week, day 3: Coconut oil

If you heard there was an all-natural product that had inbuilt antiseptic properties and was an amazing moisturizer, and so pure you could actually eat it (and it would do you good on the inside too), and that on top of all this it smelled amazing, well, you’d go out and buy some, wouldn’t you?

Well, there is. It’s coconut oil. Go and get some. (Trader Joe’s does a good one for a great price, but they have it all over these days.)

There are a gazillion websites telling you all the bazillion things you can do with coconut oil, from using it as a coffee creamer to curing athlete’s foot to a personal lubricant (ahem) to polishing your furniture, so I won’t ennumerate them all. 

But so far I’ve been using it as a facial and body moisturizer, make-up remover and cleanser, and have put it on mosquito bites (sure, why not) and fried some chicken in it. (I scooped up about a third of the jar into a separate container to keep for cosmetic use, so that I’m not actually eating from the same jar that I’m slathering my cracked heels out of.) I have great plans to do some deep conditioning on my hair with it soon, and make a body scrub with sugar.

The interesting thing about this oil is that it’s liquid at 76 F and higher, and solid (like lard, for instance, or butter) below that. Coincidentally, 76 F is just about where our air conditioning is set in the summer, and upstairs is usually a little warmer. So at the moment, the jar in my bathroom is usually liquid while the one in the kitchen vacillates from one state to the other depending on whether the oven is on. It doesn’t matter; it can turn from solid to liquid and back multiple times daily without doing it any harm; though I do like the soft-butter consistency for a body moisturizer when I can get it.

But the best thing about it is the smell. Remember ages ago I was washing my face with olive oil? Well, that was nice and all, but I did get a little tired of smelling like a salad. No such problems here – unless you hate the scent of coconut, I suppose. Does anyone? Is that possible? Well, I don’t hate it, and to be honest, I would probably buy anything that smelled this good, no matter what was in it. The lovely all-naturalness is just a bonus.

16 oz coconut oil from Trader Joe's for $5.99

It was Emily at The Nest who first drew my attention to this wondrous stuff, and she keeps promising to do a big long post about it, so please do just consider this a mere preview of what the expert will tell us, just as soon as the expert is done taking five children to Germany and back, not to mention all the amazing crafting, painting, homeopathing, homeschooling, doll-making, and baking that she does on a daily basis. Go check out her lovely blog and tell her I sent you.

Judicious use of all caps

I was somewhat miffed to discover yesterday that we all needed dinner AGAIN, and that I would have to go back to the supermarket AGAIN to buy more milk and more bread and more frozen waffles and that I’d have to continue to make dinner ALL WEEK AGAIN because apparently throwing a big (-ish) party doesn’t stop everything from just continuing to happen in exactly the same way as before.

So here I am putting on laundry AGAIN and tripping over toys AS ALWAYS and wondering when I’m going to sort out all those maternity clothes in the box that need to be laundered and ironed before I can consign them (IRONED? Come on!) and realising that I STILL haven’t applied for the passport, and now I get to plan Dash’s birthday party YAY.

(I should point out that nobody in my family is demanding that I make dinner, and they would all be fine with takeout pizza or spagetti and sauce-from-a-jar all week. But at the very least we still need milk for our cereal and bread for the peanut-butter sandwiches. And apparently I show my love by cooking for people, NO SHIT, SHERLOCK.)

So now I will stop and give myself the rest of the morning off, perhaps. Because Spring Break starts on Thursday and then I’ll have even more not-getting-stuff-done to complain about.


Mabel has had two good nights in a row* and I have done at least half the things on that to-do list, which is pretty good going for me. Okay, so the pile of papers has been sorted through and moved to a new location but not actually put away yet, but things are in train. Shopping has been done for the party on Sunday, and I’m starting to feel as if it might actually all come to fruition in a timely manner.

The trouble with getting things done is that it’s all about priorities. And I can’t prioritise everything. So either I’m trying to exercise a few days a week, or I’m sorting out piles of paper. I’m writing a blog entry (or even something else) or cleaning the bathrooms. I’m planning a party or trying to figure out how to store our piles upon piles of soft toys or applying for a passport. But I can’t do all those things, or even remember that I wanted to do them all, at the same time. No matter how much of a multitasking fool I am – and yesterday I was baking two types of bread, registering to vote, buying Dash a new coat**, filing, drinking a cup of tea, AND bragging about it all on Facebook – I can’t hold in my mind the intention and urgency of getting everything done that has to be done.

So this week any notion of exercising went out the window and I skipped blogging a few days and as a result I have accomplished other things. I need a rotating cycle of prioritizing. Maybe I can make myself a star chart for that.

(We are knee-deep in star charts here. Mabel completed one, for good behaviour at school, got her new baby, and immediately demanded a new chart so she can buy all the baby’s other sisters. So I concocted a huge new one that covers many aspects of her life, and then Dash wanted one too because if she gets something from Target when there he is in great need of a new light saber and with more than a month to go before his birthday, he should have one too. His is for getting ready in the morning and stopping playing computer games when his time is up. We’ll see who gets their next trip to Target first.)

Little girl and two dolls
Watching TV with new Baby Belle. Baby Aurora is a little jealous.

So I could have a week for organizing, a week for cleaning, a week for writing, a week for exercising, a week for shopping, a week for baking, and then back to organizing. And if I get all my stars I can buy myself a babysitter, maybe.

*I am not blogging about this for fear of jinxing it. This does not count as blogging about it, okay?

**Long story, but I accidentally broke the zip on Dash’s winter coat by closing the car door on it. That makes two coats two years in a row that I’ve buggered on him. At this rate he’ll never wear a coat that fits him, because I keep ruining them before he’s even grown into them. The new one is an age 8, and even though he’s about to turn 7 he’s only just growing out of his 5s. The sleeves will be down to his knees. Ah well. There’s not much winter left*** and it’ll fit better by next year.

***There’d better not be.

A very parenthetical list

So I thought if I put my to-do list here maybe it would shame me into getting something done. Something other than drinking cups of coffee and convincing myself that pie is a perfectly valid mid-morning snack. (It was apple pie. That’s fruit.)

(We have an apple pie because I went to a bloggers’ meetup last night and I felt so guilty about leaving B to get Mabel to sleep while simultaneously getting Dash to shut up and stay in his room and go to sleep that I made him a pie. Also because I’d intended to make it on Sunday but then I went shopping instead and bought lots of tops for me on clearance, and didn’t even look at children’s clothes, which is a thing of which I am very proud.)

(I have to give a shoutout to all the lovely DCMoms bloggers I met last night at the Mellow Mushroom in Adams Morgan where Jennifer and I went to break out of our comfort zones and meet new people and put not so much faces to names as heads on bodies. When you know people as a series of square headshots, it’s always surprising to find that they’re not all on the same level in real life – they’re tall and short and narrow and wide and simultaneously older looking and younger looking and more gorgeous and more approachable and more real in real life than you could possibly imagine from photos. I met Sandie and Allison and Rebecca and Jessica and Jean and Aimee and Elaine and Michelle and Robin and other people too, who I am not managing to remember just now, sorry.  And we ate delicious pizza and the people at the restaurant were really nice to us because they’re lovely people and you should check it out if you’re downtown.)

So without further ado here is my to-do list:

  • Make D’s dentist appointment
  • Fill in application to vote
  • Make appointment at post office for passport application
  • Make shopping list for the weekend’s baking extravaganza*
  • Clean house (but not too soon) (only downstairs)
  • Get B a birthday present of some sort
  • Bake something and freeze it to get a jump on the aforementioned baking extravaganza? 
  • Make pumpkin bread or black-bean brownies for school-lunch desserts
  • Bake bread for my insatiable carb-loving family
  • Sort out that big pile of papers over there
Messy pile of paper

*I have to explain about the baking extravaganza, and for that matter, why I only need to clean downstairs. It’s not that upstairs stays magically sparkly all by itself, but more that nobody will be seeing it so it doesn’t matter right now. We somehow have managed to schedule all our social events for the spring into this weekend – on Friday there’s a block party potluck thingy, for which I have to make something (it’ll be my old faithful kale and quinoa salad, because it’s yummy, vegetarian (even vegan), and can be eaten at any temperature). Then on Saturday there’s a house-party fundraiser for the nursery school, to which I said I’d bring a dessert – as yet undecided; what goes with delicious white sangria made by a real Spaniard? Something fruity . . . jello shots, maybe? And then on Sunday we’re having a party here, hence the house-cleaning part.

Not a kids’ party either. An honest-to-goodness real grown-up party, although it will essentially end up being like all the kids’ parties with grownups that we’ve thrown in the past. But my my adored and much-put-upon husband is turning a significant multiple of ten (hint: more than 30, less than 50) on the 25th, and since I have no idea what to give him, I’m baking him a Guinness cake and making other things he likes and inviting over some of his friends and their children and hoping everyone will have a pretty nice time.

So I have to get plenty of sleep and not have any hangovers and be on top of my game for all that. Yup, that’ll happen. Tell you what, you bribe Mabel to stay asleep all night, and I’ll bake a cake for you as well.

Present disculpatory

Apparently I was a little distracted when putting Mabel to bed last night. She wrapped herself up in my big brown blanket and I totally forgot that we hadn’t put a nighttime pullup on her. So at eleven thirty she woke up all wet and it took a long time to get her back to sleep.

My big brown blanket is now in the wash.

I’m busy. Which is good. I like to be busy when it’s just the right amount – not overwhelming, not stressful, just busy enough to give me a sense of purpose and a good excuse when the children come wanting me to be a mommy cheetah. (I said “Miaow,” but apparently cheetahs don’t miaow. They don’t roar either. They make a high-pitched chirping noise. I find this hard to believe. I am suspicious of my children’s television-acquired knowledge.)

I’m busy getting us back to normal, whatever that is, but also trying to start exercising again – running and yoga, I’ve decided, this year/semester/term/week – and doing a small freelance job, as well as the writing course I’m taking from Alice Bradley (the wonderful, hilarious Finslippy, and I only partly said that because she might be reading). [Alice Bradley is reading my blog. Hyperventilate, hyperventilate, spend an hour browsing past posts to try to read them with a stranger’s eye; fail.]

And then I had to restock our supplies of peanut-butter and tinned tomatoes and boxes upon boxes of Cheerios (they were on special offer), as well as trying to keep the house from falling into a state of absolute squalor (some squalor is fine, just not absolute), and have a cup of tea every now and then and eat a muffin (somebody’s gotta do it) and also see above re laundry, and so that, what I’m trying to say, is why I didn’t update the blog yesterday.

Duvet vous?

The baby has stolen my blanket.

By which I mean that the four-year-old has taken the supersoft espresso-brown blanket that lives at the foot of her parents’ bed for the express purpose of keeping me, her longsuffering mother, warm at night – because I run about ten degrees colder than everyone else in this house, apparently – and is currently snuggling her tow-headed little self under it, fast asleep and away with the fairies to boot.

Not to mention the fact that she has a perfectly good duvet of her own, from Ikea, inside a very attractive duvet cover, also from Ikea, and additionally a big bright red fleece blanket purchased in Target not two months ago because she wouldn’t wear her coat in Chicago. So she’s sleeping on top of the red blanket, under the brown blanket, shunning the duvet, and sentencing me to another night of being just slightly not warm enough in bed. (This is the third night in a row.)

The things we put up with.

Meanwhile, in the parental bed – don’t worry, I’m not going into any salacious details: this is about linens – the sheet war is being waged with all the silence and indignance two tired parents can muster over such things. See, there’s a sheet under us, and a sheet over us, between us and the comforter. Raised as we were in a part of Europe that came late to duvets, but not as late as America, we’re not entirely used to the top sheet – but I really like my down comforter, and I’m not going to wash it every week, so that’s why the sheet is there. The sheet is turned down over the comforter when we sleep, but somehow – due no doubt to my inept bed-making skills – it doesn’t want to stay there and tends to flip up over our faces. I can deal with this. I calmly flip it down again. But B gets all pissy with the sheet in his sleep and ends up with it mangled and twisted and generally not where it should be.

At some point in the night, inevitably, I come back to bed from my sojourn in Mabel’s room, and, as I slip myself into the half-warm bed, I notice that the sheet on his side needs fixing. I pull it up and flip it neatly back where it should be. I suspect he thinks of me as the midnight sheet nazi. In turn, I grumpily wonder, every night, why he can do physics for the government but he can’t work a simple bedsheet.

Luckily for all of us, there are more important things in life, and by morning we’ve forgotten it all again. This morning I dreamed that I tweeted to Mabel the fact that it was 5.15 when I left her bed, and then regretted it because it was bound to wake her up.

Happily, she didn’t get my tweet because she stayed asleep for another hour, and all was right with the world.

My drawers (fnar, fnar)

A few bad nights for Mabel meant I mostly fell off the exercise and housework wagon this week, but I’m proud to announce that our winter clothes are more or less sorted out. (Not B’s; he’s not included. He wears the same thing all year, minus some shorts and plus some sweaters in the winter. And if he wants them organized he can do his own.)

But my closet looks like this now:

Tidy closet with shoes and sweaters

The box holds bags/purses, and the tops/sweaters are organized thus: short sleeved, 3/4 sleeved, long sleeved, wool. The chunky wool ones are on top or hanging. Three pairs of boots are to the right of the box. I don’t use a lot of hanging space because it’s mostly dresses, skirts, and jackets, and I don’t have a lot of any of those. You can see from this that I will be wearing a palate of mostly greens and dark reds/purples this season. Just like every season, because that’s what I like.

I didn’t take a before picture of the closet, but this is what my pyjamas/stuff drawer still looks like, so you can extrapolate from that:

Messy drawer of t-shirts and tanks

I’m not saying this is all I have: most of my days are spent in jeans (stuffed-full jeans/chinos drawer not pictured), and I have another of yoga pants and one of underwear and one of nicer clothes I might wear once in a blue moon, and a whole suitcase full of things that don’t fit but I’m not ready to give up on, and some more odds and ends in an under-the-bed storage thingy; but the important part is this – this is all the stuff I’m getting rid of:

Pile of sweaters, tops, pants, and trash bag full of shoes
See? Even the stuff I’m getting rid of is greens and dark reds.

The trash bag holds six pairs of shoes, one of which dates from pre-emigration – that is, more than 10 years ago. The toppling pile has about twenty t-shirts, tops and sweaters, and one pair of jeans that I never liked much. This has now been joined by some summer clothes Dash and Mabel have grown out of (that aren’t nice enough to pass on to friends), and a few shirts B is discarding. All this will go to the next yard sale we’re involved in, or the thrift store.

I got Dash to try on about twenty pairs of trousers, took away a few, and ascertained that my six-and-a-half-year-old still has 5T-length legs, just about, though his hips have grown out of the slimmest-fitting pants. Since he also refuses to wear any shirts that come below about mid-fly (because they might look like dresses and people might think he’s a girl, yaknow), he doesn’t need anything new.

(No photo because his room is dark like a man-cave, and his stuff is all stashed in drawers that don’t make nice pictures.)

And then, I sorted out my box of things that might fit Mabel this season and reorganized her shelves. She can’t reach everything herself, but she’s getting more inclined to choose her own clothes, and I’m trying hard to hold my tongue if her choice is reasonable. At least I’ve put away the high-summer stuff so she’ll be less tempted to try to wear a sundress or short shorts on a morning when it’s 49 degrees outside. (That’s about 9 celcius.)

Her clothes are in IKEA dividers (like this) that are supposed to separate things within drawers. When we moved in here, I had no dresser for Mabel and wasn’t using these metal shelves for anything, so we stuck them in her closet and I found the dividers handy (since her clothes were still practically baby things that took up so little space). But her clothes still don’t take up much space individually, and though I’m always on the lookout for a small white chest of drawers for her room, this system works fine for now. From the top, L-R, they hold pyjamas, socks, leggings, long-sleeved tops, capris/long shorts, t-shirts, underpants, bottoms/pants, and skirts/dresses that aren’t hanging up. There are some chunky sweaters in the basket at the very bottom. The top shelf is a mess of hand-me-down shoes that don’t fit yet and summer clothes awaiting sorting.

I could do with another box for the tights stashed on the top left, and I should think about bringing all the upper stuff down so that she can reach it more easily. She needs more dresses, especially since she’s lately become very partial to them; I’m working on that and have enlisted e-Bay. I was very disappointed to miss a really good local used-children’s-clothing sale last weekend, and I’ll miss our local clothing swap next weekend, so my opportunities for snagging the perfect thing are reduced to the thrift store (always there) and the nursery-school yard sale in a few more weeks’ time. And the clearance racks at Old Navy, Target, and Gap, of course.

In case you were wondering, this is what the other side of Mabel’s closet looks like:

Open closet with just three items hanging, and two large boxes on the top shelf

I wouldn’t bother showing you, except for my genius sorting system comprising those two boxes. The brown one says “Too big; next season” and now holds summer things from this year that might still fit next, and any summer age 4 stuff I have. The Pampers box says: “Too big; distant future” and contains everything else I’ve amassed for her that will fit at some point when she’s bigger That way I don’t have to re-mark the boxes every year when they’re no longer holding 4s but now 5s and 6s (Mabel, fitting age 6 clothes? Inconceivable!), and so on. 

Personally, I’m just pleased that I’m the sort of person who uses a semicolon when labelling a box of clothes. I think it says something about me, don’t you? Yes. Well.