Monday, January 26, 2015

little minutes

My older kids just left for an hour, and I am home with our two littlest ones. Sam is on his way home from working in the next town over, and dinner is in the crockpot - which means I have a few minutes to blog...

Yay for little minutes !

Years ago I took a home economics class in eighth grade ... I needed an elective to fill my schedule, and I had already taken as many art classes as were available. "Home Ec", as it was called, was my least favorite class. Among other boring things, we learned : how to sew a potholder, how to scrub a porcelain sink, how to make eggs benedict (I hate them to this day) and why good dental hygiene was important in life. I'm sure there were many other how-to's discussed in that half-semester elective, but those are the ones that I recall 33 years later. 

not my actual home-ec classroom... but pretty dang close

I vividly remember panicking during the "demonstration" portion of our grade for the term. We were expected to show our teacher and classmates what we had learned by cooking a small meal and cleaning up the kitchen afterwards. Our classroom was divided into two halves, one of which was filled with tables and chairs and our instructor's desk. The other half consisted of a miniature kitchen, complete with a fake window over the sink and curtains, a refrigerator, oven, sink, and gadgets of every size and shape filling all of the sturdy white cabinets. I was paranoid that I would forget a step in the assigned recipe, or leave a gray "scratch" in the sparkling white sink for my teacher to discover. (Mrs. Smith was adamant that no good homemaker ever leave the kitchen with a scuffed sink - to do so would be a disgrace to herself, her family, and the entire female portion of the human race. Or at least the homemakers in that bunch.) 

I did end up passing the cleaning and culinary demonstration with flying colors... sewing, however, was an entirely different matter. 

That test, as I remember, involved nine fabric squares of various patterns which were to be hand-sewn quickly and tidily into a little grid. I don't remember all the details of that painful day (actually I've probably subconsciously blocked it from my memory on purpose) ... 

What I do recall is all of my classmates proudly turning in their little "quilts" while - humiliated -  I handed my pathetic attempt of a project to our teacher. Drops of sweat fell from my frustrated brow : the fronts of some of my squares of fabric had been stitched to the backs of others, and I'm pretty sure the shape came closer to a swastika than a square. 

I think Mrs. Smith said something along the lines of "all of us have our strengths, Patti," but her patronizing smile said that perhaps homemaking was not in the cards for me any time soon. 

At least not if sewing was involved.

adorable Minion beanie knit by my talented sister-in-law... certainly not by me 

I am quite sure Mrs. Smith would be shocked and amazed to know that 33 years later I have been happily employed (by the bank of Sam) as a homemaker, and as far as I know, have not disgraced my entire breed yet.

I am still a pathetic seamstress - unless you count sewing buttons onto clothing - but I have discovered that a hot glue gun can often "do" in a pinch. I have scads of projects including curtains, halloween costumes, and crib sheets as proof - even if I can't sew a three-by-three quilt sampler to save my life.

Sewing skills notwithstanding, one of the lessons I did take with me from that class was the idea that successful homemaking not only meant making the most of your home, but also making the most of your time. Keepers of the home have a lot on their collective plates - and if we were to enter that noble profession, Mrs. Smith forewarned us, we should continually be looking for opportunities to seize the "little minutes" of our day.

What are "little minutes", you say ??

Glad you asked.

Little minutes are the moments in between the big minutes ... that make up our days.

If big minutes are the chunks of time we spend each day devoted to the big tasks : washing the dishes, folding the laundry, cooking dinner, mopping floors .... then little minutes are the moments we have in-between these things : straightening a bookshelf as we return a book to its place, grabbing all the pencils in the junk drawer and securing them with a rubber band as we answer a phone call, wiping the spots off the mirror with a paper towel as we brush our teeth - so many little ways to redeem the time.

Mrs. Smith taught us that there were untold little minutes in every day - and if we paid attention and made room for them, they would be one of our greatest keys to success in the art of homemaking.

home ec class for Lily... she aced the cooking portion as well !

Looking back over my career as a homemaker, I can see that there was a wealth of wisdom in that simple lesson on the value of little minutes. 

As mommies (especially of little ones) it's easy to feel like we are behind the eight-ball all day long. 

Problems can arise hourly it seems, and sometimes the enormous effort we put into one big task can come unraveled in just a few short moments ... like the toddler who decides that a huge pile of nicely folded laundry on the couch makes an awesome fort to hide under during a game of hide-and-seek. Or the middle-schooler who feels compelled to spend an hour "baking up a storm" ... resulting in something that rivals El Nino in our freshly cleaned kitchen.

If we don't take advantage of all those little minutes in our day, we can easily become overwhelmed.

Here are some examples of little minutes that have helped me keep my sanity over the years- some helpful hints in my history of homemaking :)

* Sorting through the mail immediately after it's brought in from the mailbox. Coupons are cut and placed in my wallet (if they are for the grocery store) or the glovebox in the van (if they are for a restaurant in town). Important papers are filed right away, either in an envelope in a filing cabinet for that purpose, or in the cabinet above the kitchen desk. Junk mail is trashed, and only things that need immediate attention by Sam (bills etc.) are left on the desktop for him to retrieve when he comes home at night. No piles of random papers or mail are left to accumulate anywhere in the house- if at all possible we have a place for everything and everything in its place.

* Wiping down the top of the washer  (and under the lid) just before placing laundry inside - using a washcloth or towel that was going inside anyway, and wiping the dryer down as well. It's amazing how much nicer it is to do laundry (one of my least favorite tasks!) when my appliances look clean. 

* Wiping down the baseboards and windowsills, and cleaning the ceiling dust bunnies in one room a day. It's a little overwhelming for me to go throughout the whole house doing every room - rotating rooms every or every other day means these areas (for the most part) stay clean on a regular basis instead of just once every few weeks. 

* Cleaning out just one shelf in the refrigerator at a time whenever I'm in the kitchen and get the chance. Attacking the entire fridge in one fell swoop sometimes feels like a gigantic task I just never have/make time for ... taking little minutes to assault just one shelf at a time is a much easier approach (both physical and emotionally ;))

* I've mentioned this in a previous blogpost, but calling all the kids together for a "ten minute clean-up" at random times throughout the day has been extremely effective for us. It's amazing what can get done in a short amount of time when all the troops are called in for a quick pick-me-up. We set a timer, crank some motivational music, and BAM! - Operation Restore Order to The Rice Ranch is in full swing. Often we will promise ourselves a nice reward if we complete the task in time- a round of fruit smoothies or a trip to the library or a family game ... but sometimes the simple satisfaction of a tidied-up house is all the motivation we need to get the job done.

Well, the older kids are all home now, and Daddy (our fearless leader) has designated tonight as Operation Restore Order to The Rice Ranch Closets . All of our children are going through every item of clothing they own to determine whether it is something they want to keep or give away. 
Christmastime brought some new outfits for everyone, and I'm sure there are at least several dozen items that either don't fit or have too many stains or just aren't wanted by anyone anymore ... Goodwill is going to love us come morning time, but our closets and dressers will no longer be a source of frustration for parents and children alike !

I'm sure many of you have wonderful examples of time-tested "little minutes" to share... I'd love to read your helpful hints in the comment section below :)

Until next time...

Bonne Nuit !


Joy said...

I love this! Helps all of us who wonder how you do it! I know so many times, I look at those "little minutes" and just think, Well, what could I accomplish right now anyway? But when I buckle down and use that time, wow! I'm getting to sit here right now and read my favorite blogs for a few minutes because I got so much done today -- those little minutes! :-)

Anonymous said...

Such a good helpful and MUCH NEEDED post. Thanks for sharing what works at your house with all those little minutes. I am going to remember that today as we go through our day.

Danielle Mecca said...

Thank you for sharing. Probably could have gotten your point across about your sewing, without reference to the swastika, but otherwise great ideas. You have a lovely home and family.

Patti said...

Dear Danielle - I am completely clueless as to how that would be considered offensive (if that is what you meant ?) I had no intention of being so.
Xo Patti

katrynka said...

I struggled with home ec class because I had already learned a good bit of sewing and cooking from my Mom, and I saw no need to take what I perceived as extra steps to do it the way the teacher told us! But the worst ever was when we make a chocolate pudding pie, and the girls who made the pudding burned it, and the girl making the crust burned it. It was my week to wash dishes, and I was adamant that I should not get a poor grade as my washing up was fine!!

Grammi Faith said...

Over the years I have used the same things you suggestioned and sometimes felt I accomplished much and other times wondered "what did I accomplish today?"
I think, as I hold this sleeping little boy, now I have earned this time without worring about what I accomplished today. I also treasure those "little moments" that fill up my days.

cara said...

I cannot even sew a button on something, so you are doing great in my book! On the other hand, my Abigail loves to sew, and I am quite grateful for her skills in our home. :) And I remember my homemaking class as well. We had to make pillows. It was awful!

But what great wisdom you learned, are applying, and sharing today!! Those little minutes really do matter. And I think they truly are so important to keeping the home running smoothly. Especially if you are always home homeschooling with lots of littles running around. We try to daily take advantage of all of our little minutes around here. Some of ours include asking one of the children to quickly organize the DVDs that Benji or James knocked down for the one hundredth time that day. Actually we should just put those out of reach for now. I also always go through the mail as soon as it enters my door. I cannot stand extra paper around. We are always putting up toys or things that somebody has left somewhere. I am always amazed at how fast the house can go from order to disorder in like a matter of minutes. I love your ten minute quick pick me up. We do that as well. And throughout the day, I will send kids on jobs throughout the house.

Great advice as always!! :) xoxo

Robin said...

This advice works for "out of home" work too. When I started paying attention to "little minutes" at my too-many-hours-a-week job, I had a lot less work to bring home!

Superman said...

The old timey pic looks like Mrs. Upton!

Stef said...

oh my goodness, God knew I needed this post tonight, Patti. This week has been so hard, just with juggling life; feeling like I'm super disorganized and letting so many people down. God gave this blog post to me as a little pick me up and encouragement. So, thank you!