Category Archives: Homekeeping

Happy Mother’s Day! 10 Things I Learned From My Mother


As I make my way through the adventure of parenting, I am often reminded that it is not meant to be figured out all on one’s own. There are several key players who will influence the way in which we parent. And since it’s Mother’s Day today, I want to take a moment to reflect on my mum. All the things I know as a mother, a wife, a friend, a colleague, are reflections of what my mother has taught me…by example, by persistence, and sometimes even by mistake. While we have very different personalities in many ways, we both share a love for helping others, a commitment to our family, and a desire for social justice. What I love most about my mother is her passion for lifting others into a higher vision of themselves.

While the following advice from my mom (aka “nana” to my girls), may or may not agree with you, here are the ones that come to the forefront in my mind and many of which have slowly niggled their way into my life and become some of my own beliefs.

Mama Nana’s 10 Rules for Success in Life:

On Being A Friend

There are good friends and bad ones. Take the time to get to know your good friends. Trust your instincts. If you don’t trust them, ask your mother. (She’ll tell you what she thinks. Over and over and over again.)

On Being A Partner

Your husband deserves your love and attention. Don’t take the love you share for granted. Go out once a week. The kids can stay overnight at nana’s. They can even stay for a week. Just go out!!!

On Caring for Yourself

Take care of yourself: drink lots of water, rest, eat well, make yourself feel pretty, get outside for 2-3 hours each day, and change the filters in your house and car to ensure you get clean, fresh air at all times. Treat yourself like a Rolls Royce and the rest will follow. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to drink lots of water. And did you open the windows in your home? Change those air filters!!

On Health

There are only three essentials aside from water, berries, vegetables, fish, rice porridge and lentil soup: apple cider vinegar, honey, and garlic. Do you have garlic? That will solve everything. Honey for your throat. Heart condition? Where’s your apple cider vinegar? Are you sick? Again? Belladonna will do the trick! Just had a baby? Boost your iron! Tired from work? You need Ginseng!! And take your Chinese herbal medicine and multivitamins to boost your energy!! Poor memory? Lecithin!!! Poor vision? You need lutein from your egg yolks!

Sad? Depressed? Eat chocolate!! Eat ice cream. Then stop feeling sorry for yourself. Get outside. Help others. Sit in the sun. Walk the dogs. And eat chocolate.

On Parenting

Your children are your most prized possession. Teach them, joke with them, sing to them, hug them, and always be there for them. The time you put in now when they are young will serve you and your children well for the future.

If you want to know what you should do, become a child again and remember what children do and like.

Children are born geniuses, don’t insult their intelligence. Go put that kid on the potty from birth just like the previous generations in China did with their kids. And use the organic cotton cloth diapers that I used to use that soak right through. I’m German but I like listening to old Chinese ladies’ advice. Rash anywhere on face or bum? Penaten!!

And remember: We are blessed with the children we are given. We do not own them, but are entrusted with their care.

On Education

You are your children’s best education. Nature provides the learning resources. Go outside, explore, observe, experience nature and learn. When they are ready for more formal education, and if homeschooling is not feasible, a Waldorf school presents a good, solid foundation from which to grow and learn how to appreciate one’s own abilities and work in harmony with one’s community and environment.

Don’t feel stuck to your studies. You are not a slave to previous decisions. Drop out of college if you need to. Drop out!! Start fresh. Know what really makes you passionate and do that instead. Go out and find what really makes you happy.

On Work

Being self-employed awards you opportunities that you may not otherwise have come across. Don’t follow the masses or become a victim of someone else. Be willing to take a leap of faith and take a chance. Work hard, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. We learn from these mistakes and also become much stronger in the end. Be your own success story.

On Investing

Don’t feel the pressure to buy a home. Don’t invest in banks. Invest in your kids. Invest in property you can enjoy. Cash good, Visa bad. Don’t trust the banks. Hide your money. Spend your money. Just don’t put it all in the bank.

On Keeping House

Clean when the kids are asleep. Or awake. Or never. You decide. The main thing is that you need to have a plan everyday for how to keep the house tidy and clean. But how much is it costing you for the cleaning lady? No more than $10 right? What? $100 you say? Are you insane! That’s far too much to spend on cleaning!

(On a sidenote, if you need some direction on cleaning and sorting schedules, I am a big fan of the Fly Lady http://www.flylady.net and also A Bowl Full of Lemons http://www.abowlfulloflemons.net)

Less is more. When possible, stick to the most natural cleaning products, and buy used and practical items.

On Faith

We are put on this earth for a reason. The most important thing is love. Religion in its healthiest state can provide a solid grounding from which one can go forth and meet life’s challenges. It doesn’t matter what religion you do or don’t subscribe to. Find the good in it and learn from those who have walked before you, and those that walk with you. If you are lost, find your faith. You are not alone.

Happy Mother’s Day! What are some of your favourite quotes from your mom?

How To Trim The Fat Off Your Laundry Load


Do you love housework?

Do you love that your weekends are often spent sorting and folding and colour blocking your laundry?

Or does the sight of your laundry loads, whether dirty or clean, often end up overwhelming you, frightening you, or sending you into a state of utter panic?

The last statement definitely applies to me. And for years now, I’ve been threatening to do something about the never ending pile of laundry that seems to be growing exponentially as my kids get older and as each day passes with me in an increasing tizzy.

The other day, I neglected all household duties and day- dreamed about another time and place when things were briefly much more manageable. I thought back to last summer when we we gave ourselves a ‘6 weeks without-a-home vacation’ and travelled to the mid-northeastern frontiers of Quebec and visited the beautiful St. Lawrence River, Charlevoix and Tadoussac regions (will post more on this later). We were waiting to move into our new house and our old house had closed several weeks before. Therefore, with no home, we were forced to put away all our possessions in storage and minimize our daily necessities and belongings. All of this “storing away” felt incredibly liberating. And we managed to live very happily in those six weeks with nothing but a few essentials. When we finally returned and moved into our new place, I couldn’t help but wonder if we could actually do without most of the things we had placed in storage.

So…yesterday, I finally did something about it. I commited to reducing our laundry load to something more manageable. I decided to purge ourselves of all unnecessary items of clothing and limit the number of options. Already, I can breathe deeper knowing there are at least two laundry loads less to do! We are by no means living a completely simplified lifestyle yet. But I consider it one step in the right direction.

To pare down your wardrobe, start with what you love and ‘really need’ and work from there. For seasonal and hand-me-down clothing, label clear plastic storage bins with season, gender and age to refer to for future use, or consider passing along items to someone who may need it. For all other items that you’re not sure about, place in a very dark black plastic bag or dark rubbermaid bin. From here you have three viable options: Either store away and look at these items again in two weeks (and let me know if you actually decide to keep all of these items!), give to friends who may be in need of such items, or donate the clothing to a charity of your choice that picks up used clothing such as the Diabetes Foundation or Cerebral Palsy Foundation.

Essentials for each family member (this also serves as a great travel essentials list for those that don’t want to pare down their clothing list permanently….yet!):

-4-7 underwear tops

-4-7 underwear bottoms

-1-2 long underwear (for winter consider polyproplene/wool)

-4-7 pairs of socks (1-2 sport, 1-2 everyday, 1-2 dressy)

-1-2 pairs pajamas/nightgown

-4-7 tops/blouses (per season; 1-2 active wear, 1-2 of each of your favourite colours (approx. 3 colours), 1-2 dressier tops)

-2-4 shorts/pants (per season; 1-2 active wear, 1-2 everyday wear (e.g. jeans/khakis, 1 -2 dressier pairs)

-2-4 skirts/dresses (per season; 1-2 everyday wear; 1-2 dressier ones)

-2-4 cardigans/knit sweater/fleece (change according to season)

-1 blazer

-1-2 ties (men)

-1-2 jackets/coats (1 nice coat, 1 all season jacket/parka; change according to season)

-1-2 pairs rain pants/ snow pants (chnage according to season)

-2-5 pairs of shoes (1 runner/athletic shoe, 1-2 everyday, 1-2 dressier pair, 1 pair of slippers/warm knit socks, 1 pair rain boot/ 1 pair winter boot; change according to season)

-1 toque/sunhat (change according to season)

-1 scarf/neck warmer

-1-2 pairs of gloves/mittens

-1 pair of sunglasses

-1 pair of goggles

-1 swim vest/PFD

-1-2 swimsuits

-1 towel

-(1 toiletry kit) non-clothing related but essential!

-(Family First Aid Kit)-non-clothing related but essential!

How I Got My Cleaning Groove Back or Really…How I Finally Discovered My Cleaning Groove


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Photo Credit: Quentin Bacon, House Beautiful Magazine

I’m glad to say that after 5+ years of motherhood, I have finally been able to bring my house to some semblance of order….no kidding folks! It really took me this long! When the kids were younger, I had many plans of how to tackle the job. The problem was, there was never enough time to get these plans accomplished. Schedules would inevitably be thrown off, I would be too tired at the beginning, middle or end of the day to do what I originally set out to do, and/or I just needed down time after work and taking care of the kids and housekeeping was the very, very last thing I would think of doing.

Sure, bathrooms and floors got cleaned (eventually!) and especially just before guests arrived…and fully prepared meals were rare but available… if I had someone dedicated to watch over the kids for a few hours!! I definitely did not have it under control on most days!

The thing I’ve realized though is that having cleanliness and order in the house really seems to help unclutter a lot of the clutter that accumulates in our heads on a daily basis. And when you’re already overwhelmed with being a parent, having a messy, unclean house is no help at all and often leaves you feeling more stuck and disgruntled. I’m sure many of you can relate!

We managed those earlier years by giving up other ‘essential’ things (more on this later!) so that we could hire a very lovely lady who helped us out once a week to do the cleaning. And if you can afford to do this when your kids are young…I highly recommend this. I realize for many, this is not an option. And I am very appreciative that we had this opportunity. And for various reasons, now we’re back to managing house and homekeeping on our own.

So what to do if you don’t have the extra help? I’ve spoken with my friends and family and searched the world wide web high and low, and have come to the conclusion that most people do something very similar to me. Melissa’s blog, The Inspired Room has some really great ideas. You can read a sample of her suggestions for keeping a tidy house in under 5 minutes, here:

http://theinspiredroom.net/2009/08/08/four-daily-routines-how-i-keep-my-house-clean-enough/

As for me, I try to keep up with this routine (which I really have only begun in the last few months) and can say that it really does help me keep my family’s sanity in check.

Here’s what I’ve learned works for our family (may be yawn-inspiring but for some quite exciting depending on what stage of life you’re at!):

Mornings:

Me time (shower, qigong/yoga)

Quick clean of bathroom

Put away any remaining clean and folded laundry

Take all laundry down and start wash (without complaining that no one ahem- e.g. the ‘hubby’ has!)

Write, read paper, space out, whatever before everyone is up

Breakfast

Unload dishwasher and drying rack

Clean Kitchen Area -I use Meyer’s Clean Day to finish the job…it makes me happy and the added expense is worth it in my opinion

Prepare lunch

Fix up bedsheets in each room (as fast as possible…duvet covers are great for this)!

Do a 5-10 minute Tidy Living Room Frenzy with kids just before heading out to Park/Daily Outdoor Time (with perhaps a bit of persistent nagging and without trying to yell louder than I need to on my more desperate days)

Take out garbage and recycling (again without complaining that no one else has done this yet before rushing off to work)

Afternoons (when one kid is in school):

Drop off daughter at school

Meet up with friend/ Break for an hour while little one rests/quiet time (hey we need our breaks!)

2 weekly grocery shops/ prep for dinner

Pick up daughter from school

Play time with kids outdoors

Finish Dinner Prep

Dinner

Evenings

Dishes/ Clean kitchen while other parent does bathtime

Storytime

Put kids to bed

Sweep and wash floors

Prep for any future meals if necessary

Fold laundry

Down time/ go to sleep!

In addition, I am now trying to simplify our life even more by reducing the number of clothes we each have to something more manageable. Of course it’s great to have a selection of clothing especially in a four season country like ours, and also to get hand me downs to add to your children’s wardrobe…but how much of it do we really, really need? And how many loads of laundry are we really realistically able to handle? Over the next few days, I will be paring things down drastically..all in an effort to control the daily onslaught of laundry, which somehow piles up miles high before I even realize it. Stay tuned!

What are some of your daily routines at home that help provide sanity in your household?