We started talking about how to prepare yourself for a successful workweek last Sunday. In my life, it’s so easy for things to spiral out of control during the week as you grow steadily more exhausted each day until you can collapse on Friday evening with a glass of wine or a mug of cocoa. And when things start to spiral, my preparations can maintain my dressing and eating habits for a few days, but my apartment starts to show wear almost immediately.
It’s harder than it sounds to maintain a welcoming home. And it’s hard to welcome anyone into your home while the shame and embarrassment you feel that someone can SEE your apartment like THIS echoes through your brain. To stay happy and reduce stress, I know I need to keep my apartment a little straighter than I consistently do, and I need to spend some time on the weekends to make sure it is ready for the onslaught that the work week will bring. The problem with this post is that while I know I need to do better in this area, and I really want to do better in this area, I haven’t really mastered this yet. So, I’ll mention a few things that work for me thus far, but on this issue in particular I really covet your own success stories.
Over the weekend, I know that I need to focus on:
- Actually putting my laundry away. I am TERRIBLE at putting laundry away. I don’t always take the time to put clean laundry in the proper drawers. My biggest problem, however, is multiple wear items. When I come home from work and take off my dry-clean-only pants, they should go into the closet to be worn again. But I just can’t seem to do it. Even now, as I am writing this post and as guests have just departed our apartment, my dresser is covered with half-clean, partially rumpled clothes that should be put away. On the weekends I put it all away so I can start with a clean slate.
- Putting books, mail, movies, laptop chargers, and all of those odds and ends that pile up out of sight. I just use a basket but really, anything that will keep those things from cluttering up counters and sofas will be great. When my flat surfaces are clear, I feel calm. When they are cluttered, I want to hide under the covers and never talk to anyone.
- Vacuuming, sweeping the kitchen, windexing the bathroom mirrors, all that kind of stuff. Dust accumulates even in rooms you don’t use.
The big kicker for me to make my apartment nice is doing a little something every day. I’m lucky that H and I can tag team these tasks, with one of us making dinner and another doing the dishes or taking out the trash. Each day, it is best if either H or I do the following:
- Take 20 minutes each evening to do the dishes and wipe the kitchen counters. It’s amazing how easy everything else is if you do only this.
- Keep the dirty socks out of the living room. We all do it, I think — take our socks off at weird times and just throw them down wherever. I hate the way socks end up everywhere. I try to find them and toss them into the hamper as often as I can.
- Scoop the kitty litter.
- De-clutter the coffee table and entryway table.
So, that’s where I am. Still struggling to keep messiness at bay as my weeks get busier and days fly by. Do you have any tips for maintaining a calm home in the midst of a busy life? If so, please include them in the comments.
When I hear the term “meal planning,” I think of housewives with a half-dozen children driving from soccer practice to dance classes. And that is so not my life. A lot of online resources for meal planning are keyed toward families and children, but even if you are single or childless you can save a lot of money and time by planning your meals — and your grocery shopping — in advance.
Over the weekend, H and I take a few minutes to talk through our work weeks so we know when one of us is expecting to work late, grab dinner with friends, or eat lunch out instead of packing lunch. Then, we throw out ideas for what we’d like to eat the next week. I typically like to make one nicer dinner we can look forward to, but otherwise we like to keep it simple and 30-minutes or less. Here’s what we’re eating this week:
As you can see, this is a piece of paper folded in half with the dinners written on the left and breakfasts and lunches written on the right. It’s not rocket science. We choose meals in advance but for breakfasts and lunches we keep options ready that we can grab and go if needed. I eat the exact same lunch every day: turkey or chicken soup packed with veggies, carrot sticks and hummus, and grapes; I take a LUNA bar for mid-afternoon snacks. I change soups from tomato-based to broth-based or throw in an apple and pretzels instead of grapes and carrots when I need variety. It’s a simple life.
We talk about what we want to eat, I quickly sort through the cabinets to see what we have and look in the fridge to pull out anything that’s expired, and then we write down our plans for the week. We put the items we’ll need on our grocery list, and we don’t buy a lot more than what’s one the list. Some, of course — is the beer we love on sale? Are cranberries in season? [I’ve been hoarding cranberries in my freezer like a crazy person.] Did we just discover that there are Triple Double Stuf Oreos? Then we’re totally buying that too. But overall, we stay close to the list.
Using the paper method is helpful on the front end: we spend less at the grocery store. Because we are working on managing our budget better, we’ve been trying to keep our weekly grocery bill under a set amount that is right for us. It’s easy to over-spend at the grocery store if you don’t go in with a plan, but even if we weren’t saving money with this system [we are], I would do it because it is such a stress-killer. Ever walk into your apartment/home and think “what should I make for dinner?” Ever had someone you love ask you “what should we have for dinner?” Ever think that choosing something to make for dinner is too hard and even if you could choose something that sounded good it would be too hard to make, so you should just order a pizza or grab some takeout because decisions are hard? That’s me pretty much every day.
When you have the paper on the fridge, it’s easier to stay on track. The answer to the question “what’s for dinner?” is written on the paper you taped to the refrigerator. You don’t have to decide anything — just read. It is a great plan. Not feeling what is listed for the evening? You have all of the other nightly meals you can choose from before you resort to the takeout option.
Do not think that we don’t ever resort to takeout even when we have perfectly good groceries in our kitchen. We absolutely go off the list all the time. But we do it less, saving money, time, and benefiting our health while being less wasteful overall. It works for us, and even H agrees that it is a good idea.
Do you plan your meals in advance? Do you eat the same breakfasts and lunches every day, or do you need daily variety? Any other tricks for staying on-plan during the week?
I know what I like to wear. It’s usually three, maybe four outfits that I mix and match. I have less-loved filler in my closet too, but there is one pair of jeans I always prefer, a few pairs of wool socks that are soft instead of scratchy, the perfect tank to wear under a sheer blouse. When I’m running late, I can never find the pieces that need each other. Half-dressed I’ll realize something essential is missing. That first outfit is thrown to the bed/floor and I try again. Sometimes, it takes a few re-starts to get it right.
As much fun as this whole dressing-undressing-redressing experience probably sounds, it isn’t. I end up later than planned to work, or else have to skip breakfast because my precious morning minutes have been used up frantically searching through drawers. When I’m even five minutes later to work than planned, I fret on the bus instead of enjoying catching up on blogs, and my morning work time (which is my most productive time of day, when I’m not thinking about shoes and tights and sweaters) takes a hit.
There is a simple fix for this unnecessary stress: planning ahead. A lot of people recommend choosing your clothes the night before, but I know myself well enough to know that there’s always a night or two each week that I can’t be counted on to care about morning stress. Perhaps we’re out late at a dinner or met up with friends for drinks or trivia; if I get in late, I’m pretty likely to go to sleep without choosing outfits or ironing slacks.
It may sound a little intense, but I’ve started choosing an entire week of outfits on Sunday evenings. It has completely changed my morning routines.
First, I do the regular load or two of weekend laundry. In a perfect world I actually put that laundry away, but if we’re being honest that doesn’t always get done.
Then, I check the weather. I grab a post-it or an index card or my planner or whatever else is handy, and jot down the ballpark temperatures [lately, just “cold” or “really cold”] and take note of any days where it might be rainy.
Finally, I stand in the closet and pair tops, skirts/pants, and sweaters together and hang them in a group in the front of the closet. I go to my drawers and choose the tights/socks/underneath layers necessary for each outfit. I also think of what shoes will be necessary and make sure I gather up all of those shoes from where ever I might have stashed them and place them in my closet.
Over the last few months when I’ve been using this system, I’ve learned a couple of things:
- Always choose an extra outfit. This is great for two reasons. One, you can wear any outfit during the week that you’ve chosen, and if you decide you hate something at the last minute you have a back-up. Two, if you fail to be responsible on the following weekend, you have an outfit nicely waiting for Monday morning and you can catch up on Monday evening. I’m taking advantage of my extra outfit right now, wearing black tights, a black dress, and whatever cardigan is the least-wrinkled in my closet.
- Pull that blouse you never wear out of the back of the closet and try putting it back in rotation. You bought it for a reason, try to remember what it was.
- Develop a balance between dry-clean-only and regular-wash items, so that from one week to the next you still have clothes to wear. When I finally get to the dry cleaners, I have a slew of items I love that I haven’t worn in a while (because who goes to the dry cleaners regularly? Not me…), and I want to wear them all at once. Doing so will only result in them being back in the “please take me to the cleaners” pile right away. Space those beloved items out so you have at least one thing each week you love.
Do you have any tricks for dressing well without stressing out? If so, please share in the comments.
When I announced my decision to join NaBloPoMo this month, I mentioned that using Sunday afternoons to prep a few advance posts for the week makes a huge difference in my ability to post daily. The first week of November, I did this well and had a pretty great week, on the blog and otherwise. Last week, I didn’t make my time count over the weekend and spent the entire week paying the price. It is only half-way through the month and already I am frustrated with having to blog each day; the timing of my postings is getting a little later each night of the week. So today, while the rain and wind and thunder and hail bounce against our windows, I’m putting in the time it takes to get things back on track.
While planning for the blog is a big part of what I do on the weekend to prepare for the workweek, it isn’t the only thing I need to prioritize if I want to be successful. When I’m being responsible, I take a few minutes on the weekend to make some decisions in advance so that I can head to work each morning with minimal stress and spend my weekday evenings doing things I enjoy instead of constantly playing catch-up.
I know that doing these small tasks on the weekend makes me happier and more successful, but I don’t always do them. I sometimes struggle to follow through on things I want to do, especially if they are good for me. As we enter the busy holiday season, I must remind myself how important these small things are for my own satisfaction and save time on the busy weekends to take care of myself. H and I have two special guests arriving mid-week and staying with us until we all leave for Thanksgiving in Tennessee, so I need to fit in all of my usual tasks along with the extra baking, cleaning, cooking, and shopping I want to do so we all have a wonderful, stress-free weekend and holiday with our families.
Since it’s timely and a needed reminder for myself, I’ll be posting a bit this week about how planning ahead helps me stay on-track in the following areas:
- Arriving at Work Professionally Dressed
- Healthy and Budget-Friendly Meal Planning
- Keeping your Apartment Comfortable and Welcoming
As we go through the week, please be sure to share your own weekly and/or nightly rituals that keep you on top of your game.
Five links for your Friday enjoyment:
- On Being Divisive, Rachel Held Evans.
- Shoe Care for Women, Corporette, guest post by The Fine Young Gentleman.
- Recipe for DIY Chocolate Coconut Sugar Scrub, Jessica at How Sweet It Is.
- Some Thoughts About the Affordable Care Act, Richard Beck at Experimental Theology.
- Letter to a Woman Called to Leadership, Esther Emery.
This post is short but these links are all awesome. What did you read this week?
Okay, so, let’s just be honest: bibimbap is my favorite. I wrote you a cutesy introduction paragraph here but then deleted it because WHO CARES let’s talk about how to make it.
1. Rice in rice cooker.
2. Prep your toppings.
- Slice and saute zucchini
- Plop fresh spinach into boiling water until just wilted, drain and rinse with cool water (a.k.a. blanch the spinach)
- Thin-cut carrots (we don’t julienne in this family, but something along those lines would be excellent), blanch and drain
- Blanch and drain bean sprouts
- Pickle some red onion – I used the recipe here but I used rice vinegar instead and halved the recipe
- Fry a sunny-side-up egg
3. Cook the meat. You’re going to marinate the meat for a minimum of three hours beforehand and probably longer. I used the marinade recipe here, added a little pear juice, and then let it sit for a while.
I learned a few things here for next time:
- The meat should be thinly sliced — I wish I had sliced it much thinner.
- Make EXTRA — it is the most delicious of all.
4. Put it all in a big bowl: rice first, then veggies in tiny clusters around the edges, then meat and egg in the middle. Put a ton of sriracha (or Korean chile paste if you are fancy) on the side, take a photo, and then stir it all together.
That’s it! It takes a long time to prep all of the toppings but it is TOTALLY worth it. And you can make all the toppings in advance so you just put the rice-bowl together when the rice is done.
This weekend H and I took some time to see a bit of what our city has to offer in the holiday spirit department — many times during December we have been so busy with either my law school finals or H’s business school finals, so we haven’t taken the time to participate in D.C.’s holiday traditions. We still haven’t made it to Mount Vernon, and I REALLY want to go before they take down the holiday decorations, but we went down to the White House to see the National Christmas Tree on Friday evening and then over to the National Zoo to see ZooLights on Saturday. It was pretty fun and the lights were quite Christmasy, even though D.C. has nothing on the Opryland Hotel and we can’t wait to be in Nashville next weekend.
Okay, that’s all for now! I have a lot of bitterness toward a certain state’s
R-I-D-I-C-U-L-O-U-S tree and will have more for you on THAT tomorrow. Wishing you a great last week before Christmas, and a lot of Christmas goodies to make the work-days go faster.