Monday, December 16, 2013

Making a Clearing

When I started thinking about my New Year's Intentions last week, I stumbled upon the idea of needing to make a big clearing to accommodate all the work that is coming up in my life. I've been friends with lots of folks who have started schools (and worked part-time to help open a school in 2012-13), and the consensus is that it's overwhelmingly crazy. 

The problem is that I don't want the craziness to box out the other parts of my life that need attention, such as my family and my health/wellness. For me, it's all a connected system and all the parts have to be functioning well (even if the different parts don't necessarily get equal attention all the time). 

So what are my strategies for mitigating the craziness? 
  • Get my organization system into a rock solid place. In order to maximize my time, I'm going to have to always focus on the most important priority. I need to have a clear sense of what needs to get done between now and the start of school, and I need to generate a timeline for getting it done.
  • Plan ahead as much as possible. Working in schools is largely a game of execution; you're always responding to situations that pop up. But the more time you have for planning upfront (and the more time you allocate for planning while executing), the more you can anticipate and prevent certain things. This means I can't get into the habit of going to bed early or watching TV on weekdays. I know it sounds draconian to say, but it's true. There is so much work to get done between now and the start of school in August. If I choose to relax now, then I will pay the price later. It's a delicate balance for sure. I recently had a baby and I deserve rest. And without adequate rest, I won't be able to work effectively. But if I don't get my work done now, then it will pile up and have to get done later (while I'm also trying to respond to things that are happening in the moment). 
  • Make exercise more efficient. Right now, we're heading to the lake so I can run on Saturday and Sunday. I love being outside in nature (which is why I'm trying to exercise outside), but I think there are more efficient ways to meet all my needs. If I run on the treadmill at the local YMCA, then I'll have more time for other things. When we have lots of free time as a family, that's when we can head into nature. 
  • Get a robot vacuum. With a bloodhound and two children, our house needs constant vacuuming. I actually hardly ever vacuum, but asking for one of those robot things for Christmas would free up some of Matt's time.
  • Hire a cleaning person. This is the hardest one for me. I've always had a problem with outsourcing basic human things. I think it's incredibly important for me to slow down and take care of my physical environment. I also think it's incredibly important to model for my children (and invite them to join in). Matt and I intentionally choose to live in a smaller house so that there is less to clean. But we're getting to a place where we feel stretched thin all the time. If we hired a cleaning person every other week (and paid him/her a good wage to honor their time/energy), I think we would still have plenty to clean on a weekly basis, but we wouldn't have to worry about bigger things: bathrooms, dusting, windows, baseboards. 
  • Give myself permission to drop down to two blog posts a week. I try to be pretty consistent with three postings a week, and I'm hesitant to reduce that number because I enjoy writing in this space so much. But it might take some pressure off to aim for 2-3 times a week versus a solid three. 
I know how this sounds! Some of you might be wondering, "Why would you want to live like that?" It's a question I asked myself many times before choosing to go down this path. I believe in giving more children access to free, public Montessori, and now is my time to pursue this passion. 

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Maureen said...

For efficient exercise try Momma Strong - designed by & for super busy moms, it's just 15 minutes a day, a different high intensity interval workout every day. I just did the postpartum core bootcamp and am hooked.

Kelly said...

In response to the "why would you want to live like this" question, I think it's also important to recognize that these are temporary measures you can use to achieve your goals. When you're on the treadmill, each and every stride can remind you of how much closer you are you to your goal than you've ever been before! As someone else (or a robot) cleans your house, you can smile to yourself, knowing that the time you saved is more time you can spend with your kids. And above all - it's temporary. A year, two years, however long - and it's not like you're suggesting that you not exercise or not have a clean house - I don't think it will feel like a huge sacrifice, considering what it will allow you to gain.

You can do it, Sara!

Kelsey said...

If you can afford it, I am a huge advocate for hiring a cleaning service. It's something that has made a significant difference for me. We have a cleaning service come one time per month. With both Chris and I working full time our free time on the weekends is so precious, as I know yours is. It seemed that we would need to spend nearly a whole day cleaning each week and often times the house would get only half clean so it would just perpetuate. And I am SUPER affected by my environment so it became so stressful for me. It came to a point where I value my free time and being able to relax with Chris and because we can afford it I feel it is very worth having a cleaning service. We hired someone who had left an advertisement on our door and she owns her own business and we are paying what she agreed was a fair price ($90 per cleaning for our 1,775 house).

You will still teach your boys to keep their environment clean - you still need to pick up after yourself, put dishes in the dish washer, wipe up spills, put away your clothes, etc so you will still be modeling that for them. Plus we sometimes need to sweep and mop in between cleanings so there are plenty of opportunities! I have also noticed that if the house gets REALLY clean once a month we are very motivated to keep it clean as opposed to it getting half clean each weekend as we tried to fit it in amongst other things.

For us it's been a real help and if you are able to afford it I think it's a very smart use of money.

Prettylittlemess said...


And yes, I am shouting. We did this last year when my husband had a demanding judicial clerkship. He took three whole days off of work the entire year, meaning he worked weekdays and weekends 8:30-11pm from July 2012-July 2013. The cleaning service saved our sanity. We had them come once a month. It forced us to tidy up before they came, preventing us from living in complete squalor. They were efficient, friendly and did a MUCH MORE THOROUGH JOB THAN I WOULD. Can not emphasis that last part enough. They are skilled laborers and should be honored for their skill. They made my bathroom spotless in the time in would take me to maybe just clean the sink.

I highly suggest you find a company you trust that can come into your home while you are working. That is when it is most efficient; getting a tasked crossed off your to-do list while you are working!

Sara E. Cotner said...

Wow! Three of my favorite internet friends all in one place!

Thanks, Maureen! I haven't checked that out yet. I'm terrible at doing exercise videos. I love the 30-day shred (it's only 20 minutes), but I never do it!

Hi, Kelsey! We once got an advertisement for a cleaning service that said something like "Free up time to spend with your kids!" I scoffed at it and thought, "Kill two birds with one stone and clean with your kids! It's good for them and the house."

And the fact is I still believe that, but even if we hire someone to help with cleaning, we will still have plenty to clean with Henry!

Hi, Kelly! Even though it's a particularly busy season in our lives (an infant and a toddler and starting a school), I don't want to fall into the trap of always being busy. I like working and I like dreaming big, but I also know that I need to slow down and just enjoy life and be fully present with the people around me. It's a balance for sure.

Thanks for chiming in, Everyone!

Andrea said...

I agree hire a cleaner!!! Makes you tidy up, gets the house cleaner than I can and saves looking at the dirty and mess and feeling stressed. Plus it adds to the local economy.

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