Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Once in a while, a whine can help

I always enjoy reading the Frugal Mama blog written by my long-distance friend, Amy Carden Suardi. She has practical ideas, a pleasant outlook, and a very natural form of self-expression. Sometimes I find myself to be lacking in all three of these areas, so she’s a good influence on me for myriad reasons.

Recently she invited guest-blogger Nihara of “Doing Too Much” to write this post about organizational tips, which I found refreshing because they were so simple and straightforward. None of the usual “Make six different To Do lists and rank them by priority; then keep hard copies in your glove compartment, your purse and your nighttable drawer while also sending electronic copies to your Smartphone and your laptop computer” kinds of instructions that these articles occasionally contain – which tend to make me decide that maybe being a little bit disorganized isn’t such a bad thing after all.
The post reminded me most of all that some of my own best organizing insights have come from “listening to my inner whine.” A lot of times I already know what would help me to keep better organized – if I just listen to myself.

To some extent, this approach puts me in mind of the kitchen cabinets in our first home. It’s been nearly a decade since I lived there, but I still remember my frustration with the kitchen’s very deep cabinet shelves, which initially seemed useful – all the better to store more pantry goods. But a lot of times I’d find myself standing at the cupboard thinking “It sure is lucky I have all this storage space – now if only I could reach to the back.” Which, in a slightly whinier mood, comes out more like this: “Why have all this storage space if everything I need ends up behind six rows of other things?” A-ha – maybe deep shelves aren’t such a storage boon after all.

A few weeks ago, I was looking at all the summer clothes I haven’t worn yet this season because they need to be ironed. “Ironing isn’t so bad itself,” protested my inner whine. “It’s just the work of schlepping everything from my closet to the laundry room and back to do it.”

Another a-ha moment: if that’s really the issue, why not keep the ironing board in my clothes closet, so that all the components were right in the same place? We have a fold-up ironing board that fit easily behind the closet door, and now when I want to wear something that needs to be ironed, it takes me only a matter of seconds to set it up and get to work ironing.

Similarly, I realized earlier in the summer that I didn’t have a very effective system for that simplest of endeavors, maintaining a grocery list. It just seemed like I was never quite up-to-date with what I was running out of. “It’s because when I’m cooking, I’m too busy to stop and takes notes on what I’m using up,” said my inner whine. So I made a master list of just about every ingredient I buy in the course of a year and saved it on my laptop. Now, when it’s time to grocery shop, I look over the list and highlight whatever I need, rather than trying to initiate a list from a blank page.

It’s somewhat instinctive to try to quash our inner voices when they whine. “Stop complaining and just get the job done,” we say all too easily. But sometimes, those little voices have something useful to say. I’m gradually learning to pay a little more attention.


  1. Hi Nancy! What a great post. I totally agree that it is easy to think a task will be much harder than it is. Amazing how much one can get done, however, in 30 minutes, 5 mins, or even 1.

    I love your grocery list idea. Genius!

    One thing I don't understand, however, is how you can say you sometimes find yourself lacking in practical ideas, pleasant outlook, and especially self-expression.

    In fact, I admire you so much for your practical parenting, your optimism, and your fluid and thoughtful writing style.

    I can't wait to meet you in person when you come to DC -- hopefully in the spring!


  2. i agree with Amy above! i, too, disagree that you are lacking in the areas of practical ideas (as evidenced in this very post), a pleasant outlook (i know this from personally knowing you), and a natural form of self-expression (again...see above post).

    I've done the same with the grocery list. I've organized it into sections that correspond roughly to departments at the grocery store. I even keep a printed copy of it hanging on a clipboard in the kitchen so that anyone (read: husband) may add to it. it's one of the only smoothly running systems in my household :)