Lazy Girl Fitness: Don’t forget the lazy part

27 Aug

Summer is winding down and yes, I am still plugging away at my fitness plan anyway. I told you it was a lifetime thing, right?

But the success of my efforts was debatable. Sure, you can see muscles on my thighs, and I have lost maybe a pound. But my waist is the same number of inches… and I have lost maybe a pound (I’ve been doing this since February, people!).

My health-conscious brother was in town recently and joined me for a few workouts, so I picked his brain about it. He said that I probably wasn’t working hard enough or eating right. To which I bristled. Wouldn’t you? (I remind you–February!)

But then he explained. It’s better to only work out every other day, but make those workouts more intense. And to make sure you eat enough before you do. What he meant, in other words, is that I wasn’t working efficiently. I was forgetting the two most lazy parts of lazy girl fitness: resting and eating.

I know, as we all do, that your muscles need recovery days to actually build up. I usually took mine on either Saturday or Sunday and went to the gym the rest of the week. What was happening is that I was getting tired, but thinking that some kind of work out was better than nothing, I was hitting the gym and just kind of putzing through. It was creating a vicious cycle of weariness where I was really only getting one intense workout per week, sometimes none.

My brother also had thoughts on eating–not what, but when. He suggested eating an hour before working out in order to have enough energy. I’ve heard so much conflicting info on whether/what/when to eat in relation to working out, so I’d chosen to ignore all of it and follow my natural hunger.

My natural hunger, however, wasn’t being cooperative. My eating schedule is such that I wasn’t hungry until right before my lunch break–which, duh. The problem is that I usually make the choice to go ahead and push through some semblance of a workout and eat lunch afterward. I’m able to do this because I eat a large breakfast when I arrive at the office (I like to leisurely chow while sifting through emails). Unfortunately, by the time I get hungry it’s too late–I have to put off eating.

I say unfortunately because I usually don’t feel like eating after exercising. I’ve told you before that exercise makes me seriously hungry, and it does (as it turns out, women more so than men. I knew I wasn’t crazy!). But not until several hours after. As a result, I get a massive chow attack around 3:30 PM, which then spoils my dinner. So not only do I eat a larger amount of calories later in the day, but it contributes to putting off my breakfast, starting the whole cycle over again the next day.

Basically, my way of doing things was taxing my metabolism.

So I’ve made a few small changes. I now work out every other day. On my workout days, I am doubling the intensity and cutting down on time with HIIT and Tabata style workouts (Tune in tomorrow for a sample workout schedule!). Not only do I feel like I’m getting a better workout, I now have time to actually eat on my break, if I feel like it. And on my off days, I can even go home and do chores or run an errand. Or even read a book — gasp!

The eating has been a bit more of a challenge. My ideal is to eat breakfast at home, i.e. earlier, giving me time to get hungry for a mid-morning snack, but that is very challenging for several reasons, most of them having to do with getting out of bed. So far all I’ve managed to do is force myself to eat a healthy snack (today it’s a green smoothie) an hour before working out. I’m still not hungry for it–yet–but I have to admit that I’m not so weary during lunch break workouts any more. I still don’t feel hungry for lunch until late in the afternoon, but I think my stomach just needs time to adjust to the new schedule.

It’s only been a week, and already I’ve noticed an increase in energy not just during workouts, but in general. Here’s hoping I start seeing some body changes soon!


Happy Labor Day and remember: every body is a bikini body!



What I’m Reading: YA gets topical in Thirteen Reasons Why

25 Aug

In Summary: Great premise, OK execution. And by virtue my lengthy critique here, we have to tip our hats to the fact that it’s a book worth a full review, whatever its issues.

Positives about this novel: It was engrossing, unfolding almost like a mystery. Props to the author for pulling that off (not all such attempts succeed). You don’t need to actually be a young adult to enjoy this on the whole. I also appreciate that the book and its evident popularity might be the impetus for discussion of important subjects–teen suicide certainly, but also depression, mental illness, slut shaming, #yesallwomen, the effect of gossip, sexual harassment and rape–among teenagers and their peers and parents.

On a more concrete level, I liked the huge web of characters, and the references to even more that weren’t seen directly. That’s how we truly interact after all, but it’s extremely difficult to convey that in novel without being confusing and/or needing a flow chart.

Eyebrow raisers: My hang up with this novel was not, as other reviewers have complained, with the believability of Hannah’s 13 reasons. On the contrary, I found them rather compelling, particularly the snowball effect described. Even though we aren’t really given any clues to this, it’s statistically safe to assume Hannah is suffering from mental illness, since a large percentage of those who commit suicide are (the professional source in this story as well as the NAMI quotes the figure at 90%). Operating under that assumption, it then follows that she lacks the coping mechanisms necessary to deal with trials, even so-called “normal” ones. Plus, let’s not forget that all teenagers have an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, meaning she isn’t able to fully conceptualize life beyond her high school reputation — in other words, a way out.

My problem was with the whole tape conceit. I’m not an expert on the subject by any means, but Robin Williams’ death earlier this month means that mental illness and suicide is a national topic of discussion. (As well it should be. God forbid young people put off the discussion until it becomes personally relevant). And from what I understand, the act of putting together a series of tapes…very coherent, logical, well-thought-out tapes I might add, complete with foreshadowing and recurring characters…and then orchestrating their movement through the bowels of your school…that sort of elaborate thinking seems a little beyond a suicidal person, who by all accounts have trouble thinking past their personal and present emotions. Suicide notes and videos are a well-documented phenomenon of course, but I think you would be hard pressed to find this advanced level of legacy-leaving of any suicidal individual, much less a teenager. The same source in the article referenced above adds that while suicidal thinking can recur, it is temporary, going so far as to call it a “passing urge.” The act of recording hours of tapes could possibly have been galvanizing, sure, but it more likely would have been therapeutic. I think Hannah even admitted as much. Just another small fact that makes the suicide less believable. Or to be more specific, it makes Hannah less believable as a suicidal person.

I will add the caveat that I was listening to the audio book, and the actress reading Hannah played her on the angry and bitter side. More the voice of someone with a twisted revenge plot than one who had lost hope. But the writing isn’t entirely blameless. Hannah talked about death rather overtly when it’s pretty well documented that suicidal people aren’t focused on ending their life, but rather stopping the pain. They use terms like “make it all go away” and “just disappear” and things like that, and the author neglected to put such phrases in her mouth, with the possible exception of the last side of the tapes. She’s very removed from herself, in a way, almost as if she’s telling the story from another perspective–another person’s, or her own self in the future–rather than living it personally.

That, along with the fact that there was no funeral, led me to develop a working theory that Hannah wasn’t really dead and the whole thing as a cry for help. My back up theory, and one that would have made the whole book make a lot more sense, was if she hadn’t meant to actually die (pills are a notoriously unreliable…I hesitate to say passive-aggressive, maybe a better way to put it would be “slowly effective” method and one that is more common to females for that reason) and it was, in the words of the article referenced, a botched attempt “to survive with changed circumstances.” That would be in keeping with the character both as written and as read. There was even some reference, albeit speculative, that Hannah might have actually drowned in a tub after taking pills rather than dying from an overdose itself, giving credence to this theory. P put forth the idea that had the tapes been recorded sporadically over a number of years, as the events unfolded, and been socked away until a trigger moment, that would have made sense also. And I concede I could have bought that to an extent as well.

Also, I was surprised the book was written by a man (who one assumes must have been a teenage boy once), because I found Clay unbelievable as a character, and not just because he had a perfect reputation that was actually true (his self-blaming/loathing only serves to make him more perfect to the reader, not less so). We get an idea that he has a very supportive home environment from the mother, which is the only aspect that lends credibility to his perfection. The author did have a better voice for him than he did for Hannah in terms of perspective. By which I mean we were less distant from his personal truth at that moment, unlike Hannah. I also liked the actor’s interpretation in the audio book. But overall, Clay operated as a literary device, the means through which we hear and experience the tapes. Something about Clay and Hannah’s relation to each other, while poignant, was uncomplicated and most certainly unambiguous. The Feelings just aren’t messy enough for real life. And poor Tony–talk about a story device. All he was good for was playing outdated audio cassettes and following people around.

Bottom line recommendation: Go ahead and read this book. It won’t take you that long, I was able to listen to the whole thing in six hours, including some [inevitable] rewinding. I’ll recommend the audio version. I was able to borrow it from my public library for free. Despite my problems with Hannah’s voice, I hear the point of view switches toward the end are confusing in writing, and you don’t want to be taken out of the story at that point trying to figure out who’s talking. Despite some believability caveats, you’re going to get sucked in to this.

If they end up making a movie, which I think they are, there is a lot of potential to prop up some of these weak spots while retaining all the best aspects of the novel. I sincerely hope that they succeed in that. (And if they do, you can count on my companion review of the film…provided I can stand the actors they pick. In my brain-casting, I pictured the daughter from Homeland as our leading lady…alongside some people from my actual high school, but I’m sure they’ll go a different route haha).

A still of that chick from Homeland. Alright, alright, her name is Morgan Saylor.

A still of that chick (aka Morgan Saylor) from Homeland.

And regardless of whether you have serious problems with Hannah or you can sort of relate, it’s going to make you analytical in a meaningful way. I got uncomfortable with some of my own thoughts (spoiler alert: they were leaning towards victim blaming), and I really appreciate that in a book. It’s always good when something makes you think critically, even–and perhaps especially–of yourself.

NAMB: My kid can be boring (and I bet yours can too)

20 Aug

“Sweetie, mommy has no flippin’ clue how to recreate the scary snowman from Frozen.”

A few days ago we met up with some of P’s coworkers at a ballgame and concert (#summer4eva). One of them asked me, “so, no kid tonight? I thought you might bring him.”

“Nah,” I said. “He’s fun, but he’s not that fun.”

Cue awkward pause.

Putting aside the general pall of awkwardness that colors my daily life, I probably should have anticipated the reaction and come up with some more parent-appropriate response, such as “this is going past his bedtime,” or, “he doesn’t like crowds.”

I should have anticipated it, because I would have had the same reaction a few years ago. That is, before I had kids.

Let me disclaim. My love for my son is fierce. To paraphrase the words of somebody more intelligent than myself: he is my heart walking around outside my body. Not to mention, he’s a fascinating and entertaining individual in his own right. This morning he woke up pretending to be a dragon hatching out of an egg–literally no segue between deep sleep and surprisingly realistic dragon peeping. At a party last week, he cracked up the gang when he shot the bird with scary expertise and a deadpan look. He may or may not have known what that gesture meant (let’s hope not), but he certainly understood the value of making people laugh. Like I said, he’s interesting.

For a preschooler.

There’s this perception that once you become a parent, your children are the center of your world. They’re more than that, they’re your reason for being. I postulate that that’s part of the reason so many adults are putting off having children until later: they assume that their lives will belong to someone else. That’s the underlying reasoning behind the shock that many people have when *gasp!* somebody admits that hanging with their kid can get old.

As a matter of fact, my first instinct when I read that (that’s right: I’m not the originator of this particular revelation) was to recoil. But when I allowed myself to think about it, I realized that yes, you can think your offspring is speshul and amazazing and yet simultaneously find yourself coming up with excuses to get out of “playtime.”

The fact is, little kids are discovering for the first time things that to you, as an old fart grown person, are rather stale. You’ve literally been there, done that.

There certainly are things an adult can relish reliving. I’d call them parenting perks. You can go into the little kid playrooms at the Natural History Museum and McDonald’s. You have an excuse to go down water slides, ride a pony/camel/elephant, and of course the mother-lode: go trick or treating. And to be sure, some things are fun to “rediscover” through a child’s eyes (ever watch a baby catch bubbles?).

But those things will get old faster for you than for them, as anyone who has read the same story six times in a row can attest to. And the daily play? The arrange dinosaurs by the position of their little plastic legs type thing? I really can’t even understand it, much less get into it. If I present T with a toy and start playing with it my way, I guarantee that he’ll start playing with it in some other [extremely opaque] way.

And getting back the original set up here: my grown-up activities (read: ball games and concerts) are not always fun for him either. We actually do include T in many of our adult pursuits (like the time I took him not only craft shopping at Michael’s, but to the actual craft night itself, complete with gossiping ladies). I cherish many a memory of being dragged to football parties with my parents as young tot. Everybody would be drinking beer and having loud conversations I couldn’t really follow, I couldn’t hold my mom and dad’s attention for more than 45 seconds at once, and there weren’t any good toys there. I usually ended up falling asleep in the corner, more from boredom than sleepiness. I would have much rather stayed home with a babysitter who let me eat frozen waffles for dinner and watch Snick. Does that mean there was something inherently wrong with me, for not finding my parents’ parties interesting? Of course not. We were into different things. It didn’t affect how much they loved me or how much I loved them.

So why should the inverse be true? There is nothing wrong with a parent who is not utterly consumed by everything child.

Me and T? We’re into different things.

That doesn’t mean we never have fun together, far from it.  He helps me cook. I read him books complete with character voices. We made up a game called eau-de-toe (I’m not going to explain it to you). I’m not saying that quality time with your munchkin isn’t important or fun: it definitely is. But it’s also OK if you enjoy solitary kayaking, wine tasting with friends, or watching Dance Moms while eating peanut butter straight from the jar equally as much.

Mamas and Papas, let’s give ourselves a break. You can love being with your child and still think his idea of a good time is boring as crap. She probably feels the same. And I submit to you that that is not a bad thing. After all, play is a child’s work, and you can’t do his work for him, right? (Answer: no. Put down the magic markers, mom).

And to my un-childed peeps: there’s no need to be shocked if a parent admits this.

(Related: check out my review of All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood–and go read it yourself!)

Tutorial: Emma Watson’s cat eye in Elle

14 Aug

When I was a kid, Back to School (which BTdubs, happened like 3 weeks later than it does now–what’s up with that?) was my New Year’s. A time to reinvent myself, make resolutions, and try new things. Even though I haven’t had a summer off in eons, I still get a bit of that urge to revolutionize when the buses reappear. So recently when I was flipping through an old mag in that purgatory of civic responsibility, the jury selection waiting room, this definitely caught my eye (HA-get it?):

original image: Elle magazine, 2014

I’ve always been kind of wary of a heavy eye on us pale-skinned, freckled ladies. So often it veers into goth territory. But if this peaches n’ cream chick can pull it off (which she absolutely does), then maybe I can too. So in the spirit of reinvention, I tried it on moi-self. I even had an opportune event for such a look: I was going to a cast party for a play called — get this– Secret of the Cat. Ha! Aha! Ah…

The description, which you probably can’t read here, says the makeup artist used a black liquid liner layered with a gray kohl pencil. Reinvention or not, I didn’t really have the time or funds to go shopping for new stuff, so I used the products I had on hand.

I bought this NYX black liquid liner for my theatre makeup kit (hitherto the only occasion, other than Halloween, that I use pure black liner).

And this subtly shimmery twist up pencil. Not exactly matte Kohl, but the closest I had to gray.

I also kept a stack of cotton swabs and eye makeup remover handy. Because I’ve found that applying complicated makeup is like skiing…you’ll never get better if you’re afraid to fall down.

This look takes about 10 minutes and is great for a liquid eyeliner novice.

Step 1:

I used primer and BB cream all over my face, including my eyelids. Then I went over some spots including all around the eye area with concealer (Bare Essentials in Bisque, if you care). I have always thought doing concealer first helps eye makeup adhere. Plus you can always add more after.

Step 2:

Forget that nonsense about making a dotted line and then connecting it. I simply tugged my lid a bit to the side with one hand and used the other to make the thinnest of lines right next to the lashes. Just get allllll up on those lashes. The line doesn’t even need to be perfectly straight; because you’re going over it with a pencil later, it will even out.

I may look like a goofball, but opening your mouth really does help!

Goofball looks aside, opening your mouth really does help!

Step 3:

Go over the line again, thickening it this time. All you have to do is press a little harder–that flattens the brush and makes a thicker line. Brace the heel of your hand against your face. Do that as many times as you need to, but remember you’re going back over it with the gray pencil which is easier to use, so no need to be perfect with the liquid liner if you (like me) are less than pro at it. You will notice that both the top and bottom lines thicken in the vicinity of Emma’s pupil, so in subsequent passes over the line you might start there. (see step 5 for a picture of the thickened line).

Here are my two thin lines.

Step 4:

For the cat eye part, flick the bottom line up a little and the top line out toward your temple.  Note: if your eyes look droopy at any point in the process, 9 times out of 10 you need to adjust or fill in the top line. It looks best going straight out, maybe a tad upward. It shouldn’t go down at all.

Here is my flick. It looks like it's going upward, but that's just because I'm looking down. It really was mostly straight.

Here is la flick. It looks like it’s going upward, but that’s just because I’m looking down. It really was mostly straight.

Step 5:

Do the thinnest of thin lines under the eye, again right up against the lash line. I didn’t do but one swipe across the bottom–no need to thicken this part. It doesn’t need to be on the waterline, thank goodness, because I really do think that invites infection.

full line crop

Step 6:

The top and bottom line should touch to form a little wedge. It doesn’t need to be a huge wedge or go far out toward your temple if it’s just for a regular night-time look. Fill in the wedge with the liquid, then the pencil.

wedge crop

And if you are like me and have one eye that looks purrrr-fect and another that looks like shite, just take a deep breath, erase a bit, and try again. I had to do that a lot. Especially since this was happening.

Tenny interuption

Step 7:

Go back over it with the kohl pencil. This is the time to thicken the top. Make a hill-like slope (meaning, not steep) from the inner to outer eye. You can always go overboard with it and then shape it back with a remover-dipped q-tip, which is what I did. Make sure the line does go all the way to the inner corner (as you can see, it looks really good in the mag photo), but be careful–tears can make it run. It needs to be really thin at that inner corner too, just barely there.

Color in with pencil

Color in with pencil

hill close up

While it looks really thick… isn't really.

…it isn’t really.

Finish off the look:

Fill in above the crease with a neutral eyeshadow. Something a tiny bit lighter than skin tone looks really nice.  For the rest of the face, do a neutral pinky lipstick (not too pale) and a dusting of light bronzer. I used Mark Total Kiss Hook Up Plumping Gloss in Sexy.

side by side compare

Exactly the same, right? *snort*




So as you can see, my look came out somewhat less dramatic than the original, but a it’s surprisingly easy to both accomplish and pull off. Enjoy!

Lazy Girl Fitness: Moment of Truth

9 Jun

So listen to this. I got the notification that my bridesmaid dress had been shipped—I sh!t you not–as I was eating a bar of chocolate.

I’d had a really small breakfast and lunch was still hours away! I was hungry! And it was only 100 calories!

Of course I tried to make up for it at the gym that day, doing this workout (what I could make sense of, anyway).

Vacuum? And what the heck is a farmer’s walk?

It totally backfired, making me so sore that I had to skip my next workout. If you want to know.


I was really hoping that they sent the dress via Turtle Speed, because I thought I had until the end of the month of May to reach my goal. And here it was, not even the 10th yet. But of course it arrived about two days later.

Here it staring at me.

2014-05-12 17.03.51

At first, my plan was to go ahead and wait until the end of the month to try it on. After all, I was on track for three more weeks! But of course, of course the insert said I had only seven days to notify them of an issue. And I had to admit, it looked depressingly like it would fit exactly right. I decided not to try on the dress that day, at any rate. I was really bloated and figured that, at least, might change within a week. So I hung it up where it eyed me accusitorily for two days.

Finally I said screw it. I slipped it on and zipped it up.


As I suspected, the waist fit perfectly. Drat! All that work for NOTHING! NOTHING!

The top, however was quite large. All this really told me was that, if you have a 28″ waist, you are clearly expected to have a 38″ bust and an incredibly long torso to balance it out (You guys, I wear an E cup bra! That is not even small!).


And no surprise, it was too long. All this led me to the conclusion that I am, in fact, deformed.


Just kidding. Kind of.

So, mission failed. I will not be returning my dress for the next size down. But there’s still some hope that I might be required to have it altered a bit before the big day. Other than the huge shoulders, I mean.

Am I discouraged? A little. Anyone who makes a goal, works towards it, and fails to meet it has to call set-back. I would have felt better if I could say I’d made some kind of progress, even slight or visible only to me. But my stomach and arms were still as flabby as ever, my clothes still fit on the edge of tight, I wasn’t sleeping any better, I’m constantly hungry (am I the only person on earth for whom exercise is like gasoline on a fire?? Who are these people who are less hungry when they work out?), and, worst of all: I had to go to the doctor, and I weighed in at 122 pounds. I mean, what would have happened had I not done all this work in the past four months–I’d be 150 pounds?

Where are my abs?! All these foods are staples in my diet! (except what’s up with green coffee? Mine is definitely brown).

via, original

I can’t make sense of it. It was hard not to feel like I’ve been doing all this for absolutely nothing. And confession: even Lazy Girl Fitness is hard. I still have to say no to food I wanted to eat. It still feels like work (so, I can’t even say it’s enjoyable me-time). I still have to scrutinize my body in a way that makes me itchy. Meanwhile, heinous pictures of me in a swimsuit were taken on our Memorial Day beach vacation that will never see the light of day.*

*You might imagine that the Jersey Shore is full of Snookis, but you’d be wrong. Seriously every girl on the Wildwood Beach was smokin’. 

So, feeling depressed, moody, hungry, and fat, I did what every girl in my situation would do. I took a pregnancy test. It was negative, natch (birth control: it works, y’all!).

I didn’t throw in the towel on my plan though, tempting as it was. Even though my body didn’t seem to be bending to my efforts, for all I know there are still good things going on internally with, you know, organs and stuff *snort*.

What’s that? Yes, it’s true that my exercise and eating habits aren’t very punishing (#shutup). But that was because I wanted a fitness plan that was sustainable in the long term. And that is one thing I can say: I’ve created a habit of exercise and diet that I feel capable of maintaining. So I kept plugging away the best I could in the face of defeat.

via Back On Pointe Tumblr

I did a 5k. I found a 10-minute workout that I actually understand. I added short intervals of sprinting. I bought a new, strategically-designed-yet-still-incredibly-hott-swimsuit.  And hell yes, I got a faux tan (not above a little trompe l’oeil). Now, about a month after this dress arrived, I think I am starting to see the tiniest bit of a difference.

2014-06-07 17.14.57

I know this is a terrible picture, but you can see a little bit of tone starting in my shoulders and upper arms. Think of it as a preview of the coming attraction (HA).

I realize that at age 30+ and postpartum, I will never have the body I really covet, at least not without a personal trainer and chef. But that doesn’t stop me from completely illogical thought patterns, read: ignoring small accomplishments (being the most flexible in yoga class) in favor of picking at myself (roll of pudge threatening to spill over yoga pants), and channeling body envy of girls who are, seriously, not even fully grown. But the next day, I’ll be feeling pretty positive (for instance, on the day I weighed in at the doctor at 122? I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was OK). So the challenge is mental as well as physical. It’s my hope that in another month’s time, if nothing else, I’ll be proud to stand up with my friend in my size six bridesmaid gown.


This is Marriage

15 May

Wedding season is in full swing, so I thought I’d share with all you lucky love birds the kind of conversations in store for you, from a well-seasoned married couple.

I walk into the kitchen where Hubby P is sitting on the floor with Baby T. 

Me: So, I think I have bunions. Or bunionettes, to be specific.

P: You definitely do, gross. Looks at my feet. Janie, those are just veins and tendons.

Me: What? No. I’m talking about those bony balls on the outside of me feet…see? They’re kind of red-looking, and my pinky is sort of twisting in towards my foot–that’s the tell-tale sign.

P: It’s from wearing all those girl shoes.

Me: Nah, I think that only exacerbates it. I think it’s from walking. I don’t think I walk right.

P: Do you think it’s from pointe shoes?

Me: Yeah. Probably. (yeah, right).

P: All that squishing down on your toes.

Me: Well, I think it’s more when the box of your shoes is too narrow and squishes your toes together. Pause. I have fat ass feet.

T laughs like I just made the best joke ever.

P: Why don’t you wear a bigger shoe?

Me: If I get them big enough to fit the top of my foot, then my heel slides out! Anyway, I really do think it’s from walking. That’s what really causes bunionettes. Bunions, that’s when it happens on the inside under the big toe, are way more common. Bunionettes are more likely to be genetic from your foot shape and how you walk.

P: Did you read that on the internet?

Me: No! (lies. I totally did).

P: OK.

Me: I think it’s from the way I walk. I always walk on the outside of my foot like this (demonstrates).

P: Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk I’m a woman’s man.


Me: And on that note, I’m walking away.

 Yep. Just celebrated our five-year anniversary (brushes shoulders off). Keeping the romance alive, people.


How Not To: Spring Cleaning Edition

7 May

You have doubtless figured out that I’m no domestic goddess. In these nouveau-crunchy, domestic-renaissance times in which we are living, I get points deducted on all fronts: cooking, crafting, child-rearing, husband-accommodating…but no area more so than house cleaning.

Yes. Yes, we’ll go with that.

via, original

I hate messes and disorganization as much as anyone. It’s just that I’m not equipped to actually deal with them. I am missing whatever brain cells/chemicals are present in those people who say things like “I just can’t stand losing things, which is why I have a P-touch label maker in every room of the house” and “Well, I have dogs, so I vacuum three times a day” and “cleaning up the boys’ playroom is easy because we practice simplicity.” I also have pets and hate [losing] things, but much to my chagrin, it doesn’t seem to make a difference.

Fortunately (unfortunately?) my husband is as messy and disorganized as I, if not more so. We both have what I suspect are undiagnosed cases of Adult ADD (or if not the disorder itself, we most certainly have the cleaning habits). Combined with our incredibly busy work-school-rehearsal schedules and our overabundance of junk, things can unravel pretty quickly (but hey! at least we don’t have epic fights about cleanliness!). Eventually I will reach a breaking point at which I begin to clean furiously– in every sense of the word.

This spring, that point came right before Easter. Not only was the house terribly neglected because of my being in a show, but we had guests coming over for brunch (not to mention a toddler poking around in the corners for hard-boiled eggs). I also had Good Friday off, with absolutely no plans. It was time for a good old-fashioned spring cleaning.

Many people picture spring cleaning as a scrub-the-baseboards, dust-the-blinds, vacuum-the-fridge-coils kind of event. If you want to do that sort of thing, you’re in the wrong place, my friend (for an awesome tutorial in that vein, check out this blog. I mean, damn. Her speed cleaning is my deep cleaning). But just in case any one out there is as hopelessly buried behind as I am, I will share with you my tips from the School of Hard Knocks. Just in time for Mother’s Day! So go ahead, take your Adderol, learn from my mistakes, and dig right in.

The Don’ts of Spring Cleaning

Much of my inspiration comes from this little jewel of a book, written by a professional organizer with and ADHD child. I failed to follow all or even most of her advice, but honestly, even just feeling like my habits are normal have an explanation was worth the cover price.

DON’T expect to get it all done in one day. If your house is like mine, you will have to do a good bit of organizing and tidying before you even get to the soap and water part. Even with a plan in place (see below), it’s just a huge job for one person with a limited amount of time. Time that you will, by the way, want to actually schedule out in a large, uninterrupted chunk.

DON’T jump in without a plan. I know, once you get the itch to clean it’s very hard to hold back, especially if that itch is rare (hey, you gotta get while the gettin’s good!). But it will make for inefficient and ineffective cleaning. Lucky for you, I wrote out this handy-dandy plan.

Spring Cleaning for the Homemaking Challenged

I feel the need to point out the obvious: this is a guide based my one-story, single family home. If you, say, have an upstairs, or live in an apartment, your list will look different. I will offer this blanket advice: work in a circle, starting with the room that needs the most work (it will need your freshest energy). I put the rooms in this order because that’s how my house is laid out. Feel free to shuffle the order to fit the layout of your own home.

Another thing you’ll want to do, as the plan above hints at, is gather all your cleaning supplies in something portable: a bucket, a caddy, or like me, a cardboard box. It really doesn’t matter. As long as you can carry (or let’s be real, shove) it from room to room.

Supplies assembled!

Avengers assembled!

DON’T put things away as you go. It will result in a harried handful of hours in which you are crazily cleaning but no single room actually looks neater. Just put it all in a big “find a home for this” box or bag.

DON’T go crazy at the Container Store. If you’re like me, shopping seems like the solution to everything. If I just buy out the organization aisle at Target, I’ll be all good! It’s a sad, sad, pipe dream my friends. I did my spring cleaning with nothing new of any kind, not even a bottle of bleach. Thinking you need new stuff in order clean just enables procrastination. It’s easier to see what you actually need after you’ve sorted through your things anyway.


The kitchen pantry. It took me an hour just to do this, which is probably why I didn’t finish my whole house (sorry for the blurry pics. File it under camera, sad and old.).

DON’T bounce all over the room like a pinball as you tidy. Start at one corner of the room and work your way either out towards the opposite end, or around in a clockwise spiral (your call, depending on the room and its own particular mess).

When going through your things, DON’T make 15 piles. This was a hugely useful tip from the book referred to above. When tidying up your belongings, don’t make Give Back to my Sister, Sell on Ebay, Donate to the Theatre, Give to Goodwill, Ask Mom if She Wants It, etc etc etc piles. You only need three bags: Donate, Trash, Put Away. I recommend you use the lawn-sized ones.

Table BA

DON’T get too caught up in the details. This is not the time to sort through old photos and files, alphabetize your books, or refold all your sweaters. Save all that for another day. ADD folks have a tendency to hyper-focus which, while it has its uses, is the enemy of housecleaning. We are here for speedy, effective, visible results. If you have to constantly remind yourself of that, do it (I did).

A related note regarding donations: DON’T get too caught up waffling over whether you want something or not (or ahem, whether your spouse may still want it). P is one of those people, and you might be too, that assigns heavy emotional significance to inanimate objects (and I wonder why we have so much stuff). Just put it in the bag. If you’re really feeling squirmy about it, hang on to the bag for a while–from a couple of weeks to half a year, whatever you feel comfortable with. If you don’t miss anything in the bag in that time, drive it straight to Goodwill (for the love of God, without looking inside).

When it comes to the actual cleansing part, DON’T forget to clean from top to bottom. I don’t know why I tend to do this, but it’s not a good thing: picture sweeping and mopping the floor before you wipe down the counters. Or maybe leaving the roof of the microwave until last and having to wipe down the bottom twice. That’s the kind of thing I tend to do when I clean without forethought.

Kitchen BA

Too bad I didn’t take any close-ups, you should have seen my sparkling sink!

But DON’T disregard quick shortcuts. Me and everyone else is on board with the pillowcase trick to clean ceiling fans. I’m also a big fan of cleaning wipes and spray disinfectant. It’s a beautiful thing.

Bedroom BA

DON’T underestimate a little extrinsic motivation. For some people, a clean house is enough of a reward. I am not those people. At the end of my marathon cleaning session (seriously, five hours with no break! I think it counts as a workout), I rewarded my hard-working fingers with an express manicure at the local salon. Even though I didn’t finish my whole house, I worked really hard all by myself on a rare day off. Sometimes you need a little something to keep yourself from getting bitter.

And most importantly, DON’T beat yourself up if it’s not perfect or finished. A tidy, organized, squeaky-clean home instills pride and peace of mind. But only to a certain extent.

Homemaker renaissance or no, your worth as a person (and/or parent) isn’t measured by how clean your house is. And it’s all going to get messy again anyway. We made dinner together later that night and our house was full of chatter and our tummies were full of food. And that sparkling sink? Full of dirty dishes.


 via etsy


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