Category Archives: Working smarter

How to win a pickup game

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will.i.am’s mix, above, is an awesome picking up song–and the bass solos are suh-weet!

Today’s topic is tidiness. In the countless conversations I’ve had with my girlfriend Gracia, I’ve felt the most profound sisterhood when we discuss keeping the house picked up. When the house is in order, I feel more well-being and control over life. But with four kids age 11 and younger and an aging Jack Russell Terrier, having a picked-up house is an elusive trophy. So here’s what works for me.

If you pick up throughout the day, you will at least keep up with the mess–over time, you’ll eventually conquer it. Many household managers advocate just picking up once or twice during the day, so you’re not constantly irritated by the repetitive, boring task. Either way, remember: We’re not trying to get your house perfect, just better than the day before.

If you schedule a pickup time, make it during your favorite TV show, so the task is done before you know it. You’ll get exercise while enjoying your show.

Pick times of the day when you have lots of physical energy, though you may not need much mental acuity. You’ll be happier and more productive, picking up more toys in less time and saving time for other chores.

Never go anywhere empty handed. I live in a quad-level house, and my kids drag toys and socks and underwear from one level to another. So when I go downstairs, I take diapers to the garbage. When I go upstairs, I take dirty socks to the hamper. Baskets are a good way to collect items to take from one level to another.

Play mind games. When I look around, often so much needs to be picked up, it’d be easy to get frustrated and give up. So when I pass through the area, my rule is to only pick up three items. I know this sounds a little obsessive-compulsive, but bear with me. Three items takes 15 seconds, gives you a feeling of control–and soon, the clutter is all picked up, which reduces your frustration.

Before you let your kids watch TV or play video games, have them do their homework and pick up. If they made a huge mess, have them just pick up five or twenty items each, depending on their ages.

Don’t forget to reward yourself for all your picking up throughout the day–maybe a cup of green tea at night or a bubble bath.

Write me with your strategies for keeping a picked-up house. That way, we know we’re not alone.

Taking time for you when you have no time at all

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It only takes a split second to renew yourself.

(Blogger’s note: I received a request today for a column printed in 2009 in The Times; indeed, it does seem relevant as ever, given that we’re in a season in which parents are getting bogged down with work, requests for fund-raisers, fall sports, and the like.)

Today’s column is about taking time out for you. With the advent of beautiful weather, I get outside when I can and take the kids with me. Outdoors, I don’t worry about them watching too much TV or getting too little exercise. I get my workout and keep the mess out of the house.

Last column I discussed making goals. To minimize burnout and maximize your wellness, take a few minutes to determine if your life is balanced as possible. Do you take time for your intellectual development? This can be as simple as picking up the newspaper and reading one article you normally wouldn’t.

Practice your spiritual wellness. Take five minutes to read about faith, pray, or meditate.

Do something today for your physical well-being. Substitute a healthy snack for that candy bar. If you can’t spare the time today, plan to wake early tomorrow to walk around the block before your kids awaken.

Most moms have no problem fulfilling the interpersonal side of life. So think about ways to improve. Start by giving everybody in your family an extra hug today.

Satisfy the vocational element of your life. If you work outside the home, solve a problem at work or join a professional group. If you work inside the home, connect with another home manager to make yourself the best you can be.

Most moms don’t have lots of time to ponder their wholeness. But almost everybody can spare 15 minutes a day, if only after your kids go to bed. And 15 minutes is all it takes to turn around how you feel about your life.