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WWLD? No. 3: Organizing your environment

Our great friend, Leslie Harpold, passed away in December of last year. In addition to being a swell pal and an old-school web mandarin, Leslie was an endless source of advice and opinion on practically everything.
To commemorate Leslie’s life and to help share her wisdom with folks who never got to know her, I asked our mutual friend, Lance Arthur to answer the question: What Would Leslie Do? Here’s part 3 of 4. — mdm

1. A place for everything.

This has been an especially valuable lesson for me. It's easy and common to toss your keys and wallet somewhere when you enter your home. If you're not tossing them in the same place every time, the next time you're about to leave and need your keys to get back inside, you may not remember where it was you tossed them -- or maybe you left them in a pocket without tossing them at all, but which pocket was it? What were you wearing, and where is that article of clothing now?

Getting organized doesn't necessarily mean stopping by the Pottery Barn and gathering up a bunch of little containers and hooks and coat racks for everything, it's more important -- and easier -- to simply designate a place for things, and keeping everything in its place.

2. Make your bed.

When we're kids, we're told to make our beds. When I was a kid, I thought this was the most supremely stupid and asinine idea I ever heard, but when you're a kid almost everything sounds stupid and asinine. When we get older and can make our own decisions about things, some of us decide that we don't want to make our beds any longer, because they'll only get messed up again later.

Now consider your last vacation. Even if you were only paying $100 a night (or, more likely, a lot more than that) for a room in a hotel, and you came back to your room and found that housekeeping had not done their duty and made your bed for you, would you have shrugged and said, "eh, whatever, I don't even make my own bed," or would you have grumbled internally at how unkempt and messy everything looked?

Making your bed has a ripple effect, believe it or not. It only takes a few extra minutes in the morning, and the benefit is that when you climb in at night, the sheets are crisp and smooth, the blanket lies where it's supposed to without a lot of rearranging, and your pillows are already fluffed and huggable. You get to have that soothing all-encompassing feeling of comfort every night just by making your bed every morning. And it's amazing how much more put-together a bedroom looks with a well-made bed.

3. Schedule the simple tasks.

On which day of the week do you water your plants? Which day is set aside for vacuuming? When do you clean your bathrooms? When do you scrub the shower? When you're doing laundry, when do you include the sheets and towels?

When you start to schedule the week-to-week or month-to-month tasks, they get done! It's amazing! But when do you need to do them, and how often?

Here are Leslie's Rules of Thumb for a few simple tasks. Adjust as necessary according to your own needs, of course.

  1. Water your plants once a week on Thursday. Don’t do it on a weekend. Nobody wants to do anything on a weekend.
  2. Except laundry. Do your laundry as early as possible on Saturday. Even if you live alone, you will always have enough dirty clothes to do one load every week. This may mean not sleeping in on Saturdays, but a non-standard sleep schedule is bad for your health, anyway.
  3. You should wash your sheets and towels every week. Yes, every week. Do you know how much skin you’re rubbing off on your sheets? And towels gather moisture and can become musty. Nobody wants to step out of a hot shower and wrap themselves in fungus.
  4. Vacuum your entire house while your laundry is in the washer. You can do that. Both things take between 20 and 30 minutes.
  5. When you put your laundry in the dryer, dust the house. Dusting should take some time, because you have to move things around and dust under them. Yes, boys, dust under things, not around them.
  6. Fold the laundry immediately. Don’t pile it onto the couch or bed and leave it for later.

One more tip for an awesome bed: Iron your pillow cases. Just your pillow cases. That will make your whole bed seem more tidy, and you can even spritz them with lavender water, so your nose can sleep tight, too.

4. Empty the kitchen sink.

Your kitchen can become a sloppy mess in less than a day, but you can prevent it if you just do one simple thing. Keep your kitchen sink empty. Don't pile the dirty dishes in the sink, wash them as you use them. Get a soap brush (Oxo makes an excellent one) and rinse the glass with hot water and set it in a dish rack to dry. As you cook, rinse your tools and pots. If you have a dishwasher, you lucky thing, rinse things and put them in there. But do not leave anything in the sink.

The sink is like a magnet, or the core of planet Kitchen. Everything starts there and spreads outward. If you start leaving things in the sink until it's full, you start piling on the counters. Then the stove top. Then inside the oven. You'll start to pile things on any and every surface available because, suddenly, you can't use your sink to rinse or wash anything. Keep your sink empty, and everything else tends to stay that way, too.

Lance's What Would Leslie Do? Series

pmhesse's picture

Kids: The ultimate monkey wrench

As Merlin will soon learn, these ideas are great for the single, married without kids, or married with school-age kids. For those of us with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, well... Let's imagine what a few of Leslie's Rules of Thumb would end up like.

1. Water your plants. This actually came off without a hitch. This is because I long since had to give up on houseplants after the last few were knocked off their shelves on to the floor to provide a makeshift sandbox (or dirtpile). Now my plants are in an AeroGarden out of child reach, and I just need to fill the reservoir.

4. Vacuum your entire house while your laundry is in the washer. Yeah, that seemed like a good idea. So I put the laundry in the washing machine (after giving one or more children a ride downstairs in the basket with the laundry--ow, my back!). The kids helped fill the washer with the clothes, and then helped get out the vacuum. Then we spent the next 20 minutes in a tug-of-war with my kids constantly grabbing for the vacuum handle or power cord, and me having to move them aside. Then for the next 10 minutes, they began laying down in the path of the vacuum because they liked the shade of red my face was turning. After finishing two rooms, I turned on the television to try and distract the children, but the vacuum drowned out the sound of the TV. I gave up after two rooms and 45 minutes.

5. When you put your laundry in the dryer, dust the house. Going to the laundry room I am once again accompanied by my 2 and 3 foot tall satellites. The simple act of moving clothes from the washing machine to the dryer is interrupted by: my son getting in the dryer, my daughter dumping out all the dryer sheets, countless socks and pairs of underwear captured during the transfer process, and finally a fight over a t-shirt leads a new dust rag. That only took 10 minutes. Then, off to start dusting. The satellites continue to follow, reaching for anything I move to dust under, and constantly getting underfoot.

Mind you, I see the value in this guidance, but I wish there was a similar system that would work with young kids in the house. I wouldn't trade my kids for the world, and so for now I just have to deal with the fact that my house isn't as clean and nice as it once was, or will be again!




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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