Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Can’t Get It All (or any of it) Done

A favourite joke about stay-at-home moms is the one about the dad who comes home after a long day of work, finds the kids outside covered in mud, still in their pyjamas, walks into the house which is a total disaster: food, clothes, dirt, toys everywhere … with increasing dread, he searches the house and finally finds his wife in an upstairs bedroom, surrounded by more mess. ‘Honey, what on earth happened here?’

‘You know that nothing I do all day? Today I didn’t do it.’

Life is like that with little kids.

It really does feel like it’s not possible to get it all done, and on a lot of days it doesn’t feel like it’s at all possible to get any of it done.
There are many ways to ‘get it all’ done, and more prolific writers than I have spent a lot of their time describing how… see Flylady, The I Hate to Housekeep Book, Sidetracked Home Executives, Superwoman, and Who Says It’s a Woman’s Job to Clean? for more …

But these are the small children at home, totally overwhelmed can’t get anything done suggestions I have:

Hire help

From a professional organizer and a cleaning lady (I wish) to the 12-year-old down the street, paid assistance is available in the oddest corners of the world, and don’t necessarily cost the kind of major-luxury money people might think. A 12-year-old mother’s helper will tidy the toys, fold the laundry, wash the dishes, sweep and vacuum for less than it costs to hire a babysitter to take the children away for a while so mom can do all that. I loved my mother’s helper –still do, although she’s already past the stage in her life now where she hired my children for the same work…

Ask for help

Strangely, this one comes with more barriers than hiring help. Hiring only requires money. Asking requires super-human courage… apparently. Here are a couple of ways of getting help:

Be kind and helpful to your friends and family by letting them feel good about making a meaningful contribution to your life. Too many people are stingy with their friends and family, stopping them from getting the warm, fuzzy feelings of being genuinely helpful to the people they love. 

Be nice: let them help. In fact, make a list with the stuff that’s driving you nuts at the top and ask them to do anything off the list that they want to, the higher up the list the better…

Start a co-op with friends in the same position, spending three or four days a week (depends on how many friends you have) at each house in turn. The host gets to pick what’s driving her (or him) nuts this week and everyone works on that, plus dinner with enough for all to take away, so everyone can head home without more to do when they get there. 

Shared projects, from making Christmas presents to sorting all the kids’ clothes, baking or decluttering the whole house, canning, or doing everyone’s taxes, can make the work easier and keep the children content longer than at home. Even just one friend, one day a week, will help you (and your friend) with day-to-day life.

Simplify the List

Cut things off the list, and do most of it far less frequently.

Broom,_sponge_and_towelDusting is, in my view, a complete waste of time, not the least because it takes the same amount of time to do it daily as it does weekly or even monthly –so why spend thirty-one times as long doing the job than you have to? 

Let the silver go black for a few years, no one will die or need therapy. Concentrate on hygiene, not optics: if it isn’t used as a food preparation surface, it probably doesn’t need to be sterile. Pick your battles with your housework, too.

Declutter and remove duplicates. If you only have one pair of scissors and it has one place to belong you’ll never have to search for one of the twelve pairs. It will also be easier to keep them out of the hands of the little weirdos who are inclined to do home hairstyling on themselves and their siblings.

Simplicity Parenting suggests having only as many toys as can be easily cleaned up within five minutes. No one needs 13 pairs of jeans… but if you keep all of them because you have to have them, you’ll have a lot more laundry to do than I do. When kids only have three pairs of pants, you will never be faced with a pile of 31 that need washing at once. Or drying. Or folding. Or putting away… Consider how you would live on a 40’ sailboat, and re-think exactly how much of the stuff in your house you actually need to get through a week.

Daily Cleaning ScheduleMake a list of what’s bugging you and do just one thing every day. If the windows are making you crazy, wash one on Monday and one on Tuesday and one on Thursday… until they’re all done. Eventually, you’ll have everything done, with much of it not needing to be re-done for months.

Pick out the valuables from the piles and put everything else into boxes or trash bags and call the local removal company to take the rest away. 

Few people whose homes have burned down ever regret not rescuing the 11th unread magazine or all of the black shoes from the blaze. There will forever be more stuff coming into your home: make some room for the people to live in ease and comfort instead of snowed under even before one more item crosses the threshold. For $60, you could live in the delight of never having to put that away ever again.

Monday, 3 November 2014

What You Look At You See




A topic arose on a facebook group, which was more or less this:

Anyway, newest bit of helpful advice from his wife! "We never had car seats and we survived, it's all just money making"..........:|, I had to walk away.

My response was:

Hands up all the kids who didn't have car seats who died....
... uh ... anyone?
It's called 'attention bias' --noticing only what you already believe is true. It's extremely popular.

In the case of the ‘we didn’t use car seats and we all survived’ the first piece of the problem is exactly as I retorted: hands up all of us who didn’t survive childhood.

A basic problem with the argument is that it only asks for people who could not have died as a result of lacking vehicle safety to confirm that they have not died of that cause. That’s a very convenient demographic to prove that point with… Convenient, but not compelling …

Attention bias causes all kinds of mistakes in thinking and decision-making.

It makes things feel like a big trend (say ‘there is more cancer now than ever before’) when the real change is more likely to be our age and our increased exposure to the demographic that has always had higher cancer rates . . . because in reality cancer rates are dropping steadily.

Attention bias can make us believe that since it hasn’t happened to us, it can’t happen to us (also known as the Gambler’s Fallacy: three coin tosses that come up heads means the next coin toss has a more than 1 in 2 chance of coming up tails, as if the former tosses have any impact on the physics of the next one.)

Not having been killed in a car accident yesterday does not decrease your chances of being killed in one tomorrow… it increases your odds. Because if you’d died yesterday, your odds of dying today would be nil.

Attention Bias is also something our minds can be primed to experience immediately, by having something specific pointed out:

Look around your room –do you see any particular colour pop out at you?

Now, look around your room for things that are blue.

Simply scanning for something in particular makes it stand out against what was, a moment ago, all background. It’s a natural attribute of our minds, which we get far better at as we age.

The first time I noticed the effect of Attention Bias was when I got my braces. I’d never taken notice of people’s teeth before, and suddenly it was the first thing I saw.

By Jason Regan (mouthy  Uploaded by SchuminWeb) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In real terms, we don’t do statistically analysis very well in our heads. We think things that have happened are very likely to happen again, and things that we have no contact with feel very unlikely to happen.

Some of this comes out in poor advice to teens (like ‘don’t go into professional music, hardly anyone becomes a rock star’ –when it’s really a thriving multi-billion dollar international industry, not just a handful of we-don’t-know-any superstars) and some of it comes out as curmudgeonly nonsense of the ‘we survived it so it’s not dangerous’ kind, as noted above.

You Don’t Have to Believe Everything You Think

Some people find it easier than others, learning to think about their own Attention Bias, and others find it tremendously difficult.

It can help to evaluate the ‘always, never’ statements first … which the first quote really is. The premise is ‘no child ever died in a car accident without a car seat’ . . .  which is a statement I’m fairly confident no one would suggest is true, which helpfully unravels the rest of the nonsense attributed to it very quickly.

Unless it’s a relative you already know is resistant to ever really thinking about anything. Then, it’s just a handy thing to know is going on in the background, so you can happily ignore all their ‘always, never’ statements in the future . . .