Autumn Cleaning

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I am an autumn-loving kind of person. I’m not talking about a pumpkin spice latte or earthy, seasonal décor kind of love. I’m talking watching the weather like a farmer, specifically the temperature kind of love. There is nothing more annoying to me than a hotter than average day after the fall equinox hits. Um hello, leaves are turning colors folks, it shouldn’t be 85 degrees. That nonsense totally cuts into my fall experience, which here in Chicago, can be totally unpredictable. So, while the temperature figures out what it is supposed to be doing, it is at that point in the season I like to get down to business and begin some serious fall cleaning. Spring cleaning is all well and certainly needed, but autumn cleaning is tradition in my home that I hold near and dear. It’s like battening down the hatches, getting ready for more days spent inside. And to me, that’s not a bad thing. Think hot tea, curling up in a blanket reading, family nights playing games or watching movies cuddled together. Its not that terrible friends, especially when your home is cozy, clean, and well organized thanks to…. you got it, autumn cleaning. Its going to be a thing, trust me. Until then, here’s some of the things on cleaning I’ve picked up along the way.

But, where to begin? As annoying as the warmer weather is this week, we can at least use it to our advantage, lemonade out of lemons. (Actually, use that lemon in your cleaner, it will smell amazing!) With the weather above freezing, now’s a good time to work on windows, doors, garages, and whatever exterior parts of the home that needs attention. I don’t know about you guys, but garages are the bane of my existence. They are always kind of a mess, and even when they are acceptable, they just don’t look acceptable. Ours is the junk drawer of our house and the most time-consuming fall project on our list. Until I began just to let things go, it was getting out of hand. Lucky our recent move took care of most of that and for the rest, a Sunday Home Depot trip to grab some garage organizational items. Yawn. I can’t wait.

To the top! Like Mom always said start at the top of a room and work down. And like most things, she’s right. Nothing is more irritating than getting halfway through cleaning a room and then noticing the light fixture is, well gross. Then there is that internal dilemma of “Should I clean it and start over, should I just wait until next time, should I just hire a maid and Dowton Abby this place up?” So, when that seasonal clean fest begins inside, that’s where I start. Fixtures, vents/fans, shades/curtains, crown molding, cabinet and bookshelf tops & lamps respectively. For this in depth of a cleaning, I mix a pretty small amount of Thieves cleaner, like say a teaspoon to a cup of water and wipe down my shades by dipping a microfiber cloth in just enough to dampen and then wipe. And as you are miserably washing down your vents, changing filters, and washing linens (because that’s where I end by the way, washing pillows and linens) you can remind yourself that this will help your family stay healthier as the cold weather is approaching. Brace yourselves, WINTER IS COMING! And I hate to be that jerk but yeah, its like nine more Saturdays until the Holidays. Ain’t nobody going to have time for that come December.

Figure out your life. No, but really half the battle to keeping things clean is smacking down that clutter bug. I mean it makes sense, right? Clutter takes up space making it more of a hassle to properly clean. I thought I was doing well until my move this past summer. The amount of dust was horrific, hidden in corners and behind furniture. But you just don’t see the uncleanliness when there is so much… stuff. I pitched an astronomical amount of baggage I didn’t need. And that’s really what it was, things I was holding onto that didn’t have a use and didn’t bring anybody in our house joy. We did utilize apps like Let It Go, Facebook Market Place, and Offer Up. But a real moment here, I pitched and donated a lot too. If it is going to sit to “sell later” it probably isn’t going to move. A quick trip to the dumpster or if its useable, the donation pile, sometimes just gets the ball rolling.

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Go natural. When my sister began to go with less harmful cleaning chemicals, I totally resisted for the longest time. I mean seriously, don’t mess with my tile scrub, I’m good with my bleach and Windex. How could I even think of cleaning without them?! Well, somehow when getting my monthly Young Living order together I ended up Thieves Cleaner in my basket. I thought, “Oh, how cute, a daily cleaner to wipe my counters in between using the real stuff.” Like most of my favorite things in my life, I totally underestimated it at first glance (sorry husband). When bleach began to irritate the eczema on my hands (even with gloves, you can’t contain that stuff) and my breathing, I slowly began using Thieves more and more as it had no effect on my skin and sinuses, in fact it smells amazing (especially with a little Citrus Fresh Essential Oil). Now I am at the point I use nothing else, and that’s a big deal because my cleaning storage used to look like a Target endcap full of an arsenal of every bottle of chemical filled hell you can think of. Now it’s all Thieves, baking soda, vinegar, lemons (essential oil and real deal lemons), and hydrogen peroxide (the harshest thing I use). All those fumes and over the top chemicals are no long allowed near my skin or my family and my home still would make Grandma proud (this lady ironed her pajamas so that’s saying something guys).

My biggest struggle with natural cleaning? Definitely a switch for a bleach scrub to use on that obnoxious shower grout. Like can we just have those walk-in, door less stone showers they have in spas be the standard please? I hate… no I loathe cleaning showers. And why clear doors? Every water droplet shows, and you have to see your naked, miserable morning self shower in the mirror because your dang shower door is clear. THE WORST. But in all this misery I did finally find a great grout cleaner thanks to… Bob Vila. No, really. His grout-cleaning formula is basically 1/2 cup of baking soda mixed with 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide in a squeeze-top bottle; add 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap (Thieves dish soap preferably), shake, and apply. You can find the full instructions here.

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Multitask like a genius. Audiobooks. That is all. Really though, I have come to appreciate the art of audiobooks and how perfect they are for cleaning. It was a huge game changer for me. Why stand there and listen to yourself scrub and breath heavy? And you can only listen to the Hamilton soundtrack so many times. How amazing is it that while your mopping you can also be listening to Reese Witherspoon’s latest book rec or take in a lecture about the inexplicable universe by a renown astrophysicist? If books or lectures aren’t your thing, podcasts are great too.  

Ain’t no shortcut, baby. As a girl I used to marvel at how thorough and deliberate my Mom and Grandma were when they cleaned. To be honest, I used to clean as quick as I could just to be done with it. Let’s be real, that can and probably will result a pretty crappy result. In addition, keeping things tidy and clean day to day can be tough and take a huge amount of discipline that takes years to perfect. But both thoroughness and consistency pay off big time. Is there anything better than coming home to a tidy house after a long day or that five seconds that the laundry is completely done? I don’t know about you guys, but a loved and well-cleaned home just feels so good and is pretty darn healthy for our family. As I get this clean house thing down, I have some big NO THANK YOU things I don’t let happen like no dishes in the sink at bedtime, no clutter under the bed, and always having a made bed. That doesn’t mean that I always meet this standard 24/7 but it’s a framework to strive for in the day and Mama isn’t very happy when she doesn’t meet it.

Get the whole family to help. HAHAHAHA, just kidding. This doesn’t happen in my house.

 

All in all, I’ve learned cleaning is a way of life. It’s a priority and a decision we make every day. Sometimes we succeed, a lot of time we fail but like everything, it is a work in progress that takes time to perfect and discipline to implement. In this endeavor, may the odds be ever in your favor and Happy Autumn Cleaning!

“The objective of cleaning is not just to clean, but to feel happiness living within that environment.” -Marie Kondo

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Recommends…

Books:

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up & The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing -Marie Kondo (I love a whole lot of what she advises. I couldn’t get with the whole minimalist thing when it came to books though. Nope.

Audiobooks:

Something in the Water -Catherine Steadman (not all audiobooks are created equal, this one is suspenseful and sublime. You will forget your cleaning all together.)

The Girl With All the Gifts -M.R. Carey (recommended to me and honestly I haven’t even been so pleasantly surprised by a book before or since.)

Anything from Great Courses Plus

Podcasts:

Goal Digger -Jenna Kutcher

Boss Up! -Lindsay Teague Moreno

Annotated -Book Riot (If you want to get your nerd on)

The Interview -TED

Are You There Margaret? It's me, Grief.

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I am not good at pretending. I’m not one of those people that can keep my facial cues blank or indifferent when I’m uncomfortable or shocked or irritated. I don’t say much but it’s all there written on my face and I am pretty awful at hiding it. My tribe can read me like a book and its endlessly hilarious to them when I try to keep it together and play it cool, because I am sooooo not. That’s why I am won’t pretend to be knowledgeable or all sage-like when I talk about grief. Yeah whoa, I know, that was sudden but hear me out and just maybe I can save you a year of emotional constipation.

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So, it began as all the greatest of enlightenments do, on girls’ night-in… cupcakes, chocolate, laughs, facials, all the typical fare but exponentially better because my sister is an esthetician (bonus) and a dear cross-line friend was in town visiting and brought along her Zyto scan. My turn came up and OH. MY. WORD. I didn’t know this little thing picked up emotional frequencies (frequencies, right? I have no idea how this actually works) but “grief” was like off the charts, in the red, danger zoned. What in the world? I get it, my mom passed a year ago in August, but why still so intense? Shouldn’t it be, I don’t know, out of the DEFCON 1 mode, maybe into at least a 3? Like, shouldn’t I be a grief master by now gracefully floating through bouts of momentary sadness with the tragic, enduring, and angelic face of Mandy Moore in “A Walk to Remember”? Yeah, I’m not and I don’t. I’m more…. say, Shirley MacLaine in “Terms of Endearment”, “IM NOT ENJOYING THIS!!!”

“Avoiding feelings isn’t the same as protecting feelings.”  -Sheryl Sandburg

But at that moment I took the whole last year into consideration and have slowly been coming to this realization that I have been doing this grief thing so completely wrong. Me, the one who reads poetry (not writes because I sound like Dr. Seuss and that’s Jennifer’s talent) and watches sad movies and reads just completely gut-wrenching, ugly cry-inducing novels. Yeah, I suck at grief. How do I know? Well to start I haven’t cried in a year. I’m talking a real cry, not one of those welling up deals that’s pretty much like a sneeze that didn’t happen. Yup, no crying. I lost my Mom, my ally, my best friend, but following her funeral I refused to cry. When I would feel a sad moment coming on, whether alone or not, I would just tense my jaw, let the physical pain pass because as I have learned, gut-wrenching is a thing. Yeah, I know, messed up. One of the most difficult things I have ever done was clean my Mother’s room after she passed. It was all there, what she was doing that day, the things she was working on, the plans, her glasses on the table, clothes on the closet door, and the trauma that eventually came to be that morning. I did it and literally forced myself not to cry. Did I expect a badge, or have something to prove? I guess it was what I thought I was supposed to do, you know buck up, soldier on. It’s like I didn’t even see that Pixar move Inside Out. Mom’s you know what I am talking about, don’t pretend that movie didn’t touch something deeply buried in you and totally make you weep when the little girl finally let herself feel all the sadness she needed to feel.

“Grief does not change you… it reveals you.” -John Green

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Why am I telling you this? Because Judy Blume didn’t write a book for us on this one like she did with puberty (what the heck Judy?). But I would want the year ago me to understand things. Understand that the mind and body are unavoidably and inexplicably connected, holding in emotions of this magnitude for this long can affect things like the immune system and hormones, can cause or exacerbate issues like inflammation, migraines, aches and pains, all of which I have experienced this past year. I would want the year ago me to understand that not crying, not taking a moment to let yourself totally breakdown in the cereal aisle at the grocery store and just let waves of sorrow wash over you doesn’t make you stronger and you’re not winning grieving. I would have wanted to know that you don’t “deal” with grief as they say, you let it happen. To know the universe won’t answer the whys and doesn’t address the unfairness because I am not owed that, is something I am slowly learning too. And letting go of that is when the grief process can begin. And let me tell you friends, grief is coming to town. It doesn’t have to be your roommate, but it certainly is going to be a house guest who is not leaving until you settle your accounts. And no matter the source of the grief, a mom that was, a mom that never was, a relationship lost, the past that happened, the future that won’t be, whatever loss hurts you, grieve it. Other than ignoring it, there isn’t a wrong way, there isn’t a timeline. People eventually stop asking how you are but that doesn’t mean it’s time to tidy up your grief and tuck away in the closet like I did. You’re not wrong for grieving over a year later. This is yours, talk, meditate, yoga, write, journal, oil, create, listen, read yourself through and when you come out the other side, you will have become exactly who you were meant to be.

“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe their husband is about to return and need his shoes.”  

-Joan Didion The Year of Magical Thinking

Because I am such a sucker for a themed list of book recs, below are listed some of the reads that I have found most helpful and enlightening when dealing with loss, grief, and all those things life throws at you on a random Tuesday.

      Stay Inspired,

     ~Danielle

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Reading Through Grief:

Wild- Cheryl Strayed (I wish I was cool enough to hike the Pacific Crest Trail to get through my grieving. Instead I ate pickle chips, binge watched Gilmore Girls, and read this book.)

The Year of Magical Thinking- Joan Didion (This a thousand times.)

Blue Nights- Joan Didion

Option B- Sheryl Sandberg (A must for those low days.)

When Breath Become Air- Paul Kalanithi (Caution: Ugly crying happens here.)

The Dead Moms Club: A Memoir about Death, Grief, and Surviving the Mother of All Losses- Kate Spencer (this is just now in my TBR pile, where was this a year ago?!)

The Harry Potter Series- J. K. Rowling (just because we all need escapism at some point and a nice reminder that no matter how bad things are, you might just be a famous wizard and not even know it yet.)

Find Your Calm & Have Faith: The Art of Restarting

We’ve all been there. Heck, currently I am in the mean throes of it. It is ugly, it is frustrating, it can even be depressing. Here you were, taking the world by storm and something happened, or perhaps nothing happened. The wind left your sails, you lost your mojo, your spark extinguished… however you want to describe it you are in a funk (and not the uptown kind) and whatever you were working towards sort of… well fell by the wayside. For me, summer happened. Work, trips, life, stress, nonsense distracted me from doing the work that I love. And its like that good ole diet I’ve been starting on Monday since the summer of 2014, I just keep telling myself that tomorrow is another day. Well I have decided that I am done being Scarlett O’Hara and am ready to get real with what’s stopping me from moving forward. Time to recall some of things that got me inspired in the past and amend the things that aren’t quite working for me, like everything. So, I will share with you some of the little bits of strategy I plan on trying out to bring me out of this funk and launch me into my highest potential (great oil blend by the way) …

#1 I will schedule with intention. I come across this one so often from countless successful people. Calendars and a written time management plan are really just a must. I think I went about a good six months this year without touching a calendar for no good reason other than I was dragging my feet on which planner to purchase. In that time, I missed approximately 63 appointments/meetings/deadlines. Okay, not really but I missed quite a few and they were the sort that I really shouldn’t have missed, like the kind that made me look like a pretty big mess. I vowed never to be without a calendar/planner again. One of the most recent bits of calendar advice I’ve come across lately from a few different sources is to plan time to think, or daydream, whatever term you use. Richard Branson in particular is a big propionate of doing this. This one seems like a pretty easy and enjoyable one to implement, so tonight, I’m jotting down time for “mind wandering time”. I have to think about that title though, sticking a pin in that one…

#2 I will revisit my goals. When it comes to this, there seems to be all kinds of theories about when to revisit what kind of goals whether it be monthly, yearly, whatever. Personally, I think it depends on the goal. Obviously, you wouldn’t take stock on long term goals weekly. With that said, I think meditating on what you hope to achieve when you meet that goal, meaning why do you want to (insert said goal here). Intentions are everything and sometimes the “why” changes overtime. In my own experience I wanted to reach a specific sales goal with Young Living, so I can do what I love fulltime and have more time home with my family. Though that goal is the same, my why has expanded, I now want to be able to be at that level so I have the time and funds to devote to Young Livings Foundation as well. This has given my goal a whole different perspective and maybe a little more motivation and inspiration to work harder. All in all, taking stock every now and then is vital, finding what has worked, what doesn’t, and what we really want can be a game changer.

#3 I will channel my strength from others. Pain and struggle is all relative, but sometimes looking at how others have not only overcome some pretty intense situations but have had great success as well can be incredibly uplifting. The cool thing is is that stories like these are pretty much everywhere. Humans can be pretty crappy but when you read or watch stories like these, it can remind you that we aren’t so bad and are actually capable of overcoming some amazing odds. Great books like I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls, Night by Elie Wiesel, or Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, all will break your heart in different ways but show you how courageous and enduring the human spirit can be under pressure. I am self admittedly a book nerd so obviously I am a little biased to this method of inspiration, but after losing my mother last summer books like The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, On Writing by Stephen King (it’s a little about life too) and Wild by Cheryl Strayed pretty much got me out of bed in the morning with the philosophy that “if they can do it, so can I”. Never underestimate the power of the pen my friends.  

#4 I will listen to myself. Taking a good long hard look at what my internal dialog is can be pretty startling at times. Negative thoughts are sneaky buggers, I often don’t even realize I am entertaining them. I think I was the last person to read The Secret by Rhonda Byrne some months back and wow, changing that pattern of thought is so much tougher than I anticipated. I find myself existing on the negative plane so often with an almost constant mantra of what I don’t want or what I am afraid of happening. Which if you are familiar with the law of attraction, like attracts like so thoughts like these are self-fulfilling prophecies. Negativity like this is like lead boots, going nowhere fast sister. For this one I have to try out some mind hacks like a vision board and perhaps some scheduled meditation.

#5 I will be open AND proactive. Inspiration and education are everywhere. We live in an amazing time where its all available at our fingertips. I am a TEDtalk junkie. I love those things, sometimes too much. I have a nasty habit of watching them to get myself fired up, which is great but then I wander down the interweb hole and I am 17 YouTube videos and 2 bowls of cereal and fruit snack in and I haven’t put into action any of the great advice I am hearing. One of my very favorites is Mel Robbins and I think this lady has my number. She talks a lot about that hesitation into actually putting plan into action with her 5 Second Rule. Simon Sinek, Richard Branson, and Bob Proctor videos are also some pretty good places to start too.

So, all in all I feel like I have a pretty good roadmap to some much-needed momentum in the things I am working towards. Certainly it is something of an art form I have yet to master. If anything, I would add perhaps a mantra, or rather an affirmation to remind keep me moving forward, to keep me positive. I am not certain what that is yet but for now I found one that has given me a boost, and I found it in an unlikely place. I love checking my horoscope daily, and my SO likes to laugh at me checking my horoscope daily, so obviously I have to make a big deal and read it out loud to him just because. However, the other day one got to me and I couldn’t love what it said more. It read, “your story is not yet written, and the pen is in your hand. Little by little something big is changing, and this has been in progress for some time. Find your calm and have faith.” Find my calm and have faith. I aim to.

 

~Danielle