Thursday, July 30, 2015

Confessions of an Unconventional Wife

I'll be honest, this probably isn't going to go over very well.  You've been reading my blog for a while now, enjoying our time together and then I turn around and pull the rug out from under you.  Now everything I've ever said is going to questioned, second-guessed and analyzed.  I feel horrible.  I formally and humbly apologize for misleading you this entire time but I have a confession to make,  I'm a completely unconventional wife.

You know when you have those conversations with your friends about how annoying it is that your husband leaves his socks all over the bedroom floor?  Or how he simply can't take the extra ounce of effort to move the dirty fork from the counter to the dishwasher?  Or how about when he needs reminding every single week when it is trash day, though it has been Tuesday and Friday for all of eternity?  Sound familiar?  I know, I can completely your husband.

Growing up with parents that didn't put very much emphasis on cleaning or keeping the house tidy typically makes for a sloppy child.  No one made their beds, there was no dusting.  Our sink was always full of dishes.  Our house was only as clean as it needed to be to get by. When I first started dating my husband, he had no idea what he was getting himself into. I told him about the idea for this post, he said, "Make sure you mention the apartment you had in Manhattan with your sister." I didn't know what he was talking about so I inquired further.  I was informed that when my husband visited my apartment for the first time, he was reminded of the episode of Friends when Ross goes on a date with a really hot girl and later discovers that her apartment is undate-ably, disgustingly, filthy.  In my defense, 1) we are talking about two sister that were raised by the same cleaning minimalist hippies and 2) we shared a one bedroom apartment in the West Village and 3) my room was in the kitchen. Insert joke about the convenience of late night snacking. 

I know what everyone is thinking right now.  "You blog about organizing.  What changed?  How did you go from a life long slob to lover of all things structured?"  Well, this isn't just story of a messy girl without a clue.  We must remember that every "husband" needs a "wife" and my husband is totally "the wife".  I'm sure he is going to love me for saying that but it hard to argue with the facts.  My husband-wife is as Type A as you can get.  He also grew up in a family where, due to his MS diagnoses, his dad stayed at home and his mom went to work.  He watched his dad do a lot of the cooking and cleaning and his mom bring home the bacon.  

Which is why, I believe, most weekends you will find my husband-wife dusting the house, cleaning the bathroom, replacing the air fresheners and doing yard work. He also used to cook all our meals until our work schedules changed, I was home hours before him and was forced to learn how to cook.  My dear husband-wife took me under his wing and showed me the way.  At first I wouldn't contribute much to our household, because as most of the husbands out there know, any time I tried to do something around the house, I "didn't do it right" or I didn't do it quick enough and eventually he would just end up doing it for me.   

I am proud to report that, thanks mostly to my husband, I now know how to make the bed, clean up after a meal, pick up my clothes and pay attention to things like trash days.  If it wasn't for him I probably would never have figured out a way to channel all my love for structure into something beyond coloring squares on graph paper.  That being said, we will always have slightly skewed roles from the norm in our household.  For example, we will always do our own laundry because he is admittedly afraid I'll ruin his clothes.  He will always do the dusting because the messy child in me still doesn't see and/or isn't bothered by dust.  I organize, he cleans.

Even though I've often felt like a slacker compared to my energizer bunny of a husband, I love the standards we are setting for our daughters.  My husband is one of the most engaged and helpful spouses and dads I know.  And I like to think that because of this, our daughter's expectations of the partners they seek out later in life will be effected.  They will look for someone to support them and share life's workload, instead of falling into the stereotypical roles of the "caregiver wife" and the "financially providing husband".  Not that there is anything wrong with having these roles, it just shouldn't be the role you are forced into based on your gender.  And I'll tell you what, this unconventional wife could not be happier that she found her fantastically unconventional husband.

I'm sure I'm not the only wife-husband out there.  Have the traditional roles in your family been tossed on their head?  I'd love to hear your story. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Adventures in Kitchen Organizing: Zoning

How much time in our lives do we spend in the kitchen?  According to one study, you spend 3-4 years in your kitchen depending on your age and (sadly) gender.  For a few of us, we are only in long enough to grab our leftovers from the microwave but for some people, the kitchen is their oasis.  The place that they invent, create and conjure.  Their kitchen can be their creative outlet and the very place that they feel the most at home.  For someone like Sophia who is continuously working on jewels for her blog NY Foodgasm, the kitchen is the most important room in her house.  Which means it absolutely, 100%, needs to function properly.

In the last post, Sophia and I worked on removing everything from her cabinets and negotiated what she was going to keep and what would be donated to a deserving home.  These few steps took a good three hours but were vital to the overall process.  That was the manual, time consuming and mentally taxing part.  Now we just needed to put everything back in the right spot.  But how and where?

Our next step was to make sure that the kitchen had proper flow.  You don't want to walk back and forth across the kitchen each time you need an ingredient for dinner or each time you need to put away a dish.  In the book, Organizing from the Inside Out the author Julie Morgenstern talks about zoning your kitchen.  You create zones to make the process of using your kitchen as efficient and easy as possible.  The basic concept is that you take a focal point of your kitchen such as your stove, food prep area (the longest stretch of counter space in your kitchen) or sink/dish washer and organize the cabinets around these areas based on what you use in these zones.  For example, all flours, sugars, knives, etc would be near your food prep zone.

Still confused?  Let's check out some more examples with before and after photos:


Zone of the Kitchen: Daily Dishes/Food Serving
Why it Didn't Work: This was a very large cabinet that, because of the depth of the space, items were easily lost and forgotten if they weren't right up front.
Rationale for Placement: Since the cabinet is across the room from the stove and not directly next to the sink and dish washer, we used it for Sophia's formal dishes.  They were perfect for this cabinet because she only needs the dishes for special occasions and since the dishes are in uniform sets, she knows exactly what is in the cabinet.  Additionally, the heavy plates were previous placed on a high shelf and they were making the shelf bow under their weight.  They needed more support.

Zone of the Kitchen: Daily Dishes
Why it Didn't Work: This cabinet is right above the dishwasher so it is prime real estate for daily dishes (versus formal dishes that were previously discussed).  This is one of the larger cabinets in the kitchen that wasn't being properly utilized when it was filled with an abundance of coffee mugs and tea.  Sophia and her husband are barely drinking coffee this days.
Rationale for Placement: The closer you place your dishes next to your sink or dishwasher, the easier it is to put away your clean dishes.  We placed all of Sophia everyday dishes in this cabinet for quick and easy access.

Zone of the Kitchen: Daily Cooking
Why it Didn't Work: The contents in this cabinet were properly zoned next to the stove but there was just too much stuff in one cabinet for Sophia to be able to easily access everything.
Rationale for Placement: Your Daily Cooking zone in your kitchen should be the area around your oven and stovetop.  It was much easier to organize this cabinet after we had gotten rid of items Sophia didn't need anymore and grouped cooking items together by shape. Never try to organize without purging first. It's a waste of time and space.


Zone of the Kitchen: Food Storage
Why it Didn't Work: You are much less likely to use something if it is stacked under or behind something else.  Plus, these towers of pint glasses were a structural disaster waiting to happen.   Which I inadvertently proved when I knocked over a glass while removing them from the cabinet. There were simply too many items in one cabinet.
Rationale for Placement: The food storage containers were placed in this cabinet because of its location between the stove and the refrigerator.  Cleaning up and packing up extra food after cooking would be a breeze with the food storage containers an arms length away.

Zone of the Kitchen: Food Preparation/Daily Dishes
Why it Didn't Work: This had become Sophia's cooking utensil crap drawer.  She didn't know what had made its way into the drawer and told me that she once cut her hand on a misplaced knife while rooting around in the drawer.
Rationale for Placement: Before starting the de-cluttering  process, Sophia had three drawers dedicated to cooking utensils.  Once everything was out in the open, we discovered a lot of duplicates (how does one acquire four peelers?) and utensils in need of an upgrade (sorry old oil brush, off you go!).  When we freed up this empty drawer we were able to move Sophia's food wraps, that were previously living under the kitchen sink with the cleaning products.  This drawer wasn't as close to the Food Prep area as we would have liked but space that is more visible and easier to access is always a major improvement!

Zone of the Kitchen: Daily Dishes
Why it Didn't Work: Two words, horizontal folding.  Before, there were too many dish towels in one drawer and you couldn't see what was in the drawer beyond the first couple towels.  Which means Sophia was using the same three towels over and over again.
Rationale for Placement: By having the towels stacked horizontally, Sophia wasn't able to see or use everything in the drawer.  We got rid of some of the towels and folded them vertical.  We had so much space left over that we stored a few of her mason jars in the drawer to keep the towels upright.

It was a adventurous day with a surprising amount of manual labor, and we still had some minor improvements to make, but by the end of the day that kitchen looked fantastic!  And my favorite part? Sophia was so happy!  I've checked in with her a few times to see how she is doing in the newly organized kitchen and she's said it's great.  Some of her favorite parts are having her dishes above the dishwasher, all the cooking items at her finger tips and not having unnecessary items on the counters, like a random cereal box.  Her one complaint? Getting used to where things have moved.  Hopefully the changes will become a natural part of her routine and having this new and improved kitchen will help Sophia's culinary creations become more about the creation and less about remembering where to find the whisk under all those peelers.

What are your kitchen frustrations?  Do you have an amazing trick to keep your kitchen optimally organizing?  I want to hear every beautiful detail.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Who's the Black Sheep? You are!

Have you ever thought about who in your family is the black sheep?  The person that isn’t quite like the rest of the family and seems to march to a different beat.  The person that was repeatedly told throughout their childhood that they were adopted.  Maybe the person who claims the title of Black Sheep in your family is extremely obvious or maybe there isn't one.  Oh no, wait.  Sorry, that means the black sheep is you.

Normally when you think of the family’s black sheep you think of the movie starring the late Chris Farely.  The trouble-maker, the screw ball, the fuck up, but some black sheep don't fit the mold (go figure!).  I am hands down, absolutely my family’s black sheep but in a much different way than you’d think.  I’m the boring one. 

My mother paints, molds, sculpts, whittles, photographs and does crazy pieces of art like this.

My dad was a photographer, graphic artist, a well-known mural painter who created stuff like this.

My sister has endless talents, one of which includes musical improv, which is where you make up ENTIRE songs on the spot to create short and hilarious musicals.  Enough said.  And me?  What are my talents?  I’m really good at creating excel spreadsheets, remembering numbers, making lists and organizing.  What a freak!

There was always an ongoing joke in my family surrounding my lack of a sense of humor.  I desperately wanted to be funny like my dad and my sister but my joke delivery went something like this. "Orange (ha ha ha) you glad (haaaaa ha ha) I didn't (he he he) say banana! (Long pause) Get it? Orange sounds like Aren't?  Get it?  I said banana a lot and then I said orange."  And then everyone would look at me and say, "Nice try Kelsey."  I spent most of my childhood trying to keep up and pretend that I was as creative as everyone else but it just didn't come naturally to me the way it did for the rest of my family.

Even at a young age it was obvious that I wasn't following the family norm. When my sister was 14 she would babysit to earn money.  When I was 14 I forced my dad to help me make business cards and found a job at a family friend's outdoor clothing factory.  I wanted to sit at a small table for eight hours a day (listening to Rush Limbaugh over the overhead radio!!) and seal ice packs into plastic packaging sleeves.  During my summer!  For fun!  I'm sure at the time I knew it wasn't a typical way for a kid to spend their summer but it wasn't until a couple years ago, at a small family gathering, that I realized my true family colors.

I was standing around with my sister, mom and cousins.  It was a little after Christmas and everyone was drinking and dancing around, having a good time.  I don't remember exactly what I said that was so nerdy but my older cousin stopped, looked at me with a perplexed look on his face and said something like, "You're different, aren't you?"  I'll blame those loose lips on the festive drinking but it got me thinking.  How did I end up so different?  Why did the wacky family gene seem to skip right over me?  Would life be better or easier if I had the same sense of whimsy and creative abandon?  Maybe.  Probably not.

Being even little different from everyone around you can make you start to second guess those adoption comments but I've learned that I am a very important part of the family dynamic.  My family will always bring the jokes, the entertainment and the fun and I'll make sure no one gets arrested.  They will create amazing pieces of art and I'll make sure they are organized properly.

All (potentially lame) jokes aside, it took a long time for me to realize where I fit into my crazy clan, but as I'm sure some of you can relate, I know I have a place.  Someone to balance out all the off-the-wall creativity.  And, I'm by no means saying that I'm not creative.  I'm just creative in my own, organizing, left-brained, black-sheep kind of way.  I like to create through structure and design.  Give me a room cluttered with paperwork and books and toys.  Give me a closet that is stuffed to the brim with clothes and shoes.  Give me a bathroom that looks like it was hit by a make-up tornado.  That is when this black sheep will create her masterpiece.