Got the post-holiday clutter creep? I’ve got an answer.

The gifts are unwrapped, the tree is on it’s way out, the last of the cookie crumbs have been eaten and lo, you find yourself amidst a pile of post-holiday-clutter-creep. What’re you going to do when you’d rather go bury your head under the covers? You’re going to get up and start by cleaning the kitchen sink.

But what about the Christmas decor that needs put away? Start with the kitchen sink.

But what about the mountain of laundry? Start with the kitchen sink.

But what about the credit card bill? Start with the kitchen sink.

But what about the cat hairball? Start with the kitchen sink.

Whatever life happens to be throwing at you in this moment, start by cleaning your kitchen sink. You will feel immediate beneficial results that will carry with you throughout the day. I’m not kidding about this. It’s better than therapy (well, probably not, but you get my point).

Look, I get it. We’ve all got ten million things to do and only 24 hours to do them in. No matter the length of your to-do list, always begin with the sink. The beauty of starting in the same place is that you won’t question it. It’s just what you do. It becomes routine. You don’t even have to think about it anymore.

Everything begins with your kitchen sink, mostly your health. It’s where you will make up to three meals a day for yourself and/or your family. It’s where you will eventually start your morning by drinking a glass of water to re-hydrate after waking up (you’re doing this, right?). You can’t fill up your water bottle thorough out the day if the sink is filled to the brim with dirty dishes. Believe me, I’ve tried. So start with the sink. That’s it. That’s all. Don’t worry about those other things right now. If that’s all you get to, great. As I like to say around here, better is better.

Now. After your sink is clean, you’re hydrated and fed, you can tackle the clutter. Put on some good music and separate it into keep, giveaway, donate and trash.

Please share your tips and tricks for reducing holiday clutter creep below. I’d love to learn from you!

p.s. This post is NOT sponsored but it is inspired by Flylady, who encourages people to start with the kitchen sink. She’s got all kinds of great advice on keeping your house clean.

Best Marital Advice Ever

We chose to celebrate our twentieth anniversary in Seattle, Washington this summer. Note: this post may contain affiliate links. Please see disclosure for details.

Relationships are hard work. I don’t care what your economic, political, ethnic or gender background is, if you’re in a great marriage for the long haul, you will need to create some space and time for it. Here are the best pieces of advice we’ve used to help get us through the rough patches.

Ask yourself this…Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be married?

You cannot be both all of the time. If you want a healthy, long-lasting relationship, the answer is married. When things are heated and intense, let go of being right and choose marriage. This can be a day-by-day, hour-by-hour or even minute-by-minute decision.

Treat your spouse like you would like to be treated

This is very simple in theory, but often the most difficult. If you were in their shoes, would you like how you’re talking to or treating them right now? Think about it. We’re not talking rocket science here.

Visualize the detailed effects of what breaking up would look like

Do you have the means to fund separate households? Who gets which automobile? What about the pets? Someone will have to buy new sheets, bed and move all the stuff. That might be reason enough to try and work things out. If you have children, how will you split up parenting responsibilities? You will never see your kid every day again. Say goodbye to what your children eat, do, or who they hang out with when they are with the other parent (in worst cases, you may not even know where they are).

Read Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex by John Gray.

Men and women are wired differently and that’s okay. You might be facing a gender issue and not a ‘my spouse’ issue. Understand the difference.

Resolve to not bring up hot topics 30 minutes from entering/leaving your home and after 8pm at night

Everyone needs transition time from out in the world/to back at home, including kids. Give everyone 30 minutes before you start making demands. Save intense discussions for a weekend morning after breakfast or better yet, together in the bathtub- it’s hard to stay mad when you’re naked.

Don’t criticize or complain about your spouse, especially in front of others

Most of this requires just a bit of forethought for your future self. You might have to sit across a holiday table someday with the same people.

If you have children, do not undermine each others parenting

Discuss parenting issues and come to some form of agreement. Employ a unified front, otherwise children will play you like a fiddle.

Handle your respective extended families separately

I handle my extended family and MKISA handles his (this includes, visits, obligations, gifts, etc.). We discuss with each other first, then talk to extended family.

If you need a time out, take one

You recognize when you’re getting activated, so take a break. Go in another room, take a walk, or listen to calming music.

Are you hangry (angry because you’re hungry)?

When was the last time you ate? Go eat something nutritious and filling.

Get 8 hours of sleep a night

It’s pretty much impossible to feel good about yourself or others when you’re sleep deprived.

Recognize that this too shall pass

Just like anything in life, there are seasons to marriage.

Openly discuss your personal deal breakers

Know that if you cross that line, you aren’t ever going back to life as you know it. If you break up, it affects more than just YOU. It affects the children, extended family, friends, teachers, neighbors, coaches, and the list goes on.

 

Just pick one of these suggestions and try it for a week or two. Let me know how it goes. As I like to say around here, better is better!

What has worked well in your long term relationships? Please comment below so that everyone can learn from each other.

Holidays and Stress: let go of one thing

Xmas lights

Anytime my best friend and I are chatting on the phone this time of year and feel overwhelmed by the holiday mumbo-jumbo, she starts singing the lyrics to “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and we both start cracking up.

Let’s face it, the holidays are both happy AND stressful. Surpriiiise! They can be both. This often brings up complicated feelings of joy– in giving and witnessing the general holiday splendor, and dread– at the sense of obligation and endless to-do’s.

After writing down my holiday list last week (then wondering how it was all going to get done), I thought I could as least let go of one thing. And quite possibly, that might feel good and lead to letting go of more things. It could be addictive, even.

LET GO OF ONE THING

I started by downsizing the Christmas tree.

Usually we get a big ole Christmas tree and trim the heck out of it. Not this year. I bought a small tree from the local grocery store and called it good. Then I accidentally knocked it over and all the needles fell off, just like a scene out of the Charlie Brown Christmas special. Fortunately, Whole Foods had beautiful table top trees that looked hearty enough to withstand a couple of weeks in our dry, arid climate. My Knight In Shining Armor (MKISA) didn’t want to spend more money on a tree (I understand his point, Christmas is expensive enough), but this little pine got put into the cart anyway. My position is this, “He who hath lift no finger to help in Christmas celebration, planning, budgeting, buying, wrapping, packaging, shipping, gifting, baking, decorating, shall hath no opinion on the matter, and be grateful that someone else is willing and able to do all of it.”*

IMG_3054
A simplified ‘Deck the Halls’. I like it.

Letting go of the big Christmas tree was easier than I imagined– much to the dismay of my teenagers, who wanted the full-blown-decked-out Christmas tree of yore and MKISA, who would prefer to just skip Christmas altogether. I might be disappointing my loved ones but I figure I can live with that. If it scars them for life, I reason, they can look forward to having fodder for juicy therapy sessions later in life.

A small tree seems like a nice compromise: we get to admire the pretty lights, it smells like pine, and is a nice place to deposit the gifts, despite the fact that my son is worried it isn’t a BIG enough spot (please note * above). Another interesting phenomenon is that as your child grows into a polite, thoughtful and gracious teenager *insert canned laughter here*, the gifts get smaller and more expensive. So what I’m saying is, the gifts will fit underneath the tree just fine.

And as I like to say around here, better is better!

What might you let go of this holiday? Comment below!