Waldorf Week

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about Waldorf education and way of life. Unfortunately I didn’t bookmark the specific article that really inspired me, but a few of the sites I was browsing were www.naturalfamilycrafts.com, and www.waldorfinthehome.org. (Update: Found it! The really inspiring article was here.) If I wasn’t such a staunch supporter of public school, I would totally send my kids to Waldorf school. (Ahh, also if I won the lottery.) I still don’t know or understand everything about it, but here are some Waldorf-y things I’m incorporating into our life this week:

The Natural World

Waldorf education stresses a connection with the natural world, as well as emphasizing natural materials, to foster a connection with nature and natural systems. Since we live in Downtown Ottawa and don’t have a car, it’s a bit hard to get out in The Nature. But we’re trying. Actually, the River is within walking distance and it offers a very natural setting in the middle of the city. We took a walk there today for an afternoon play date and had a really nice time. We saw ducks and heard red-wing blackbirds and watched the river flow . . .

Less TV

When our little guy was born in October, Daddy would get up with our older girl, and watch morning cartoons. Mostly this was a coping mechanism because we were all too tired to think in the morning, especially while I was still night nursing both of them (crazy!). However, this quickly became the routine and has been the way the morning goes for the last six months. Today I did things differently. We got up together and instead of turning on the TV, my girl and I played. I had forgotten that she is often at her best in the morning, very focused and calm, and she really enjoyed the time together. Of course, it helped that the little guy was still sleeping, but I’m going to try to keep this going. Of course this isn’t specifically a Waldorf thing, but it certainly fits the theme.

Work as Play

When I read about this, it seemed so simple, I thought it wouldn’t really work, but it did. The idea is, instead of, say, putting the kids in front of the TV so you can cram in a load of laundry and quickly chop some veggies for soup, you involve your kids in the housework and make it a part of your activities for the day. This teaches the kids that they are not nuisances to be silenced while you frantically do the real but unpleasant work, but rather that housework can be fun, and a shared activity that involves satisfaction and learning, but also that the kids can be a part of making their home a nicer, cleaner, more orderly place. My girl is three, and she can now do things that actually help me and save me time. It was really pleasant doing housework with her today. Again, maybe today was special, but I’ll be trying this again for sure.

Reverence

We are not a religious family, so we don’t have many spiritual practices in our household. However, the more I read, the more I see the value of rituals and valuing the spiritual side of life. It’s funny–even though I’m not religious and never have been, I do consider myself to be spiritual, mostly in connection with the natural world (this is probably why Waldorf appeals to me so much). So this idea of reverence really struck me. The article I read (which I cannot find, gosh darnit!) spoke about using gratitude as a path to reverence. That is, thinking about where things came from and thanking the creatures and forces and beings that brought these things to you. Our girl got right into this. For our broccoli soup at lunch, we thanked the Sunshine, and the farmer for the broccoli, and Daddy for buying the broccoli, and Mommy for making it. This idea of stopping to think about where things come from, and then thanking those who brought or created it is common to Buddhism as well.

A simplified play space

Okay, I’m working on this. But our girl’s room has become messy to the point of being dangerous. She just has too many toys, all out and accessible all the time. Quite often, she flits from one thing to another. Other times, she works in “creative destruction” of her toys, painting them, cutting their hair, etc., it makes me wonder if she really values them. So my plan is to take away all but a few of her toys to play with at one time. The other things are going into her closet, so she isn’t worried about missing them. It will only make a visit to the closet extra exciting, but once this is all in order, I will make sure she’s only playing with a few toys at a time.

Today just felt so wonderful and so right. I know not every day can be like today, but I’m going to continue the experiment. I figure it can only bring good things!

And here is our Waldorf Week Meal Plan:

Tuesday: tabouli and hummus

Wednesday: chicken stir fry with peanut sauce

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: black bean soup and cheese quesadillas

Saturday: fish of some sort

Sunday: spaghetti (I’ll try to make it to the Organic Farmer’s Market on Saturday for some local beef–wish me luck!)

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Nerdmobile cleaning cart

I blogged about it awhile back, but I finally did it: created my very own cleaning cart! And yes it is as exciting as it sounds (that is, if it sounds like the most exciting thing ever!).

What you see in the photo is my version of this cleaning cart. On the front is a blue bag for laundry, the inside is for items that belong in another room, with a red bag for small things or things that belong in my daughter’s room. On the back I have a garbage bag and a recycling bag.

This is the tidying version; when I’m doing cleaning too I have a tray with my cleaning stuff and rags that goes on top. The only additional things I have to lug are the broom, mop or vacuum if I’m using them.

The idea of the cart is that you set yourself up to sweep through the house once, tidying (and/or cleaning) as you go, with no time-wasting back-tracking to put stuff back where it belongs. Once I heard the idea, I was intrigued. Once I tried it, I was sold! It really works. It’s super fast to just stick things into the appropriate bags in the cart and move along. Otherwise, I tend to pick up a sock and bring it into the bedroom, there noticing a coffee cup and bringing it to the kitchen, where I notice that the stovetop is dirty, which I clean, and before I know it an hour has gone by and nothing substantial has been accomplished. With the cart, even if I can completely clean/tidy one room before a minor emergency distracts me, my life is seriously improved.

One fantastic additional thing I discovered about this cart is that my preschooler was really into helping me tidy up the living room! I guess she enjoyed sorting the stuff into the different bags. We actually tidied up the entire living room together, which really helped my sanity, and occupied at least 15 minutes of our time.

So, if you have a handy shopping cart like the one in the picture, try out the Nerdmobile technique and let me know how it works for you!

Frugal, Green & Clean

baking-sodaYou’ve probably heard all about the 1001 uses for baking soda.  You probably know that vinegar is a natural antibacterial agent.  You’ve probably even used the two together to create a volcano or a volcano-like effect.  But did you know that you can replace most of your household cleaners with baking soda and vinegar?

The number one tool in my house cleaning toolchest is my spray bottle filled with vinegar.  This guy cost me all of 99 cents at the grocery store, and holds about 250 ml of vinegar.

And what do I clean with it?  Nearly everything in the bathroom:

– sink: spray vinegar around the sink, and wipe with a cloth.  You don’t even need to rinse.

– toilet: spray all the sprayable areas, and wipe down with a damp cloth. Then dump some vinegar in the bowl–around 1/3 to 1/2 cup–and scrub until clean.

– taps and tub: vinegar leaves it sparkling

– floor: use a strong solution of vinegar and hot water.  No rinsing required.

– mirror: straight vinegar, sprayed on, then rubbed off with a dry lint-free cloth.  Actually, plain hot water would also do a fine job here.

For more stubborn things like bath crayons and soap scum, baking soda does a fantastic job due to its mild abrasive quality.  Baking soda requires a lot of rinsing though, so it’s easiest to use on a surface that will handle a lot of water.

Simply google baking soda or vinegar and you will find dozens of blogs and websites containing tips for cleaning with these two powerful agents.

The benefits of switching from chemicals to these guys are many:

– they’re way cheap!  You can get 2 L of vinegar, or 2 kilos of baking soda for under $4.  No other cleaner is so inexpensive.

– they’re multi-purpose! Instead of needing a different spray, cream or foam for kitchen, bathroom, toilet, floors, etc. you’ve got just two products that can handle almost any job.  This is great news for my fellow apartment dwellers with limited storage space.

– they won’t kill your toddler!  Or your pet!  Or you by inhalation of fumes . . . you get the idea.  They are both very benign substances.

– you don’t even have to wear gloves when using them.

– and finally, while baking soda is a mined product, it is still much less harmful to use baking soda and vinegar than it is to use highly processed, perfumed, chemical concoctions to clean your house.  Nothing is perfect, but these guys bring you closer to nature.

Next on my list to add to my cleaning arsenal: pure vegetable soap.  Clean and green, and apparently it marries well with baking soda and vinegar to expand your cleaning power even further.  I’ll let you know when I try it!

Confessions of an Organized Housewife

I mentioned upon my return from my holidays that I had borrowed a couple of books from my mom.  Well, this is one of them, and frankly the more exciting of the two.  I’ve borrowed it at least once before, and it’s really quite awesome.

To begin with, there’s the title.  For some reason, it speaks to me.  She is confessing her clean little secret, and really, she’s proud of it.  I guess part of me really wants to be an organized housewife, just like her.

So what does she offer? Plenty!  Here is a breakdown of the gems to be found in this book:

– pep talks that work.  Really.  After reading this book I often come away actually excited about cleaning and organizing my house.  She points out that by working on improving your technique, you raise houswork out of the mundane into a craft. She also discusses the benefits of having a clean and orderly house, including the feelings of peace and enjoyment of the home.  To me, this is a frugal thought: if we like being at home, we will be less driven to leave it for expensive alternatives.

– six “Basic Organizing Principles” including: Think Before You Act, wherein you stop working by habit and instead think through all the steps of a project or day or organization of a room, looking for the most logical time-saving way to approach it; Discard and Sort, wherein you de-clutter each area of your home so that there is “a place for everything and everything in its place” and everything you have on hand is useful and used; Group, which is pretty self-explanatory, except that she often groups by use instead of by type so that you might keep all your baking spices with your baking stuff and all your savoury spices near the stove if that’s where you use them, instead of keeping all your spices together; Be Motion Minded, considering how you move in a room, and saving time by putting things close at hand; Use Your Accrued Benefits, wherein you learn that it makes more sense to iron 6 shirts at a time, than to iron one shirt at a time six times; Do it Daily, so that things don’t get out of hand; and finally, become an “Indoor Scout“, leaving a room better than you found it each time.

– advice for building your own planner that will accomodate your and your family’s needs.

– efficient ways of moving through the house methodically so that you’re not re-tracing your steps or wasting time.  The coolest idea here is her housework cart that she uses, like a hotel chambermaid.  It’s totally collapsable and handles garbage, laundry, sorting of “stuff”, and cleaning all in one amazing little buggy!  Seriously, I’m building me one of these.

There’s lots of other tips here, many of which involve using labelled containers to sort stuff in cupboards, etc., but you should really read the book if you want to get into that much detail.

I’ll end with the most reassuring part of the book, the second-last chapter which is called “Where to Start”.  In case you have a tendancy to get massively overwhelmed by books like this, she has a little checklist with the basics that should be covered before you move on to more ambitious home organization projects.  The basics:

– I am able to keep the house picked up; check, for the most part.

– I am able to keep the laundry current; check.

– Meals are well-prepared and served regularly; check

– The kitchen is usually in good order; thanks to my partner doing the dishes every night, this is also a check

– Bathrooms are cleaned and straightened regularly; this is a new one, but I’m doing pretty checking good on it so far

– I am able to keep entry areas clean and tidy; hmmm

Well, I’m doing pretty good on 5 out of 6, so maybe the entry way is a good place to start.  In any case, I’m very reassured that I am winning at 5 of these basics.  Her recipe for starting a new level of cleanliness is to give yourself and your family six weeks to get used to it.

So, starting today I will aim to keep my entry area clean and tidy, thus basically completing all six of her basics, and preparing to enter a new level of household organization.

That is, until Tiny Baby arrives.  After that, I make no promises.