I find that any activity for which I don't have a meaningful purpose, drifts towards mindlessness and ultimately to boredom. This tendency is especially true of household tasks. Taken by themselves, they aren't all that inspiring and it becomes an affair with no real beginning and end. It also becomes that much easier to abandon the tasks all together.
For me, the mission of cleaning has many purposes. But the most important to me (even more especially that I have children) are as follows:
- Safety - any immediate physical threat to our persons
- Health - any condition which could open our house to illness.
If I have time for nothing else at the end of the day, I attend to any items that could prove a threat to either of these purposes. This helps me to focus my energy on the few tasks that will give me the most bang for my buck.
Here are some of the things I try to do in the name of safety and health.
- Have a place for and put away all sharp objects. Knives, blades, skewers, even forks need to be taken off of shelves and out of sinks and cleaned and put away as soon as they are out of use. If you're putting these things in the dishwasher, please, please, please put them in point downwards and remove them promptly.
- Turn off all heat generating appliances - stoves, ovens, toasters, skillets, hot plates, etc... must be turned off when they are out of use. Tea pots should be moved to the back of the stove.
- Clear or mop any item or liquid that could cause someone to slip. Water, milk, yogurt, balls, beads, etc... should be dealt with before someone else finds them (accidentally).
- Cover and refrigerate all perishable foods. Whenever I'm in doubt of a product, I will put it in the refrigerator - better safe than sorry.
- Sweep up all crumbs and other food on the floor. We live in a small city, mice and less desirable creatures are not just in books.
- Promptly throw away anything that has an odor, color or texture that makes you think twice. Save your life before you save your money.
This is a very short list. I try to keep it short to keep myself focused on the essentials. Often too, I find that if I take care of our safety and health first, it is enough. I can live with other clutter, so long as I know that no-one will be hurt or become ill on my watch.
I also find that when I think of myself as guarding our family from danger, the task of cleaning becomes less prosaic. I might, in my mind, very well be the cop on the beat or the firefighter on the watch or the doctor on their rounds when I perform these tasks.
In this light, far from being mindless, cleaning becomes very noble.
Well, we are not very far apart on this issue. I do prioritize my shopping and cooking by safety and health. For example, no BPA cans or plastics come into our pantry. And we just chucked all the plastic containers for glass. As far as health goes, we read like a key word search: gluten free, organic, raw, free range, kosher, and pasture raised products dominate our fridge. I am not doctrinaire about any of these, but do my best to adhere as often as possible in an effort to provide healthier food for family.
This all takes a lot of research and work; it cannot be accomplished by simply going to the A&P across the street (although we are frequent visitors). I have managed to come up with a wide variety of stores, both brick and click, that help supply us with food, recipes, and ideas (some are provided at the bottom of this post). I am always looking for new resources, as well as shopping and reading from those I have come to depend upon. This can be time consuming, but the results are worth while. Our food bills are down considerably, my husband (alas, not me) has lost weight, we always have hungry and happy visitors in the house, and my kids don't have a complete glucose meltdown every time I give them a piece of (awesome) almond flour, sugar free cake.
I have recently found a local supplier for pasture raised eggs and raw milk products. On the latter, um honey...I have been meaning to talk to you about this. Just noodle on it, ok? And here is a great site describing the benefits of these products. Please love me.
Finally, we have recently been making efforts to become more kosher. I know, some say that is like being a little pregnant...just put those thoughts aside. My husband was born Catholic. Kosher to him was about as foreign as it was to me, born Jewish and raised on pork chops. It is something I have always been interested in, flirted with, until recently. Being kosher requires cooking and cleaning to become one effort, as you need both to be in synch in order to be compliant. My amazing husband self-cleaned our oven for us so it would be koshered. He then looked up how to do the same for the stove top and offered to help get this done. All in the same week we let the cleaning people go because of budget cuts.
Of course this effort also strongly impacts my cooking and shopping, but I truly believe that it is my husband's herculean and overwhelmingly generous offerings that bind us together and make our family stronger. The informal definition of kosher is proper, legitimate, genuine, or authentic, and that pretty much sums up our home and family, as well as our marriage.
- Nuts online. Great flours, sweeteners, nuts, dried fruit, seeds, beans, and spices. Excellent customer service http://www.nutsonline.com/
- Kols Foods. Kosher, pasture raised, grass fed, organic poultry, meat, and lamb. The best I have ever eaten. https://www.kolfoods.com/
- Amazon. Great for kitchen supplies, especially if you can purchase with free 2 day shipping. They also have some food supplies including dry goods. http://www.amazon.com/
- Trader Joe's. They do not ship online but truly have the best and most inexpensive selection of food available. http://www.traderjoes.com/
- Eat Wild. A great resource for locating local farms and food. Especially good for meat and dairy products. http://www.eatwild.com/
- Slow Family Living. A fun blog about taking it a little slower and enjoying life. http://slowfamilyliving.com/
Recipes and ideas
- The Jew and the Carrot: Contemporary thought on Jewish food and environmental thinking. http://jcarrot.org/
- Smitten Kitchen. Every time I think my kitchen is inadequate, I turn to this site, written out of tiny NYC galley kitchen. http://smittenkitchen.com/
- Elana's Pantry: Gluten free cooking at its best. http://www.elanaspantry.com/
- Umami Girl. Full disclosure - she is a friend. But a great and very funny site with super recipes and ideas. http://umamigirl.com/