Mother’s Day Musings
Happy Mother’s Day! I’ve always loved this 1930s Dorothea Lange photo of a migrant pea picker, 35 years old, with seven kids. I think she looks simultaneously worried and determined and courageous and worn out. It reminds all habithackers that life could be tougher.
In honor of Mother’s Day, I decided to post a few tips from my own mother.
But first, some background. I grew up in a tiny dollhouse-sized space with my sister, mom, and dad. We occupied the top level of a house my grandfather built; my aunt and uncle and their five children lived below us (all five kids slept in one very small bedroom; yes, there were bunk beds).
When I think back, I can’t imagine how my mom managed, especially since my aunt had health problems and my five cousins were often upstairs with us. So I asked her about it. Even if you’re living in a mansion, her ideas may help you get organized.
1. NEST. Clothing. Have the bare minimum. The closets in our house were the size of broom closets. Solution? Few clothes. My mother reminds me that this was also because we had no money to buy them. I hate to admit that I now have a huge walk-in closet all to myself packed and overflowing. We’ll begin intensive work on clothes and closets after day 50 in the Nest category.
2. NEST. Clothing. Launder frequently. When you’ve only got a few shirts and bras and undies, you’re forced to wash daily. If you’ve gone through the first month of habithacking, you know that we started work on instigating a regular laundry schedule on Day 30.
3. NEST. Food. Keep a cabinet in the basement to use for a pantry. Who says all kitchen supplies have to be kept in the kitchen? Find any suitable place in your house where you can shelve nonperishables or store infrequently used dishes and pots. You’ll get the bonus of extra exercise if you locate your auxiliary pantry in the basement.
4. NEST. Food. If you can, invest in a separate freezer. My mom said that at a certain point, they were able to buy a second-hand freezer. It was a godsend for meal planning and efficiency. She could shop sales and buy bigger quantities. Plus, she picked from her own garden and froze veggies to use during the winter. I didn’t have a separate freezer until about five years ago (at my mom’s urging). Now I can’t imagine being without one. It saves me a lot of trips to the store.
5. NEST. Food. Plant a garden. Going green and organic is nothing new. My parents had a huge garden, and my mom canned tomatoes among other things. Just think: it’s like having a produce department in your own backyard. Walk outside and pick. Although I curretnly have the space to grow food, I’ve done so in a limited way: a salad garden, an herb garden, edible flowers. Maybe we habithackers should try growing a few things. Even if you’re an apartment dweller, you can container garden. Growing lettuce or herbs on a windowsill is also easy.
6. NEST. Storing stuff. Stacks and stacks. My mom’s comment was: “bowls within bowls and pots within pots.” She always carefully stacked everything and used every square inch of space. However, I’ve become scarred for life when it comes to stacking. I DON”T do it because I detest having to put things away that slowly and carefully. It feels like the ultimate luxury to have space to spread my stuff out after the way I grew up. But my mom did repeat the old adage: a place for everything and everything in its place. If we all followed that rule, we wouldn’t need to train ourselves to habithack.
7. SOS. An active life. My mother never had to join a gym. I asked how she stayed in shape during those years. She said she never thought about it. She was always so busy, and always on her feet. When she did have leisure time, she chose active recreation: bowling, volleyball, camping. Our household was not a dieter’s paradise. We had full meals. My mom made homemade hot breakfasts, French toast, pancakes, bacon and eggs; lunches were soups and toasted cheese; dinners always included meat and starch and a veggie and often dessert… and much of it was the kind of food I probably would avoid today due to caloric load. But I note two things: one is that we ate quite controlled portion sizes. And secondly, we never had unhealthy snacks. We snacked on apples or pears from the trees in the back yard. It was a very special occasion when we had soda or ice cream. That stuff wasn’t in the house–and you SOSers know that’s one of the secrets to healthy eating.
8. CREATE. Make time and make space. My mom’s favorite creative outlet was sewing. She made clothes for us and she also made elaborate costumes for the local children’s theater as a volunteer. How could she accomplish this given her busy schedule (she had gone to work full-time) and that tiny, crowded apartment? It took a lot of dedication and motivation. At midnight when the house was quiet, she would set up a card table in the livingroom and bring out her sewing machine. She’d work until 4 am, put everything related to the project away, and then sleep a few hours. I admit I’ve picked up this habit. I usually pull an all-nighter once or twice a week. Later this month, the second month’s SOS category will feature a roundup of studies that show why this is not a healthy approach and can have adverse effects on your weight.
Thanks, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.