Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Babies and Devices: Observations from the Grocery Store

This may come across as a "back in MY day... " rant, and I hope it doesn't. But I can't help but write about something I've noticed going on around me in cafes, stores and markets lately. Nearly EVERY young child, with the exception of a very small handful, are sitting in shopping carts or at tables with a device in their hands, be it iPads, mom's phone, whatever. Almost every single one! What is up with that?! The other day I saw a little girl who looked to be barely a year old, playing with her mom's phone. I find this so, so disturbing.

I've written about my feelings on technology here in the past (see "Technology, Media and Simplicity") but boy-oh-boy in the two years since I wrote that post, it seems to me that tech is now even more pervasive than ever, and that is NOT a good thing.

In addition to the damage being done to young brains from these devices (see this article) I'm also really concerned about what these kids are missing out on by being hooked up to a screen while out in public. Back in the "before device" days, when my kids were toddlers and preschoolers, going out and about to stores, cafes and restaurants was a regular part of our life, and going to these places gave my kids the chance to interact with other humans in meaningful ways. Every Friday I would take my kids out grocery shopping. While we made our way through the store, we talked about what kind of cereal we'd buy, counted oranges, and discussed what colors the apples were. They behaved in the store (usually) without a device because they were involved and engaged, and not "tuning out" with a smartphone. Also on shopping day, we'd stop to get a smoothie at the juice bar. Bette, The Juice Bar Lady, would make small talk with the kids while she fixed their smoothie... telling them she liked their new hats, or asking if they're excited about their new little brother, or what's your favorite fruit? Would Bette have bothered to try to engage my kids if they'd had their noses buried in a screen? I'm thinking maybe not. When we waiting for our food at restaurants, my kids were occupied reading picture books, drawing, playing tic-tac-toe or I Spy. They were actively engaged with the other humans at the table, instead of a smartphone. And these interactions, me, with Bette, and various cashiers, waitstaff, fellow shoppers and restaurant patrons, were such valuable experiences for my kids. They learned so much about the world on all those outings. All these babies I see with device in their hands? They are totally missing out on these experiences... and what will be the long-term effect of this?

I'm not sure I want to know.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Before and After: Recycling Center

In a most embarrassing display of gender stereotyping, the trash and recycling in our home is the job of the two oldest men in the house. I generally try to stay as far away from this job as possible, because, really, I have enough of my own chores to do, and that particular one is my least favorite (ok, maybe second-least-favorite, after cleaning the cat boxes!)

But... the state of our recycling area in the basement had gotten to the point where I simply HAD to intervene. Seriously. It was a disaster. Did it serve the purpose, which is to contain the recycles until trash day? For the most part, yes. But was it nice to walk by and see? Not at all.

Now, I really would have loved to buy nice bins and really make the area pretty, but... since it's in an unfinished area of our basement and not in the main house, it didn't really seem like it was really worth it to spend good money on this project, so I just made do with what we already had. This means it's not exactly "Pinterest worthy" or anything... but I do think it's definitely tidier and the space is being used more efficiently.

Here is the "Before" photo:

See? Not very pretty, with everything just sort of shoved into the corner in the basement. There is also a door to the right, which sometimes gets blocked a bit by the overflow... not very efficient. I wanted this stuff to take up less space, and look a little bit more organized. 

 And now... AFTER:

To help keep the door from being blocked, I decided to use the walls to get some of the stuff up off the floor and out of the way. While it's not the prettiest, it's definitely a huge improvement from before. Just for fun, I hung up and old "No Trespassing" sign we had lying around. And who knows... maybe one of these days I will replace the bins and barrel with things that look nicer... but for now, I'm happy enough with this area. 

Since I've been working on organizing other people's homes, it's motivated me to take a look at a few slightly neglected corners of own home, which has been a good thing. It's funny how it is... we all have these little spots in our homes that are cluttered or just plain not working for us, and we keep putting off doing anything about them, because we think the job will be too big, or will take too long. In my experience, these areas can almost always be straightened with much less time and effort than we think. This recycling area, which has been driving me nuts for literally YEARS was redone in just about 45 minutes. 45 minutes?! Why on Earth didn't I do it sooner?? 

So here's my little challenge for you... find a little spot in your home that you've been neglecting, and just DO IT. I bet you'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Introducing... SimpleLife Home Solutions

So, I have some big things to share! After taking a year and a half off to give my family my full attention, I'm back to work. I have REALLY enjoyed the time I have been off and I'm going to miss being "just a mom" more than anything... but bills have got to be paid, so, back to work it is.

Because I'm still full time homeschooling four kids, my employment options are somewhat limited. I thought long and hard about what I could do that would allow me to still care for my home and family and homeschool, but would also bring in a paycheck. Now that my kids are getting older, I also wanted to find a job that I could build on in the future, when I'm no longer a full-time mom. And finally, I wanted to find work that I could feel passionate about... work that would be creatively stimulating, and would maybe make a difference in people's lives. Sounds like a pretty tall order, no?

So I started a my own business! I'm working as a Professional Organizer, and I'm really, really excited about it. I've always LOVED organizing and, as those who've read this blog before know, I love teaching others about simplifying and finding the peace that comes with that. I'm discovering that it's really satisfying to help people find solutions to the areas of their homes and lives that are causing them stress, so their lives can run more smoothly. I officially launched SimpleLife Home Solutions last month, and have been very busy getting set up and rolling. If you'd like, you can see the Facebook page here:

Getting back to work has not been without it's challenges. I'm still very much finding my "sea legs" as far as juggling the new business while already working a full-time "job" managing my home, family and homeschooling. I'm also currently enrolled in an online class! The days have been very long, and I'm still figuring out how to get everything done that needs doing. Some days are better than others, and I do confess that sometimes by the end of a 16 hour day, I'm GRUMPY. I do plan to work on ways to get the family to pitch in more, so I don't end up burning out. This "balancing" thing is all very much a work-in-progress, though having done this before (as in, worked a full-time job while being a homeschooling mom) I have learned a lot about what NOT to do, so I do feel somewhat better equipped this time around.

So that's what's up! I'm really looking forward to really getting into a groove with this new career.