{DIY} Laundry Detergent Overview- Every Ingredient You’d Ever Want


Oh boy, you say. Another laundry detergent post? Welcome to 2013, Jen. DIY laundry detergent has been around for quite a while.

Well, I know. BUT, this is a resource blog. This means, first, that I’m going to be repeating others’ posts a lot, because I want this to be one-stop shopping. Second, as a resource blog, I don’t just want to post my own laundry detergent recipe; I want to be able to give you ALL the laundry detergent options.

So let’s begin. First, there are two basic laundry detergent recipes: powdered and liquid.

Basic Powder and Liquid Recipe

The basic laundry dwtergent recipe has a few basic ingredients:

1.) Bar of Soap – 1 bar for small recipe, 3 bars for large – grated

2.) Borax – 1  cup for small recipe, 1 box for large

3.) Washing Soda – 1 cup for small recipe, 1 box for large

That’s it for the basic recipe. Most recipes have a few other ingredients, which we will discuss in turn. (As for me, I just add an equal part of OxiClean) To go liquid, you boil it all down.

But, seriously, if you don’t want to do it but want the cost savings and want to go additive-free, check out Grandma’s All Natural Laundry Soap. Its ingredients are — you guessed it –lye soap, washing soda, baking soda, and borax.

Bar of soap

Most recipes call for Fels-Naptha laundry soap.  However, you can really use any bar soap (although I’m not sure about soap with lotion in it.)

The bar of soap needs to be grated or put into a food processor. The idea of a food processor intimidated me (it doesn’t take much to intimidate me). However, Fels-Naptha doesn’t really grate well, so it’s best to put it into food processor. Even then, it’s hard to get it into a fine powder.

If that bugs you, another option is Ivory soap, which you can actually microwave in order to get it into a powder because it’s whipped. (Make sure you get the bar, not the body wash).

Zote is another one. Because those bars are bigger, you can use two bars instead of three.

If you want a soap that is free of perfumes and dyes, you’d be better off using castile soap (olive oil based) or goat’s milk soap. I use goat’s milk soap (believe it or not, I’ve never had trouble finding it in the grocery store, under bath soap).

Dr. Bronner’s makes a good castile soap that’s already liquid, eliminating the need to grate.

I’ve found goat’s milk soap grates into a powder very easily. Both goats milk soap and castile soap also work best for cloth diapers. If you’re super concerned, you can take the soap out of the recipe for cloth diapers and just add the borax/washing powder to every rinse cycle.

You can also get soap flakes to eliminate needing to grate.

Finally, you can use the awesome original Blue Dawn to replace the soap, eliminating the need to grate.

Do you want to go lye-free? You can either take the soap out completely, as I described for cloth diapers, or you can just use a simple recipe of soap nuts + essential oils (and no borax/washing soda).  The word on the street seems to be that boiling the soap nuts down into a liquid is the best way to go.


The most common brand is 20 Mule Team Borax.

Borax gets a bad rap. However, it’s generally considered safe. 

If you really want to go Borax-free, though, you can take it out of your recipe. Most recipes add citric acid, baking soda, and coarse sea salt to make up for the borax.

Washing Soda

Arm and Hammer is the most common brand.

You can also make your own. Ingredient: Baking Soda. Instruction: Bake in oven at 400 degrees. Seriously.

Washing soda is also known as soda ash, soda crystals, washing ash

Extra Ingredients

OxyClean or Clorox2 – for extra whitening. I use a cup of OxyClean in my small recipe.

You can make your own oxi-bleach by combining hydrogen peroxide and washing soda.  However, because hydrogen peroxide is sensitive to light, you wouldn’t want to premake it.  You could also just buy the active ingredient, sodium precarbonate, on ebay or at a hardware store, and mix with washing soda.  (Sodium precarbonate will activate and do what hydrogen peroxide does once it’s exposed to hot water). Finally, you can just get the whole thing cheap by going to a dollar store and getting the SUN brand or other similar generic brands.

Fabric Softener and/or laundry enhancer

You’d think fabric softener and laundry enhancer are two different things – and they are! However, there seems to have been some sort of controversy over whether Purex’s and Downy’s before-wash crystals are softeners or just a product to make your laundry smell good. From what I understand, the new versions are NOT fabric softeners.

Purex Crystals, back when it was a softener, was revolutionary because it was the first before-wash softener in the market. Normally, you’d need to add fabric softener at a specific point in the wash. For that reason, I would not normally recommend adding a fabric softener to your laundry detergent.

In addition, normally, fabric softeners aren’t good for cloth diapers or baby clothes.

These crystals, however, are just fine to add in laundry detergent and are gentle on baby clothes (and do not negatively affect the absorbancy of towels/cloth diapers, and do not cancel out the flame retardant features of baby clothes). BUT, from what I understand, they are no longer considered softeners.  Downy Unstopables [no, I am not spelling that wrong], Purex Crystals, Gain Fireworks.

You can also just add Essential Oils

Calgon works well too – just add to each rinse cycle.

other natural softeners

Baking Soda – (1 cup for small recipe; 1 box for large). Baking soda is a common ingredient in many powdered laundry detergent recipes, but it’s not necessary.  It’s good to use if you have hard water. Baking soda might not really be cloth diaper safe because it screws up the absorption capability of cloth diaper inserts.

Epsom Salt or Coarse Sea Salt – I assume you can put this in the recipe or separately

White Vinegar

citric acid

Common stain removers and degreasers (for presoaking/pretreating)

Blue Dawn


Rubbing alcohol

Lemon Juice/Lemon Essential Oil


Sodium precarbonate

hydrogen peroxide



Want to learn more? Check out this ridiculously nerdy post on Babycenter.



Letters sent and unsent: How I came to be a SAHM

I drafted, but did not send, the following letter to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last summer:

Madam Secretary:

Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to live and work overseas, and that I wanted to serve my country.  The Foreign Service, which seems like an obvious choice for someone with those goals, was a dream so big that I dared not dream it.  I eavesdropped intently while college classmates asked our political science professors about the Foreign Service exam, heard the stories of those who tried (and failed) to pass it, and believed that I wouldn’t make it – so, for years, I didn’t even try.  I joined corporate America, then the Peace Corps, went back to school for my Masters, spent a few years at a non-profit… good work, interesting work, but not quite the same as what I’d dreamed of.  I finally worked up the nerve to take the written test, but was overtaken by jitters the morning of the examination, turned off the alarm, and went back to sleep instead of going to the test.  A year later, I signed up, showed up, and passed the written exam.  When the examiners at the oral assessment informed me that I had passed, I burst into tears and asked if I could hug them.  To say that service in the diplomatic corps was my dream job is a huge understatement.

This is not to say that my work as a Foreign Service Officer has been easy.  My first assignment – and first-choice assignment – was Sana’a, Yemen, as the Cultural Attaché.  Because of credible information about active threats against the Embassy and its staff, we were on various degrees of lockdown or restricted travel more times than I can remember.  For a period, even seemingly simple tasks like grocery shopping could only be done at certain times of day, at a rotating list of out-of-the-way stores, with permission from the Regional Security Officer.  My husband explained our lockdown days – where we weren’t even permitted to leave the house in order to go to work – to family and friends back home: “It’s like a snow day… except the snow is trying to kill you.”

Despite the security environment, in my work as a public diplomacy officer, I needed to be out of the Embassy, meeting people, talking about U.S. culture, and promoting the educational and cultural opportunities that we could offer to Yemenis, like the Fulbright, International Visitors, and the Youth Exchange and Study programs.  Lists of programs sound boring, don’t they?  What those programs meant to the people I met was that Yemeni kids, who had never left their own city, much less their country or region, could have a chance to come to the United States to study.  Men and women whose impressions of Americans were formed solely on the basis of what their mosques told them (yikes!) or the television shows and movies that we export (double yikes!) could come and see for themselves who we are, how we live, and what we stand for.  One of my favorite parts of that job was debriefing program participants after they returned from the U.S.  I loved the college student who told me that her summer-long trip to the American West had opened her mind to possibilities heretofore unconsidered, and turned her into a traveler.  “I want to see the world!  I want to go to Paris!  To London!  To Montana!”  Participants on a six-week exchange program that examined the U.S. justice system came back to Yemen, wide-eyed, with tales of jails that they were actually permitted to see (with humane living conditions), honest question-and-answer sessions with law enforcement officials, and – this really blew their minds – non-lethal weapons carried by police officers.  “Beanbags!  They have guns that shoot beanbags!”  Yes.  Yes, they do.  (It’s amazing what you can learn to appreciate about your own country when you have the chance to see it through someone else’s eyes.)  Thanks to my job, I got to meet the brightest, the most inspiring, and the most fascinating people I could imagine, from a (then-future) Nobel Peace Prize recipient to families who scraped together their meager funds to send their son or daughter to English classes after school, in the hopes of giving their children a better life than they had.  During my time in Yemen, I was spit at and grabbed in the street.  I was called a sister and a friend.  I was referred to in graphic sexual terms I hope my children never have to hear.  I got to change lives, and found that mine was changed in the process.  My time there was eye opening, sometimes terrifying, and, on the whole… awesome.

I mistakenly thought that my next assignment, working as a Vice Consul in Embassy London, would be a cakewalk.  In many ways, it was – my husband, baby son (born in the U.S. after we returned from Yemen) and I lived in a gorgeous neighborhood in central London.  My husband stayed home with our son and explored the city with him.  I walked to work every day, felt safe and unthreatened, and relaxed in the evenings and on weekends with my family in beautiful parks and fantastic restaurants.  The work itself, however, was anything but easy, with a heavy workload, diverse cases, and no room for error.

I had the chance to meet approximately 125 people every day, each of whom just wanted to come to the United States, for every reason I could have imagined (and many that I couldn’t have).  One hundred and twenty five yes-or-no decisions, spread out over one work day, meant very fast decisions on what were sometimes extremely complex cases.  Elderly British snowbirds who wanted to spend a few more months in their condo in Florida, starry-eyed couples in love who wanted to get married and start a life together, students, nannies, reporters, engineers, Disney-goers, actors, businesspeople – all looking for a visa, a chance, a foot in the door.  I met good people with stories so sad I’d cry at night because there was nothing I could legally do to help them.  I still remember their names, their faces, their histories.  I wonder where they are now, and what they’re doing.  I met conniving liars with pasts so dark I’d pray our paths would never cross again, and, because of the way our laws are written, I’d have to say, through gritted teeth, “your visa has been approved.”  There were days I skipped lunch because my stomach was too unsettled.  I learned, for the first time in my life, how to say “no.”  How to not just say it, but to say it decisively, firmly, and in a polite manner that welcomed no response other than “Thank you for your time, ma’am.”  (My children, I’m sure, regret that I learned this lesson, but for the rest of my life, I’ll be grateful.)

Within a few weeks of our arrival in London, my husband returned to the U.S. to start his new job, also with the State Department.  Our son and I stayed, and my mother and mother-in-law took turns flying to England to live with me for six weeks at a time to watch our son during the day while I worked (because we couldn’t begin to afford the childcare there, and frankly, I loved knowing he was still being cared for by family).  After an early miscarriage and finding out that my husband would be assigned to the U.S. for at least two years, I asked to curtail my assignment in London and return home.  We’d had all of the family separation that we could handle at that point, and I needed time to recover, see my husband, and cocoon with my son.  I requested, and was granted, a year of leave from the State Department.

Believe me when I tell you that I never thought that staying home with a child would be of interest to me.  I was not a little girl who wanted to play house, who longed to be a mommy, who dreamed of changing diapers. I always believed that motherhood was in my future, but I had other things I wanted to do first, and so, I did.  Despite marrying young and knowing that we wanted children together, my husband and I waited eight years before trying for our first child. I have always loved working, and have found a strong sense of pride and identity in my work – never more so than during my time as a Foreign Service Officer.  Upon joining State, I believed that, if the powers that be would have me, I would keep this job until age requirements forced me to retire.  What more could I ever hope for in a career, in a life?  It never occurred to me that becoming a parent would change the way I felt about work.  My own mother worked when my sister and I were growing up, and I always assumed that I would do as she did.  She, like I, took pride in her academic and professional accomplishments.  She, like I, defined herself as more than a mother.  Why on earth would having a child mean that I would no longer work outside the home, at a job that I loved and was good at?

And yet, upon leaving London, there was no doubt in my mind that I needed to be at home with our son – at least for a while.  If I hated it, I told myself, I could always come back to work before my year of leave was finished.  And, in the blink of an eye, it was finished… and I was giving birth to our daughter.  Perhaps another year off would be enough.  That way, I’d have the chance to spend time with our daughter, just as I had with our son.  It seemed only fair to her, and I just wasn’t ready to go back to work yet.  I asked for, and was generously given, another year of leave.

After all the time I’ve now taken off, I’ve learned, to my surprise, that I really love being at home with my children.  There is nowhere else I want to be at this point in my life, and nothing else I want to do for now.  It’s taken me a long time to be able to say that last sentence without wincing.  I’ve overcome the fears that asked “What would my college classmates say if they found out I’m now a stay-at-home mom?” and “Does this mean my education was all for nothing?” and “Dear Lord, will this child ever sleep through the night?”  (The answers to my fears, in order, are: Who cares; absolutely not; and, at 3.5 years old, not yet.)  I’ve learned to silence the voices of my critics, real and imaginary, which say things like, “I could never stay at home.  I’d be so bored.”  “How will they ever learn independence if you’re there all the time?” and “What about your future?”

Would my children be happy, healthy, and well adjusted if they were in full-time childcare instead of at home with me?  I have no reason to assume that they wouldn’t be, and feel no motivation to find out.  I am emotionally, socially, and intellectually challenged by the daily act of living with my children.  I love discovering the world through their eyes.  I love being the one to see and experience their developmental milestones as they happen, rather than hear about them from someone else – first words spoken, first steps, first skinned knees.  I love seeing them develop a spark of interest in something – construction equipment, sea life, the solar system – and exploring that topic with them to the nth degree.  I try to get them outside in the fresh air and filthy dirty from play once a day.  I try to see things from their perspective.  I try to listen more and yell less.  (I fail.  I try again.).  Because I have been at home with them full-time, my children know how to vacuum and mop, what groceries we need to get through the week, and how to make a volcano out of baking soda and vinegar.  We go to the Air and Space and Natural History museums so frequently that my children believe that the Smithsonians are theirs alone, and they visit their favorite exhibits like they’re visiting old friends.  The three of us are thriving.  (Things are not all sunshine and roses, of course.  I put my head down on the breakfast table this morning and cried with frustration at my son’s behavior.  To be fair, I put my head down and cried with frustration while working at State, too – several times.)

With our third child now on the way, I know that another year of leave will not be sufficient for me. My husband is out of the country more frequently than he’s in it these days, and even when he’s home, he’s working long hours and rotating shifts.  Given his schedule, and the knowledge that we will hopefully be moving overseas again (and again, and again) within the next few years, I believe that our children benefit from the stability, the predictability, and the comfort of having a parent at home with them full-time, and I am thrilled to be that parent.  It won’t be like this forever, I know.  As our children get older, their needs – and mine – will shift and evolve.  I will be needed by them, not less, but differently.  Gradually, my time will become my own again, and the day will come when I feel ready to reenter the workforce.  I know that I will have (and have already) given up years of regular earnings, retirement savings, and promotions.  I’m comfortable with my choice.

Anna Quindlen wrote, “When in doubt, choose the kids. There will be plenty of time later to choose the work.”  I hope she’s right.  I can’t imagine any parent not having doubts about their work/life balance choices at some point.  We each choose the path that we believe to be best for ourselves and our families, cross our fingers, and hope for the best.  Every family, every parent, every child has different needs and different desires.  What is right for my family is not right for all families – but I’m not worried about all families.  I need to do right by mine.  I already feel a pang of envy when I see my State Department colleagues posting on Facebook about their new assignments, the honors they’ve received, the work that they’re doing.  Someday, the scales will tip, and the feeling of wanting to be a part of that world again will overtake the feeling of wanting to be at home.  I hope that there will still be a place in the Foreign Service for me when that day comes, although I know that there may very well not be.  Regardless of what the next chapters of my life have in store for me, I cannot imagine looking back at the years of my life that I spent at home with the children with anything less than gratitude.

I think that part of me will always worry that I’ve sold feminism out, that I didn’t do enough for myself, that I didn’t do enough for my family, that I’ve not been the role model to my children that I could have been.  What lessons am I teaching them by resigning in order to stay at home?  Will this decision impact the way they view the role of women in the workplace?  If I chose to remain at work, I’d have a different list of worries, but a list nonetheless.  These aren’t easy decisions that families face.

And so, Madam Secretary, with hope that my decision is the right one for my family and me, I respectfully submit my resignation from the Foreign Service.  My work with the State Department has been an honor beyond description.  Raising my children full-time is, as well.



* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I did send this one, though:


Madam Secretary:

I wish to submit my resignation from my appointment as a Public Diplomacy officer in the Foreign Service.

I am half of a tandem State Department couple, and, given the schedule, pace, and travel required of my husband’s and my work, I believe that it is in the best interest of my family that I now resign in order to be at home with our young children.

My six years of service with the State Department have been an honor, challenge, and privilege.  I could ask for nothing more in a career than the opportunity to serve and represent the United States overseas, and will be forever grateful that I had the chance to do so.




(Oddly enough, the second letter took longer to write.)

Tips from an Undomestic Diva – Chore Charting

Project One, Part One:

I’m a perfectionist.

Some people who know me, especially in work settings, are like, “uhhh, yeah. Tell me something I didn’t know.” Other people who know me, especially in the domestic sphere, look at my unkempt house, dirty floors, piles of laundry, and kids with blueberry stuck on their faces and say, “Whaaa?”

I’ve tried it all. Since this is the Basics section, let me give you links to the things I’ve tried, before I start prattling on about my journey. Like a yo-yo diet, these have worked in only bits and spurts for me, then I fall completely off the wagon again. Today we’ll talk about basic cleaning and task organization apps and websites.

Project One: Clean the goshdarn house

There’s a LOT of organizational tips and software out there, so for the sake of making this not overwhelming, we’ll be focusing today only on the basic chore/cleaning tasks (and not focusing on meal planning/food shopping, because that’s a whole another story).

First step is to admit you have a problem. Are you so focused on perfection that you feel like any task worth doing is one that’s done to completion? Or do you get overwhelmed easily, so you look at all that needs to be done and take a nap instead? Do you procrastinate so much that you end up waiting until the last minute, when everything can’t possibly get done in one fell swoop? Do you hate cleaning with a passion so you end up flying through your tasks and never really get anything done right?

All these things are related. Some people fit every description, some fit just one or another. Some robotic insane people fit none of the description and are perfect and sparkling all the time (why are you reading this?)

What usually helps is some sort of routine, some sort of structure. A lot of us are uncomfortable with undefined tasks. Some of us, like myself, are self starters when it comes to work (or blogging) but for some reason have a mental block when it comes to domestic tasks.  Doing things in bite-sized chunks, realizing you don’t have to get it done justso, have daily maintenance tasks – these are the go-to ways to keep yourself sane.

Of course, I’m not saying anything new. I have magazine articles clipped from a decade ago about how to clean without having to go crazy. Just Google “Organize your Life” (okay, here you go), or “Organize Your Life Book”   or “How I keep my house clean in just 30 min a day” and you will get result after result.  Since there is so much out there, let me point you to a good post I found on Pinterest on a 30 minute home routine that I actually use. And if you want to actually feel overwhelmed (and you are crazy), here are good checklists from Martha Stewart and Real Simple.

But it’s like a diet, isn’t it? Everyone knows calories in must be less than or equal to calories out to maintain or lose weight. But how many of us are at our desired weight? Everyone knows bite-sized chunks and routines is the path to cleanliness and organization. More people probably are at their desired level of cleanliness and organization, but the select few with the spaztastic gene probably aren’t.

It’s Electronic, Baby.

In comes technology, dear technology. First, we’ll cover phone apps that might help remind you and keep you accountable.

1. Clean Freak: This is a great one. It uses the divide and conquer method, with one day being the living room, the next the bedroom, without just having a ridiculously long list of youMUSTdothis.

2. Home Routines: This is another great one. If I remember correctly, this was just created by some random person who just couldn’t find what she or he wanted out there in the app world. (Here she is). It has gotten a lot of kudos since then.

3. Cleaning Checklist: This is for those detailed lists, if the actual checklist of cleaning doesn’t freak you again (you know, if you’re normal unlike me)

4. Want God’s help with this? Check out Clean My House. Maybe hypnosis will do the trick. (Hat tip goes to Appolicious to finding those.)

So what worked for me? For some reason, fancy apps and calendars and all that just don’t work. The actual effort of inputting things electronically just…well, I’m self-defeating when it comes to this as it is, so the step of having an app, which should make things easier, for some reason makes it harder.

Teach me your secrets, sensei

1. Okay, so apparently I need a self-help program. Enter FlyLady (Finally Loving Yourself).  Start with her Baby Steps. Shine your sink. Just do it.

It’s obvious that FlyLady is made for perfectionist failures like me. She does have detailed cleaning lists but that’s forbidden for FLYBabies, the ones who just need help getting started. She works in weekly zones and 15 minute flings. Her commandment, which I try to repeat to myself often, is “I don’t want you to try to catch up; I just want you to jump in where we are.” I read a similar quote in another organizational book: “You don’t have to be caught up to be in control”.

But, I have to admit, I’m a FlyLady dropout. I’m stubborn, and I don’t like being told what to do. So I bristle at FlyLady’s commandments. Especially when she tells me to get “dressed all the way down to lace-up shoes.” How old are you FlyLady? What exactly are “lace-up shoes?” I don’t like the “My way or the highway” attitude she has.

Does that mean I still have a problem? Yep. But while I’m working on my stubbornness and recalcitrant attitude, I still have to clean my house.

So what other systems should I try?

2. Project Organize Your Entire Life (by Modern Parents, Messy Kids) is not yet something I’ve used. Around the time the series started, I was still in my head in the sand stage of cleanliness and organization. But I think this is one of the best roundups of self-help cleaning I’ve seen, without the directives of FlyLady.  I’ll try it if you will!

3. Messies.com is another one that is worth the look. It seems FlyLady like in terms of procedures, but without the guilt.

4. I’ve heard great things about Motivated Moms. She has apps and printable chore lists (I think Project Organize Your Entire Life has a lot of printables)

4. Just want some blog posts and some user forums? Messies and FLYlady both have forums. There’s also Unclutterer. Another non-“my way or the highway” post is this by Rants from Mommyland. Basically a crowdsourced list of tips from readers.

Make it a game

I need a challenge. You would think finally learning how to correctly make a bed or seeing if I can get every kernel of dust off of my baseboards can satisfy my need for that challenge, but apparently not. The drudgery of housework just slays me.

1. Here’s an app (EpicWin) that literally makes it a game.  It’s not quite up my alley but it may help someone else who needs to whistle while they work.

2. Here’s another one (Chore Wars).

My way of making it a challenge – blogging about it! This way, while I’m working on settling into a routine and a system, I can convince myself that instead of being Cinder Ella, I’m actually blogging. Time will tell if that will actually work.

Beat the system

1. Oh, Lifehacker. If you haven’t yet discovered Lifehacker, you are seriously missing out. It seriously has everything on everything.

Two chore-related posts:

a. Putting your chores on autopilot

b. Using procedure checklists

2. On the hacker theme, there is also Habithacker for putting your chores and routines on autopilot.

3. ParentHacks is something I’ll get  into later, but since we’re going with the hacker theme, I had to mention it.

Visual reminders

For how much I live in the online world, I’m a very concrete learner.  Apps often don’t do it for me – I need pen and paper.

That isn’t to say I wouldn’t love going digital when I finally take the plunge. For example, although I still love ‘real’ books, the Kindle app on my iPad is all sorts of helpful. Where I used to keep a monthly calendar, I now use Google Calendar. For groceries, instead of a list I keep on my fridge, I use the OurGroceries app.

But…BUT. I still find that without a reminder staring me in the face, a la pen and paper, I am much less likely to stay on task.  The on exception is the calendar widget on my Android…it is, still, literally staring me in the face.

So what do I do? The printables from Motivated Moms and POYEL sound good. I also found some awesome specific planners in Target (that I couldn’t find on line but I’ll take a picture next time I see it).

But in the end, today, I was in The Lolly Garden (a Tulsa-based children’s store) to coordinate on my Midtown Moms project, and saw the Good Habits Job Chart. Good lord. I need a chore chart. I’m in 4th grade.

I bought it. I’ll let you know how it worked.

What works in other aspects of your life?

When I was working, I could not for the life of me understand why some of my subordinates couldn’t keep on top of emails, daily tasks, long projects, meetings, and requests for colleagues. Writing all that out sounds overwhelming, but for me, a “work” self-starter, it was just organizing one’s day effectively.  I didn’t need to think too deeply about how I went about my day until I started mentoring others. Then I drew up a system of how I worked.

work chart

The key aspects above were

1.) the “zones” in which I divided my day. Emails and other routine low-energy tasks in the morning, longer-form projects in the afternoon. That worked for me because I am not a morning person and needed to nurse a cup of coffee for a few hours before I was truly ready to go. So, I could be productive without having to jump right into the craziness.  If I saw a task in my messages that needed to be done, I either did it right away, or starred it for later.

2.) Flexibility. Holy moly, flexibility. The zones only worked if I was sitting there, aimless, thinking, “what shall I do today?” Otherwise, things always popped up. I could walk into work straight into a crisis situation and be asked to brief a senior officer on a moment’s notice. Or there could be a meeting I wasn’t aware of scheduled smack dab into my ‘long project’ time. Or, I may see an email from a colleague who needed help and spend most of my working with him or her instead. The motto “never forget the mission” would rule how I would prioritize things when everything was in flux. What was my ultimate goal? Did I *really* need to color code my filebox at that moment or was there something much more important going on, no matter how unanticipated it may have been?

3.) Delegation. Yeah, I never learned that one.

Anyway, of course this is applicable to domestic life.


1.)Zones – for me, in the morning is “me time”. That can mean working out, getting a babysitter and going to Target, reading a book, or blogging. Afternoons is computer free time. (It’s 2pm. I’m still blogging. I never said I was perfect). Computer free time allows me to really be *present* with my kids as well as look around and see what needs to be done around the house.

The morning “me time” works with the fact that I’m not a morning person. In some ways it counteracts it, and in some ways it goes with it. In terms of counteracting – most days I need to get myself and the kids dressed by 9:30 – whether it’s to take them to the gym or a playgroup or church, or to get them ready for the babysitter so I can leave for the morning. In some ways it works with it. If I’m really exhausted and don’t want to get ‘going’ in the morning, this is my built in time to read or blog while I lazily allow my kids to watch TV.

2.) The rules of flexibility still apply, but this is where I’m having trouble adapting it to domestic life. I might plan on scrubbing the kitchen floor, but the baby wants to be held all day. Well, either hold him all day or stick him in a baby carrier and keep working. Instead, I usually moan and groan about it.

3.) “Never forget the mission” – my mission is to be present in the lives of my family.

4.) And delegation? Getting way better with it in my personal life than in work life. I’ve mentioned sitters, and we have family that helps out. I have learned to get over the guilt of not doing it all myself. That way, for me, lies the path of madness.

5.) Notice I added, “And Above All – GRACE”. I criticize myself far more in the domestic sphere than I ever did in the work sphere (even when this happened)

Finally,I keep SMART objectives in mind – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

Adapt the self-help systems to your own life

This somewhat follows the “Project Organize Your Entire Life” method, which is why I really want to try that and review it. Before I realized how awesome it was, I started doing my own thing.

Google Calendar is how my husband and I organize our appointments.  (Cozi is another good calendar app, as is iCal. And Sunrise. And great googly moogly, Evernote is amazing. But all those will be covered in other topic.) I’m absolutely sure that many of the routines apps out there export to Google, but for pure simplicity’s sake, I like inputting things straight in. Unfortunately, Google Calendar isn’t so great when it comes to making a daily,weekly, monthly routine list. Again, that’s what a lot of the apps are for.

So I started a four week rotational system instead. One week would be the kitchen. One would be the master. Each day of the week would also correspond to a different task.

Whadya know. I was reinventing the FlyLady wheel. One thing I didn’t like about FlyLady was that I didn’t like going to her LaunchPad to see what the task of the day/week was.  (Other than that, I really love the LaunchPad).  And signing up for emails meant you were inundated with like 15 a day (not exaggerating).

So my system is to go to the Launchpad and cut and paste for the day I’m on onto my Google Calendar, and then set the calendar to repeat every 4 weeks. I’m only on day 3 of this, but if I remember to visit the Launchpad every day for a month, then I’m set.