Maybe Matilda: What worked in 2014

Friday, January 2, 2015

What worked in 2014

I’m not a New Year’s Resolution person. I realized some years ago that I couldn’t recall ever—not once—keeping any of the New Year’s Resolutions I dutifully set every year, and lost all enthusiasm for them.

But I liked Anne’s post at Modern Mrs. Darcy about looking back on what worked throughout the year. So I’m copying her and thinking back today—what worked for me (and my family) in 2014?

1. Audiobooks

As long as I’m copying Anne’s post theme, I’ll go ahead and steal one of her points, too—audiobooks were a major revelation for me this year. This year I struck gold by listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks, and they were a huge help in adding a little joy (not to mention entertainment) to lots of joyless tasks (like folding laundry and cleaning bathrooms). Now I’m finding myself categorizing books I’m interested in reading into sit-down-with-a-hard-copy books, and perfect-for-listening-to

2. Running

I’ve tried to run in the past, and have always given up in frustration before ever hitting a point where it became do-able or enjoyable. I’m not sure what changed this time around, but it may have just been pure desperation—I needed a workout that was quick and beginner-friendly and could fit around Jeff’s schedule so I wouldn’t have to cart the kids anywhere, and running was one of the few options that fit all those requirements. I’ve been running regularly since July, and have really come to enjoy it. It’s working for me in terms of the time commitment it requires (relatively low), scheduling (especially flexible since our recent purchase of a treadmill), and brainpower required (I love that I don’t have to think about it, and can listen to—you guessed it—audiobooks while I run).

3. Library day

Our library visits used to be sporadic since most of my reading is done on my Kindle now, but Forrest started to really show an interest in reading this year, an interest I am very eager to encourage. We set a once-weekly library day to go to storytime, check out about a dozen books for Forrest, and spend some time exploring the shelves. Forrest loves and looks forward to our library day each week, I love encouraging his excitement about books, and it gives us an easy, free, and fun outing for one of our weekly slower days when he doesn’t have preschool.

4. Menu planning

I love cooking, but only if I have a plan. If you ask me, there’s not much that makes dinnertime a more daunting prospect than realizing at about 4:45 that you have no idea what to make, and find yourself scrounging through the pantry to pull something together at the last minute. This item isn’t unique to 2014, but I continued my habit this year of sitting down on Sunday night to pull together a menu for the week. Knowing that I have a recipe chosen and ingredients ready to go makes dinner prep something I actually look forward to. I like trying new recipes, too, so I generally pin any recipes I happen to stumble across throughout the week, then choose a few of them to try for the upcoming week, as well as a few older favorites, and leave 1 or 2 nights open for leftovers or eating out.

5. The 10-minute cleaning rule

Earlier this year, when Darcy was still teeny and my house was in a particularly horrifying state of sleep-deprived postpartum neglect, I asked my mom if she would come over and help me get the mess figured out—I can’t function in a house that’s dirty and cluttered, and it was making me crazy, but it was also so daunting of a task that I had to bring in reinforcements. And it turns out, if you give the house one good, serious, deep clean, it doesn’t actually require a huge amount of work to stay relatively neat.

I adopted the idea (and rule) that if a tidying/cleaning task will take fewer than 10 minutes, it should be done right away instead of procrastinated. For example: folding a basket of clean laundry will take about 10 minutes, but picking clean items out of the laundry basket one at a time for the next week and a half will take far longer, so I might as well fold it all right away. Picking up an entire room’s worth of toys, although it looks like a huge task, only really takes about 5 minute, so just do it and have it finished instead of tiptoe-ing around Lego pieces and discarded stuffed animals all evening. If it takes less than 10 minutes to complete, it’s not worth putting off.

6. Division of labor

While we’re on the topic of tidying up, sharing household tasks simply does not work for me and Jeff. For us, what works best is to simply sit down and divvy up regular chores that need to be done. If one of us needs help, sure, the other will step in, but our house (and relationship) runs more smoothly if we both have a clear understanding of what job belongs to which person. He takes out the trash, does the yard work, handles house repairs, pays bills; I cook meals, do all the shopping, do laundry, make the bed. What has worked for us is dividing things up so we know exactly what each of us is expecting the other to do.

It leads to a lot less frustration—I don’t sit around on Saturday, wondering if he’ll ever bother to make the bed and feeling resentful when he doesn’t; it is now simply my job. And he doesn’t hang around, wondering if I’m ever going to carry those stinky bags of diapers to the outdoor garbage cans—I won’t do it, so this is now his job, plain and simple.

7. Less Pinterest, more books

At some point this year (probably after wasting an entire afternoon on Pinterest) I realized something: the time I’d just spent completely pointlessly, that left me feeling guilty and insufficient and jealous, could have been spent doing something I enjoy: reading a book. (Always with the genius revelations over here.) It’s so easy for me to get sucked into the dark abyss of the internet, and I almost always regret it. But I never regret spending an hour or two with a book, so why not pick up a book instead of checking facebook for the 14th time in a day? This probably shouldn’t have been such a life-changing realization, but I think it contributed to my being able to read as much as I did this year. I’d much rather have another book under my belt than log a few more hours getting jealous of organized pantries and other people’s wardrobes on Pinterest.

8. Jeggings

I know what a stupid thing this is to include in my list. I know. But hear me out: I love jeggings, okay? They’re comfortable, they’re stylish (heaven help me if the world ever moves on from skinnies), and they’re realistic for a mom of little kids. I want to look nice without spending a lot of money or time or effort, and jeggings fit the bill on all counts—inexpensive, easy to style, easy to wash and care for, easy to wear. This is my favorite brand (ebay is the only place I’ve consistently found them online; size up—I wear a large), and I love all those color options. I also have a few pairs of denim jeggings that I got for $13 a pair at Ross and adore. Jeggings make my life a little easier.

jeggings love

9. Hospital water bottle

Another stupid addition to the list, but I’m serious. You know those mega-sized water bottles they give you at the hospital when you have a baby? They’re thick and insulated and have a big handle and a fatty straw? I love them. I LOVE THEM. I tossed out the one I was given after Forrest’s birth, and regretted it for—I’m not exaggerating—years. I think my excitement over Darcy’s birth was split about 60% baby, 30% water bottle, and 10% luxurious hospital stay (don’t ever send me back home, please!). Having that giant hospital water bottle sitting out on the counter means I drink loads of water during the day, and I always feel better when I drink more water.

10. Paypal

I mentioned in the above point that I do all our shopping—groceries, household items, kids’ clothes, etc. But since I don’t exactly make a boatload of money, I often feel a little guilty buying things for myself that aren’t strictly necessary. I know I shouldn’t—the money Jeff makes is more ours as a family than it is his, we both agree on this point, and he has never said anything to make me feel bad about spending money on myself. But still, I often feel weird about it—I know he’ll check the credit card statement online (he checks it every day), and he’ll see that I spent money, and he won’t care—I know he won’t care!—but I guess I like the idea of occasionally splurging on something for myself, and having it guilt-free.

Most of the money I earn from etsy and blogging goes straight into my Paypal account, and I like being able to buy things for myself using my Paypal, knowing that I’m spending money I earned. It isn’t that I don’t want Jeff to know about things I buy—I excitedly tell him about my  Paypal purchases and he never fails to ask why I didn’t just put it on our credit card instead—it’s more that I find a certain satisfaction in knowing that I earned this money on my own, and I’m spending it on me. It’s a rather silly habit, but it’s working for me.

What worked for you in 2014?


  1. Love this post! I don't think I could come up with this many things I did right for 2014. I have successfully taken care of a new baby for the entire year but that's about the extent of my list. I also now need more jeggings in my life lol.
    Btw, I just went down the rabbit hole looking at your old posts and I love how your blog has evolved over the years. I feel like I am going down that same path. I used to only post craft projects but now my posts are more about my family and I've been having a blog identity crisis. But like you said in an older post, I should just blog about whatever I want and I think that's what I'll do this year :)

  2. Lovely post! I've been reading your blog for a little over a year now (and bought two hats and boot cuffs from your Etsy store that I love) and just wanted to pop out of the Internet to say how much I enjoy your blog. You've even inspired me to learn to crochet this fall to the point my kids have told me to STOP making them hats and scarves. :/

    Wholehearted agreement on the audiobooks. I discovered them this year and my house thanked me for it. They make my commute to work more interesting as well. My son and I loved listening to all of HP throughout the year. It was so great to share the experience of listening to some of my favourite books with him. As much as I enjoyed reading them to him, it's an experience to listen to a great voice actor make them come alive.

    Going to take your advice about reading vs putzing around on the Internet. I spend far too much time checking Pinterest and facebook; getting back to reading is a goal I can reach.

    I always look forward to new posts. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Such a sweet comment, thank you so much, Bree! I'm glad you're having fun crocheting :-) Your kids will be making requests soon, I'm sure ;-)

    I can't wait to be able to share Harry Potter with Forrest. And yes, I agree that it's a very different experience to read it yourself vs. listening to such a talented reader.

  4. I think taking care of a baby counts for at least 5 or 6 items on the list ;-) And it took me like 3 days of brainstorming to come up with this many. And even so, at least 3 of them are pretty trivial :-)

    And thank you for reading and liking the changes! I'm with you--I got tired and burned out doing the constant crafty thing, so it was time for some changes.

  5. I could have written #10 word for word. "My paypal money" lol. Oh and the audio books.

  6. Ha! I'm glad you get it. I worried it would sound weird ;-)

  7. Great thoughts! My 3.5 year old is loving our intentional library time more than I thought, and think it's a great thing to try to go once a week! I'm loving audio books as well. Jeggings - love it!

  8. You are such a genius! Yours is, by far, the easiest tutorial I have yet to find! Thank you!!

  9. Love this list! And hey...I have a question for ya, and I don't mean it to be too personal...I really want to order some of those jeggings, but when things are sized S, M, L, etc...I never know what size to get. And ordering online (without being able to try them on)...I'm really nervous. Not trying to ask your size or anything...but you mentioned you ordered a large...I'm typically a size 8/9...but not sure if I should go M or L...thoughts?

  10. Hi! I think I stumbled upon your blog about a year ago as I was searching for some crochet pattern or other. I have never posted a comment before but I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog! I love the book posts (Thank you thank you for Laini Taylor!) and the posts about style and everything related to your kids always makes me smile. I just had a baby in october and love to crochet. I am swedish and live in Stockholm and just wanted you to know that your blog is read across the Atlantic :) Thanks again and happy new year!

  11. No worries! I usually wear a 6(ish) and the large is just right for me.

  12. Thank you so much Eva! I'm so glad I could introduce someone to Laini Taylor--love love her :-)

  13. I love audiobooks, too! There's something really satisfying about finishing a book while doing something else. ;)

    I also recently started listening to NPR, which has been pretty awesome for me, too. That's a win this year in my book.

    Love the 10 minute rule - great idea to keep everything under control. I really rarely "CLEAN CLEAN," mostly I just spend my time in increments - making the bed, putting away dishes, doing laundry. It's so much more manageable.

  14. Okay hospital jugs are a thing! I always drink more water with those things! Plus it's safer to have it out around the kids than our glasses. Win win. I was so encouraged by this post. Thank you for sharing and reflecting on the positives for 2014!

  15. Listening to NPR always strikes me as such a grown-up thing to do. Ditto for podcasts. I feel too immature for them :-P

    And yes--little bursts of cleaning are so much easier than setting aside a huge chunk of day to do major cleaning!

  16. My only con for the hospital jugs are that the straws are so hard to clean out. And when my kids get their hands on it and get their nasty kid backwash in the straw, it makes me want to hurl :-(((


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