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Sunday, June 17, 2012

My Nighttime Routine, Which Makes the Next Morning Run Smoothly

Some people reading my blog are basically organized people looking for some hints here & there, maybe a little shopping help on organizing tools or just looking to read a fellow organizing junkie's work. But I know also that there must be some readers out there who are ready to start sobbing because their home & life feels out-of-control. I hope that I have something to share with both kinds of readers- the already organized, or people who are like I once was & feel utterly overwhelmed. I know that not every blog or paragraph will apply to everyone. As always, please read this knowing you can always ignore anything I say, test it out, try it & prove me wrong- it won't hurt my feelings. :) This particular blog entry is written more for someone who is on the end of having a nervous breakdown because their nights & subsequent mornings feel out-of-whack with stress.

I always remember when writing this blog that there may be readers out there who, like me, had no parent or guardian walking them through how to really take care of the home or themselves on a daily basis. Other than for an exceptionally rare few people, knowing how to do housework & when to do it isn't a skill we're born with. We're taught routines sometimes so early & well (for better or worse) that it seems like it comes naturally. But if we went back in a time machine & looked more closely, we'd often find that what we thought came naturally to us is just a habit that's been repeated so much that it merely looks like it's knowledge one was born knowing. While my mother was a great cook, knows how to do laundry like nobody's business (I dare anyone in the neighborhood to say that their white towels are whiter than ours!) & could make a house look spotless (albeit, only if company was coming), she had no sense of time management skills. She passed on to me a good deal of knowledge about how not to do things, as well. (Usually by combining her trademark temper with a comment along the lines "Elizabeth, this isn't how you clean a f-ing faucet! Why didn't you use the Scrubbing Bubbles?!" Trust me, I only had to be told once when I did something wrong, and I'd remember the lesson for good. I hate being called by my full first name to this day, thanks to my mother's tone when using it.) And I know that there are plenty of people without even someone like my mom to have taught them how to do anything around the house.

So this particular entry is probably going to help more people who were basically taught little-to-nothing, rather than the already-knowledgeable. For whatever reason, you had no mentor to guide you. And then you were expected by society to pick up on life skills through some sort of magical osmosis. You're doing your best, chronically exhausted, feeling guilty & wondering why you can't keep the home that you or others want for yourself. You try to be everything to everyone, while probably not having an immense support system for yourself. You may feel embarrassed to ask questions directly to those around you or have no one to ask for help at all. This is where the anonymity of the Internet is still an overwhelmingly positive trait. There is no one to make you feel ashamed. No one saying, "You should know this by your age already." There are fifteen-year-olds who know how to keep immaculate spaces & eighty-year-olds who wouldn't know how to clean up their bedroom up if their life depended upon it. There is no age limit on learning new skills & no magic age where you suddenly "get it" & start knowing everything that you missed out on learning before. Learning how to simplify & organize is a lifelong journey, it takes work & attention, and it's not as easy as the born-to-be-organized can make it appear. Yes, by picking up after yourself, cutting down on unnecessary extracurricular activities, being an efficient cleaner & learning time management methods you'll eliminate much of the complications in your way. But a passion to lead a better life & give a better life to those in your inner circle is what really provides the motivation to keep going on the path. Don't feel as if some day will come when all of the stars align & you never get an upheaval that upsets your routines, either- existence on earth just isn't like that. That glorious day where you just start living every day with no illness, injury, emergency or stress never appears again isn't really a long-term reality on earth. If you have young children, your life will be drastically different than a retired person who just lives alone or with a spouse, so I know going in that everyone has varying needs. Someone who owns a three-story house & lives on a farm will have drastically different responsibilities than one who resides in a property-managed one-bedroom apartment. Health & disability change what can be accomplished from day to day, and this is vital to acknowledge & work with- not against. Whether society likes to admit it or not, girls & women typically have some sort of hormonal change happening on at least a monthly basis that can affect your mood, personality & energy level. Everyone has a different metabolism & build. Some people can do farm labor from dusk till dawn each day & thrive, while others need to take a break from standing every fifteen minutes due to back problems. Each day is made up of successes big & small, and that's what we should focus on- not on what is a perceived failure you possess. You're a unique individual for a reason- focus on your strengths, acknowledge what you don't like doing or don't do well and stop trying to be like someone you're not. Do we have to push ourselves to get necessities done sometimes? Absolutely. But there are many things which we are just not designed to spend time on and it's best to let those things go- the sooner, the better. Apply your personal strengths well enough & long enough, and you'll end up a shining star. Chances are, your problems aren't caused by character flaws or a lack of brainpower in the least- there's just technical issues (like attempting to do work you're not built for) & mental blockages (like insecurity) hanging in your way.

When my nighttime routine is ignored or not done in full, it automatically means that my next morning will be more busy. Subsequently I'll feel like I'm being pushed around by the meanest bully of all, which would be a clock that's ticking away too quickly! When I was younger, in great shape & could look good within a half-hour of waking up (those days are long over), it didn't seem to matter as much. But now I know that a bad night now will set the stage for a crazier-than-I-want-it-to-be morning tomorrow. It's tempting to ignore self-care & the more tired you are, the more you have to care for others first, the more tempting it gets. But it just isn't worth the expense to your health, appearance or happiness to ignore having a nighttime routine that includes self-care.
Your nighttime routine doesn't have to look like mine at all. You should fully expect that your routines will probably change over time, too. Some people are totally dedicated to their morning shower, especially those who are morning exercisers. I'm just sharing what my own routine looks like, what works for me, to help you think over what will work for you. I prefer to take my shower at night because I'm always anxious in the a.m. to get up & get dressed, since laying around in my nightgown leaves me pretty darn lazy. Also, since I have fibromyalgia, I'd rather not raise by temperature even more in the a.m. (FMS can cause inflammation, especially in the lower back) or waste valuable energy on standing in a shower. When I bathe at night, my medicines taken during the day have had time to kick in throughout that time & make nighttime activities less painful. I'm a night owl to begin with, so that makes it simpler to accomplish. My core body temperature has also cooled, probably due to a drop in metabolism (which is typical for most people), so then I'm not getting myself sweaty or triggering much inflammation, either. If you've already got a well-established routine for before bed (this isn't an after-dinner routine that I'm talking about here, as that involves kitchen work & is a separate time in the evening for me), then this will probably be boring for you to read. But if you're looking for a little help structuring your night to give a quicker start to the morning, then I hope this will aid you a bit.

Note: Even if I don't wear one all day long, I'll wear an apron in the evening as I'm cooking to protect my clothes and also to have convenient things right at reach in my apron pockets- a pen, pad of Post-it notes, a small timer (very nice for reminding me when it's time to put pasta in the boiling water or something akin to that), lip balm, etc. At the end of my night, it's a signal to my brain to start winding down when I remove my jewelry, socks, shoes & apron for good. It says "The household work is over, and it's time to relax." I try not to remove this stuff until it's time to take my shower at night, though- when it's done too early in the evening, inevitably some event will occur where I have to put my shoes back on & do one more thing outside!

My Nighttime Routine
If I'll be using a different purse tomorrow, now is the time to switch stuff over to the new & put the old bag back where it belongs in my closet_
If any paperwork needs to be filled out (like a form for a doctor's office), take care of filling it out now & then put it in my purse or Office in a Bag_
Any mail that needs to go out tomorrow should be addressed, stamped, sealed & put out in the mailbox now- I have a crystal bowl in my entryway hall that is big enough to hold outgoing paper mail & is set aside only for this purpose, too_
[For those who are going out the next day or who work outside the home] Put anything by the front door (The FlyLady calls this the "Launch Pad") that will be needed for tomorrow- my purse, Office in a Bag, lunch bag, reusable canvas grocery bags, etc._
Put away the shoes that I wore today neatly in my bedroom closet (I keep my day-to-day sneakers on until it's time to change into my workout outfit that night)_
If you didn't lay out your outfit for the next day already, now is the time to do it, down to shoes, accessories & jewelry_
Take items out of my apron & put them into the valet on my bedroom nightstand_
Turn the volume off on my cell phone & put that in my valet, as well [I've already laid out the clothes, shoes & jewelry that I'm going to wear tomorrow- this is a part of my morning routine]_
File my feet for one minute on each side [I own a Diamencel foot file for this purpose]_
Remove, rinse & store my contact lenses_
Brush & floss my teeth, then use mouthwash_
Remove my eye makeup with L'Oreal Waterproof Makeup Remover & a Swisspers cotton oval_
Turn on the built-in fan & my personal fan [my personal 6-inch Lasko fan, which is sold through Amazon, sits on my vanity at all times- it's awesome for drying up moisture & cooling down the air in a bathroom]_
Take a shower_
Wipe down the shower tile & bathtub with a dry white hand towel, put the damp hand towel in the hamper & put a fresh hand towel out [this keeps me from ever having to do heavy-duty bathtub cleaning]_
Tone & moisturize my face, apply deodorant, body powder & body lotion, then change into my nightgown_
Dry my hair_
Turn off the built-in fan (I leave the personal one running, but turn it off in the a.m.)_

Here's to being a happy organized minimalist,

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