Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Organizational blunders: defeats and victories

Before I get into today's promise post about stupid mistakes I've made lately around the house, I thought I should preface this with a couple quick updates:

1) In the spirit of yesterday's post about incorporating small routines into your everyday life, I timed myself today as I emptied the dishwasher. From start to finish, including adding newly dirtied dishes from the sink to the now-empty dishwasher, the whole process took just under five minutes. I say this to perhaps motivate you, but mostly to motivate myself, to remember that what for some reason always seems like a medium-sized task in my mind is actually teeny tiny.

2) Those Valentine's flowers I took a photo of on Sunday started looking a little funky, so I did what any savvy flower owner would do and I salvaged the few remaining pretty buds in a new, smaller arrangement. These bud vases, which I love, are from Crate and Barrel. Like most items from our wedding days, these are no longer on sale, but here's a close match.

Back to today's topic of my organizational blunders and how I successfully rose up from defeat...

It has taken me a solid three and a half years to know most things about the house in which we currently live. I say this to cut myself some slack, but really, there's no excuse.

Case #1: Cleaning the windows
I love the look of a clean window. It brightens the whole room. So one year ago when spring cleaning time was creeping around the corner, I decided it was finally time to clean the outside of our windows. But how to do this? Most of our windows are two or three stories above ground, and we have high ceilings. That's a long way to fall. I got out our ladder. Too short. I tried to wedge my arm between the outside glass and the screen. Not happening. I even went so far as to concoct a make-shift window washing mechanism out of a pole and a rag, but even that wouldn't fit.

Then I noticed this:
If you look at the right-hand corner of the photo, you'll see the little latch. Push the latches on both sides of the window simultaneously and...

So, I am an idiot. And now I know how to access our windows for cleaning.

Case #2: Setting the thermostat
When we bought our house and I saw that we had a reasonably funky-looking thermostat with an Energy Star symbol, it immediately made me content to know we had some modern conveniences that are also environmentally friendly. And then I realized I didn't know how to work it.

My awesome solution? Just change the temperature manually. That requires thinking about the temperature in the morning when I wake up, in the morning before I leave for work, in the afternoon when I get home, and at night before going to bed. It totally defeats the purpose of having a thermostat you can program.

So over the weekend I dug up the user's guide for our Honeywell Chronotherm IV Plus thermostat. I had to do this online, but fortunately there are plenty of sites online that offer PDFs of user's guides, such as this one.

I quickly found the answer to my now age-old question, "Why is it that when I set the thermostat to 65 at night and then I wake up in the morning, the thermostat will read 80?" Well, it's because the previous owners must have loaded that program setting or the program malfunctioned at some point. After about five minutes of looking at the user's guide and pressing a series of buttons, I had a thermostat set for wake, leave, return and sleep each day of the week.

This is awesome because during the week I want one group of settings, and on the weekend I want another. (In case you're wondering, here are the settings during the week: wake = 68, leave = 62, return = 68, sleep = 65; these numbers are for heat, and there will be a different group of settings this summer when we turn on the AC.) Now the program runs on autopilot, and so far the system has been functioning perfectly. Why didn't I fix this sooner? I think it's because I'm a creature of habit, so once I get in a routine, even a dumb one, it's hard to break.

Case #3: How many college grads does it take to make a cup of coffee...
We have a great coffee maker which I love, the Cuisinart Grind and Brew Thermal 10-cup Automatic Coffee Maker. (Yet another wedding registry item. How did we function before we had a wedding registry? I do not know.) I love it because it grinds the beans right in the coffee maker, and you do not need to use filters because it includes this special gold-tone long-lasting filter.

But I am known to really screw up when using this appliance. In just the past two weeks I have brewed us a delicious pot of only water, and I have brewed us some nice stale coffee using leftover grounds. Of course, both mistakes cost me some precious morning time. This coffee maker, like many, is programmable, so sometimes I do set it at night and let the crazy-loud coffee grinding commence at 5 a.m. (nice wake-up call).

To illustrate, here is the proper way to use this appliance:
1) Add water.

2) Clean out the grinder (and by clean, I mean rinse under the sink) and fill with beans. For our coffee we use one scoop for every cup (measured cup, not physical coffee cup).

3) Clean out the filter (again, in the trash/sink).
4) Put on the filter cover.
5) NOW you can press ON. I was over eager before. I am learning to settle down and make sure I've done all the steps before pressing ON.

So, I've made some stupid blunders, but I've also thankfully arrived at some solutions, even if those solutions came a couple years late.

What are your stupid household blunders? We all make them, and we can all learn from them. Share away!

Next up....the best of Everyday Food, March edition.


  1. I used to hate cleaning the lint out of the lint trap because I'd have to walk all the way upstairs to the kitchen to throw it away. The obviously simple solution? Put a small trashcan on top of / next to the dryer and put the lint right in it! I kicked myself when I found out that my mom has been doing this for years and I never noticed.

  2. You beat me to one of my future posts! Yes, an excellent tip is to keep a small trash can in the laundry for the express purpose of cleaning the lint trap and disposing of used fabric softener sheets. Great point! (But I'll still make it a tip down the road for everyone who doesn't read the comments :)