As we turn the calendar to “November,” many of us immediately think of Thanksgiving and the ensuing period of inevitable holiday stress. It doesn’t matter how much you love the holidays, it’s hard not to get stressed out when we add to our already hectic daily routines the additional efforts involved in preparing for holiday meals, guests, parties, and Christmas shopping.
Last year I attempted to offer some tangible steps for dealing with the holiday stress. This year, I’d like to get a little “new age-y” on you and focus on some more intangible ways you can remain calm amidst the holiday frenzy by truly giving thanks this Thanksgiving and developing an “attitude of gratitude.”
Write it down.
A dear friend of mine says she has been able to retain her sanity during some very challenging times by keeping what she calls a “positivity journal.” Every night before she goes to bed, she writes down at least one positive thing that happened during the day. As the saying goes, at least according to the memes I’ve seen on Instagram, “There is always, always, always something to be grateful for.” Taking the time to focus on the good things in life can help make the hard things seem less daunting.
The two M’s: Mindfulness and Meditation.
While keeping a positivity journal is one way to practice the concept of “mindfulness,” meditation is another. I know that Mindfulness and Meditation are both very new age-y sounding words, but they really are not all that “far out.”
Mindfulness is just a way of taking control of your own thoughts, making a concerted effort to focus on the present moment while pushing away concerns and stressful thoughts. Meditation basically just involves relaxing for a short period of time. If you can get comfortable, close your eyes, and just focus on your breathing for a few moments each day, it can be a great escape from the concerns and stressors that may seem to have taken over your brain.
(Tip: if you have a Fitbit Charge 2, select the “Relax” option and follow the instructions for either two minutes or five minutes of guided breathing exercises. Voila! You’re meditating!)
Some people like to repeat a positive word or phrase in their mind as they meditate. Maybe saying “thank you” or “gratitude” would help you shift your focus to something positive, if only for a few moments. Voila! That’s “mindfulness!”
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of taking for granted all the good things in our lives, when in reality, there are so many people out there who are dealing with much worse. Although of course we know we should be helping the less fortunate all year long, there seem to be more opportunities to do so during the holiday season. If you can volunteer to do something like help collect food for your food bank, ring a bell for the Salvation Army, participate in a toy drive, or serve lunch in a homeless shelter, it will not only spread hope and compassion to someone who needs it, it will help you feel good about yourself and will serve as a good reminder that you have a lot to be thankful for in your own life.
If you can develop an attitude of gratitude during this season of Thanksgiving and keep it throughout the year, research shows you will probably be healthier, more productive, and happier in the long run.
Of course, you can’t rely on mindfulness and attitude to completely alleviate all your stress this holiday season, so let me offer you one tangible tip: Before you host your Thanksgiving dinner or your holiday party this year, call Immaculate Clean to schedule a Holiday Clean! Just think about how thankful you’ll be for your clean home!
Of all the Hallmark holidays, Mother’s Day is arguably the most important. That’s because moms are so easily under-appreciated and taken for granted the rest of the year. Whether you are a mom, have a mom, or are married to a mom, you probably don’t really think too much about just how much moms do every day for our families.
The Mental Load
Too often, aside from the day-to-day mothering activities, moms are shouldering an extra burden that tends to go overlooked. That is the burden of the Mental Load, that invisible responsibility we moms tend to take on for keeping track of all of the logistical necessities that keep a household running smoothly. You know what I mean: Who is the one person in your family who sets up all of the kids’ doctor appointments, who keeps track of the field trips and permission slips, who arranges the babysitters, who remembers to feed the dog or buy the toilet paper, who knows things like where the scissors are, or when the first day of school is, or when the last time the sheets have been washed, or when Aunt Mary’s birthday is?
Even if you have a supportive spouse who helps out around the house a lot, the mom is too often still the one doing all of the directing and managing, usually on top of her “real” job and all of the “regular” mom duties involved in keeping children alive… Seriously, the role of carrying the Mental Load in a family is nothing to sneeze at, and most of us—moms included—have never really even given it a second thought.
All Moms Want the Same Thing
So this Mother’s Day, which is Sunday, May 13, if you truly want to show your favorite mom how much you appreciate everything they do, seen and unseen, I’m going to offer you the only gift suggestion you’ll ever really need. Hallmark may not like this too much, because it’s not something you can find in their greeting card racks. It’s also not flowers, or chocolate, or jewelry—although all of these things are lovely and would make a fine secondary gift.
Take it from a mom: The number one thing ALL of us want and deserve this Mother’s Day is a four-letter word: TIME.
Different Kinds of Time
Here’s the tricky part. The KIND of time a mom needs will vary depending on the phase of motherhood she is in. The mom of a baby or a toddler might just really need some alone time, ie., a chance to go to the bathroom by herself, take an uninterrupted nap, get her nails done, or even go to Target or the Mall without having to drag along a diaper bag, a car seat, a stroller, and a wriggly, energetic kiddo.
Or, maybe what she’s really wanting is some couple time: a time to reconnect with the father of her children, to go on a date, to have an excuse to put on nice clothes and make-up and laugh and not have to cook or discipline children or even be the one to arrange the sitter.
If her kids are teens or if she’s an empty nester, maybe what she’s really craving is quality family time—a chance to enjoy just being with the children that aren’t around as much as they used to be. That kind of togetherness can come in the form of a meal together, a game night, a hike, a movie, whatever—it doesn’t really matter. After all the time they’ve spent on you over the years, moms deserve some of your undivided attention for a few hours.
So, there you go: I’ve given you the key to the perfect Mother’s Day gift. Your mission now is to figure out what kind of time the mom(s) in your life really want this year, and come up with a plan to give that to them.
One easy way you can literally buy mom some time this year is to let her off the hook for at least one good house cleaning. To that end, Immaculate Clean is offering a $65 off special for the month of May for all moms and moms-to-be! Give them a call at (410) 549-0727 to set it up, then send Mom out to enjoy whatever kind of time she will appreciate the most!
If you read my blog post last month, https://immaculateclean.com/blog/tis-the-season-for-holiday-stress/ you already know that I have been stressing about this year’s Christmas preparations since before Halloween. After much careful analysis, I’ve concluded that most of that stress is due to the fact that the holiday “To-Do” list in our house looks much like this:
Wife’s Christmas To-Do List
- Fill Advent Calendar
- Have Christmas Card photo made
- Order Christmas Cards
- Address and mail Christmas Cards
- Water Christmas tree (daily)
- Move Elf-on-the-Shelf (nightly)
- Shop for Kid 1
- Shop for Kid 2
- Shop for Husband
- Shop for Mom
- Shop for Dad
- Shop for Mother-in-Law
- Shop for Brother
- Shop for Sister-in-Law
- Shop for Brother-in-Law
- Shop for Nephews
- Shop for Nieces
- Shop for Teacher
- Shop for Mailman
- Shop for Toys-for-Tots drive
- Shop for Boss
- Shop for Dog
- Shop for Best Friend
- Shop for Neighbor
- Wrap presents
- Hide presents
- Buy outfit for holiday party #1
- Buy outfit for holiday party #2
- Bake cookies
- Cook/clean for holiday guests
Husband’s Christmas To-Do List:
- Shop for Wife
So I’ve learned a few things over those 26 years. If your Christmas to-do list looks anything like mine does, and if every single year you just aren’t sure how you’re going to get it all done, here are a few tips:
- WRITE IT ALL DOWN. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Lists are the key to keeping yourself organized and remaining calm. Although a list like the one above might fill you with a wee bit of panic at first glance, it sure beats floating through your days wondering whether you’re forgetting to do something important. Plus, I’m all about that little dopamine rush that comes from crossing an item off of the list.
- SET AN EARLY DEADLINE. As a serial procrastinator, this was a hard lesson for me to learn, but after being burned by too many Christmas “emergencies,” including things like sick kids or snow days, I now set a drop-dead date for myself of December 20th for all shopping to be done and gifts to be wrapped. Without the last-minute shopping pressure, you might actually be able to relax a little bit and enjoy the last few days of the season.
- SET THE MOOD. Although I’m a Grinch when it comes to stores decking the halls in mid-October or TV stations showing Christmas movies before Halloween, once Thanksgiving hits, it’s all fair game. Crank up the Christmas tunes and sing along, loudly; it will put you in the right frame of mind to do whatever holiday-related task lies in front of you.
- GET YOUR HOUSE CLEANED. Maybe you are hosting your husband’s office party (yep, I somehow got roped into that this year), or maybe no one is going to step foot in your house besides your immediate family. Either way, having it professionally cleaned during the holiday season can alleviate a lot of your stress. For one thing, it is a lot easier to focus and get things done when your house is clean. Immaculate Clean makes it easy! They offer one time cleaning services! You can hire them to clean your whole house, or just have them focus on something like bathrooms and the kitchen. They even offer a One Time Holiday Clean Discount! Contact them for information.
- ASK FOR HELP. As evidenced by my list above, that’s a lesson I still haven’t taken to heart. But delegating some of the the tasks on my side of the list would probably do wonders for my stress-level and wouldn’t hurt my marriage either!
Oh, and here’s a bonus tip: If you find yourself struggling for a gift idea, don’t forget: an Immaculate Clean Gift Certificate makes a perfect (and easy) gift! New and existing clients can save up to 12% with their pre-pay discount. Contact them today to learn more!
A few days before Halloween, I was getting ready for our annual family pumpkin-carving night. With a college kid who doesn’t live at home, a too-cool-for-school 17-year-old, and a husband that hates the mess of pumpkin guts, this is a tradition that frankly just involves a lot of begging and arm-twisting to get anyone to even participate, but I refuse to give it up just yet. So I turned on the TV to see if I could find a Halloween classic to get us in the mood—preferably a good old-fashioned slasher thriller about Freddie Krueger or Michael Meyers or Jason in the hockey mask.
Instead, I stumbled upon something much scarier: a movie called “Matchmaker Santa.”
Yes, three whole days before Halloween, The Hallmark Channel was apparently already knee-deep into their “Christmas Countdown,” in which they show original holiday-themed movies 24-7 until Christmas day.
This immediately threw me into a state of panic. I haven’t even thought about Thanksgiving yet, let alone started my Christmas shopping. What is wrong with me? Am I that far behind the eight ball? How will I ever get ready on time?
This holiday panic attack is nothing new for me. It just never happened in October before. What is supposed to be a joyful time full of family, friends, food, and fun is often preceded by weeks of stress and anxiety. I know I’m not alone in this. So many of us women take on all the responsibility of creating a perfect holiday for our families, to the point that the holidays feel like a burden. That’s something that needs to stop.
While I don’t believe there is any way to eliminate the holiday stress completely, I know there are a few things we can do to help ease it a little bit.
Make Your Lists, Check Them Twice
I’m a big list-maker. I’ve learned that if I don’t write something down (or have Siri put it into my iPhone Notes), I will forget to do it or buy it. For example, if I’m hosting Thanksgiving, I make a list of the menu for the main meal, as well as the kinds of food and drink I want to have on hand for overnight guests. Then I gather my recipes and make a grocery list of ingredients I’ll need. I even make lists of basic tasks that need to be completed (ie., changing sheets, ironing table cloths, stocking bathrooms with soap and toilet paper).
Also, let’s face it, these days if you haven’t started Christmas shopping before Black Friday, you’re already behind. It helps me to remain calm and focused if I make a list of every person I need to shop for. I also include gift ideas as I come up with them.
Tip: if you find yourself struggling for a gift idea, an Immaculate Clean gift certificate makes a really great gift for just about anyone, from a busy mom, a messy bachelor, to an elderly relative! You’re welcome. (By the way, Immaculate Clean offers pre-pay discounts up to 12% off. Gift certificates are a great way to take advantage of this discount!) Contact them for details.
De-Clutter in Short Bursts
Start early to make room for holiday decorations and for all of the new “stuff” that’s going to be coming into your home. If, like me, you only use your dining room for actual dining twice a year, chances are it has become a spot for collecting junk during the rest of the year. If you spend just a few minutes each day finding a home for any extraneous items that have accumulated there, by Thanksgiving Day you’ll be ready to set the table without much ado.
Schedule a Professional Cleaning
Think ahead and get a professional cleaning on the schedule to help you prepare for holiday gatherings. This will do two great things:
- It will force you to clear out any clutter that still remains so that the cleaning crew has room to work
- It will free your time so you can focus on something like baking or memory-making rather than toilet scrubbing.
Don’t worry if you don’t already have a regular cleaning crew: Immaculate Clean offers one time cleaning services! You can hire them to clean your whole house, or just have them focus on something like bathrooms and the kitchen. They even offer a One Time Holiday Clean Discount! Contact them for information.
We all deserve to enjoy the holidays. Do whatever you can to take some of the pressure off of yourself so that you can relax and enjoy the time with your family!
Clutter is evil. It gets in the way, it makes your home look messy, it takes up valuable space and it has you running around in a constant quest to clean it up. But don’t just clean it up—get rid of it! And now is the perfect time to embark on this journey so that you can start the new year in a clutter-free home. From our Maryland home cleaning company, here are a few ideas on how to fight the evil clutter and what to do with it.
Let go of Heirlooms
Unwanted inheritance may not be such a big problem in the U.S., but it’s definitely rampant in Europe where century-old furniture keeps exchanging hands from generation to generation. But here we sometimes also get stuck with grandma’s china cabinet or grandpa’s work bench that just do not fit anywhere.
If you have furniture sitting in your storage (or piled up in your basement), doing nothing but collecting dust, consider getting rid of it. You’ve already appreciated the gift and the love that came with it, and it’s time to let go. We are not suggesting that you carry your great-grandmother’s old trunk to the dump. If it’s in a decent shape and has historic significance, sell it online or at an auction. Or donate it to a museum or a historic home in your area. If you don’t plan on moving any time soon and there is no room for this furniture in your home, it makes sense to let someone else enjoy it.
Go Through Your “Just in Case” Items
So your sister in law was getting rid of her dehydrator and you offered to take it off her hands. Just in case you are in a mood for banana chips. But guess what? You barely ever cook at home and you don’t even like bananas! And now this thing is taking up your precious cabinet space.
Let’s be honest, we often buy things that we don’t need right away but that we may use in the future. We do this because these things are on sale and maybe even free right now. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as it’s done in moderation and you actually end up using the items you bought. And if you don’t, well, that is essentially hoarding. When going through your clutter, try to remember under which circumstances you purchased a specific item. If you can’t remember what motivated you back then and you don’t use the item anyway, get rid of it.
Fix it or Toss it
Most of us probably have something broken in their home. Maybe it’s an old laptop that needs a new hard drive. Or maybe it’s a slow cooker that’s missing a lid, and the replacement lid costs as much as the new slow cooker. So you have all these things that technically can be fixed, but who’s going to fix them?
It’s time to decide what these items are worth to you. Will you pay for that broken wall clock to be repaired? Will you spend the time to glue the broken leg to the dining room chair? Don’t leave it for later. Decide this now and you will eliminate clutter both from your home and from your head.
Commit to a Schedule
Decluttering can be time-consuming, especially if you have a lot of stuff and have trouble letting go of potentially useful things out of practicality. That’s why you will need to set a schedule for yourself to make sure you get things done instead of sitting and reminiscing over an old picture frame you never got to use. There is a challenge called 40 bags in 40 days focused on decluttering one area a day, which should result in one bag (of any size) of stuff you are getting rid of. This is a good way to keep yourself motivated, and there are even online communities of people doing the same thing in case you need support. What do you do with all these bags? These are your four main options: toss, recycle, donate or sell. And here are a few specific places where you can do this. Don’t let deciding what to do with your stuff hold you back. If you don’t need it, put it in the bag and you will figure out the details later.
Invest in Experiences, Not Stuff
It’s one thing to declutter your home, but it’s another challenge to keep it free of clutter in 2016. It’s easy to fill all that space you just made with more stuff that you barely use. One tip for keeping the clutter down to a minimum is to spend money on things to do rather than things to have. For example, instead of another bag or a pair of shoes, you can get tickets to a concert or a local art venue. Instead of a bread maker or a food processor, you can take a cooking class to learn how to easily cut and make bread without these appliances. An appliance or a piece of clothing will eventually break down, rip or fade, but the experience from doing something fun will be with you forever.
After you take out all the clutter, you will probably end up with many new surfaces to clean. You’ve already done a lot, so let Immaculate Clean give you a hand with cleaning and help get your home ready for the holidays!
Ah, the Holiday Season! It’s festive, sparkly and exciting, but it can also get super hectic. There are countless meals to be prepared for countless parties, countless presents to be purchased and wrapped for countless nieces and nephews…. It’s easy to get behind on house cleaning when you can barely remember today’s date. Meanwhile, the in-laws are driving from the neighboring state and you want everything to sparkle and shine like Rudolph’s nose! If only you had all those Santa’s helpers! No worries, here are a few tips from our Sykesville home cleaning experts to help you tame the holiday madness and maintain the perfect dust-to-sparkle ratio in your home.
Clean Your Decorations Before Putting Them Up
Where do you keep all those festive wreaths, cornucopias, lights and statuettes? Probably in the basement or in the attic—some of the dustiest places in your home. Unless you store everything in airtight bins or wash after each use, your décor will be covered in dust from the last year. Dust can make things look dingy, so wipe it off before hanging your décor. For non-washable items like wreaths, use the compressed air can to get every last bit of cobwebs off. This extra step will help you get the most out of your decor—you paid good money for it, might as well turn up the sparkles to 10!
Put Away Fall and Summer Items
Do you still have some fall jackets and summer bags hanging on the coat hanger? Do the kids have a bin full of outdoor toys they won’t be able to play with until next spring? Take the time to go through all this stuff and sort out everything that won’t be needed during winter. This is a great way to declutter your main floor and make room for things that you actually need and use on a daily basis.
Prepare Your Kitchen
Holidays usually involve a lot of cooking. If you are used to hosting parties for Thanksgiving or Christmas, you know that counter space and fridge space can be scarce this time of year. The kitchen may actually be the one place where it makes sense to forgo the décor in favor of functionality, at least temporarily. If you choose to decorate the kitchen, opt for items that won’t get in the way or shed sparkles into your mashed potatoes. Otherwise, consider putting away counter appliances that you may not use as much in winter, such as the ice cream maker or the dehydrator. Cleaning the fridge of all expired and spoiled items will also make a big difference.
Be the Boss
During the holidays, you can’t let clutter pile up and floors get covered with pet hair. If a friend only gave you a 15 minute notice that they are stopping by to drop off a present, that’s not enough time to vacuum, wash, clean and light a candle. Your home should be mostly clean most of the time, so that only small touch-ups are needed to make it guest-ready. Don’t hesitate to involve your family members and assign them duties or specific areas to maintain. Kids can make sure their toys and shoes are always put away, and older family members can take up vacuuming or dish washing. Who knows, maybe they get so used to helping you out, you’ll be able to maintain this routine throughout the year?
Take Some Shortcuts
Let’s be honest, always doing everything yourself is neither healthy nor reasonable. Who said that all the meals have to be homemade? Would anyone notice if you hired a landscaper to get rid of the leaves and remove dead plants? Give yourself some overdue rest and relaxation by having a professional clean your home from top to bottom. Our cleaning team at Immaculate Clean is very busy during the Holiday Season doing exactly that—helping you make your home look awesome! Some homeowners just want a one-time deep cleaning to leave them with a clean slate (pun intended) to maintain. Others have us come back on a weekly basis to keep the dirt and dust at bay. Let us know what your cleaning challenges are and we’ll be happy to accommodate them!
Contact us today for home cleaning services in Carroll County, Maryland.