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Stressed Backward = Desserts!

While sheltering-in-place we’ve been spending a lot more time baking. And wouldn’t you know:

Loretta LaRoche gets credit for coining “stressed backward spells dessert.”

I saw that catchy phrase after delivering my 5th batch of muffins in April. To avoid gaining the dreaded Covid-19 (think Freshman-15) I dropped off Tupperwares to my neighbor who appreciates my zero-sugar recipes.

With my last delivery of cranberry-sweetened pumpkin millet muffins, I wrote “sorry for dumping my stress-baked goodies on your doorstep.” She texted back “TY” with a link to “Stress-baking is a real thing!”

My 3 favorite therapeutic benefits to baking:

  • On the surface, baking’s sweet “aroma-therapy” is a lift to the senses.
  • It’s a form of mindfulness forcing us to stay in the moment and be present.
  • Baking offers proof of progress; it lets us see a project through from beginning to end.

This “proof of progress” is where I want to focus.
I don’t know about you, but I am:
•  losing a sense of what day it is
•  not as productive as I was before Covid-19
•  feeling less accomplished despite feeling almost as busy

So I reflected on the tools I used before Covid-19:

  1. Planning out my day the night before factoring in daily exercise
  2. Setting timers before ANY screen tasks and computer-related work
  3. Setting self-imposed deadlines
  4. Rewarding myself for meeting those deadlines 
  5. Taking breaks to free my mind and open myself up to creativity

Here’s why I’m returning to these habits:

  • Planning always makes me more efficient. When I predict how long something will take—I challenge myself to get it done before the time is up. 
  • Timers build in accountability for being “on” and give permission to be “off.”
  • Set self-imposed (and realistic!) deadlines: they offer us an amazing boost to our sense of self and inner confidence. They also give us a healthy look to the future and make us more aware of time.
  • Earned rewards are the essential “pat on the back” that we can gift ourselves. While all rewards should not be caloric, a little baking—no stress involvedcan pay off.
  • Breaks are essential to productivity, healthy living, and…when else can we bake!

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Joy’s SIP Routine

While sheltering in place (SIP), Joy created a schedule around organizing, connecting and healthy living. If you asked if she’s going stir-crazy…the answer is “NO!”  Joy’s schedule is pretty reliable and packed with plenty of outdoor walks, time with friends via virtual dates and a healthy dose of organizing & cleaning projects!  

Here’s her routine:

Make bed   
Do stretching exercises
Watch “Let’s Make A Deal”
..she loves Wayne Brady
Walk 11-11:45/12 pm 
Lunch

Bridge with her besties 1-3 pm
Joy’s partner Bunny and she play against Connie & Gail. They’ve been friends for 70 years. This is the longest any of them have gone without seeing each other.

Her afternoons are reserved for organizing or cleaning.
Organizing projects: 
• every drawer of her desk
• culled her bookshelves
• her stationery collection – matching every card with an envelope; no mate = toss.
• extensive photo sorting (her mother did the same for her)
Household cleaning projects:
• had her windows professionally cleaned which forced her to clean inside as well
• swapped out light bulbs for LED’s throughout her house
• gardened and continues to water her outdoor deck plantings in the hope that she’ll have a bbq at least once this summer!
• dusted Kelly’s doll house (which led to a fun trip down memory lane)

Joy has kept Kelly’s childhood doll house. It provided hours of entertainment to her grandkids and visiting nieces and nephews. Who knew that while SIP it would entertain Joy so much!

She noticed a layer of dust so she vacuumed it and rearranged the furniture, power washed the outside and ended up playing…In her own words:

It did start as a dusting “job” but it turned into a full hour trip back to my childhood while I played and rearranged the furniture (especially now that it was sparkling clean!) Anyone who knows me knows that is one of my favorite things to do…It’s so much easier to move the couch in a doll house!

Dinner is between 6 and 7 pm
• If Joy eats at Kelly’s (we’re SIP’ing together), she takes another walk with the Galfands and their dogs.
• If Joy eats alone, she finishes her crossword and makes her calls.
Get ready for bed
Watch
 one of her new favorite Netflix shows

All in all, Joy’s been busy and content but she does miss being with all of you.  

Catch Up with Joy!
She’s been connecting with at least 2 different people by phone a day. She always call a friend and usually a family member. Let her know if and when YOU want a call!

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MAY: Choose May Over Can

During the month of MAY, forget about what you Can do.

Sometimes asking if you can accomplish a task, finish a project or take care of someone gets us into trouble. There are SO many things you CAN do. You are awesome, for goodness sakes! It may not be wise for you to do all that you “Can.”

When you’re busy doing everything you can, you let ability dictate necessity.


Question whether you should do something just because you can.
• Weigh the payoff of YOU doing it
— maybe there’s greater value in delegating
• Delete the task from your list
radical thinking to some…maybe it really doesn’t need to be achieved (despite how long you’ve been doing it or have had it on your list/mind/plate
• Defer to a future time
— make this choice consciously rather than out of procrastination 


You might have to experiment with giving yourself permission. If you asked and answered from the power seat of life, what could you ALLOW yourself to do?

• Reach for a goal
— you are the only one standing in your way
• Learn a new hobby

— now is the perfect time to invest in yourself
• Focus on YOU for a change

— remember the safety rules for airplane flight: “Put your own mask on first.” We have to be reminded to put ourselves first.
— What or whom are you putting ahead of yourself? Examine if that’s the right choice for you now.


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Beyond The Desk Before & Afters

You may have seen our segment on PHL17 focusing on creating workspaces while socially distancing. But you never got a chance to see the before and after images side by side.
By special request, we’re walking you through the three transformed work spaces.

Universal Tips for ANY Work Space
• When standing or sitting: pay attention to your posture
— You don’t want to strain your neck or aggravate your back
• Add task lighting and proper power to charge and use electronic devices.
2 tools you should add despite our warnings to be minimalistic:
an analog clock to help keep to a schedule and a timer (we’re partial to Time-Timers) which help you see time.

Built In Bookcase Transformed

Some bookcases lend themselves to this make-over, especially those with a deeper base like the cabinet style pictured.
• Rearrange your shelf contents, or shift contents completely to another space as we did with the wine bottles
• To sit while working: find a chair or stool at or adjusted to the appropriate, comfortable height

Under-The-Stairs Closet Transformed 

This closet is ideal because, like the bookcase, the lower shelves are deeper:
— This allows more “head space” to think and focus.
• Your “work surface” shelf should be sturdy
— add support as needed
• Adjust shelves to the proper height for sitting or standing
• If you can’t adjust the shelf, use an adjustable seat
• Don’t overlook the option for a standing desk
— add a cushioned standing mat for comfort

Spare Bedroom Transformed 

Many have asked “What happened to the bed?!” It’s still there…just not as “bed-like”
• By removing the pillow and changing the bedspread, the bed becomes an additional work or storage surface
and a comfortable reading area without saying “sleep”

• Take the time to remove any visual clutter
• Rearrange (or remove) furniture to put what you need where you need it.
• Keep a box, bin or crate handy to create a “pop-up” standing video chat “station” to check in with colleagues or professors via Zoom or Skype.
— Face the window for the best effect.

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Think Beyond The Desk

Working from home during Covid-19 is different from how you may have worked from home before…so your workspace should not be a replica of your “office.” 

3 Tips to Make Your Work Space Work for You

1. Know Your Needs
— what tasks do you need to perform for your job?
— what tools do you need within reach?

2. Pick a Spot
— think beyond the desk
— consider areas that have the appropriate work surface or internet

3. Get Set Up
— be a minimalist: move in only the essentials 
— add a way to track time: think analog clock and timers
— add task lighting as needed

Behind-the-scenes tip: If you need to Skype or Zoom soon, go old-school in these new tech days and use a post-it to remind yourself to look at the camera 🙂

Joy can be camera shy but she never holds back from being Kelly’s behind-the-scenes wardrobe stylist, location assistant
and tech back-up.

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How Kelly Shed 19 Every Month

Before COVID19, the number 19 could have sounded arbitrary. For me, it had tremendous significance. Throughout 2019 Kelly’s 19 was a repeating event on our family’s electronic calendar; it popped up every Monday. If I hadn’t created a “public” weekly reminder, I would never have been as committed.

I decided I was living with too much stuff. Can you relate?! In celebration of 2019, I committed to letting go of 19 items a month. I wish I had documented my journey better but I’ll focus on the photos I can share: 

The idea started December 31, 2018 while unpacking from our winter vacation.. I realized I had lived out of a suitcase for 2 weeks without wearing everything AND was returning to a full closet of clothes. 

It was easy at first; some clothes no longer fit. Others items no longer fit my life. Puzzles and rarely used cookbooks plus lids with no bottoms started leaving the house in greater numbers.

228 items later, I am still looking for things to shed: articles of clothing and stuff we no longer use. It is a slower process but letting go is always top of mind.

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Passover Wishes: Mah Nishtanah?!

Happy Passover graphic - Stay Safe, Stay Healthy and Stay @ Home

A question asked at every Seder is Mah Nishtanah: what is different?

During Covid-19 social distancing we could ask: “What isn’t Different?! Despite celebrating alone, we wish you a Healthy and Happy Holiday.

With our homes transformed — for the holiday or for the ability to “be” with friends and family virtually — we wish you smooth meals with much less clean up than you might be used to. And fewer family dynamics (this year you might be able to mute anyone who annoys you ;). 

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APR: A Pantry Revamp

Labels and risers make even deep shelves easy to access.

This APR, invest in A Pantry Revamp! It won’t cost much more than time. And we promise, following our advice will feed you!

Notebook on kitchen counter with fresh ingredients.

Passover, Easter and sheltering at home present the perfect pre-holiday and quarantine-induced motivation to be intentional about what and where you store edibles.

Pantry Revamp Benefits:

Tuning in to your household’s nutritional needs and tastes offers instant pay-offs…The larger your household, the greater the benefit
Stress levels go way down
Meal prep gets easier 
Maintenance becomes manageable
Decrease food waste

Pantry Revamp Parameters:

Use a pre-school approach by creating zones. Which zones you define are yours to decide; no two pantries need be the same but every pantry requires these 5 steps.

1. Get Set
You’ll need a designated surface to sort your goods.
• A study card table or folding banquet table works so you don’t hold your kitchen or dining room table hostage for the duration of the project.

2. Clear Out
While you’re emptying your shelves, cabinets, drawers or closet:
• Eliminate expired foods, spices and condiments.
• Group like with like

3. Clean Up
Wipe out every surface before you move anything back in

4. Sort and Decide
This is the MEAT of the project — even if you’re vegetarian. All of your decisions get made about where your zones will live and what zones make the most sense.
• Don’t be afraid to consult with other family members.
• Group like with like.
• Admit when you won’t make something and eliminate it from your stockpile; we grant permission to let it go!



5. Put Back and Label by Category 
• Channel our favorite approach of using what you have on hand to containerize, categorize and store your faves within reach.
• Move each variety of food into its new storage home according to how often you use it or who needs to reach it.
• Label Your Categories so everyone in your household understands how to put things away.
• Ensure that what you need most is in easiest reach

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Your New Cleaning Routine

In this age of government mandated quarantines, you may be without the outside cleaning help you’ve come to rely upon. A loyal reader asked our advice for cleaning routines in this “new normal.”

We recommend the “Tackle a Different Task Each Day” approach and offer this Sample Schedule Adjust as necessary

• Monday: Clothes Laundry — gone are the lenient days for rewearing clothing — be diligent about single wear/use everything
• Tuesday: Kitchen — scrub and sanitize everything (but the floors)
• Wednesday: Bathrooms — scrub, sanitize and sparkle all hard surfaces
• Thursday: Floors — shake out rugs, sweep, mop, vacuum
• Friday: Linen Laundry — Decide the frequency you want for changing the linens. If your household produced a lot of clothes laundry consider doing towels and bed-linens separately
• Saturday/Sunday: “De-Clutter” — pick up and put away anything out


Rule #1 This new normal requires a new approach:
You’re NOT duplicating a professional housecleaner’s approach. They were paid to deep clean and dust picture frames and reflective surfaces. YOU are dusting, vacuuming and sanitizing to maintain a healthy environment.

Rule #2 Eliminate not-in-use rooms — you’re not entertaining visitors
Your cleaning service may have cleaned your house top to bottom. YOU should only clean rooms and areas that are in use. To ensure you don’t overdo it and tire/bore/burn-out from this large and looming task, focus on the priorities: a safe household to lift your spirits while you are spending more time at home.

If you’ve worked us before, you know to start with the floor!

STEP 1: Declutter so you CAN clean
Before cleaning, clear your surfaces so your scrubbing efforts aren’t frustrated by starting and stopping to put items away.


STEP 2: Create a Sustainable Schedule: think task-batching
It may turn out that you HATE wiping down countertops but you love scrubbing tubs and showers. Your kids may discover they like going systematically through the house wiping down doorknobs and light switches but abhor dealing with the vacuum. Barter, get creative, incentivize if you must!

STEP 3: Daily must-do’s keep contagions away
A task-a-day works for the sweeping categories like floors and bathrooms but doorknobs, light switches, keyboards and remotes (the high use, high touch) items in your house are daily “musts.”


If cleaning is new to you – be especially open to tweaking your schedule. Announce to your family if you don’t live alone, that the whole schedule is flexible – and it’s all one big experiment.

We are not working hands-on in homes right now but we are available by email, phone and text to support your efforts. We are still your cheerleaders! Let us know what you’re up to.