Saturday, March 19, 2016


   Tips for people living on their own in the Millennium.

   You thought you had it made. A decent job, a nice apartment, an adequate career wardrobe, a busy social life. On your own, complete with PC, tablet, Smartphone, large-screen TV, microwave, credit cards.
    So why is there lettuce rotting in your fridge, and nothing else to eat unless you order in? Why can you never find anything to wear, and wind up frantic and late for appointments because the outfit you took out from the closet has a stain you'd forgotten about? Why hasn't your best buddy called you lately? (So what if you forgot his birthday. Big deal!) And why do you never seem to have cash when Fluffy or Spot barfs on your floor and you have to rush him to the vet in a cab that only takes cash? And where ARE your keys, anyway?

     In the "bad old days" of traditional Moms, a mother raised a brood of children without daycare, ran a household, usually without help, commandeered the kitchen (3 meals a day, and no microwave or take-out food), served as wife, mother, chauffeur, social secretary, cook and laundress.

     If you think an insistent iPhone or demanding boss is stressful, try ignoring the urgent screams of "Mom!" a dozen times a day while arguing with the washer repairman and trying to keep the family pet from eating the houseplants.

     Well, how did Mom do it? By taking time to make sense of her busy life and separating the various components into manageable pieces.

      In this age of instant gratification and quick fixes, the worship of anything "new", and the constant need for a "perfect" life so we don't get "stressed", perhaps it's also time to re-examine some of the verities previous generations held as truths for a very long time. Maybe they had something we have forgotten, something that might ease the chaos of today's living, bringing a breath of orderliness to our lives.

     Haste makes waste.

    And that especially refers to wasted time, in my opinion. If you're going to do something, do it right. My mother used to say, "If you don't take the time to do it right the first time, when are you going to find the time to do it right the second time?" Being focused totally on the task at hand---putting things away where they belong, sorting through your paperwork, keeping up with your laundry---saves you time in the long run. Pick up and clean up as you go along. Make every moment count, instead of filling it with bits of TV, a few minutes wasted on the Internet looking up trivia you don't really care about, constantly checking on your Smartphone for text messages from someone you just saw, etc.

     Look before you leap.

     Plan ahead. Run your home life like you do your job. Make lists, keep calendars with notations of appointments, errands, bill-paying schedules, etc.  Keep a grocery list, where you write down items you need to buy, or items you are running out of. That way, you'll never reach for a tissue with a runny nose and discover you forgot to buy more! Set aside a day, perhaps every two weeks, when you know you'll do laundry and clean out the fridge. I also keep a list of people's birthdays and anniversaries. That way, I can send out cards or e-mails or greetings on the occasion.

     I'm old-fashioned and still keep written lists, as I did years ago, but my daughter tells me there are great apps for Smartphones for list-keeping, which can be shared among family members or significant others ---since, in modern households, often multiple adults will do the shopping, not just mom, as in the old days. So as not to have to write multiple lists or worry that 2 people will buy milk that day, she and her husband use “AnyList”, which allows them to load items onto the grocery list and cross off items if either of them purchases. The updates happen in real time, so even if they're both out and about, they can stay up to date on needs and purchases.

     (Not that I'm completely antediluvian! Though I have written lists, plus a physical bulletin board near my front door to pin up pending appointments, needs, occasions that I want to remember, I also have a file on my computer called, MY BULLETIN BOARD,  There I keep a current list of all subscriptions I have, date of expiration, and whether they are paid up or not. Also keep there a list of books and DVDs I've loaned out with date and "loanee"---nice to keep, especially if I eventually want the items back! Oh, and that physical bulletin board near my front door has a hook for my keys!)

     An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

     A stitch in time saves nine.

     Your briefcase is about to rip at the handle? Take it to a shoemaker to repair or buy a new one BEFORE the stupid thing falls apart at the worst time. A loose button or hem that's starting to come undone? Fix it yourself if you can, or take it to a tailor. It will cost less than if the button goes missing and you have to buy a whole new expensive set, or the hem actually tears and the tailor charges you a fortune to fix it, if he can!

     The same is true for your health. Seeing a doctor BEFORE you're flat on your back is the sensible thing to do.

      A place for everything and everything in its place.

      You don't have to be a neat nut. But make a conscious effort to de-clutter and put things away whenever you have a moment. (Double-up on time. Empty the dishwasher while the water is boiling for the spaghetti. Dust the living room furniture during a TV commercial.) And make sure everything has its own place. Again, this is to your advantage, though you might not think of it that way. But picture how much more time you would waste if you had to stop and search for individual items whenever you needed them!    

     Garbage in, garbage out.

     What I really mean by that is, Stop buying "stuff" you really don't need! Get rid of stuff. Be coldblooded about closets, books, files, etc. Learn to throw out, at the same time resist impulse buying. It just adds to the clutter.

      And finally:

     Well begun is half done.

      When you're setting up your various lists, don't forget one important step---prioritize! Plan to do the most pressing things first, if you do nothing else. Don't be afraid to put off the less important things, guilt-free! Give yourself the luxury of goofing off once you've accomplished at least one vital thing on your list.

     Take control of your life. Make a start. You can do it!



Some of the entries in this blog came from a book idea my daughter and I worked out fourteen years ago and then abandoned. Thanks, Julia!




  1. Love this, Sylvia. Common sense--the lost art. ;)

  2. I discovered you through my friend Nancy in Guelph, Ontario. I absolutely LOVE you and await your posts. I think you were my mother in another lifetime!

  3. Why thank you so much, Judy! And please thank Nancy, a fellow countryman, as it happens. I was born in Toronto many, MANY years ago! (Long since a citizen of USA, but have kept my love of good English tea all these years!)

  4. Oh, dear! Definitely a Senior Moment when I responded to Judy last week. I saw the "Ontario" and somehow didn't react to the "Nancy" or "Guelph". Stupid me! Nancy wasn't born in Canada---Nancy was a fellow college classmate here in the U.S. and a dear friend, and my husband and I visited her and her family in Guelph many years ago! All that totally didn't register when I saw Judy's post last week. Forgive me, Nancy!

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  6. The next time my phone buzzes, I'll remember this post! So lucky to have bumped into a witty woman like you Sylvia. Such nostalgia here, and coupled with the brutal honesty we millennials need to be alerted to, makes for a timeless piece... Say... like my wedding dress! :) Keep writing and inspiring. -Aminta Kilawan