Monday, May 28, 2018

Sustain-ability: Three Big Ideas for Household Magic

I'm a big believer in the power of a household. The past four days (it's a long weekend in the US and I made it even longer with an extra day off) we've been focusing on household stuff, which means I have household magic on the brain. Here are a few things to try in your own household.

Reverse Stockpiling
You know I'm a big believer in stockpiling both magic and mundane things for a future time. However, just putting things aside is only half the work. In order to keep the household magic flowing, you have to use those things. Consider the following very simple recipe (which we made on Saturday:

Green Chili Stew
1lb grass fed beef stew meat
Frozen roasted Hatch green chili
Onion and Garlic
Vegetable broth

Blend chili, onion, garlic, broth, and salt into a thick sauce
Brown mean in oil in pressure cooker
Add sauce and cook under high pressure for 12 minutes
Natural decompress
Eat with corn tortillas

Now consider the actual steps that went into this meal:

Defrost and clean out the big freezer magically as well as physically (an annual event)
Buy a side of local grass fed beef and put in the big freezer
Get a sack of New Mexico chilies from the traveling roasters during harvest and freeze them in small bags
Save veggie ends and tips over time
Once you have filled a gallon ziplock with veggie ends, turn them into broth and bless the broth
Pressure can veggie broth and store jars in the pantry
Defrost meat and chili
Put onion/garlic skins and ends back into the veggie bag for a future round of broth
Open a jar of broth from the pantry
Continue with instructions above

Time to cook: 12 minutes
Time to make: 8 months

The stew turned out really great and we had it with a salad (with Chipotle ranch dressing which we made earlier in the week). But it was just the delicious end point of long history of kitchen management and stockpiling.

When you put something aside for the future, you have to make sure there is a future where that item is then used. It's a cycle of energy where things keep moving and nourishing the household and its members.

Corralling the Chaos
Do you have one of those drawers in your kitchen that gets filled with random detritus? Most people do. Even people who are very clean and organized (like my mom and sister) have locations where stuff tends to clump up.

The way I figure it, every household has a certain amount of natural chaos. The goal of household management is not to eliminate the chaos (which, even if you could, would turn your home into a museum and not a place where people live) but to corral it. That mitigates the chaos from taking over the rest of the house.

When we find things getting crazy around the house, it's usually because one of the corrals of chaos has gotten out of control.

For example, we have a small bookshelf "office" in the living room. It lives behind the book case doors and holds all manner of office stuff including cards and stationary, pens and pads of paper, rubber bands, paperclips, and the shredder which sits on the bottom shelf and is plugged in through the back of the bookcase. When we start finding paper lurking around the house, it's usually because we need to open those doors and do a bunch of sorting and shredding. And shredding is a perfect time for banishing magic. So you can get rid of more than just paper.

Our laundry room is also a mud room and pantry and overflow kitchen supply and storage, so it's a whirl of chaos even in the best of times. But when I find that laundry is out of control, I need to tackle the laundry room (again) and put things in their place. There's a certain amount of overlap between cleaning and cleansing in the magical household, so getting that stuff in order has a double impact to the rest of the house.

And when tools and equipment start appearing in random locations, it's because the garage (which we think of as a workshop since no cars currently live there) needs a neatening.

Removing the Thorn
Speaking of the workshop... sometimes the household doesn't function because there is an ill spot in it. This goes beyond a chaos corral needing mitigation. This is about something that's so unworkable and so dysfunctional that it impacts the entire energy of the house.

Of course this dysfunction can come from the people in the home and their health and relationships. But it can also come from a place in the home that's gotten so bad that everything is else is impacted.

How many times have I mentioned or talked about cleaning a garage on this blog? An unfortunate amount actually. And that's because for a few years, the garage was the thorn in our own household's functioning. There were reasons that this happened and some of the reasons had a strong emotional component (my husband's accident). But reasons or not it was still unpleasant. And once we had the health, time, energy, and money to fix it it was HUGE.

I remember telling my friend how much better it felt and she basically said "well, you never shut up about it, so it obviously really bothered you." And it's true. It bothered all of us. Now there's an organized shop in the garage and the household is getting needed maintenance and my husband is creating amazing things using wood and metal and fire.

Wood + metal + fire

We should have tried to fix it sooner.

The illness that spreads from an unloved part of a home can be energetic (as it was in this case), it can be practical (like not having any place to fix or build things), it can even be potentially sickening (like finding that some building supplies got wet and started growing mildew).

If you have an attic that's a nightmare of spiders, a basement that has black mold, a bathroom that you fear the health inspector ever seeing, a yard that's overrun with brambles and despair? Those places can impact the household on a deep level. And it's not just about having a mess. Your kid's room can be a disaster and still be their sanctuary and safe place away from the stresses of the world. But when the mess starts to hurt the household and its human and non-human members (or the hurt in the household causes a terrible mess) it's time to take action.

A lot of people have one or more unsavory interests. Maybe you're fascinated with serial killers or infestations or medical oddities. I happen to be fascinated with hoarding. I'm not a hoarder, though I do tend to fall more on the save side of the spectrum between "we may need this" and "get rid of everything" but I still find the disorder really interesting. If you ever watch the trashy TV show Hoarders (and if you even need a kick in the pants getting your house cleaned, you should) you can see how as is interior of the home, so it the interior of these folks' minds.

No cleaning is ever entirely mundane. Creating order in your house is an act of creating order in the world and inside yourself. It's about health and safety and happiness.

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