My Clean House Plan

Clean House-01

I’ve been struggling in recent weeks to balance everything that I’ve got going – my work, the kids and the house, plus it’s graduation season – always a busy time when your husband works at a university. When life gets crazy, everything unravels if the house is out of order. Having a messy house is time consuming, distracting, and stressful – not good when you’re trying to do creative work (or any work for that matter.) Home is your foundation and when you work from home it becomes that much more important to keep it running smoothly.

I finally came up with a plan the other day to do just that. It tells me exactly what to do in the morning to ensure we have a smooth running day, and what to do in the evening to make sure we wake up to awesomeness and aren’t cleaning up yesterday’s mess. Keeping the house under control is as simple as looking at my chart, doing what needs to get done and checking it off (my favorite part).

I needed my chart to literally walk me through my day, so I broke it up into three parts: morning, evening, and daytime.

Daily Tasks-01

“Morning” and “evening” actions are always done every day. Obviously I don’t need a reminder to make breakfast. It’s just there because I get so easily distracted that I need a specific list of action steps in order to keep me on track (Do this, then do this, then do this.) “Daytime” stuff varies depending on what day of the week it is (except for mail). Here’s what Tuesday looks like.Daily Tasks-02

There’s also space to jot down other things that aren’t part of the normal routine.

Here’s how it works:


I made a specific sheet for each day of the week. I printed it out and trimmed it down to 8×10, stuck in a cello sleeve (so it becomes “dry erase”) with a backing board so it’s nice and rigid. Each night I pull out the next day’s sheet and jot down the “other” things that need to get done. Then I stick it on the fridge. In the morning, I wake up, go through my morning routine, tackle the specific chores for that day and I’ve got the rest of the day to do whatever else I need to do until the evening.

Our evening routine starts after dinner and ends when it ends. Each day it totally manageable, and the best part is, as long as I do everything I can be confident that the house is under control. It may not be completely perfect, but pretty close, and doing this consistently means cleaning takes less and less time since less time goes by in between cleaning.

If you’re interested in implementing something similar and would like to use this as a starting point (obviously this is very specific to us and you need something that’s specific to you), I’m sharing my files with you today. I made these in Illustrator but you could do something very similar in Word or Pages or whatever you have. If you work with Illustrator, I’ve also included the original file.I wasn’t going for pretty, so embellish all you like. FYI, that pink border is actually a trim line so I could get an 8×10 sheet, but you don’t need to trim it if you don’t want to. You could also just use a clipboard by sticking your paper in there with a transparency over it to have that same dry erase functionality. You can buy single transparencies at pretty much any large office chain or print shop.


Happy cleaning!

On Beating the Odds and Living Your Dream


With shaky hands I handed the cassette over to the teacher. She loaded it into the stereo, hit play and melodious guitar strumming filled the air. I put my hands on my hips, bent my knees, lifted my head, smiled a nervous smile and started to dance, my body automatically forming the movements that my mother had taught me over the course of several weeks. I had not grown up dancing hula in a halau or schoolbut hula had always been in my life, and every Hawaiian girl knows at least the basics.

It’s 1995. I was in sixth grade, and it was the year that I could become May Day Queen. May Day is a big deal in Hawaii, where schools put on a big festival of  student performances filled with song and dance. In elementary school, each grade sends a “prince” and “princess” to represent one of the eight main Hawaiian Islands as part of the royal court. The court “rules” over the festivities, and the crown jewel of the court is the May Day Queen. For years I gazed in admiration at her long white holokū or gown, her crown of small white crown flower blossoms and the beautiful maile lei draped around her neck. How regal and graceful she looked! I was always held in rapt attention as she danced a solo hula for her fellow students. She was a vision, and all eyes were on her.

I desperately wanted that girl to be me one day.

When May Day preparations began in my sixth grade year, the faculty decided they’d hold an audition for May Day Queen. She had to be a good student, who worked hard and got good grades, but beyond that, the most important requirement was that she could dance. 

I knew I could dance, but I also knew who I was up against – girls who were formally trained to be meticulously precise, girls who knew how to perform in front of large audiences, girls with a whole catalog of dances they could recall at a moments’ notice, girls who had a closet full of pāʻū skirts and drawers full of traditional hula adornments.

I was out of my league.

“It’s not gonna be Joelle. She doesn’t belong to any halau,” was whispered as we sat waiting to hear what the teachers had decided.

It’s hard for me to describe the utter shock and disbelief that coursed through my body at the sound of my name escaping the teachers lips. Me! May Day Queen! Only a handful of girls get that opportunity and I was one of them!

The next few months were a flurry of rehearsals, dress fittings, more rehearsals and more dress fittings. And when that day came and I stood before the entire school and began to dance with my own beautiful white holokū with its long flowing train, my own crown flower crown and maile lei draped around my neck, I realized that I was living my dream, and there isn’t much in this life that’s sweeter.

To this day I don’t really know what the teachers saw in me or why I was chosen, but if I had let myself get intimidated by the other, more experienced girls, I wouldn’t be telling you this, one of my most cherished memories today.

Whenever I feel like I’m not good enough, or that I shouldn’t even try since there are obviously so many more capable people than I, I think about that twelve year old girl who had the guts to go for it, knowing that she probably wasn’t the best, and she probably wouldn’t be chosen, but that she’d regret it for the rest of her life if she let the opportunity pass her by.


Four Lessons on Soaring in Life, Taught by a Kite

kite-01This past April our oldest daughter Noweo turned four. She’s at a wonderful age where she’s beginning to do “kid” stuff like riding a bike, roller skating, putting together more complex puzzles and acting out her favorite movies. One of the gifts she received this year was a kite, and I was just as excited as she was to take it out for a spin. We did just that a couple days ago at one of our favorite parks and it was pure magic. I was surprised however to make several observations about flying the kite that I found to be highly applicable to striving for and achieving success (at anything). Here’s what I discovered:

  1. You have to run into the wind. In order for a kite to pick up height, you have to run into the wind. Noweo didn’t understand that, and went running willy nilly all over the field. Whenever she ran with the wind, the kite fell to the ground. When we face a daunting task, it’s tempting to take the path of least resistance, but we won’t reach great heights without pushing ourselves against an opposing force.
  2. You must know where the wind is coming from. I tried to get Noweo to notice where the wind was blowing from so she would know to run in that direction. When I asked where the wind was coming from, she said “the sky.” Cute right? But there’s an important lesson here. We can’t achieve anything if we don’t know where to focus. I’m certainly guilty of trying to do too much at once and not really doing anything as a result. Choosing a path that will offer us the greatest chance of growth, even if it scares us (or perhaps, especially if it scares us) and staying on it will take us higher than if we ran around trying to go everywhere at once.
  3. You need to be patient and lengthen the string a little at a time. We all want to see the kite soaring high above the ground, but if you give it too much slack, it won’t have the tension necessary for the wind to catch it and carry it up. Sometimes we want to run before we can walk, or we look at others achievements and think we need to be where they are, forgetting that they had to start somewhere too. We are much better off flying on a “short string” and slowly lengthening it to the desired height.
  4. Conditions are everything. When we first arrived at the park, it wasn’t too windy (our town in general isn’t that windy) so we were never able to get the kite to stay in the air, though we did get it to fly for short bursts. After flying the kite for a while, we decided to spend some time walking around the park. Out of the blue, the wind started to pick up until it was blowing in strong gusts. Excitedly, we took out the kite and started to fly it, but the wind was so strong and wild that it was even harder to keep it in the air than when the wind hadn’t been very strong. Turns out a storm was coming so we ended up calling it a day and running for the car. Sometimes when we attempt something, we fail because the timing was wrong. We’ll have a better chance at success if we begin our endeavor at an ideal time. Of course, we don’t always have the luxury (i.e. SURPRISE! WE’RE PREGNANT and we’re still in grad school with tons of debt and a tiny apartment…true story) but it helps. So if something doesn’t work out the first time, it might not be you, it could just be your circumstances. Don’t beat yourself up if you weren’t amazing the first time. Put it on the side, focus on something else and come back to it at a better time.

This little list is probably more for me than anyone else, but I do hope it’s useful to someone out there who feels like they’re banging their head against a wall. We all have what it takes to soar if we watch for ideal conditions, focus, push ourselves and grow a little at a time.