Settling In and Cleaning up

There’s this thing that happens when I travel a lot.  I lose control of things.  I am not naturally an organized person.  I put things in baskets and file them away and keep my life tidy because if I take my eyes off the prize for even one minute, then it all goes to hell in a hand-basket with me standing there screaming inwardly as another pile of paperwork hits critical mass and cascades over the dining room table – where, let me add, there are not supposed to be any papers at all.  If I get too busy, or travel too much, then everything starts to slip, and I mean everything.  I got home late last night, and didn’t even unpack.  I just looked around at all the chaos (what the hell has Joe done to the fridge?) and then went to bed. This morning I slept in (hallelujah) and got up to a full pot of coffee, and started making a list of everything I need to sort out and restore order to. I started with the obvious, like “unpack suitcase” and “sort mail” and moved on to “groceries” and “laundry” and “control inbox” and “tidy stash” and “make table less sticky”.

An hour later this was revealed as the incredibly bad plan that it is.  Everything is on the list. I could have saved myself time by just writing “fix it all” at the top of a piece of paper and going back to bed.  I’ve spent months not being home long enough to really keep things sorted, and now that I’m home for a while, it’s going to take more than a single day to put everything back the way it needs to be.  There’s not a single thing in this house that’s working right, and I don’t mean that it’s not up to my standards, because I assure you, they are quite low.  I mean that a bag of couscous somehow tipped over in the cupboard a while ago (who knows when) and is now glued down with a bottle of agave syrup that leaked when it got knocked over by an (open) bag of almonds.  I mean that there is a pile of paperwork on my desk so high that I am going to need an oxygen mask when I scale it, and I don’t even want to talk about the yarn situation.  Everything that has come into this house is out, everything I thought about knitting is out, everything I moved while sprinting between projects on a 3 day layover in my home is out.  The house looks like a giant took a sifter full of yarn and just sprinkled it over every surface. There is yarn in the bathroom.  (There’s also a stitch dictionary in the bathroom, so at least if I knitter was in there, they could see that it was a plan.)

Remember the finished pair of socks every 27 days thing? Yeah, well – WHOOSH. That was the sound of the deadline blowing by me two days ago while I was running the retreat.

Now those socks are eating into the time I have to knit the next pair, and that wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t need a urine sample from the cat, and knew what the green sludge in the bottom of the crisper used to be.  (Asparagus? Maybe. Maybe it doesn’t matter now that it’s sludge.)  I decided I’d finish the socks today, then scanned the list and put the crisper in the sink to soak while I tried to chip fossilized couscous out of the cupboard.

There’s so much to do, and that doesn’t include the (many) training rides scheduled over the next few days, the way I really need to connect with my kids – or the way that Joe has a look about his that tells me he wouldn’t mind having dinner or a conversation with someone who isn’t the aforementioned cat.  After a few hours of struggle, I’ve decided to try and relax into it. It doesn’t all need doing today (although that would feel great) and I’ve gone back over the list and re-written part of it. “Do Laundry” is now “do two loads of laundry” and I’ve broken everything else on the list down a little smaller so that the world doesn’t go all black around the edges when I look at it.  For now, it’s one thing at a time, whatever’s next on the list, slowly and deliberately, without freaking the heck out.

Next on the list? Blog. (Almost done) and Karmic Balancing Gifts.  The list is long and wondrous, and there’s a ton to get through.  That list is going to see a lot of action over the next few days. The rally is in four weeks and two days (inhale-exhale) and there’s a lot of fundraising ground go make up.  (Last year the rally raised 1.2 million dollars. This year it sits at just over $420 000, and I can’t help but try and redouble my efforts.)  So, gifts, to thank those of you who’re making that number possible.  You’re amazing. (By the way, if you’ve emailed me about giving a gift, I’m not ignoring you, I’m just working down the list. Give me a little time.)


Alica had a good look ’round her stash and has decided to pass along this beautiful combo. It’s two skeins of Lorna’s laces Shepherd sock, and beautiful skein of Jaggerspun wool/silk.  She thinks they’d make a lovely co-coordinating sock/scarf combo, and I think she’s spot on.  I hope Charlene M agrees, because they’re on the way to her house.

aliciapink 2014-06-26

Next up, Fiona and Amanda over at Knit Social have a copy of their awesome book Cascadia for the cause.  It’s a fab book (I have one – you can see all the patterns on Rav here) that celebrates not just knitting, but the coastal region of British Columbia. (It’s beautiful there. Hard not to be inspired by it.)  It’s going out to Linda R, and I bet she casts on something right away.

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In another category of beautiful fibre arts, Beth over at Dancing Dog Studio has a gorgeous handwoven beaded bracelet that’s going out into the world. (Take a look at that shop. Pretty, pretty, pretty.)

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She’ll be sending it to Kara C.

Faith has a cute idea… she’s donating two copies of her Flourish pattern.

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One’s going out to Sarah H, and one’s going out to someone that Sarah chooses, just to keep the good times rolling!

Jana over at Colorful Yarn has a great present.  One lucky knitter will be choosing from amongst some of the wonders in her shop. She’s donating either two skeins of her hand-dyed fingering or worsted: fingering is 120 g, 400 yards; worsted is 100 g, 250 yards. Both are  super wash merino tightly spun in Pennsylvania. These can be dyed the same or different colors – knitters choice.
dbmixedberries 2014-06-26
heavenlylace 2014-06-26
One skein of lace weight, either a 70% alpaca, 20% silk and 10% cashmere or 80% merino and 20% silk. Both are 100g and 1,300 yards. (Jana knits with this doubled for a heavy lace weight.) Again… knitters choice of colour.  Julie S is going to have a hard time choosing!

Oh, lovely thing here.  Carol has somehow decided to be without this beauty.

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The picture doesn’t do it justice, but it’s a gorgeous skein of Wollmeise Lace-Garn in Zimptafel.  (1590 metres!) It will make the most beautiful thing, and I can’t wait to see what Ruth Ann H will make!

One more? Sure – and actually, it’s two in one! Amazing Laura over at Still life with Knitting and Knitifacts (seriously, she’s doing something great for someone every time I look around) has two wonderful gifts.  First, Lou H will get a nifty sock package… choosing from amongst Laura’s sock patterns and receiving a great package of stitch markers to go with…

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and then Maggie S will get a nifty package too, choosing from the Cowl patterns!

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Shazam! There we go… another slew of gifts to go out, and another thing off my list, and a lovely day to you all.  I’m going to go work on that couscous, and the laundry. And my email. And those socks.

(PS.  If you haven’t visited in a while, and you don’t know why people are getting presents, to get in on the action, you just donate to someone on our little family team –







and then send an email to me at with “Enter me” as the subject line, and give me your address, and whether or not you’d like to be in it for spinning gifts, or just knitting. That’s it!)


88 thoughts on “Settling In and Cleaning up

  1. That’s pretty much the state of my house too. I have my houseproud parents arriving in around 20 hours, and a mate coming round so he can hem 3 pairs of trousers because his sewing machine’s blown up… I know your pain.

  2. My arithmetic is not good at the best of times. But it seems that both Amanda and Samantha have reached their goals. Steph, Jen, Ken and Pato need some help getting there. I’m in there helping …

    • The best method is to cover the litter box with a sturdy plastic garbage bag. Even my super fussy cat will eventually pee on it and then I can collect a sizable, clean sample. The vets are always impressed because getting a litter-free urine sample from a cat is not easy!

    • You can also use something non-absorbent in the place of litter in a clean litter box – beans, marbles, specially-made litter that can be acquired from some vets.

  3. Pingback: Settling In and Cleaning up | Yarn Buyer

      • stephanie, don’t obsess over the couscous. instead of chipping it, put a double layer of paper towels over it, soak the towels in vinegar, cover with plastic and go do something else. in a few hours, or tomorrow even, it should be nice and soft and scrape up with a plastic card. really, wouldn’t you rather do something else?

  4. One word: laundromat. All in, all out, in a fraction of the time. And you get to knit while you’re there, with little interruption.

  5. Your writing is fantastic. Thank you for keeping the blog high on your to do list. Glad you broke you list into smaller pieces. Celebrate each item you cross off!

  6. “…a bag of couscous somehow tipped over in the cupboard a while ago (who knows when) and is now glued down with a bottle of agave syrup that leaked when it got knocked over by an (open) bag of almonds.”

    Isn’t this how recipes are invented?

    • I agree. Don’t throw it away–scrape it up, put it in a pan and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Yum, cabinet granola! 😉

    • Only trouble with those is that YOU have to clean up for THEM first — they don’t put away your clutter, reshelve the stitch dictionary or know which papers on the dining table are most important. Which is why I long ago gave up having one.

  7. Do you know about FlyLady (her website is Her system helps keep me on track with household stuff. Her mantra: baby steps.

  8. I have never commented on anything or anywhere. Your blog makes me laugh out loud.
    This entry hit my funny bone particularly hard: I came home from eight weeks of tending my brother’s colostomy (I really love him!) to find an amazing stalagmite of hardened honey, maple syrup, and pancake mix in the cabinet. Himself was home alone. He simply can’t imagine where that mess came from.

  9. I realize that you probably won’t do this, but I am throwing it out there anyway: Why not get some domestic help? Even on a temporary basis. Let someone else clean the gunk out of the fridge and the cupboards, deal with the laundry, clean the bathroom, collect all the yarn, etc. ? I know that you have that hardy independence that we expect from Canadians, but you should seriously consider cutting yourself some slack here. Get another assistant. You will be helping someone earn a living, which is always a good thing. I think that you need to focus on things that only you can do, like your blog, training for your bike rally, etc. Just a thought.

  10. If you are trying to clean up fossilized sweet syrup I would cover it with hot water in wrung out kitchen towels. Cover mess walk away for a little pick up towel scrape up any loose goo and repeat. Way easier than chisel.

  11. I try to work from almost daily to-do lists and I usually have something that winds up being moved to the next day…and the next…and the next…and maybe even longer than that. There are just some things I never seem to get around to, even though they need to be done (the inside of my oven is rather icky right now). ::sigh::

    • i hope so, too. if it is diabetes, though, depending on the cat, giving insulin shots is not difficult. my tina just sat there and purred through them. the shots gave her three more years that she enjoyed.

  12. I hope your house doesn’t really fall apart as badly as you claim. If it does, it seems a shame that your family doesn’t have the courtesy and respect to keep it better than you describe it. I’ve thought this every time you come home from somewhere and write an entire post about how bad everything is (which you always do), and finally had to get it off my chest.
    Been a harlot groupie for years and that’s been bugging me. Knit on.

    • I agree!!! I recall a blog once about how Steph had mastered re-entry without all this drama. It seems that it should be figured out by now. Just saying.

  13. Since you shared the fact that there was green sludge in your crisper, I feel obligated admit that there may be a suitcase from my trip to Connecticut that is still sitting there waiting to be unpacked. It’s been over a week. 😉

  14. Warning: pantry moths love almonds! Get after that mess ASAP. Ten years after I learned that the hard way I still shudder and gag at the memory of maggot-y almond meal all over my cabinets. Good luck with the rest!

  15. There’s a sock knitting book and a half-finished sock in my bathroom. Hey, maybe this could be an interesting future post. What knitting-related stuff is in your bathroom? Does anyone actually knit while they’re, you know, sitting?

  16. When I downloaded my 100+ emails the one from you popped to the top of the list. You have made me a very happy knitter.
    Alicia and I have corresponded. I’ve had my granddaughter to play with today so I didn’t get to read the blog until many hours after reading the message. Karma? You matched me with my favorite colors. Thank you so much.
    About the various messes: been there. Yes, FlyLady is wonderful, but not for everyone. You’ve been away before. You always get things back in proper order. I wish you weren’t facing this. I hope you know any of us would be at your door to help except well, we have those messes, too.
    Don’t forget to take care of you, too.
    Thank you again.

    • My mess is moving into my new house. Can’t decide where things go, can’t relax and knit, don’t know where anything is! Lol! I was inturrupted by dealing with the red cross. Trying to get my only son home from the carrier in Iraq for emergency leave. Happy KNITTING! Get a few stitches in for me.

  17. Having had some pretty painful back problems the past couple months, I can certainly sympathize with your housework pain! Right now, my bathtub looks like it should be removed by a hazmat team, soaked in a mixture of bleach and burning Lysol, then buried in an abandoned mine somewhere!

    Don’t know why you need a urine sample from the cat, but I do hope she’s doing well. If not, my best wishes to her for a full recovery. And, why can’t the vet express the cat’s bladder while the cat is there in the office? That’s what my vet always did!

  18. Reading this entry was like reading about my life, except I’d replace “I’ve spent months not being home long enough..” with “I’ve spent months taking care of a baby…” and your sick cat with a sick dog (and a healthy one). Yes. DO IT ALL. Sometimes I feel like my head’s going to explode. Except, with a small child, when does it get better?

    Though yes, smaller tasks are more manageable. I also will be doing 2 loads of laundry today. First one: diapers–already in!

    • Usually improves around ages 2-5. Each child is different, but they love helping mommy clean until jr.high. Enjoy them being little while you can. Once they are grown and in their own place, you’ll REALLY miss this time with them. I promise.

  19. I always feel better after reading your blog. It seems that many of us can relate to the knitting but also to the hazards of daily life and not having enough time at home to clean and organize or, maybe, just not being the type that can remain organized. This is always my goal and I always fall short but we live and go on. It seems to all work out in the end. At the end, when I stand back and look back at what I have accomplished, I feel great – you don’ get that from a cleaning service. However, I am not saying I would never give it a try. Good luck. We are there in spirit and you are not alone. We are cleaning our own gunk just not as eloquently.

  20. You’ve described my house! But the chaos here is constant. I don’t live alone, and look forward to the day when I no longer have to live with people who never ever put things back where they belong, lol. Mow the lawn? “Find the extension cord” goes on the list above this. Oops, the extension cord got run over (maybe why it was hiding?); “fix electrical cord” goes on the list… then, “Find electrical tape” goes on the list above it…. On and on it goes, with every chore ending up needing its own little sub-list.

    • I just tried to get through organizing enough to fold the laundry and it was just like that. Vacuum floor (put stuff in basement, door blocked by other stuff needing to go in basement, needed to move that, can’t put on table, table needs cleaning (something sticky), go to get the cleaning stuff and realize something else critical to this endeavor also needs doing first.) MAKE IT STOP.

    • If those people are your kids, I couldn’t wait either. Spouses or roommates, another story entirely! 🙂

  21. This post makes me SO HAPPY! And not in an, “OMG my life is so much less of a mess than hers” but in an “OMG, this sounds just like me but Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is sooooo cool that maybe there’s hope for me yet?” way. If not in the clean department (why is it literally NO ONE notices the couscous/agave river but me???? even the, say, husband who was in there just 20 minutes before I found it?) at least in the being amusing department. I was gone for TWO days with both children and I come home to what looks like a bomb went off and the very best part (I’m not dissing on the husband I’m just amazed at his knack for tunnel vision and like, I don’t even know) is that everything on the list I left him was crossed off yet I’d swear none of it was done.

    Right. I’m donating to the cause because you made me feel better about the way the house conspires to make me feel like a terrible housekeeper! (which, btw, I am, well, I’m not neat. Husband thinks moving to a bigger house will solve our problems, I’m like, the bigger house is going to make us NEATER? because I don’t think houses do that. the mess will just get bigger.)

  22. Here in fedgovland, we actually have a test we give to some participants in the staffing process, and your to-do list looks similar to what we throw at them (minus, sadly, the yarn references). There is no right answer, we just ask them to sort the list by priority and give their reasoning why. The idea is that the list is undoable, but we want to see the thought process behind the approach. Given that background, I’d say that the couscous-agave situation (because it’s going to impede any other sort of action needed in that cupboard, and at this time of year will start to form life if not dealt with fairly soon), at least the clean-underwear component of the laundry (obvious), and the de-stickying of the table (because you need a clean surface to put other stuff on) would be the priority. So, put laundry on, de-stick the table, address the couscous-agave incipient tribble, hang the clean laundry out, then sit down & have a coffee.

  23. To do:
    – laundry
    – buy clothes for me (not kids)
    – find appointment card to check whether I have appointment this pm
    – book childcare for or cancel appointment for pm, or write contrite e-mail rebooking if appointment was actually yesterday
    – bathtub
    – find matching socks, fold and put away
    – buy socks for me, not kids
    – refrigerator
    – weeding
    – mowing
    – perennials (plant without kids)
    – find and clean up whatever mess it is that kids made while typing this list

    There you go. I hope that my list didn’t add to anyone’s anxiety level. I just want everyone here to feel better, and not so alone… or is there actually a schism, and some among us can actually put together and accomplish a reasonable list on a reasonable time? If so, how? Is it somehow related to how one views time, or how long a task will take?

    Anyhow, all the best to you, Steph?

    • There is, it usually takes years of practice, or being taught how from a very young age. Even when you’re good at it, no one gets it right all of the time. So take a breath, prioritize by schedule you can’t control or change, like kids school, then by urgency, then finish what you can, but always give yourself an hour before bed to unwind.

  24. My DH cousin told me this about her mother, who was a farm wife at the time,” She makes a list of three days worth of work and at the end of the day is upset because she got only two days worth done.” Her daughter is very like her, both very lovely, warm wonderful people. I try to never put more than 5 things on my list, but that doesn’t mean any of them get done.

  25. Wow, your house sounds wonderful! I would love to have all that yarn beauty and creativity rolling around everywhere on every surface. Lol, the stitch pattern book in the bathroom! Sounds like you multi-task every minute very wisely.
    Except for the sticky table (I can’t stand sticky elbows) tell that To Do List “You ain’t the boss of me!”
    And as far as reconnecting with the kiddies and the hubby, find the most comfortable chair, put your feet up and have them come sit with you, in your home where you get to reabsorb the comfort, afterall you’ve been the one running around everywhere.

    • Absolutely. Maybe you need to institute a new policy that people clean up after themselves. You can offer to help if 1) you are there and 2) you feel like it. So, when someone spills in the cupboard, that person cleans it up. When someone leaves something sticky on the table, that person cleans it up. Since it sounds like only you and your husband are there daily, it should not be hard to figure out who did it. No, the cats do not figure in to this for responsibility.

  26. Thank you for making me feel better about my week.

    We’re having a graduation party for my middle-child-oldest-son tomorrow after having been out of town the past two weeks for a medical issue with youngest son.

    I’m a project manager. I’m a GOOD project manager. I can get a 3000 square foot house plus yard in order for a party in a week. Monday was bedrooms and laundry. Tuesday was laundry room and bathrooms… except on Monday evening, the washing machine exploded and took out the water heater… and spewed about 3 feet of water over the floor, thru the floor to the kitchen ceiling and down onto the cooktop, taking out the electronics in that.

    So I have no hot water and no burners. I have soaked dirty clothes, bedding, oh, and also it got the linen closet, so no clean bedding to put on the beds because it’s all wet with dirty water soaked in from the floor.

    I’m a good project manager. Lead programmer gets hit by a bus? I’ve got a plan for that. Building burns down? I have a plan for that. Zombie Apocalypse? Yup, got it covered.

    Plumber is coming Tuesday (next week) to replace the water heater, so we’re heating water for dishes and floors on a propane burner in the back yard. Showers at my mom’s house.

    Tuesday was spent at the laundromat. But that moved bathrooms and laundry room to today, which is also the cooking day. So I’m … multitasking… scrubbing the bathroom floor and roasting vegetables for veggie lasagna, tomato sauce in the crock pot, granddaughters and youngest son shaped the meatballs while I made beds and scrubbed the upstairs floors.

    Tomorrow I have to boil pasta and mix, layer, bake, but by 2:00 tomorrow my house will be ready for the 100+ people coming over as well as food made. As long as no one opens my bedroom door… cause something had to give and that was it..
    No couscous in agave, tho… (at least not yet)

  27. Amazing Mary! Amazing Mary. Reminds me of when I was preparing dinner for 50 to celebrate my aunts life following her funeral. Mom fell in her room & broke her leg. Called 911. Sherrif shows up & looks @ kitchen where thehandrolled lasagna bomb went off( as well as about 6 other dishes) he’s says is there anything I can do to help so you can go to the hospital. I smiled said no. Called dh & daughter& housekeeper. Gave them all instructions ( including picking up outhof town guests) went to hospital- got home next day to hostess party ( still in cooking clothes from previous day). Everything done-looked great. The sisters were both honored. Family together. Life is good. Personally I’m in favor of bonding with family over chores. & yes- delegate. An emergency housekeeper is great. They can’t sort yarn or papers but they can clean & run laundry while you do.

  28. Steph, thanks for always making me laugh! I too have dreams of being organized. Sometimes things just get out of hand. Take a deep breath, relax with your family, then get them to help put things to rights. You shouldn’t have to do it all by yourself. Take care of yourself and knit on!

  29. I always put 2 or 3 things on my list that I’ve already done so I have the satisfaction of crossing something off right away and it’s not so scary looking.

  30. I bit the bullet and paid for a housecleaning service to give my 2,000 sq ft home a deep cleaning. I’m signing up for the monthly cleaning. It’s worth it. I will happily give up eating out to have a clean home. It’s too hard to keep up with the housekeeping when you work.

  31. I try to keep list making for the really important stuff like what I need at the grocery store and all the stops that need to be done while I’m in town. Laundry and housework always need done so I spend my list making time getting stuff done. Then I can get back to important things like leaving comments on your blog, knitting and spinning:-)

  32. Not that you don’t have enough to do, but I was wondering if anyone sent you pictures of things made with their KBG’s? I’ve been so curious! Would love to see what people are doing with the gorgeous skeins! Best of luck!

  33. Heh.. I just got back from 2 weeks away, with no downtime from work on either the departure or return ends, and my to-do list looks a lot like this.

    My method, when the list should read ‘fix ALL the things’ is not to make a list, but rather to list the things I have done as I do them. Obviously, there needs to be some prioritization on the front end, but it’s pretty obvious that clean underwear and buying milk for breakfast are going to be high up. This way, I get the satisfaction of seeing what’s been done on the list, without contemplating the overwhelming size of the whole conglomeration of tasks. I’ll make an actual to-do list in a day or two when I’ve got it down to something more manageable.

  34. I did have a hard time choosing! Jana’s yarn is gorgeous. I ended up with two skeins of sock yarn for a great shawl pattern I found. I’ll keep you posted. And thanks!

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