It Is Time To Tidy Up Your Life

Not to get all English major on you, but do you know that poem It Is Time To Tidy Up Your Life? Don't worry, there's no reason you should; it was written by this random British poet in the 1970s whose name was Brian Patten and it's not a particularly spectacular poem or anything, but I've always loved the title. Often, when I'm embarking on some sort of project that involves improving or ameliorating myself in some shape or form, it pops into my head just like that. Once, in my late teens, I wrote the entire poem out for my mother as a Christmas gift and put it in a shadow box and decorated it with shells and mosaic tiles and all that other stuff you get at places like Michael's, and it actually looked sort of awesome and she loved it so much she hung it above the oven and rechristened it It Is Time To Tidy Up Your Kitchen. Which was maybe even sort of better.

In large part just because it's January but to some extent because I've just got back from a big trip and am stir-crazy and chomping at the bit for something new to do, I have been Tidying Up My Life (alas, not so much Tidying Up My Kitchen) for the last week or so. I have cleaned out my closet with extraordinary results, and though I have yet to take the bag of donations to the thrift store down the street, I have got plans to do so soon, and I think you'll agree that this  counts. I have canceled a credit card I never use and activated the replacement for one I do, taken apart the inside of my refrigerator and washed every single piece in the sink before putting it back together again, and have made three to-do lists---Home, Wedding, General---from which I plan to tackle a few items every day.

I have written all my Christmas thank you notes, have almost caught up on email (I'm sorry! It's coming!), have reorganized the ridiculously cramped food cabinets in the kitchen, have indulged in some fairly fruitless kitchen table shopping at Ikea and some less fruitless kitchen table shopping at CB2, and have discovered that I may be the only person in the world who (finally) cancels her WeightWatchers membership in January when the rest of the world starts theirs. In addition, Sean and I have identified the three biggest things that make our apartment messy and stress us me out to the point of distraction---errant kitty litter, errant cat hair, miscellaneous dust---and we are working on solutions for two of them (the CleverCat litterbox for the first, a renewed commitment to dusting for the third. For the middle one? We got nothing. How the hell do you deal with cat hair?)

And we have been tidying up our relationship too. I feel like I hear all the time that marriage is hard work, that you have to work at it, and it only dawned on me the other day that hey, you know what? It's not just marriage that's hard. Living with and dealing with and caring about someone else 24 hours a day isn't just something that starts being difficult once you walk down the aisle and say the vows and sign the marriage certificate. Long-term committed relationships are hard too! You have to work at those too! Just because we're not married (yet), doesn't mean we're hitching a free ride down Easy Street on the Oblivious Express, and it kind of made me feel better when I realized that, that even just being boyfriend and girlfriend can be trying too, and that you still have to be committed to taking a step back every now and then and thinking how can I make this better, how can I make sure I still want to share my toothpaste with this person and bring them coffee in bed, even when we're 95?

We spent Saturday morning trying to figure out why both of us wanted to twist the other's head off their neck like we were trying to open a particularly stubborn jar of pasta sauce and we ended up drawing up---I kid you not---a list of small changes that needed to be made in our relationship and ways we could both endeavor to make them in 2009. And yes, it's sort of woo-woo Oprah-ish and certainly not the sort of thing we stoic Brits are encouraged to indulge in, but damn, when we have to do the required pre-marital counseling in order to get married in a church this fall? WE ARE GOING TO BE SO AHEAD OF OUR GAME.

Jan 08, 2009

hear hear, holly.

"Long-term committed relationships are hard too!" definately. some would argue that they can even more difficult since unlike marriage, there is nothing "keeping" you together apart from sheer will. or at very least, there isn't so much of a stigma if the relationship ends.

not to get too oprah on everyone's ass here but constantly communicating about what works and doesn't in a relationship is the only way to keep it you bringing someone coffee when they're 95 as opposed to throwing it in their face.

also, weightwatchers? you so don't need weighwatchers!

Jan 08, 2009

Thanks for the introduction to the poem - I really like it and it's so appropriate for this time of year.

Jan 08, 2009

Cat hair. I have that and dog hair (which I think is ten times worse). To deal with it, and not spend all free time cleaning, we got a Furminator. It has been the best $30 we ever spent (they are $50 in stores but we bought ours on eBay). I realize that seems excessive for a dog/cat hair brush but trust me, it helps significantly. The other thing, we bought a Dyson. We only have one carpeted room, with the rest of the house being hardwoods/tile, and it is still worth the excessive price (we got the cheapest model and took one of those 20% off coupons to Bed Bath and Beyond).

Sorry that was long but I took your question to heart because I have battled against the HAIR for so long. Honestly, even now, plus sometimes twice a week swiffering/dysoning, it still bothers me that I have to use those sticky tape rollers once I get to work to get the hair off me.

I would say a long term committed relationship living together is nearly just as difficult as marriage. There is something about being legally bound though, that inexplicably adds to the difficulty. I can't pin it but something changes, not necessarily for the worse so don't be frightened by that comment. Most days it only gets better.

Jan 08, 2009

I love the productivity and listing that comes with that surge of restlessness and motivation! I'm feeling a little bit of that myself right now. For the errant pet hair in our house (dog and three cats) my mom got us a roomba. I LOVE it. I'll still have to vacuum occasionally but it keeps the floor looking much better in between. Plus it goes under our furniture - the dust bunnies that lurk under there have got it coming!

Jan 08, 2009

I don't often comment, but I love this. I've been trying to do something similar to this -- instead of making grand, sweeping resolutions, trying to actually identify specific areas where I can improve.

As for the cat hair, the only way we were able to get a handle on it was taking a few minutes every day and brushing the cat. It's not fun to have to do it every single day, but it has seriously cut down on the amount of cat hair flying around (and ending up in whatever I happen to be cooking).

Jan 08, 2009

Once a week we brush our cat and vacuum the apartment. Throughout the week we use one of those sticky lint rollers to go over the couch, seat cushions, bed and clothing. This combination seems to work quite well for both cat hair and dust balls.

Jan 08, 2009

As jen said, the Furminator is truly amazing. You really only need the smaller tool that's specifically made for cats, and it's under 20 bucks. LIFE-CHANGING.

Jan 08, 2009

I second the Furminator! It won't completely rid you of the cat-hair problem, but it will help.

Jan 08, 2009

I, too, coerced my then-fiance into pre-premarital self counseling. I was determined for the premarital counselor to go over a few notes, then dismiss us from her office in a flurry of congratulatory back-patting at how perfect a match we were. It didn't quite go like that, but I felt like the official premarital counseling actually did bring up some good points for consideration. Good luck!

Jan 08, 2009

Good on you for remembering that a wedding is about a lifetime commitment and not just an elegant party.

Also: Weight Watchers for YOU? Seriously?!?

Jan 08, 2009

Great post Holly and it sounds like a great start to 09.

Now, I'm curious. How long have you been using the new cat litter box? Does it work for both your cats?
I have two myself and would GIVE ANYTHING to not have damn cat litter sprinkles under my feet all the time. But I worry they wouldn't adjust to the new-fangled litter box...

She Likes Purple
Jan 08, 2009

I'm so glad you have that outlook on your relationship now. I was pretty damn eager to get married but nothing really changed from our living together, long-term commitment to our living together, long-term commitment with a piece of paper from the state of California. Our relationship was as good on May 20 as it was on May 18 and so all the work we put in BEFORE the big day was so obviously worth it and invaluable.

Jan 08, 2009

The sad things is we actually HAVE the Furminator! I guess maybe we just forget to use it enough, or perhaps our cats are SO FLUFFY (it's possible) that it has no effect. (I don't know when to stop Furminating for instance -- is there a point you can stop? Because even if I do it for an hour, the hair is still coming out. My cats are beasts. I could go on forever!)

As for the CleverCat litterbox, we haven't actually tried it -- I've got as far as calling Petco and asking them if they having it in stock, but I'll let you know how it works out. If my cats take to it, it will change my life.

Whoa, this is rapidly becoming a cat blog. Sorry!

Jan 08, 2009

I do not have a furry pet, but I do have sinus issues with dust. We (really, "I" insisted...) got a Dyson last year. BEST! THING! Ever! (to use your phrase) The suction on it PICKS UP THE CARPET. So imagine holding the hose attachment at the edge of the couch and sucking up the dust bunnies. Also great because it comes with an attachment for upholstery that is out of this world. Also helpful - not worrying about doing a perfect job at vacuuming/dusting. Even a half-a$$ed job helps immensely, as long as you DO IT.

Don't be surprised if stuff comes up in the counseling sessions that you didn't think was an issue ... we were surprised, mainly because we were both in denial about certain subjects [cough - his mother - cough - money - cough].

Jan 08, 2009

Relationships require work regardless of the stage they are in, but a relationship with a few cats thrown in (we have three) can be more challenging. Just last week I got upset over litter boxes. I am convinced we will never win the war over the litter boxes and cat hair, but I've found communicating my frustrations and tackling the mess together seem to be my/our recipe for success.

I look forward to your review of the upright cat box. I too havve been curious about them.

Jan 08, 2009

That cat box seems great, although now that I just have my one cat (and not my roommate's cat as well...yay for living alone!!), the cat litter/hair problem isn't as bad. This might be more work than you'd want to put into it, and I'm hesitant to do it because I just have the one bathroom in my apartment that I'd rather not share with a cat, but my best friend got me this book for Hanukkah called Kick Litter. It's a really cute book about training your cats to use the toilet, and it seems fairly simple:
As for the cat hair thing, have you tried brushing them every other day or so? I found that helps a lot!

Jan 08, 2009

My sister has a cat and her house seems to always be spotless! She brushes him every weekend, but then has a
iRobot Roomba that's scheduled to run a few times a week during the day while she's at work. Apparently, the cat just ignores the "robot at work", and then she never has to vacuum. A quite futuristic invention, reminds me of the SNL Woomba skit!

Speedy Canizales
Jan 08, 2009

Bravo for taking the time to talk about your relationship. Relationships ARE hard work, and I've always found that taking the time to talk about how it can be better is time well-spent.

As for the cleaning, I've been thinking about doing that for the past week. I have a small place with too much stuff, and my biggest challenge is organizing it in a way that makes sense. Hopefully I can figure some of it out this weekend.

Jan 08, 2009

Holly, I third or fourth or whatever the Furminator (but you DO have to use it pretty frequently, unfortunately, but hey, perfect activity while watching crappy addicting reality TV) but I also suggest a Roomba. It's very Jetsons, and you can be at a movie and turn to each other and say "You know what? There's a ROBOT vacuuming our house right now. We so live in the future." Or maybe that's just us. Anyway if you set it to run every day, it doesn't completely eliminate the problem, but it means that it never gets really bad. And if company shows up unexpectedly you don't feel bad about all the pet hair everywhere. And they have one specifically for pet hair. No really, it's awesome.

Camels & Chocolate
Jan 08, 2009

So, Scott and I got the FURMINATOR from the pet store, and it has changed our lives (and home). It's a little work on ridding the cat of the fur he's shedding, but it means far less errant cat fur and better on my allergies, too!

Jan 08, 2009

I love this post. Could be one of my favorites, up there with the engagement post. And that poem is just lovely! Printed a copy to hang near my desk, and possibly journal.

I agree with you so much that long-term relationships are soooo much work! My boyfriend and I are entering a more serious phase (talking about living together, etc.) and are working through a lot of those nasty issues. It is indeed work, but it is also worth it!

As far as cat hair goes, I'm fighting the same battle. It's disgusting. I've heard the Furminator and the Dyson: the Animal model are both the keys. I, too, am tired of wearing a fur layer and breathing in cat hair.

Take care. And do post any solutions to the cat hair debacle!

Jan 08, 2009

happy happy 2009 to both of you!
don't have a cat but have heard good things about the furminator from friends who do. when i was a kid and we had cats, we used to just brush then regularly, and i never noticed cat hairs. but my mother probably did.
why were you a weight watchers member?

Jan 08, 2009

the required pre-marital counseling is why I got married in a pub

Sensibly Sassy
Jan 08, 2009

Thanks for pointing out how hard long term relationships are! I think people think that long term relationships are all cutsey and easy because the terms "boyfriend" and "Girlfriend' are still used instead of "husband" and "wife". Puh-lease. Regardless of the title, relationships are work no matter how you slice it.

Jan 08, 2009

I'm so tired of people saying they're "single" up until the day they're married. What was going on those 2+ years you lived together. When you live together, have joint accounts, and get invitations addressed to both people, you may not be married, but you're not single.

**not that you were saying this or that anyone else here was. Just, you know, in daily life, work, television - those people.

Jan 08, 2009

I was once in a relationship where every month or so, the boyfriend and I would sit down and have a "state of the union" talk. It was just a chance for us to bring up the little (or maybe not so little) things that was keeping us from being absolutely happy in the relationship. Like the boy's penchant for not rinsing his dishes after eating (resulting in concrete-like oatmeal that would not come clean in the dishwasher) or my bad habit of saying I would be over in 20 minutes and then an hour later finally come strolling in. And while we did end up breaking up eventually (sometimes things just don't work out, no matter how much talking you do), I often think my first marriage would've stood a fighting chance (no pun intended) if the husband and I had had the same approach to problems.

Anyway, SORRY for the slightly depressing comment, but what I was basically trying to say is I think you and Sean are definitely on the right track, and oh so wise for tackling the little issues now that can slowly erode an relationship, rather than waiting to hash it out with a marriage counselor five years down the road.

Jan 08, 2009

I know this was so not the point of your post, but you were on/in WeightWatchers? You're so tiny and British-fabulous!

Jan 08, 2009

Eh, I signed up for WeightWatchers Online last year when I was basically trying to learn about portion control and how to stop eating when I was full and re-educate myself on how to eat properly and healthily. I wanted to lose the extra 5lbs I'd managed to gain after being a little TOO good to myself and I did, and then I realized I was still paying $17 a month to eat the way I'd already learned to eat. I highly recommend the WW plan, I just didn't really think I needed such a full arsenal of tools anymore -- or at least not $17 a month of them.

Jan 09, 2009

Suggestion for the cat hair, esp if your cat has a thick undercoat. Invest in a Furminator. It removes the undercoat from the pet's hair and leave less to shed everywhere! Its pretty cool stuff!

Jan 09, 2009

Wow, I am beginning to suspect we are long lost twins Holly, I was supposed to be a twin and hey they run in your family already! :0)
My big issues to deal with in 2009 are tackling the cat hair, cat litter and dust in my apartment! It drives me crazy especially all the cat hair under the couch which I have to hoover out every week. We have the Furminator too and it is awesome but I still have clothes and furniture covered in cat hair so maybe I need to use it more often.
Anyway I'll be keeping an eye on the comments for helpful hints! Good luck!

movin down the road
Jan 09, 2009

Yeha, I always tend to do my spring cleaning in January. After I did my fridge and walls and baseboards and laundry room, I just did all the photos albums...last night. And I did my tax spreadsheets for my accountant on Sunday. Now, well, thinking of cleaning every CD I own. Seriously. It feels good to tidy up all that stuff in our heads "I really should do this..." and then have it flee our minds until the next time we're reminded (like canceling credit cards, which I just did too)

Operation Pink Herring
Jan 09, 2009

I'll also chime in for the Furminator. It makes a huge mess when I use it, but afterwards the cat hardly sheds at ALL for a few weeks. Now if only I could convince my other cat that brushing does not equal torture...

Can I also request a follow-up on the CleverCat litterbox thing? I can't even IMAGINE them consenting to climb through a little hole!

Jan 09, 2009

I'll second the Furminator/Dyson recommendations (we have the Dyson Animal and it is awesome). As for the litter - I was reading that and thinking "yeah, we used to have that problem, too, and now we don't! I wonder why?" But I then I remembered - we switched to an organic pine litter. No more of that crappy clay that sticks to your feet and drives you crazy - just little natural pine pellets. You can get it at Whole Foods - one brand is Feline Pine and I think WF has a cheaper house brand.

And for the wedding - I know you're already on the knot, but make sure to check out the local boards. There's one for your local area ( and they are great resources for vendor reviews, money saving ideas, as well as a place to talk/vent about wedding planning when Sean gets overloaded.

Jan 09, 2009

I use crystal-type cat litter. My cat adjusted fine, it hardly scatters at all and smells are minimal. I don't think anyone else mentioned it here - does it kill cats or something (I do have a nagging paranoia about it for some reason)?

Jan 09, 2009

Thanks for all the suggestions, guys. Once again, we do already have a Furminator; in fact, I wrote about it here: I guess I just need to use it more on my cats to be truly satisfied with its results!

A Dyson sounds rather tempting, though. In as much as a vacuum cleaner can sound tempting, I guess.

We got the CleverCat litter box last night and the cats seem to have (fingers crossed) adapted pretty well so far. I'll update again on whether it's worth it. Wow, my life is just ONE BIG WHIRLWIND OF EXCITEMENT, isn't it? I know you're on the edge of your seats.

Anne in SC
Jan 09, 2009

I didn't live with my husband before we got married, but had been dating him for 7 1/2 years. The first year married was hard because we were fighting over stupid things like, how to squeeze the toothpaste, does toilet paper go over the top or hang from the back, dishes in the sink or stacked on the side, etc, etc. We really argued about those things fiercely. You to having lived together already may alleviate some of that craziness.

Cat hair? (I have two) I zap cat hair up with a vacuum cleaner or wait until it becomes a dust bunny and swipe it up. No sweeping - that just stirs it around everywhere - vacuuming!

Anne in SC
Jan 09, 2009

of course that "to" on line 5 is realy "two"...long day.

Jan 12, 2009

I don't have a cat - thus no cat hair problem BUT I read FlyLady emails and people are quite impressed with the Rubba Scrubba - which works wonders around the house and especially with pet hair.

Why were you at Weight Watchers????

Jan 12, 2009

I have the Bissell knockoff of the more expensive Dyson. It does a good job but you have to make sure to maintain the filters properly.

God, the cat's effing fur is such a sticking point between me and my boyfriend. He complains the fur gets on his suits wahwahwah. I'm going to have to get on the Furminating myself. I would kill to live in a place with hardwood floors since my experience is that their fur just weaves itself into the carpet fibres but I live in L.A. and if my hardwood floor wishes were horses I'd win the Kentucky Derby. Or whatever that expression is-aphorisms aren't my forte.