Belated Valentine´s day edition

I can´t believe I didn´t post this on Valentine´s day. Well, actually, I can, seeing as I was swept off my feet by Grasshopper, who not only remembered that (I don´t like roses. I whisper so as not to be seen as odd because, who doesn´t like them?) but that my favourite flower is tulips. Oh, and the lovely dinner he cooked.

I am so thankful to have someone as amazing as he is.

How was your Valentine´s day? Do you also (hate roses)?


How to have a housecleaner

Most of us have never had a person working at home, when we were growing up. Apart from the occasional babysitter or tutor, most of our moms juggled housework and paidwork or were SAHMs.

Because of this, most of us find that hiring and having a person to be in our house a certain number or hours per week is more a source of stress than a way of delegating unpleasant or unwanted work. It´s not just searching for a normal, competent person who will do a certain job to certain standards. They must convey trustworthiness, cleanliness and, most importantly, they must fit into our family dynamics.

Every family has a certain dynamic, a way of relating to one another and coexisting in the same house. Every house has its rhythms and its natural order. Grasshopper´s house, for example, must be pristine at all times. Even if they all work 10-12 hour days, the kitchen must be spotless, no dust is allowed on the glassware and it must be organized in a certain way depending on the number of glasses of each set at a particular time. This is not only a cause of stress for them, because they always seem to think the house is a mess (when it never is, well, maybe on ironing day), but it also means that noone else can help them clean up. I´ve been there every week for the last three years and still can´t unload the dishwasher because I know that his mom will not like how I have lined up the glasses and will have to do it again when she gets off work.

My house is much more chaotic, though we do tend much more towards Diogenes than OCD. This means that we can enjoy our home time as wind down time, but it also means that books pile up on tables and chairs and the floor every couple of days. And we often run out of clean coffee spoons. Maybe not the best system either.

Like many people my mom agonised over hiring someone to do some of the chores. Finally, my mom has decided to hire some help, and we asked my grandma, who has experience in this, for some advice. Here are some of her tips:

1.- Set priorities: decide which chores you want to delegate, how many hours you want to hire the cleaner for and how much to pay them. Decide if you want to be present or if you want to give them a key.

2.- Set boundaries from the start:  establish the chores to be completed and how thorough the work must be. Your bedroom or some work areas might need to be off limits. Similarly, you may not like to have your drawers and closets opened. Say so from the start. Make a point of anything you deem inappropiate or unsafe.

3.- Explain in detail: if you are like Grasshopper´s mom you have two choices: do it youself or explain exactly how things must be done. Maybe you want a specific product on your induction plate, can´t stand lemon-scented cleaners or you favour brooms over vacuums. Say so, make it plain and provide the necessary equipment and products.

4.- You are the boss. You decide how clean clean really is and how tidy a room must be to make you happy. If you need to clean up before the cleaner arrives, or you hate the way the unplug the toaster and hide your trash can, reconsider hiring or maintaining that person. Don´t be afraid to speak up when something is not to you liking.

5.- Don´t pity your cleaner: being a cleaner is like any other job: you need to do it in a set time, to set standards and fit into the company atmosphere. If you find that your cleaner is not in tune with you family´s and your house´s rhythms, simply say that you don´t think it´s working out. I don´t need to tell you that the job market is very bad at the moment. Firing someone is always hard. But you are paying and, therefore, you need to decide if you are happy with your employee or not. If not, find someone else because, I don´t need to tell you that the job market is very bad at the moment and many other great people are looking for a chance.

6.- Be kind to your cleaner: I know this is obvious for all of us, but remember that no amount of money can pay for mistreating your staff, whether at work or at home.

Thank you Ambro and  for the photo.

Have you ever had a house cleaner? How did you decide to hire them? Have you ever had to fire them?

How to determine your REAL bare-bones budget

I stopped working in July when my internship ended so I could focus on my final exam and end-of-course project. Both of which I needed to do in order to (finally) get my degree. Yet even though I have a big enough cushion saved up, the job search certainly isn´t going as well as I had hoped. Apparently, no-one needs fresh out of college kids, they need experienced adults who are willing to get paid like they´re interns.

Cinism aside, my sinking funds are making me reconsider some of the things that I thought were essential when I was earning money and a recent chat with my best friends confirmed it. Sometimes, when it comes to our own finances, we are very short-sighted and can´t see the whole picture clearly. At those times is when you should ask the people you confide in. That´s it, let the people who know you best, your BFF, your boy/girlfriend, whoever, help you in determining your bare-bones budget.

The key part of this method is accepting they are trying to help you and not take their advice as critism. Just listen to those who know you almost as well as you know yourself, and sometimes better.

Here´s the two conversations I´ve had that have led me to believe in this.

Best friend number 1: While finishing uni and interning without getting paid, she is thinking she should get a part time job to cover her dancing lessons since her mom will no longer pay for them.

Best friend number 2: She has finally finished her masters degree and now has a job until February. She has begun paying off some of the debt and saving for a much needed car when two emergencies happened: her laptop broke down and she had to go to Florence with her boyfriend.

When I asked them, they told me that I spend way too much money on eating out and going to the cinema. And you know what, they are right.

Whhat about you? Did you have an unexpected money pit in your life?


Treating yourself like a child to get things done

Lately I have been working hard to finish my end-of-course proyect. I am finally finishing my engineering degree, and, after all the hard work I have put in through the years of studying and working very very hard, all I had to do was finish that proyect. But I felt I could do no more.

That´s right, just as I was reaching the goal I set myself after high school, I was looking for ways out, watching too much TV, surking the net for hours, and, generally, not doing ANY  work.

However, this mini-break from school work wasn´t happy or relaxing. It was right down depressing. I felt like a failure, like I hadn´t learnt anything at all at university, like I had just wasted my time and energy. And then I was asked to look after my nephew and niece while their parents went to a wedding and my whole point of view was suddenly and irreversibly changed.

If you have been around young kids for any amount of time, you know how hard learning is for them, and how much you want to celebrate their every little success. Learning to walk takes years, as does learing how to talk in a way others can understand you. Putting the right shaped piece in the right shaped hole, peeing and pooping where they should, singing a song. All their achievements are a source of happiness and, yes, much clapping.

It got me thinking, that maybe the way I was treating myself was all wrong. I was all work, no play and no celebration of my acomplishments. I hadn´t clapped, I hadn´t cheered, I just plowed on through sheer will power. I needed to treat myself like I treat my nephew and my niece and here is what I did:

  • Be kind to yourself when you don´t get it right: learning takes time and practice. Failing the fisrt few times you do things is not failure unless you quit.
  • Quitting is not an option: if you keep at it, you will be able to accomplish most of the things you have set you mind to.
  • Make change in small slow steps: little kids can´t walk too fast but they do get to where they´re going in the end. Just never lose sight of whatever you are trying to achieve.
  • Make things fun: children don´t like to do boring things and neither do adults. Doing things out of a sense of responsibility is all fine and good, but  if you don´t make the effort to make them fun, you will inevitably quit. An then you will feel like a quitter.
  • Cut down television hours: your parents didn´t let you lounge in front of the dumb box for hours for a good reason. Go outside and play, paint, sing or do whatever you feel will make you happy.
  • Reward yourself: keep the promises you make yourself and give yourself a break. Give yourself an applause, do a happy dance.
  • Tell yourself you are smart: over and over until it sinks in. Because you really are.

P.S. These tips work for getting kids to do things as well!

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