J.D. Moyer

sci-fi writer, beat maker, self-experimenter

Category: Getting Organized (Page 1 of 2)

Emotional Labor and Invisible Household Work – A Male Perspective

I recently read Gemma Hartley’s piece Stop Calling Women Nags–We’re Just Fed Up in Bazaar. Hartley’s article about emotional labor and the unacknowledged work many women do in terms of managing household relationships, logistics, and schedules has been widely read and shared in recent weeks, with many couples reporting breakthrough conversations with their partners regarding the division of labor and responsibilities.

In short, many women end up managing a household by default, and are frustrated when men offer to “help” because why is it their job to manage the household in the first place? While some couples consciously choose to divide labor into “earner” and “household manager,” in many cases women end up getting stuck with both earning and primary household management roles, and that can lead to a great deal of resentment.

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Things I Regret KonMari’ing

Where did you go, little Peavey 8-track mixer? I miss you!

Where did you go, little Peavey 8-track mixer? I miss you!

About two years ago I wrote about applying the KonMari method to my stuff. Since then I’ve had time to reflect on the process. This is a quick update on my post-KonMari insights.

Regret

There are a few items I regret getting rid of. This is something Marie Kondo does mention in her book, but maybe underemphasizes. For me, the list is as follows:

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How To Organize and Prioritize Your Family Calendar

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Last week we narrowly averted a collective emotional meltdown encompassing three generations of our family. The issue was a schedule conflict in our daughter’s schedule, and how to resolve it. The schedule conflict occurred *despite* everyone involved thinking they had done everything right, following the correct procedures, and “checking” with everyone else. The main problem was that our shared scheduling system sucked.

A family meeting and a compromise calmed everyone down, and we avoided a full-on crisis. Still, it was time for a new system.

The Old (Bad) System

Parent One enters things in the shared family Google calendar, which we both subscribe to via Calendar on our Macs and the built-in Android calendar app on our phones. Parent Two coordinates childcare with various grandparents.

Parent One “confirms” new family dinner date by waving text message in face of Parent Two, who is drinking wine and playing cards. Parent Two says “Fine — looks good.”

Schedule conflict surfaces on day of both scheduled events. Parent Two informs Grandparent One of schedule conflict. Grandparent One is not pleased, having previously scheduled playdate with friend of Child (and double-checked with Parent Two regarding time of playdate). Child is in tears because Child was looking forward to said playdate (and has little control of own schedule and parents keep changing it).

In the end we worked it out, but we realized we need a new system.

The New System

Child has own dedicated Google calendar, which parents edit and grandparents can ALL view.

Considerations

While the system change is relatively simple and straightforward, a lot of thought went into it.

  • For parents fortunate enough to get childcare help from grandparents (we’re very lucky in this regard), it’s important for parents to respect the scheduling considerations of their own parents. It’s reasonable to provide grandparents (and other regular childcare participants) with the “big picture” on your child’s schedule.
  • A physical “main calendar” in the kitchen is great for the nuclear family, but it doesn’t do much for the extended family. Shared digital calendars with different view permissions are a necessary complexity for a complex extended family.
  • A single “joint” calendar is fine for a couple scheduling dates, but it isn’t sufficient for the entire family when children start having their own engagements.

Calendaring and Kid’s Feelings

A big “a-ha” moment for me was during our family meeting, our daughter was expressing exactly why she was so upset about the change of plans. It wasn’t only that she was looking forward to the playdate herself, but she actually felt a sense of obligation to her new friend, who she had promised she would “buddy-up” with to reduce her friend’s anxiety about her first session of a martial arts class. In short, my daughter didn’t want to flake! I really felt for her at this moment — I remember being seven and having very little control of my own schedule. It seemed that adults would sometimes change things on a whim, with no regard for my feelings.

Sometimes work or other adult realities trump the feelings of children, but it’s important for parents to remember that children have complex emotions that impact them even more than the emotions of adults — they haven’t yet fully developed the self-regulating capabilities of the frontal cortex.

How to Resolve Conflicts?

There are different ways to resolve scheduling conflicts.

  • First on the “main” calendar wins.
  • Paterfamilias or materfamilias — the dominant head-of-household or schedule boss “puts their foot down” and gets their way.
  • Values-based approach.

Of these, I’m a fan of the third. By “values based” I mean the values of your family in particular. What does it mean to be a member of your family?

If there is a schedule conflict, which event supports the highest held value in your family? Friendship? Earning money? Keeping up appearances? Winning at sports? Once the underlying values behind a choice are revealed, a “difficult” choice may become much easier to make.

The KonMari Method is Changing My Life

I awoke this morning, earlier than usual, trembling with excitement. It had been awhile since the thought of the day’s activities filled me with such gleeful anticipation. The task ahead: sorting and discarding my papers and documents. You see, I have succumbed to the KonMari method, and I am under the spell of this technique’s transformative powers.

A couple weeks ago I picked up an unassuming little book at my mom’s house: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. As I flipped through the table of contents I made little grunts and chuckles of appreciation. The chapter titles hinted at a mind that deeply understood the emotional baggage of stuff. Some were calls to action, like Start by discarding, all at once, intensely and completely. Another pointed to the method for deciding to keep or discard: Selection criterion: Does it spark joy? Others were straight-up rules: Downgrading to “loungewear” is taboo. This Kondo woman knew stuff. I was intrigued. My mom said she would pass the book along as soon as she’d finished it.

Marie Kondo is an interesting character. Late in the book she briefly analyzes her own obsession with tidying up. A middle child, she received a dearth of attention from her parents, and tidied up to receive approval, and also to control her own environment. She read housekeeping magazines from the age of five, and eagerly volunteered in her elementary school class for the job of organizing classroom cupboards and closets.

Her writing voice at first struck me as stern; she is uncompromising in her rules and methods. But later I came to recognize the tone of confidence born of experience. Obsessed with tidying and organizing, she has literally tried every method. Her confidence is hard earned (not only from field experience with many clients, but from a lifetime of reflection on the art of tidying).

The basic method is this: go through all your possessions by category (starting with clothes, then books, through the other categories, and ending with mementos — basically easy to hard so you learn the method with your least precious items). Hold each item and determine if it gives you joy. If it doesn’t, discard it. Most of her clients end up discarding (or donating or recycling) between half to three-quarters of their possessions. Through this process, their life is transformed, as they process and release their emotional baggage along with their physical junk.

Kondo comes from a Shinto background, and she communes with objects in an animistic sense, aware of their life and energy and their relationship with their owners. Whether there is any truth to this or not, her selection criterion (holding an object to see if it sparks joy) is deeply powerful. If it doesn’t spark joy, she suggests that you thank the object for the role it played in your life (maybe teaching you that you don’t look good in that color) and letting it go.

Kia and I read the book over the course of a few days using the “racing bookmarks” method. After only a few chapters we started the process. Together we discarded two giant garbage bags of clothing. Our six-year-old daughter wanted to do the process as well and contributed a third somewhat smaller bag. The old and worn stuff I threw away, the rest I dropped off at Goodwill.

Suddenly there is space in our drawers and closet! The piano has nothing stacked on it! Our bedroom is transformed. I am eager to continue the process. I keep thinking of things I want to throw away.

Kondo’s “KonMari” method is one I fully endorse without hesitation. Every so often I come across a “life system” that is so nearly perfect that I can’t think of a single improvement. Of course not every part of every system applies to every person (I only skimmed the section on how to organize your stockings) but the guidelines and rules she suggests make perfect sense to me. I will be following the KonMari method to the letter. I’ll do a follow up post when I reach the “click” point Ms. Kondo refers to: the moment when you have discarded enough, and now the objects in your living and working spaces are only the ones that bring you joy.

Keeping a Daily Writing Log

Picture unrelated to post (except in a feeling kind of way) ... mostly I'm just into the photography of Luis Hernandez right now.

Picture unrelated to post (except in a feeling kind of way) … mostly I’m just into the photography of Luis Hernandez right now.

Recently I read two posts that approach the same problem from different directions; how do you get to a different place in your career (or develop a new career) when you are far away from your goal? Pavlina talks about the cumulative effects of daily habits, while Newport talks about the false narrative of courage in relation to career changes (hard work, persistence, and planning are more relevant).

With the same topic in mind, I’d like to share the initial results of a new habit of my own,  keeping a daily writing log (inspired by Phil Jourdan).

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How to Discover Your Life Purpose, Set a Primary Goal, and Stay On Track

Unless you are the Remover of Obstacles and Lord of Beginnings, you’ll probably need to pick just one goal at a time.

In my last post I wrote about why I think setting goals is important. I addressed some of my own reservations regarding goal-setting. Is ambitious goal-setting selfish? Is it obnoxious and annoying to others?

I suggest you read that post first. But if you’re ready to get into the details, my five step system for exploring life purpose and setting a primary goal is below.

It’s a long post, but it’s the whole deal. I’ve come to this system after decades of diversions and hard-won experience. So get a fresh cup of coffee, and welcome to my world.

Step 1: Soul-Searching, Purpose & Calling

Seneca’s reputation may suffer as a result of self-promotion guru Tim Ferriss quoting him so much. But before the Seneca backlash is in full swing, I’ll get this relevant quote in:

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