14 April 2010

A "Scent-sational" Idea...Sachets!

During our recent move, I discovered an item that may be small and easily overlooked, but is not only charming, it is practically an essential in a new home. This little item is the sachet. While they are not very common in our modern smell loaded world, sachets are wonderfully useful. Unlike all the commercial scented items out there, sachets have a particular nostalgia and elegance about them. Their natural scents are not overpowering, yet effective. They are often dainty, but can easily be manned up for the gentlemen in the house. They really are a little treat!

The sachet actually became useful to me prior to our move. I was concerned that our linen items and clothing left in storage were in danger of being an attractive meal for any sort or vermin or creepy crawly. But I had an inspiration. Knowing that most creepy crawlies are not overly enthused about strong smells, I thought I would give our clothes a good dosing of something smelly. Well, there are always the time tested, yet not so lovely, mothballs. But who really wants to smell like an old mothball anyway? I sure didn’t, but I thought lavender might do the trick and I actually love the soothing scent of lavender. So I went to the herb shop and bought a big bulk bag of lavender buds, whipped up a few mesh bags on my sewing machine and I popped several little flower filled lovelies into my linen and wardrobe boxes. *Note: You too can easily do this! Just buy some bulk lavender and grab some of the little favor bags that most craft stores sell and fill them up!

I am pleased to report no meals were served while our things sat in storage. While I can concede that this may not be fool proof, at the very least my clothes and linens came out of their boxes smelling sweetly of lavender! But the useful little sachet didn’t stop there! I know many people would not think to mind the odors left behind by previous homeowners, but no matter how small, I wish things to smell as I please…not at anyone else pleases. So I quickly stashed my little bundles of lavender buds in the closets and drawers, so that when we put our wardrobes and linens in their new homes they would smell how I wished them to smell. And it is really a delight to open a drawer and find, well smell, a charming little sachet!

Sachets come in all shapes, sizes and smells. Some are very fancy and some are very plain. They all smell like something, but what can be up to you! As I suggested, one of the easiest ways to create your own sachets is to purchase bulk lavender at a natural foods market or herb shop and fill the small favor bags you find at most craft stores. Many shops and catalogs also sell sachets. The possibilities are practically endless.

While many sachets are lavender filled, one can fill sachets with a wide variety of items to please different noses! Gentlemen are not usually too thrilled to go around smelling of flowers, so for the fellows one can fill the little pockets with cedar shavings, pine needles, even sprigs of dried herbs. In fact, the Victorians were very fond of making pine needle pillows, or sachets, during their country holidays so that they could return home with the scent of the forest. Women who are not overly fond of lavender might try dried rose buds or petals, the leaves of scented geraniums, cloves, dried citrus peel, or even wood shavings scented with a favorite essential oil. We must be careful, however, when using certain fillers to be careful of where we place our sachets as oils could leach onto our precious items.

I have both plain mesh bag sachets, as well as delightful little muslin pillows dressed up with lace, ribbons and silk flowers! They are so lovely to come across when I open up a drawer or hat box, that it always brings a smile to my face! And I always use lavender, as it is such a soothing scent! It is not overly strong on my clothes and does not overpower the perfume I choose for the day! It transports me to an era past, a time for gracious living. Just one more of those things Mrs. Merl Must Have!

Special Note: If you are interested in sachets to purchase, I sell the little muslin, lace and silk flower designs on my Etsy page, Trystette! And there is something extra useful about my sachet design! Please have a look and let me know what you think! I am always pleased to receive suggestions!

03 March 2010

The Benefit of Rituals

In our modern era we are so caught up in the idea of no rules, no boundaries, nothing is going to slow us down. It has gotten to a point where we seem to believe that if we plan or prepare or seem responsible - we are obviously boring and not having any fun. The reason I believe this to be true, you ask? I have often caught the wrath of others - because I am a planner. I have been criticized - because I am "not spontaneous." Yet, I am pretty darn happy.

Why is this do you suppose? I think I am happy because my life tends to be pretty peaceful. I am happy because I am not in debt. I am happy because I often find the extra time to do the things I want to do. I am happy because...I know the benefit of rituals!

Rituals really help me to improve my life...not slow me down. I know most people will want to balk at this idea. I mean surely, if I do the same things day in and day out, I will be miserable and I will get in "a rut." I have actually been led to believe from so many people I meet that if they were to do the same thing for more than one day they would be giving in, losing out, even committing some sort of crime. Where did we get this type of thinking? I am not sure, but I think culturally we have had a history of celebrating non-conformity. And I think that bucking the system can be a great thing and that rebelling can lead to important revolutions. But at some point we forgot that we should pick our battles. Instead, we adopted the idea of non-conformity so well that it has permeated pretty much every aspect of our daily living. I think it is time for a paradigm shift.

If you have stayed with me to this point, I hope that you are willing to consider a different way of living. One, I think, could prove to be more beneficial than you might at first imagine. Think about it, when we get stressed out what do we do? Grasp at any sort of ritual we can find. Really, we do! We need our bubble bath...with the special bath bubbles, just the right scented candles, the one CD (you know the one...you always pull it out when you need to relax,) and a glass of wine. Just like always. Hmmm, funny when life gets a little shaky...we find peace in our rituals. So why do we forsake them in everyday living, I wonder?

Let's consider embracing some rituals instead. Look at children. Children thrive on structure. Why should we be any different? Incorporating ritual into our homes gives us a sense of peace. It can be the one place we will know what to expect. It will be the one place where we can let our guard down, because there won't be innumerable unexpected "surprises." Coming home will be like finding ourselves in a warm and comfortable embrace.

Take mornings. They are more often than not HECTIC! And why are they hectic? Because the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. There is an entire day ahead that needs to be addressed in the seemingly few moments before we are swept away by the rushing river that is life. Maybe we should just go back to bed. But wait! Morning can be so much more. Let's just add some ritual.

You can call them routines, rituals, or whatever you prefer. Just think about enriching your day with a little serenity! Wouldn't it be better if we started our day gently rather than with a crisis everyday? Here is where we benefit from rituals. And they can be simple. They don't have to take a lot of time. They can be easy to add in. Here are some ideas:

Start your morning the night before.

  • Prepare tomorrows breakfast - while you cook tonight's dinner. (Special Extra! *see bottom of column.)
  • Pack your lunch for the coming day - during dinner clean up.
  • Special Idea: Create a lunch kit - use it everyday, then there will be no guessing. *Look for a future column on this fun indulgence!
  • Gather the items you will need for the coming day and put it in a designated spot (I use a specific "work bag.") (This can be a really great way to jog your memory regarding anything you said you would finish during the evening.)
  • Lay out your clothes for the next day. (This really adds peace to the morning when you aren't scrambling to figure out what to wear and then hunting down all the pieces.)
  • Have everyone in the family adopt these evening rituals.
  • Finally, sit down for just a few minutes (with your planner) and review your coming day, making sure you have everything ready so you can have a peaceful morning!

Just imagine how smoothly the morning will seem if you have everything ready to go! You will be able to enjoy your morning rituals even more because you don't have to scurry and try to prepare a full day upon waking. What morning rituals could we adopt to have a great day, I wonder...

Peaceful morning rituals.

  • Make the bed upon rising (eliminates the temptation to get back in and you will have a lovely bed to greet you at the end of the day.)
  • Make and eat breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day, you might be surprised at how great it makes you feel!
  • Have a special something everyday at breakfast. For me it is a cup of hot, black tea in just the right cup. My special treat to start my day right.
  • Get ready - this in itself should be a ritual. Seriously, if you do generally the same thing everyday, you are less likely to forget a step or something important. This alone will help you to feel more prepared to face the coming day.
  • Tidy Breakfast/Prepare dinner (take out things to thaw, make a list of things to pick up while you are out, etc.) *A weekly menu can make this incredibly simple (look for a future column!)
  • Finally, give your day one last moment of consideration, gather your lunch and goods for the day. You are ready to face the challenges ahead!

These are just a few ways to incorporate rituals into your everyday. Imagine not feeling rushed, not feeling unprepared. Imagine feeling "together," ready, and calm. Many of these things seem like they would take over your life, but you might be surprised by how little time they actually take, especially after you get used to your new system. If you don't believe me grab a timer and find out exactly how long it takes! (Timers are one of my favorite tools - check them out in Mrs. Merl's Must Haves!) And the results are so very rewarding. You might be surprised too at how much more time you find in your day, when you aren't wasting time catching up with life. Time to do something spontaneous even! You might find that you even have a few extra bucks in your budget. Don't believe me? Consider this. If you have time for breakfast, you might not spend those dollars on that snack when you feel like you hit the wall mid-morning. If you treat yourself to that morning treat, maybe you won't be tempted by the coffee stop on the way to work. And lunch is far cheaper packed at home than bought out! And more, if you already have dinner planned, prepped and waiting, you won't panic and spend the extra cash to grab takeout on the way home. And these are just a few of the benefits of rituals. It makes planning and being prepared seem a lot less "not fun!" Find a more beautiful life with The Benefit of Rituals!

*Look for more ideas on rituals you might want to add to your life, coming soon here!

Special Extra!

Breakfast doesn't have to be extravagant during the week. Simple eggs and toast don't take long to make and you will feel so much better having had breakfast! Other quick breakfast ideas include:

Yogurt, Granola and Fruit Parfait! (Get fun glasses to layer in!) This can be entirely prepped the night before (cutting fruit, spooning layers into the cup) and the granola will digest easier after being "soaked" with the yogurt overnight! If you want crunchy yogurt - you can always just prep the fruit and then mix in a bowl in the morning!

Porridge or Oatmeal Soak regular oatmeal, steel cut oats or any porridge overnight and it cooks in minutes in the morning! Add in yummy fruit preserves, honey, maple syrup, dried fruit, peanut butter, whatever you like and you have a simple and hearty breakfast!

Oven French Toast Buy a french bread, slice, layer in a greased pan, whisk up an egg mixture, pour over and refrigerate. In the morning pop in the oven while you get ready and when you are done you will have a yummy, hot breakfast just waiting to serve up! Add seasonal fruit to your pan and suddenly you have fruit french toast! It doesn't get better or easier than that!

Breakfast Burritos I know these seem labor intense. But the trick is to pre-make these! Make a big batch of breakfast burritos, wrap in tin foil, place in a plastic container and freeze! The night before you want breakfast burritos take a few out to thaw in the refrigerator. Then in the morning pop them in the oven to heat while you get ready. Dress these up with salsa, a sprinkle of fresh cilantro, whatever you like! (These even travel well - just wrap them up in a towel and put them in an insulated lunch container. Breakfast to go. But I recommend eating at the table as often as possible - you deserve it!)

With a little imagination, a little preparation, and a good set of daily rituals breakfast can be a joy - not a bother. So sit down and have a little breakfast, you will love it and feel great!

18 February 2010

Mrs. Merl's "Must-Haves"

I want to introduce a new feature to my blog. Hopefully, one that will help me to post more often and get rolling with getting more wonderful information and ideas out there for people to consider. It will be "Mrs. Merl's Must-Haves!" There are so many great things out there. Some that are obvious and some that are less obvious. Many things I feel like I can hardly live without and some that are just those luxuries that we feel like we can't live without. Some things are extremely inexpensive and some maybe not so inexpensive. Some you can buy, some you might be able to make. Who knows what we "Must-Have." One of my absolute "Must-Haves" is a planner. Yeah, I know most people use their cell phones for this today. I have to say, for me, there is nothing like sitting down in the morning with a cup of tea and getting an idea of the day before me; written out by my own hand in a lovely book of real paper. I feel more calm using a planner than when I have ever used an electronic version. This year, I splurged on a planner. I figured if it was something I would use the whole year and if it was going to help me maintain my sanity it should be one I loved! I happened to purchase one from Hoffman Media, the company that publishes the ladies periodical "Victoria." Special Note: Most planners are now on SALE for HALF OFF! So it is the perfect time to pick one up and try it out!! In fact, the one I have is a great deal at half off and with free shipping...add to your bliss!

Some of my absolute musts for planner include:

  • A large area to write on each day
  • Being able to see my week at a glance
  • Good paper quality
  • Inspiring ephemera (you can add this to a plain planner if you can't find the perfect one!)
  • A binding style that will last the whole year
Just make sure you open planners up and look at them. Some of them have such poor layouts, I am not sure what they are supposed to be organizing. Check several out and really think about what you do in a day, a week, a month. What do you need to write down and remember? Do you only have big events that you plan? Do you write out plans for each day like I do? Really assess your personal needs. Then grab the one that calls to you!! Then make it your best friend and get yourself planning!

Special Addition!
To really enhance my planning, I created a planner cover to protect it through the year and bought a great pen as a companion for my planner. It really adds a touch of personal expression and personalizes the whole process!
The cover has a little special pizazz!
And a place to hold my special pen!!

13 January 2010

Creating a Chore Schedule

Our lives are busy. No matter what kind of life you lead, it is busy. Because we are so busy, many things are left undone and even forgotten. And yet, eventually, these undone and forgotten things affect us. When the house becomes unmanageable and we find ourselves with even less time due to the chaos, many of us probably wish for an answer. I think a great place to start is with a Chore Schedule.

When both my husband and I were working full time it seemed like things just got the better of us. It got to where the bathroom could have been entered in a science fair, the kitchen table had to be unearthed to even consider eating a meal there and sometimes we had to wear really random outfits since there were no clean clothes to be found. It was a bad situation in itself, but it got to the point of causing me so much stress I thought I was going to make myself ill. In came the Chore Schedule.

Creating a Chore Schedule is a very personal project. However, with a little bit of guidance you can feel more confident in your efforts and have a better functioning chore schedule from the get go. It might take a few weeks to really lock it in, but here is where to start.

Get out a few pieces of paper. Sit down and prepare to brain storm.

Think about what bothers you most when things get out of hand - write those down.
Think about the chores you hate doing the most - write those down.
Think about the areas you do keep up with and aren't hard - write those down.
Think about every chore you think needs to be done, no matter how often - write those down.

Look at your list.

Pick out the items that you feel must be done every day.
For example no matter what my everyday chores include:
Clearing the dining room table
Doing the dishes
Making the bed

Think about your week.
If you need, actually write out a time schedule of your typical week. Make note of days that have a little extra time and days that are really short on time.

Prioritize your list of chores.
Recopy the most important chores down through the less important chores.
For example I prioritize:
Cleaning the Bathrooms
Vacuuming the Floor
Doing Laundry
Cleaning the Kitchen

Compare your list of chores to the time slots in your week.
Fit the most important chores in first making sure to put the ones you know take more time in the larger time slots. The larger time slots should also be given to the chores you hate, so you are less likely to put them off due to time. Here is an example of the chores schedule we used when we were working:

Example Schedule
Everyday - Make Bed (when you get up), Clear Table/Do Dishes (after each meal.)
Monday - Clean Bathroom (including flooring)
Tuesday - Vacuum and Laundry (note: put in laundry first, so it can wash while you vacuum.)
Wednesday - Clean Kitchen (clean counters, sink, floor)
Grocery Trip (clear out refrigerator/pantry as you put groceries away.)
Thursday - Clean Living Room/Family Room (dust, clear furniture, put stuff away)
You can add an extra Laundry Day in here.
Friday - Odd Chores and Quick Vacuum.

Some special notes about this Chore Schedule example:

Notice there are no chores on the weekend. I reserve weekends for big projects (like cleaning cars) and fun time. I never ever like having to tell friends that I can't join them because I have chores to do. But you can put chores into the weekend if you absolutely cannot find time otherwise.

Also, I like to have my laundry loads spread out. It is easier on the machine and it makes it seem like a much less daunting task if you spread it out. Also, I like to have my second laundry day include my by weekly washing items such as towels and sheets.

Wednesday happened to be a day we had more time than others so we added in going to the grocery. And tidying your pantry and refrigerator as you go is just good use of time.

I added an extra vacuuming so that the floor would be clean for weekend visitors.

Another way you can set up a chore schedule is to break things into rooms or areas. Instead of picking important chores, you could pick important areas. Such as prioritizing the rooms company sees and so on from there.

Example Schedule

Everyday - Make Bed (when you get up), Clear Table/Do Dishes (after each meal.)
Monday - Clean Living Room and Dining Room
Tuesday - Clean Bathrooms and Entry
Wednesday - Clean Kitchen
Thursday - Clean Bedrooms
Friday - Clean Odd Areas and Sweep Walkways.

By the end of the week, you will have a pretty clean house.

You could also reverse this schedule to clean the more private areas early in the week and the more public areas later - that way if you entertain on the weekend those areas are fresh and ready to go.

Try out your schedule.
I like to give my schedule a test period of at least your first week. You may find somethings need to be shuffled or prioritized differently. You may also want to make notes as to areas that you missed and need to be included and even ideas to make you chores more efficient.

As a last step, break down responsibilities Note them on your final schedule. We don't want any confusion about who does what.

Post your schedule on your refrigerator (or where you will see it everyday - even if it is on the bathroom mirror!)


  • Put a sticky note up with your Chore Schedule to record odd chores to be done, new ideas, etc.
  • Use a simple timer to see how long each chore takes. This can help you schedule it and you may be surprised at how little time some things take.
  • Use a timer to set an allotted amount of time for each chore and do as much in that time as you can.
  • Remember, doing anything is better than doing nothing.


You will be surprised at how quick chores get if you keep up with them. Even if you can only fit in part of your schedule do it! You will not be as behind if you get at least something done and you will feel better!

Final Example Schedule

This is the current schedule I use and it is based on a bed and breakfast lifestyle. It is for people who are really serious neat freaks or have a little more time on their hands.


Clear dining room table
Clean table, chairs and other surfaces
Dust and clean windows

Common Areas (sitting room, living room, entry)
Put things out of place away
Clean windows
Vacuum furniture
Vacuum floor

Make or change bed
Put odd things away
Clean windows

Clean shower (start with glass)
Put odd things away
Clear out trash cans
Wipe down sink/vanity
Wipe and sanitize toilet
Clean windows
Clean floor

Start Laundry

Clean out leftovers, tidy refrigerator, make new leftovers
Clean Cabinets and Stove Hood
Wipe down Stove/Oven
Clean counters
Do dishes (if you have a dishwasher you can put dishes in first to cycle while you work)
Clean sink
Take out trash/recyclables
Clean floors
Put clean dishes away

Tidy outdoor areas
Sweep decks
Sweep walks

Finish Laundry
Put Away

Clean halls/passages as you move from area to area

You will have a perfectly clean home everyday and you can add in special chores in each day (like attics or deep cleaning areas.)

I actually apply a modified version of this most days, as all of these things do not need to be done everyday in your personal home. And I don't have enough laundry to merit doing it everyday.

So there you have it. A few ways to start your Chore Schedule. Be creative with your time, be flexible and try to make it the best for you. Check back for more blogs on using your time to the fullest and finding time where you didn't think there was any!

*If you really feel you can't create a chore schedule on your own, contact me. Chore schedules are one of the services I offer through Organizare. I am happy to consult and for a fee I will put your very own schedule together for you! Mention this blog and I will give you a discount!

07 January 2010

Resolve to make Goals

Resolutions: easily made, easily broken it seems. So many people have such good intentions as the year changes anew. Yet, so often these good intentions are quickly forgotten and so we find ourselves playing out the same scenes as we have for so many years prior. Quite a cycle we get ourselves into...

I have never been one to make "resolutions." I am, instead, a person who lives by goals. Short term goals that support long term goals that blossom into long term achievements. I often tell people that projects and problems are like eating a hamburger, you gotta do it one bite at a time. We all can imagine what it would be like to try to eat a hamburger in one big bite. Which is probably why we choke on projects and problems. So I try very hard to look at all aspects of life with my hamburger in mind. Each project and problem - my hamburger - each small goal - a bite! Make a plan of bites (and not one out of the middle - because that doesn't work too well either) and getting chomping!

Here is an example of a recent problem I had and how I turned it into one tasty experience. I sometimes get overwhelmed by life, living and the other people in my life. We all do. So, the house had become a nightmare of piles, problems and unfinished projects. Not to mention getting chores done. I knew I needed a plan - and I knew I couldn't get it all done in one fell swoop. My plan would happen in stages - or bites. It went like this:

First, I cleaned up just the dining room table. Yep, just that.

The catch was that it now had to stay clean. (This is of course is usually the hard part.) Everyday, it had to be cleared and wiped down after each meal. It also had to not collect any items, no piles. Each thing that showed up on the table had to be put away where it belongs. And I kept at this goal each day.

Second, I added into the routine two "Must Do Rules."

Everyday I make the bed. And after every meal I do the dishes. There you have the two rules and they aren't even too hard. Now I had a clear space (they help with clear minds) and I had a tidy bed and no dirty dishes. I already felt better.

Then the progression began. I started in one room and cleaned it entirely. Putting each item out of its' place back into its' place. Dusting, clearing, vacuuming. Each day I did one room, making sure I kept the table clean, the bed made and the dishes washed. It really wasn't too taxing at all. Again, the hard part was making the goal to tidy the newly cleaned room each day. Keep it clean and clear!!!

I progressed from room to room. Sometimes breaking rooms down into multiple sections, so I didn't feel overwhelmed. But always making the goal to keep each newly cleaned room tidy. Honestly, if you simply make the conscious decision to not leave things out of place and to give things a regular once over it really isn't hard to keep up. Try it!

Finally, I got through every room and when I was done...

I had an entirely clean house. I had kept all the "done" rooms tidy and so when all was finished there were no messes left behind. And the most exciting part of it all. Now I spend just a short bit of time putting just a couple items away each day, follow my brief chore schedule (a blog on this coming soon!), and I have a clean and comfortable house with almost no effort! It is such a great feeling! Keeping on top of things takes almost no effort at all, especially compared to trying to clean the huge mess left if you don't make that little bit of effort. It is completely self-rewarding!!! Start small, work small and see yourself through to a huge achievement.