Your closet is no match for these three spring cleaning tips.

I once read a piece of advice that stuck with me: If you're indecisive about something (say, the purchase of a new shirt), rank it on a scale of 1-10.  If it's ranked at 8, 9, or 10, then consider the purchase further. If it registers as 7 or below, though, then automatically treat it as if it were a 1.  Don't internally deliberate or waffle.  If it isn't at least an 8, then it fundamentally doesn't make the cut.

I love the clarity of this practice.  It frees you from that painfully nebulous kinda, sorta, I'm-not-really-sure decision-making range that's fraught with second-guessing, unnecessary mental space, or even buyer's remorse.  If you don't love the shirt, don't buy the shirt.  Simple as pie.  (And for me, pie is almost always at least an 8, especially if it's cherry, so yes, please to a slice of pie.)

This advice can be applied to a multitude of contexts, both large and small, like what paint color to choose or which applicant to hire or recommend.  This past weekend, I applied the principle to my closets.

Oh, yes, friends, it's spring cleaning time!  (Central Pennsylvania currently has no outdoor indicators that spring will ever be springing, so cleaner closets will have to suffice as a seasonal marker.)  I've always found that the process of weeding out clutter, reinstating order, and making space to be therapeutic.  Everything feels lighter.  I get verklempt just thinking about it, but then again, I'm slightly weird when it comes to organization.

Here are three spring cleaning tips I regularly apply that make the process efficient:

1) The 8-9-10 practice can be used on items that you already own.  When I rank the clothes already in my closet, it expedites the process of deciding whether an item should stay or go.  Plus, it clues me into whether I've become blind to items simply because they're so familiar.  I loved these pants a long time ago, but if I were encountering them for the first time right now, would they still be an 8, 9, or 10? 

If yes, there's a strong case for keeping them.  If they've dropped to 7 or below, they don't make the spring cleaning cut.  It's so simple, yet it removes a surprising amount of ambiguity.

2) Quality items pass the test of time.  As an avid garage-saler and thrifter, I'm always on the hunt for a good deal, but "good deals" are only actually good if the product lasts.  On more than one occasion I've bought a cheap piece of clothing that I've had to toss because the fabric quickly pilled, or the zipper stuck, or the shape lost its shapeliness.  In other words, there's something to be said for investing in quality pieces from which you'll get ample mileage.

This has proven true with a recent opportunity I was given.  Tommy John, a high-quality men's clothing and undergarment company, contacted me and asked if my husband would like to sample one of their Go Anywhere products in exchange for an honest review.  Of course!  While their line is more expensive than we'd normally invest, the quality of the product -- in this case, a pair of their Go Anywhere Lounge Jogger pants -- speaks for itself.  They're remarkably soft, they drape well, and my husband reports that they're extremely comfortable.

For the sake of full disclosure, I should note that these are not my husband's legs, although he insists that his legs could be substituted for any male model's.  He also added that Tommy John's Go Anywhere Lounge Joggers definitely meet the 8, 9, or 10 criteria, so we have no doubt that they'll remain in our closet -- and in his rotation of regular use -- for years to come.

Quality pays off.

3) Don't let bad logic stop you from letting go of items that you no longer use.  I own things that I don't use regularly, but for some reason, I'm hesitant to part with them.  When I ferret out my rationalization, it's pretty illogical.  Even though I'm not using a pair of boots, for example, I assume that they're still useful (and therefore, still valuable) while forgetting that they're a sunk cost.

I mean, I've already bought the boots.  They've already been paid for.  I just illogically assume that I'd be losing money by getting rid of them, but the truth is that the money already has been spent.  Holding onto a pair of boots that I don't wear isn't saving me any money; it's just taking up space.

So, if the items in your closet aren't being used and enjoyed, let go of the faulty logic and accept that they're sunk costs.  Even better, whenever possible, give them a new life by donating or selling them, no guilt attached.

Spring still feels a long way off, but at least my closet is lighter and brighter than it was before.  Plus, as I continue to apply the 8-9-10 rule with future purchases, I'm more likely to keep it in good order.

Do you have any useful spring cleaning or organizational tips?  Have you ever used the 8-9-10 rule? Drop me a comment below to let me know!

(And, on behalf of my husband, thanks to Tommy John for the opportunity to review the Go Anywhere Lounge Joggers.  If you're ever looking for a male leg model, you know where to turn.)


Welcome to Spring!

If you're not from around these parts, I though you'd like to see what it looks like when you're taking a casual stroll in central Pennsylvania on the first day of spring.

Kidding!  Just kidding!

This is actually a picture of a casual stroll being taken on the second day of spring in central Pennsylvania. And on this second day of spring, I decided to write a haiku.

Snow is still falling,
No, no, no, no, no, no, no,
No, no, no, no, no! 


On Turning 40

I recently turned 40.  I have to tell you, I feel pretty good about this.  Given that I've reached this point by steadily accumulating a lifespan of 14,600 days, nothing about the event was surprising.  I don't feel any different.  Billions of other people already have hit this milestone before me, so it's not remarkable that it was my turn.  Still, celebrating a 40th birthday seems like a personal accomplishment, like I've been training to get here since 1978.  I'm happy I've arrived.

A good friend and I have declared that our 40's will be a great decade.  We're wiser than we once were.  We're more established.  We're better at discerning good from best while making important life choices, which is harder (but just as important) as discerning good from bad.

In the broadest of terms, here's what I'm looking forward to in my 40's.  (It's not the wrinkles or the promise of a slower metabolism, by the way. Sheesh.  Those things are entirely uncalled for.)

Loving this Parenting Stage.  At 40, I'm no longer in the highly hands-on, sleep-deprived, spit-upon, continually-touched stage of parenting.  This is good.  Really good.  (That stage was exhausting.  Sweet and precious and remarkably tender, of course, but exhausting.)

But graduating from the "early" parenting stage also means that I'm now immersed in the highly active-listening, support-giving, and life-coaching stage of "middle-years" parenting.  The instructional foundations established during phase one now have real-world applications, moral dimensions, and practical consequences for my kids.  (Parenting looks different at every stage, but it's always all-in.)

I want to parent well during these years.  By the time I exit this decade, my young children, who currently range from 7-12 years old, will be young adult children.  (But we don't need to rush that.  Right now we're just figuring out orthodontia.)

Cultivating Friendships.  During my 30's, the bulk of my conversations with other adults outside of work were fragmented snippets of coherence with some child crying in the background.  Now there's a bit more breathing room, and with that breathing room, there's more time to invest in relationships.

For example, I went out to dinner and shopped with my neighbors one evening last week because we wanted to and because we could.  This warrants typing in italics, people!  I came home from this evening so filled-up and refreshed.

Plain and simple, we need fun and authentic friendships and community.  I plan to invest in my friendships this decade.  It's essential to well-being, both now and in the future. 

Taking Care of Myself.  Last fall I read an article about self-care that contained this remarkable sentence: "True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from."  (Cue dropping the mic.)

I push myself too hard sometimes.  I've had rough seasons when I've simultaneously tackled too much professionally and personally, when I've poured out while forgetting to pour back into myself.  None of this is wise.  On the surface, continual effort might seem goal-oriented or generous, but it's actually foolish.  It's not sustainable.  It leads to burn out or bitterness, and I've hit those walls enough time to know better.

So, in my 40's, I'm committed to building a life that I don't need to regularly escape from.  It means I sleep enough, and eat (somewhat) sensibly, and exercise.  It means I accept that my performance at work, though rewarding, doesn't determine my worth.  It means that I write because I love to write, but that I don't strive for blog statistics because Google Analytics doesn't determine my worth, either.

That's the gift of cumulative years of trial and error: we get greater self-awareness.  At this stage of life, I better understand and respect my limitations.  I don't resent them as much as I used to.  I can whisper to myself at ease, soldier, and extend myself some grace on most days.

That's good self-care.

Seizing Opportunities.  At the same time, saying no to certain things means that I free up time and resources so I can say yes to better things.  It's like I can commandeer Liam Neeson's epic Taken quote ("What I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career") and apply it to my life, except I'm not hunting down kidnappers.

No, my particular set of skills are more humane.  I'm a communicator.  I write, I speak, and I teach.  These skills not only have established my career as a teaching professor, but I've also leveraged them to encourage others in different venues, like when I speak at women's events, churches, or mom's groups. 

When your talents and passions intersect with other's needs, it's ripe territory.  I'm committed to explore this territory more during my 40's.

Walking with God.  This never gets old.  Since I became a Christian 25 years ago, I've been on a journey where I'm hedged in from behind, protected on the sides, and guided from ahead by a God who perfectly restores, redeems, forgives, and loves.  I'm secure, and this security transcends circumstances.  What a wonderful place to be, no matter the age!

So, 40 has arrived, and it's looking good, even with some strands of gray hair, and less toned parts, and the unnerving realization that when I engage with a college-aged person outside of my classroom I'm not sure whether I should be their mother or their friend.  (It's quite perplexing, actually.  I'm still spry -- I can do push ups! multiple push ups! -- but who are these young people, and how am I not one of them?  Was I really 20 once?)

The first 40 years have just been the warm up, and I'm ready for the next leg of the race.  Bring it on. Except for the part about the slower metabolism.  I'd like to stick with my 30's metabolism, please.

But everything else, bring it on. I'm glad 40 has arrived.


Need New Eyeglasses? This post is for you.

While I try to be a disciplined person by principle, I've been known to procrastinate on tasks that I expect to be tiresome.  (Pile of assignments to grade, I'm looking at you.)  But sometimes I also procrastinate on tasks that aren't hard or unpleasant in any fashion, but ones that simply don't make the short list of must-do activities that demand my attention.

Repetitive chores -- cleaning, washing, folding, feeding, and the like -- are part of my daily routines.  Sure, they can be pesky, but most days I'm capable of forging ahead and getting them done.  But the rogue extra task (like me remembering to schedule an appointment to get new eyeglasses) can easily fall to the bottom of the list, where it languishes, week after week, maybe month after month, until I finally give myself a serious pep talk.

Self, it is time to be an adult and DO THE THING.  

(The inherent irony is that, almost always, the doing of the thing is rarely as troubling or time-consuming as the procrastination that leads up to the doing of the thing.  But that's another story.) 

As for me, I recently had the opportunity to partner with and order eyeglasses online to review in a post on Robin Kramer Writes.  The process was simple.  I browsed frames on the website, narrowed down the selection to several contenders, and then I virtually tried on frames by uploading a picture of myself. (Prescription sunglasses are available, as well as regular glasses.)  Next, I polled my husband and a few friends about whether they liked me better in the black/blue frames or the tortoise shell.

The black/blue frames (pictured on the left) won the popular vote, so I uploaded my prescription and my pupillary distance, which were two measurements that I had on file from my most recent visit to the eye doctor.  Then, within days after sending my order, I received a package with my new eyeglasses in the mail.

Simple as that.  It hadn't been troubling or time consuming at all.  The glasses fit comfortably, and the prescription is spot-on. 

Even better, is offering a special coupon code (GSHOT50) for readers of Robin Kramer Writes, which means that you, my dear readers, can have 50% off eyeglasses and sunglasses with free lenses, sale frames excluded, if you visit their website.

So, by chance, if updating your eyeglasses is a task that's dangling on the lower end of one of your mental to-do lists, then I encourage you to DO THE THING, which feels infinitely better than just thinking about it.  Your eyes, and your to-do list, will thank you.


Short and Sweet: Observations from a Water Park

Short and Sweet: observations from an indoor water park, in 100 or fewer words.

It's Spring Break, and my husband and I have taken our children to an indoor water park for the day. Today's water-sliding and wave-pool-swimming experiences not only have forced me to confront the ironic fact that I really don't like to be wet for extended periods, but it's also given me an opportunity to observe lots of people.  I've come to two conclusions:

First, there are people who, despite all odds, can look good at a water park.  Second, I am not one of them.

Back to Top