Two Rules for a Tidy Home

happy housewife

I remember books. Not reading them, of course, but owning them. I used to have stacks of jagged-edged first editions and dog-eared paperbacks covering my coffee table and overloading every bookshelf in the house. It was a rather impressive collection that undoubtedly made me appear to be quite the intellectual.

I remember books. Not reading them, of course, but owning them. I used to have stacks of jagged-edged first editions and dog-eared paperbacks covering my coffee table and overloading every bookshelf in the house. It was a rather impressive collection that undoubtedly made me appear to be quite the intellectual.

But that was before I changed my life by tidying up. I discovered there are only two rules to creating a tidy home:

1) If you don’t need it, throw it away.

2) If it does not bring you joy, toss it.

I loved my discombobulated library, but these two infallible rules made me realize that there was not one book, on its own merits, that brought me particular joy. So, the books had to go. All of them. Today, a sleek e-reader is the only item that sits on the side table in my living room. There is no longer any evidence of the depth and breadth of the vast literary interests I always fancied myself having.

I used to have piles of magazines, too. These days, I allow myself only one magazine at a time. That means no subscriptions. I will only purchase a new edition after discarding the previous one.

Consequently, before I invite anyone into my home, I spend hours at the newsstand selecting the perfect periodical which I set on the coffee table next to a jasmine or mahogany-driftwood scented candle. Typically, I select the New Yorker to subtly let my visitors know that I might possibly be the type of person who attends poetry slams. Every now and then, however, I’ll choose Goop Magazine if I believe my guests would be intrigued by my budding interest in DIY medical care.

I also remember sweaters. Before I magically transformed my life by purging its excesses, my dresser was loaded with sweaters I hadn’t worn for years. That rumpled muddle of bleached-out cardigans and over-stretched pullovers once carried memories of romantic fireside snuggles and late night cram sessions in my frigid dorm room. But I have come to understand that an armoire full of ripped collars and soy sauce stained sleeves may have signified a rich past but barred me from living fully in the present or looking ahead to my future.

Now my drawers are pristine. I own only two sweaters. I wear neither. They remain neatly folded, perfectly centered, one sweater per drawer. I will never be able to replicate their flawless placement, so I leave these two garments untouched.

On one too many occasion, my husband remarked that I had taken this minimalism thing too far.

So I got rid of him.

I miss my husband from time to time, but overall, it is nice to have his side of the medicine cabinet empty and his hulking shoes out of the foyer.

Along with my sweaters, I chucked my goose down parka. I prefer for there to be a one inch space between each hanger in the front hall closet. That puffy coat was so bulky it spoiled the ideal hanger configuration and therefore had to be cast-off.

I used to bundle myself in that warm coat and take long meandering walks through the park. But the joy of an orderly life far outweighs the pleasure of fresh air and exercise on a crisp winter afternoon. These days, I almost never look wistfully out the window after a storm when the skies are cobalt blue nor do I long to run outside to be the first person to leave footprints in the freshly fallen snow.

One upshot of rarely leaving my home between the months of November and March is that I have plenty of time to prepare gourmet meals. I love spending time in my de-cluttered kitchen. I have never felt better than when I ridded the cabinets of every chipped dish and mismatched mug.

It was exhilarating to let go of the never used pizza stone and the over-priced blender that failed to live up to its promise of producing mouthwatering ice creams and rich velvety soups. I felt an indescribable sense of euphoria when I cleared the place of every unessential pot, pan and cooking utensil. All that remains in the kitchen is one cast iron skillet and a spatula.

And cooking has never been so easy!

Now, my diet consists exclusively of pancakes. At this point, I have gotten so skilled at flipping the pancakes by simply holding the pan and flicking my wrist that I am seriously considering ditching the spatula.

At first, my children were thrilled to eat pancakes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. But soon they began to mention that they might like something else to eat.  When I finally realized that their constant grumbling about our streamlined meal plan brought me no joy whatsoever, I had no choice but to pack their belongings and send them out to the garage with their father.

My kids are great and sometimes I do miss their laughter and little butterfly kisses. But to walk past their bedrooms every day and see the beds perfectly made and every toy neatly housed in its designated toy box fills me with a sense of calm that I have never experienced before.

It is astounding to me that the humble act of getting organized has had such a dramatic impact on my life. By adhering to those two beautiful rules, I have magically transformed my home into a serene and relaxing oasis. What a relief it is to know that the rest of my days will be filled with peace, tranquility, and pancakes.

This article originally appeared in OTV Magazine. Click here to see it there.

An Open Letter to Dads of Daughters

This article originally appeared in Encouraging Dads last October but I am reposting today and wishing all dads a happy Father’s Day! Game On!

20161010_030907000_iOS

When I was six years old, family friends gave us their old ping pong table. On day one, my dad handed me a paddle and it was game on. Games were to 21 and in the beginning, he would spot me 19 points.  That meant I had to score only 2 points before he could score 21.  He won every game.  As I got bigger and better, he would spot me only 10 points.

And still, he won every game.

By the time I was 10, there was no more spotting of points but still, I could never beat him.  The battles were fierce and I would often take the lead.  But I would get so excited or nervous when I was about to win that I would inevitably miss a serve or send a slam halfway across the basement instead of straight down onto his side of the table.

It wasn’t just ping pong. My dad taught me how to body surf in the ocean before I was five. We would catch the same wave and see who could ride it farther. But even when my belly scraped up onto the sand after holding my breath for the impossibly long ride, I would look up and there he was, always in front of me.

When we played cards, Gin Rummy or Casino, I would lose every game.

Seen from the outside and certainly through today’s “everybody wins” mentality, my father’s unsentimental thrashing of his child in every arena might be seen as harsh or even psychologically damaging. But that’s not how I see it. My dad was just having fun.  And it was simply more fun to play ping pong against a 6-year-old when the stakes were set so that he could only lose 2 points. And wave riding was way more fun when he could look back at his competition and know for that one moment, on that one beach, for that one wave, he was the best in the world.

20160826_160310000_iOS

As a girl growing up in the 1970’s, before Title IX, before Flo Jo dominated in Seoul or Mia Hamm lead her team to victory in Atlanta, I was included.  My father never let me win but he always taught me how to play better, think smarter and want to win. It never crossed his mind to exclude me.  Why would he?  He wanted to play and I was always willing and able to join him. Simply by including me, by not telling me that I couldn’t or shouldn’t participate, my father taught me to stand tall.  In the 4th grade, I was the only girl to play in my town’s basketball league. In college, I was the only woman on my intermural softball team.  I have never shied away from raising my hand in class nor stating my opinion in a business meeting.  I grew up never questioning my own right to pursue any of my dreams and I never feared the hard work it took to achieve them.

If I may make one request to dads of girls everywhere it’s this: Please take the time to hand your daughter a ball, a paddle, or a deck of cards and say “Come on.  Let’s Play.”

I Feel Bad for the Bull

Here’s an article that I wrote for OTV Magazine when the Fearless Girl first appeared on Wall Street.

These days it’s all about the Fearless Girl, that adorable little figure secretly installed in lower Manhattan by an investment firm to celebrate (and advertise) its “Gender Diversity Index” fund. The 250-pound bronze statue by artist Kristen Visbal, stands head held high, shoulders squared, hands on hips, in the direct path, and in brazen defiance of the most famous beast on Wall Street, the Charging Bull. The four-foot-tall effigy has certainly made her presence known.

The little child and the telltale swooshing of her dress and ponytail informs onlookers that she has just arrived on the scene; but her high-top sneakers are rooted to the cobblestone insisting that this little lassie is here to stay. The diminutive figure is a symbol of female power, a message to every girl that from now on, nothing, not even an 11 foot, 7,000-pound charging bull, can prevent her from reaching her fullest potential no matter the field, no matter the norms and restrictions of the past.

There has been an outpouring of enthusiasm for this little sculpture and its colossal reproach of the present sorry state of misogyny and glass ceilings that dominate, especially in the world of finance. Since her arrival on Bowling Green an endless parade of parents can be seen live-streaming videos of their daughters posed by her side, copycatting the hands-on-hips stance, aiming to convey a matching attitude of confidence. A family pilgrimage to the southern tip of Manhattan represents nothing less than one generation’s promise to the next that the hopes, dreams, and ambitions of every child are not only attainable but worthy of society’s unwavering, and unconditional commitment to a level playing field for all.

Of course, this instantly iconic statue is not popular with everyone. For some, it feels dangerous, irresponsible, and gratuitous to foist an undeniably naïve child in the direct path of a frightening, out of control, testosterone fueled raging bull. Armed with only her admirable gumption, this child is not prepared to fight the fight.

She has not spent decades battling her way into board rooms only to be overlooked for her less educated, less experienced, and less qualified male colleagues. Why would an image of a pre-pubescent waif ever be used as a symbol of women’s equality? Would the world embrace a statue of a fully realized, fully actuated woman sporting a custom-tailored Boss power suit, with fists planted firmly on her hips?

Likely, that statue would be derided as threatening to men and as glorifying an overly-ambitious bitch who dared to stand up and say to the world “I got this.”

But that’s not what I want to talk about.

I want to talk about the bull.  I feel bad for the poor creature.  For 28 years, he stood alone on an otherwise unremarkable traffic island, a symbol of hope and strength and possibility for the economic future of our nation. Arturo Di Monica’s guerilla art installation was so popular when it made its original debut on Broad Street that one week later the city moved it to its permanent residence anchoring lower Manhattan.

The Charging Bull is an imposing figure of bulging ribs, sculpted muscles, massive sharp horns, a wild tail, and enormous anatomically correct testicles. From every angle, this beast represents power and virility. He leans back on his haunches, body angled to one side as if ready to leap off the cobblestone and charge up Broadway, demolishing any car, bus or vending cart caught in his path.

For almost three decades, this creature and his unapologetic display of machismo was one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of New York. But then, last month, under the cover of night, a little bronze girl was artfully installed in such a way that instantly morphed him from a positive symbol of fortitude into one representing all that is wrong with Wall Street, the world of male domination, and the tyranny of power.fearless jill

The poor bull.

He has not changed. He is simply a bull, doing what bulls do. Sure, he is known as the charging bull, but he has been rooted to the same place for years – so rooted in fact, that generations of pranksters, miscreants, unevolved frat boys and true believers have rubbed his gigantic cojones to a glimmering shine. If he hasn’t attacked anyone after all that inappropriate touching, how much of a menace could he possibly be?

I know that’s not the point.  I understand that the bull is merely a symbol and symbols change with time and circumstance but my heart still goes out to the newly vilified creature. I keep wondering how he must feel when the throngs of tourists turn their backs on him to snap photos of his new rival. Which is worse, being branded a bad guy or being overshadowed by a precocious child he could eat for lunch were he not a vegetarian?

It has been announced that the Fearless Girl will remain where she stands for one full year. After that, she will be removed and likely given a permanent home on her own corner somewhere in the Big Apple. The bull will once again stand alone. But even in her absence, will he ever be viewed the same way again? Will a lingering shadow of mistrust hang over his bronze form? Will he ever be beloved as he once was?  Is it possible to resurrect the hope and optimism he once represented when we now realize that he was never intended to be a symbol for everyone?

I find myself mourning the loss of his innocence. Yet, I am moved by the impact that one tiny statue has already had on the psyche of all who have paid their respects. And if one unblinking child, standing in stark opposition to the ferocious beast that is Wall Street can eventuate real and meaningful change then I willingly embrace the sacrifice of the stellar reputation of a once exalted bull.

I pray that the Fearless Girl will grow into the Indomitable Woman, able to reach her full potential as a valued and respected equal member of society. If not, if it turns out that Wall Street remains unchanged and the Fearless Girl is remembered as only a brilliant publicity stunt, then the blood of an innocent, albeit bronze, creature will be on all our hands.

By Jillian Green DiGiacomo

Featured Photo Credit:  Jen Hawkins on Instagram

Inserted photo “Backs to the Bull”:  Jillian Green DiGiacomo

Link to OTV article

Zen and the Art of Bogus Resolutions

Happy 2017! Here’s my latest article for OTV Magazine. Hope it helps to motivate you to hold strong with your own New Year’s Resolutions. 

No Complaints

no-complaints-again

By Jillian Green DiGiacomo

At age 39, I resolved that I would not be fat and 40. I managed to keep that resolution the day I turned 41.

Last year, I vowed to never go to bed with even one dirty dish in the sink. And, true to my word, there never was just one.

This year, I’ve got the perfect resolution.

It’s simple! It’s doable! It entails no physical labor!

I resolve to stop complaining. Complaining is the most time wasting, counterproductive, depressing activity in which a person can engage. I know this because I am a master complainer.

But for 2017, I vow to stop comporting! I vow to stop compiling. Stupid autocorrect! I promise to stop cinplsumibg! Crap! Crap! Crap!

Why does autocorrect only correct what’s already correct? Who am I kidding? I can’t even finish writing this resolution without complaining!

So how about this: I resolve to stop complaining in public. I’ll resist the urge to whine and moan that the table next to me already has their food when I was clearly here first. Instead of grumbling, I’ll politely smile and give a slight shrug to the waiter to let him know, ever so gently, that the basket of stale bread he is holding better be for me because no other table should get a refill when I am sitting here starving.

But now I see that this place serves their bread with olive oil and not butter. Who decided that oil was better than butter? Has anyone ever protested that bread was too delicious with a nice pat of salted butter?

No! I don’t care that the grape adorned bottle of oil is irresistibly charming. I don’t want oil. I may take the bottle home with me, but that’s beside the point.  At least I should be offered the choice of butter or oil so I don’t look unsophisticated when I request butter.

I am very sophisticated! Bread belongs with butter! It’s as simple as that.

I think I’ve set myself up for failure.  It’s hard to quit complaining cold turkey. What if I ease into my moratorium by only complaining about life’s little annoyances while banning tirades about the big stuff?

The big stuff is everything I have no control over, like trade deficits and nepotism in Hollywood. Why complain when there is nothing I can do about it?

Though, to be honest, that big stuff is the good stuff.  The stuff I cannot change is complaining gold. I love to go on and on about big problems; Guantanamo, that pungent smell of urine on the subway, the Kardashians. I can complain and complain with the satisfaction of being right and righteous while not actually having to roll up my sleeves to fix a thing.

Apparently, my fool proof resolution will be more challenging than I’d anticipated. Who invented the New Year’s resolutions, anyway? Why should any of us believe that just because the calendar ticks from one year to the next, we should be expected to make grandiose changes in our lives?

What if I don’t want to change?

I’m a happy person and I’m happiest when I get to complain. So, this year, instead of changing myself, I resolve to redefine my favorite pastime: I don’t complain;  I offer Targeted Audible Observations, or TAO for short. And this year, I will spend my time honing my TAOist skills.

I am no longer a master complainer; I am a TAOist master on a path to living in harmony with all the daily crap that life dishes out.

Now where is that waiter? My water glass is half empty.

No Complaints

Of Pot Roast and Politics


 

What do pot roast and politicians have in common? Read my new article in OTV Magazine to find out.

pot-roast

By Jillian Green DiGiacomo

When my mom was first married, she asked her friend Marilyn how to make a pot roast.

Marilyn said it was easy, all she had to do was take a three-pound roast, cut about 2 inches off the end then brown it, season it and throw it in a Dutch oven for a few hours.

The instructions seemed simple enough but why, my mom asked, did she have to cut off two inches of perfectly good meat? Marilyn said she had no idea. That was just how her mom always made it so that’s what she did too.

Marilyn had been using that recipe for years and since dinner came out perfectly every time, it never crossed her mind to wonder why. That night, Marilyn called her mom and asked why it was so important to cut the end off the pot roast before cooking it. Was it to keep the moisture in? Was it to create a more even cooking surface? Her mother remained silent at the end of the line for quite some time.

Marilyn called my mom the next morning hysterically laughing.

It turned out the pot roast recipe never called for two inches of perfectly good meat to be cut off and discarded.  The roasting pan that Marilyn’s mother used to make her pot roast, the one that was passed down from her own grandmother, the one that had lots of sentimental value, was very small.  The pan was so small, in fact, that the only way for a pot roast to fit in it was to simply lop off a chunk of the end of it.

So every Tuesday night for her entire childhood Marilyn watched this ritual, and when she herself got married and began cooking for her own family, she did what her mom did. She didn’t question the method. Why would she?

And had my mother not asked, Marilyn would have gone on for years and years wasting perfectly good meat for no reason whatsoever. Had my mom not asked the simple question “why?”, she would have followed Marilyn’s recipe and I, to this very day, would likely be hacking the end off of every pot roast following my mother’s tried and true recipe.

I think about Marilyn and her unfortunate pot roast this time every year as I gird myself to enter the holiday season, a time of year that is loaded with family rituals and traditions.

We carve turkeys, sing carols and light candles because, well, because that’s what we did last year.  That’s how we do our holidays. We exchange gifts, we gather with friends and family, we eat a lot. But why?

Sure, there are some traditions that are steeped in religion, that harken back to a time or a story that we want to remember. But a lot of that stuff…the lights, the over-consumption, the arguments…are more about habit than logic. We rarely question why we do things, we just do them. And for the most part, there is no real downside to how we spice our eggnog or roast our chestnuts. But some of our traditions might do well to be re-examined.

I’d like to take this opportunity to suggest one.

If you are an American, no matter your religion, no matter your political beliefs, no matter how you choose to spend your holidays or what state you live in, there is one tradition that you likely cling to, year after year. As a nation, we are steeped in the tradition of re-electing our politicians. Did you know that 96 percent of politicians who run for re-election are in fact re-elected?

Every two years, we hold national elections in which every seat in the House of Representatives and 1/3 of those in the Senate are up for grabs. But we as a collective, march to the ballot boxes and without much thought, check the same box that we checked in the past. Our system of government guarantees that our president can only be re-elected once. This is a good thing, since we sent our last 3 presidents back to the oval office. And I’m guessing we’d continue to re-elect the same person a third time if left to our own devices.

So, if you love your local representative, if you know what s/he is fighting for, if you are happy with the work s/he is doing, then by all means, keep your voting tradition alive and well.

But, if like Marilyn, you are voting for a lopped off piece of pot roast whose name happens to be listed in the column that you always choose, I implore you, I implore all of us to ask the question “why?” Why this person? And if the answer is anything other than “Because this person is the best person for the job”, then let’s vote them out and throw some fresh meat into our government.

And, may I suggest, if you look around and do not see the best person for the job, maybe that person is you. Why not start a new tradition? If Marilyn could do it, there’s still hope for the rest of us.

Click here to connect to the article on Open Thought Vortex