Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Happy Mom's Secret: Don't Do Your Own Laundry

Another one from the Core Competency Mom series that ran this summer at the Huffington Post. We've since moved to a larger apartment that has a washer/dryer. I worried that I would find it harder to outsource this chore with the machine right there but then... my husband started doing it! It isn't his core competency either, but I'm not about to tell him that.

(Part 4 in the "Core Competency Moms" series)

Sarah, a Philadelphia-based mom of several small children, has a dirty secret: She doesn't wash her own clothes.

No, she doesn't employ a maid or "laundress." She's not wealthy. Nor is she working 60 hour weeks at a corporate job that leaves no time for chores. She's a stay-at-home mom. But as she told me recently, she simply hates spending her afternoons stuck in the laundry room. "Folding the laundry requires uninterrupted time that I don't have," she says. "If I stop mid-load, the kids and dog will inevitably trample my work."

So she contacted a business called We Wash It Laundry that usually caters to Philadelphia-area college students. It turned out that We Wash It does pick up, wash & fold and delivery for private homes as well as dorms. They charge $1.10 per pound. For Sarah, this comes out to $25-35 per week. Given the time she saves, this is a small luxury on a per hour basis. It's one Sarah is happy to splurge on in lieu of, say, going out to eat.

"A lot of my friends cannot believe I don't do my own laundry," she says. They tell her it only takes a little bit of time (though they haven't added up the hours). They tell her to just put the kids in front of a DVD while she folds shirts. But "I don't want to spend less time with my children," Sarah says. "I want to spend less time doing housework." After all, families may have fond memories of cooking together, she says, but no one waxes nostalgic that "My mom always had piles of laundry in a basket."

She's onto something. Laundry has long been the bane of many a mother's existence. In theory, it could be the bane of many a father's existence but...let's face it. This is usually mom's chore. Things have gotten better since the days of washboards and clotheslines. Still, if you've got small kids who roll in the dirt, wipe their noses on their sleeves and spill milk on their pants, loads of it can pile up. Mount Never-Rest looms in the hamper, ready to eat your weekends. In Sisyphean fashion, once your clothes are clean, they just get dirty again. So some moms are starting to ask "why?" Doing laundry is no more a quintessential element of motherhood than sewing your children's clothes. In fact, sometimes it can distract you from being the kind of mom you want to be.

While I'm writing this series of posts on Core Competency Moms about the issues facing working mothers, I first discovered the joys of outsourcing laundry when I was a single, childless, and strapped enough that I ate toast for breakfast rather than cereal. My cockroach-infested walk-up here in New York lacked a laundry room, so I had to go to the Laundromat across the street. I quickly noticed that trying to be on hand when a cycle ended could tie you to the block for the better part of a morning. I also noticed that the Laundromat offered to wash and fold for about 50 cents a pound. I ran the numbers and decided to buy myself back part of my Saturdays by drinking less on Saturday nights and using the cash to have someone else keep my clothes clean.

It's a habit I've kept after getting married and starting a family. Yes, my new apartment building has a laundry room. But our closest laundry service does a much better job than I do. When my husband and I do our own laundry we sometimes overload the dryer and wind up with wet clothes draped over the bed. The laundry service presses our T-shirts. They even match our socks!

This isn't surprising. Why wouldn't a company that specializes in laundry do a better job at it than a couple of amateurs? With their rows of machines and quick folding ability, the professionals who run these small businesses are bound to be more efficient at the process. That's why they make a profit, even though we pay less than $10 an hour for the time we save. This - in microcosm - is the whole idea behind the outsourcing revolution that's swept through corporate America over the past two decades. Companies have become more nimble and profitable by farming out insurance plan management, for instance, or manufacturing parts, and focusing on what they do best. When businesses and people focus on their core competencies - laundry services on laundry, and you on whatever you do - everyone comes out ahead.

Of course, hiring a laundry service is a bit more usual in Manhattan than elsewhere. Many of us don't have washers and dryers right in our homes. But the calculus isn't that much different for hauling your baskets to the basement of your own home than to the ground floor common laundry room. It takes a little less time, but not much, and so affordable laundry services do exist across the USA. We Wash It does Philadelphia. A quick Google search turns up Alabaster Cleaners in San Francisco, and The Clothesline in Milford, Connecticut, among others. Generally, these services charge a bit over $1 per pound for pick up and delivery. A few national dry-cleaning franchises, such as Pressed4Time, have entered the business. Your local dry-cleaner might let you outsource this chore as well.

"I am surprised that more people don't do this," Sarah says - at least for their own clothes (sensitively skinned babies may need special detergent, and that's harder to pull off, though some services offer such an option). Yet few harried folks use these businesses. When I ask why, I get three reactions.

The first is of the "I couldn't afford that" variety. For some people that's true, but given the number of folks who buy their lunches rather than make them, and buy their clothes rather than stitch them, possibly not. Sarah's total of $25-35 per week is not insignificant, but once you get beyond the subsistence level of income, economics is a series of choices: to turn down the thermostat, for instance, or buy a smaller house but outsource some of its care.

Second, some proportion of people either doesn't mind laundry, or actually enjoys it in its own right. I giggled all through writer/philosopher/lawyer Cheryl Mendelson's book, Laundry: The Home Comforts Book of Caring for Clothes and Linens. This ode to detergent speaks lovingly of how nice girls wash their underwear, and about the fresh scent of air-dried clothes. Some people enjoy playing doctor; if laundry is your particular fetish, fine.

But the last reaction is the one I find most odd. Some women get slightly offended and say something along these lines: It's my job to take care of my family. Culturally, we still believe that "caring for a family" means cooking, scrubbing, vacuuming, lunch packing, weeding, back to school clothes shopping and, yes, laundry, in addition to the emotional work of nurturing children's brains and souls. For years, all these labors have been roped into the job description of "mom." Added together, they take up a lot of time. In 1965, women who were not in the workforce - i.e., women who were homemakers - spent 37 hours a week on household activities. In other words, making a house really was their full time job.

Perhaps children had cleaner clothes back then. The sheets got washed more often. But is that really what kids need? Or do we have a situation like in the gospels, when Martha was obsessed with cooking for Jesus, and got upset that Mary actually sat and listened? You can argue whether moms of small kids should be in the workforce, but it's hard to argue that spending 37 unpaid hours a week on housework is the best use of anyone's time.

All of us find time in short supply these days. I would argue that unless you are making a conscious point of involving your kids with the laundry - a good idea if they're 10, not so easy if they're 2 - doing loads of it is actually taking time away from them. Better to spend your Saturday going on a long family bike ride than carrying down load after load.

We were faced with the choice of quality time vs. laundry one recent weekend. I'd been gone off and on for much of the previous two weeks, and once I emptied my suitcase, it quickly became clear that we had at least 30lbs of work ahead of us. Rather than do all the loads, I dropped the bags off with the laundry service, and picked them up on Friday afternoon. As a result, we had clean clothes for the weekend, and didn't have to spend Saturday hovering in the laundry room, ready to remove the loads as soon as they were done. Instead, we all took a road trip to the zoo, where my 1-year-old son squealed in delight as he encountered the petting zoo goats. We spent the evening with some friends who had a goat-sized dog. This also inspired delighted squealing.

My son isn't going to remember anything from this chunk of his life anyway. But if he could, I doubt he would have preferred a Saturday of laundry to the zoo and hanging out with a puppy.

"I find it so interesting that it is commonplace in our society to outsource childcare, but the burdensome routines of keeping house are, for the most part, not outsourced," Sarah says. Finding a laundry service has let her spend more relaxed time with her little ones without dreading that Sisyphean chore. "We have all been happier ever since."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Transition times

I have been trying to monitor my own time to see where I lose minutes (and occasionally hours) on non core competency activities. A few culprits:

* Exercise. Don't get me wrong. Exercise is a core competency activity. No one else can do it for me! But exercise can burn a lot of time that isn't spent actually elevating your heart rate. For instance, for me, exercise involves finding my workout gear, changing clothes, finding my keys and ID and walk-man, traveling downstairs to the gym or to the street, then coming back upstairs afterwords and usually showering before other human beings have to smell me. This is, at best, a 15 minute addition to my workout, and usually more like 20-25 minutes.

There are two ways to make this more efficient.

First, I've started keeping all my winter outdoor exercise gear in a pile by the bed. Yes, this looks messy, but it also means I don't have to hunt for my gloves and headband.

Second, I try to exercise fewer times per week, but longer each time. If I lose 20 non-exercise minutes every time I exercise, then it is better to run 3 days a week for 5 miles each time (roughly 3 x 50 minutes or 150 minutes plus 60 transition minutes), then 6 days per week, running 2-3 miles each time (150 minutes plus 120 minutes of transition time). Indeed, I can add another 4 mile run to the 3 5-milers (190 minutes plus 80 transition minutes) and still come out at exactly the same total time as the 6-day regimen, but with a higher proportion of it spent on the core competency task of exercising.

* Post Office trips.
Yesterday, I had a realization. I am never going to purchase Christmas gifts in stores for out-of-town relatives that I won't be seeing again. I spent about 30 minutes the other night packaging up gifts and addressing them, then spent 12 minutes in line for the automatic postal machine (not even a clerk!) at the post office. Online stores offer gift boxes and ship things for you for less than I could have earned in the hour-plus this all took me (not to mention the time I spent at the mall -- though that's kind of fun).

* Kid product maintenance. Jasper needed more wipes at daycare. We will probably make a big shopping trip this weekend and buy loads of wipes and diapers in bulk. But he needed the wipes Wednesday. So...I went to Duane Reade and bought them. Unfortunately, this involved waiting in line for 5 minutes, in addition to the 5-10 minutes stopping in the store required. It's not much time, but since I'll be buying more this weekend anyway, it's completely lost time. Lesson: buy in bulk and monitor levels. I never seem to know when Jasper will run out of wipes and diapers at school. Another lesson: Don't waste time monitoring levels, just order diapers and wipes online every 2-3 weeks regardless.

* Picking up.
Part of having a 19-month-old child is the constant mess created by a sharing a house with a tiny little force of destruction. Over the past few weeks, Jasper has broken Christmas ornaments, torn apart a garland, dumped a bag of pretzels on the floor, dumped an entire box of Lucky Charms on the floor, thrown Cheerios all over the dining room, scattered blocks into every corner of the apartment, dribbled milk in little swirls everywhere he goes, hidden the remote control in cupboards, and so forth. One evening I was trying to pick up the blocks as he was getting ready for bed and he came over and immediately dumped the tub over again. Lesson: Don't bother. We pick up before the cleaning lady comes, and before company comes, and will at other times once Jasper is, say, six.

* Web surfing. Oh dear. I was recently obsessed with a handbag which, miraculously, Santa will be bringing me for Christmas. Unfortunately, to do this, Santa decided to compare prices on six different sites, check out other handbag collections while he was there, look at the outfits at Net-a-Porter for a solid half an hour, fantasize about the Christian Louboutin shoes he will not be bringing me (I haven't been that good) and then spent another half an hour dithering over color. These are not your core competencies, Santa! You have elves. And one of these days, I'm going to try a personal shopper.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Real Simple, Real Life

My review of Real Simple, Real Life (the reality TV show) ran at Culture11.com today. I'm also reprinting it, below.

Real Simple, Real Life, Really Must-See TV

Real Simple enters the reality TV world -- and leaves life a little better behind it.

By Laura Vanderkam, December 15, 2008

Wendy’s life borders on chaos. She works more than full time as an associate professor at a local college because she chairs so many committees that her meetings stack up. She has 151 unheard voice messages. At home, food goes bad in her war-zone pantry because she can’t find things. Disaster seems to follow her around; when her husband takes her sons to volunteer at an animal shelter, a dog bites her 6-year-old, necessitating a trip to the ER. What could make her life easier?

If you answered “a team of experts in colorful blouses with good hair” than you’ll understand the appeal of Real Simple Real Life, Real Simple magazine’s new venture into the reality TV realm. Every week, host Kit Hoover and her team of designers, money coaches, life coaches, wardrobe consultants, and the like descend upon a hapless woman – usually a working mom of young kids – and try to improve the most disorganized aspects of her existence. By the end of 60 minutes, she’ll have a budget. She’ll have an organized kitchen. Sometimes she’ll even land some colorful blouses or at least a household message center. As the print ads for the show promise, “Life doesn’t have to be this hard.”

It’s a seductive concept, that all that stands between us and a perfect life is labeled bins in our closets. Indeed, as a daily barrage of emails and stuff threatens to overwhelm the good intentions of American women, decluttering has practically become the religion of the modern era. With its promise of redemption from chaos, Real Simple Real Life is closer to the Old-Fashioned Revival Hour than the usual reality TV sludge. That fundamentally optimistic (if unrealistic) premise makes you want to keep watching – even if the show is so awkward at times that its uncanny sense of the cultural zeitgeist is all that keeps you hooked.

Real Simple, a magazine devoted to “life made easier” debuted 8 years ago, in March of 2000. It remains one of Time Inc.’s best launches ever. I was working at another Time Inc. publication shortly after the first issue hit news stands, and was told that it had tested off the charts with focus groups.

As a longtime subscriber myself, I believe it, though at first glance, the magazine’s appeal is hard to understand. The features are a hodgepodge of unexceptional how-tos – how to decorate a house in five-minute chunks; how to make squash and white bean soup with Parmesan biscuits. There are often clever essays; in December, the editors asked several famous writers to pen letters to Santa “sent” at different stages of their lives. But the feature well is not nearly as full of great writing as, say, O magazine (which has a similar target demographic). There’s not as much fashion as Vogue, or as much housekeeping advice as Martha Stewart Living. Women looking for career or financial advice are better off reading the Wall Street Journal.

Yet month after month, millions of readers flip through the pages, even though those pages more resemble museum catalogs than the usual happy, multi-color spreads of, say, Good Housekeeping. Text is kept to a minimum with lots of white space. Illustrations are composed in muted colors; a page of December’s gift guide suggesting a cast iron pot and a wooden salad tong is styled on a worn beige cloth with sprigs of green berries sprouting from twisted branches. There’s no particular reason for it. But the aesthetics are so striking you don’t care. The magazine is a fantasy – of clothes modeled on dressmaker dummies or even against a white background, rather than on models who might distract us. It’s a diversion for women whose lives feel busy and cluttered, and wish they weren’t so busy and cluttered.

Real Simple Real Life brings this fantasy to TV. Wendy, for instance, the subject of one early episode, has “been wasting food, money, and energy trying to keep up.” Her cluttered home looks nothing like the pages of Real Simple. Her husband Greg reports that “something’s always missing.” There is hope for her – the camera keeps flashing to stylish Real Simple-esque family photos that show Wendy, Greg, and their three boys in crisp, unfussy white shirts – then cuts to a scene of her rushing to work, late. On the way home she stops at her favorite clothing store. This is a problem, because the family has credit card debt, but as Wendy points out, after she works all day, she likes a little retail stress release. The kids have no place to put their backpacks and lunch boxes, so they wind up on the dining room table – so there’s no place to eat family dinners. The kids are also always underfoot because they don’t have a place to play. The garage-turned-playroom is too full of junk to be useful. “I need help organizing my life!” Wendy pleads.

Enter the Real Simple team. Alas, as soon as the cameras arrive, the dog bites the 6-year-old and the family decamps for the ER. But in the meantime, organization expert Jodie Watson cleans out the pantry, removing all expired food – including one item from 1998 – and puts everything in labeled bins. Finance expert Farnoosh Torabi calculates exactly how much money Wendy wastes on sale items she never wears, expired food, and her morning convenience store coffee. Designer Gia Russo creates a “circus-like” playroom with a 42-inch plasma screen TV that no kid in his right mind would ever want to leave.

After a whirlwind three days, Wendy has weekly meal plans, chore charts with stickers for the boys, and a resolution to make her coffee at home. At a one-month follow-up visit, she gushes that she’s making fewer supermarket trips. The family eats at the dining room table. The boys can play, unsupervised, in the safe playroom, so she has time to pay the bills and catch her breath. “I feel so much calmer and more organized,” Wendy says. Or as Torabi puts it, “considering how we started, wow.”

It’s uplifting television. Of course, there is a fundamental disconnect. One reason modern mothers feel so harried is that we spend our time watching reality TV shows like Real Simple Real Life instead of, oh, labeling storage bins.

Also, like Real Simple magazine, the show is still struggling to figure out its format. For eight years straight, the magazine has sported a section featuring oddball new uses for old things – such as storing scarves on an empty paper towel tube. Yet, as managing editor Kristin van Ogtrop admitted in a recent editor’s letter, it’s unclear how many readers try this sort of thing themselves.

Likewise, Real Simple Real Life operates under strange rules. For instance, Kit Hoover announces each week that she can only take three of her colorful-bloused experts to each subject’s house in a Saturn (Saturn sponsors the show; one suspects the contract requires at least three product mentions per episode to reach the TiVo audience). She then plucks the three lucky contestants from the couch as the others complain loudly. Maybe the three-expert limit is because of budget problems. Maybe it’s to inject a game-show type element into the mix. The reasoning is never explained. Regardless, it adds nothing to the show.

Furthermore, we never learn enough or care enough about Hoover, the host, to tune in just to watch her. She tells her experts that her own pantry is disorganized and, as a working mom of three, her life is chaotic, but given her high-maintenance ensembles (how many moms-in-chaos can pull off skinny jeans with shiny high heels?), it’s hard to believe. Nor does she have the kind of chemistry with her co-stars that launched Stacy London and Clinton Kelley of TLC’s What Not to Wear to prominence. The focus stays on the harried princesses in need of rescue from the clutter dragon – a risky strategy for a TV show. It’s not easy to hook enough appealing “real people” to renew for a second season.

On the other hand, we live in a navel-gazing era. We like to watch ourselves, and the hapless stars of Real Simple Real Life are very much like us. Sometimes exactly like us (one episode featured a woman who worked full-time from home and whose 1-year-old looked a lot like my son). These women may not end the show with perfect lives. Indeed, Wendy’s whole life would have been vastly more improved if Hoover had tapped a workplace coach as an expert. That coach could have told Wendy that no one in human history has advanced her career by sitting in five committee meetings per day.

But Wendy does have a perfect pantry. She does have a perfect playroom. How many TV shows feature such happy endings? As her husband Greg told the cameras, he didn’t want to see the Real Simple team leave. And, despite all the show’s flaws, neither does the audience at home.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

When the Going Gets Tough, Some People Lay Off the Nanny

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating story this morning in its front-page-bottom-middle-human-interest spot on the luxury of hired help. The problem? It's the first thing to go when times are tough -- allegedly. You can read the article (at least for a day or two) here.

Reporter Miriam Jordan does an excellent job tracking down several families who once employed nannies, housekeepers and the like and then, as the economy went south, had to let them go. Dolores Jacobo, for instance, ran a Malibu, California household. Then this month, her employers "tearfully informed her that her $1,000-a-week position is being eliminated" because they had "to cut expenses by 75%."

As the nut-graf says, "The weak economy is wiping out a symbol of the wealth boom: the megananny and other high-end help." (Though interestingly, a neighboring story points out that remittances are holding steady... so clearly not everyone is letting their nanny or housekeeper go).

Jordan also gives us some useful stats: In a Pinch Inc., which supplies household staff in 11 New Jersey counties, reports that business is down 30% this year. Annie's Nannies Household Staffing in Seattle estimates a drop of 10% so far this year. "Since the 1990s, household help has become accessible and even de rigueur for many middle-class families. The number of domestic placement agencies jumped to about 500 today from about 30 just 15 years ago," the article notes.

But then the story goes on to tell a rather horrible story about the Sirof family, which has a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old, and a stay-at-home mom. The family used to pay their nanny, Alba Monterrosa, $600 a week. Mrs. Sirof reports that she was "a second mom to my kids." But, "a few months ago, the family decided they couldn't afford Ms. Monterrosa anymore and let her go. Mrs. Sirof's daughters took the separation badly. They inquired incessantly about 'Vita,' as they called her. Normally, a lively child, daughter Addie became sad and withdrawn. A doctor Mrs. Sirof consulted suggested renewed contact with Ms. Monterrosa."

Mrs. Sirof reports that she feels "horrible" about all this, but she is not willing to give up other perks to keep Ms. Monterrosa around more. "Nothing deters me from my Botox treatments."


While the article is right in noting the rise of outsourcing household work, I think it misses the mark with some of these stories. For starters, it has people with nannies trading down to daycare -- which would not be a financially savvy move in our case. Jasper's daycare plus hiring a sitter 1-2 nights per week (which we might not need if we had a full-time nanny) comes out to about what Ms. Monterrossa earns. Daycare isn't a financial choice, it's an educational choice. It does note that some strapped families are looking at "nanny shares" which is probably a good idea for socializing children anyway (if the nanny is up for it).

But -- and this is the big but -- the largest anecdotes in this piece are clearly about families with stay-at-home moms who still have full-time nannies. This is a phenomenon I've never entirely understood, though I do see it from time to time. For instance, Dolores Jacobo's employers "have busy lives" that include "volunteering at school, going to the gym, visiting the chiropractor and getting various beauty treatments like facials, manicures and pedicures." Mrs. Sirof, likewise, notes that Ms. Monterrosa was there "when she went on spa trips or outings to get Botox and Juvederm injections."

This makes for good copy, but this is not the usual experience of people who outsource household tasks. You know what I do while I am outsourcing things like housecleaning? Working.

This is actually a good financial choice for me. In recent years, things like maid services ($80 every two weeks), laundry services ($25 a week), meal delivery (like buying ready-made meals from Fresh Direct) and the like have become relatively accessible, even to the upper middle class. This is mostly because these days, people outsource to small businesses rather than individuals per the WSJ story (think Merry Maids, not a housekeeper, or grocery delivery, rather than a cook). I earn more per hour than any of these things wind up costing me. By outsourcing these tasks, 2-income couples can focus on their core competencies of work and nurturing their children.

Childcare is, of course, a slightly different matter. Not only is it a core competency that most of us don't want to outsource any more than we have to, it is still relatively expensive. But in 2-income households, everything else -- Botox, Juvederm, spas, even car payments, eating anything but rice and lentils, etc. -- has to be cut before childcare, because it isn't a "luxury." It's the one thing that enables the two incomes to exist in the first place. If you do have to cut household expenses 75%, it's probably because one party lost his or her job. But then, letting the nanny go makes sense -- not so much because "the going gets tough" -- but because one party is available to be a full-time stay-at-home parent.

As it is, I have a solution to Mrs. Sirof's problem. Clearly, the children want their nanny back. The best way to afford her and the Botox?

Get a job.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ghosts of Christmas Past

My piece comparing the December issues of Good Housekeeping from 1958 and 2008 is up on Culture11.com today. You can read it here.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Where does our free time go?

Once upon a time, if you wanted butter, you had to get the milk from a cow and churn it. Any dish used had to be washed by hand; any clothes worn had to be scrubbed on a washboard. The industrial revolution changed some of this, but also introduced incredibly long work days -- the 40 hour workweek is a relatively modern invention. Furthermore, people in all industrialized countries have far fewer children than they did 100 years ago. Fewer children require less care and upkeep. It begs the question: if we have a lot more free time these days (and there's no question that we do), why do we feel so rushed?

I've been checking out some research from Geoff Godbey, a professor of leisure studies, and others, and have been finding some interesting things. Americans estimate that they only have about 18 hours of free time each week, but in reality, time diaries reveal they have twice as much. This is consistent with my calculations; with 168 hours per week, even if you sleep 8 hours a night, that leaves 112 hours for other things. The average woman with a full-time job only puts in 36 hours per week on the clock. So where do the other 76 hours go?

The problem, Godbey and others say, is that we use many of these free hours to watch television. Indeed, almost all the additional leisure time gained over the past generation has been spent on the couch in front of the tube. Television is easy and ubiquitous. It's possibly addictive. On the other hand, it does not in any way help us advance toward our life goals, and in fact, isn't even all that relaxing or pleasurable. We definitely think sex is more pleasurable than television, but how many couples stay up late to watch Letterman or the Daily Show, and then don't have sex because they're too tired?

Second, this free time gets lost in transitions and small chunks that don't seem big enough for anything else. You know how this goes -- you grab the mail on the way in, then spend 15 minutes looking through a catalog that you know full well you are never going to order from. While checking your email, you click on an article that then takes you 15 minutes to read, but doesn't exactly improve your life in that 15 minutes. You heat something up in the microwave, and stand in front of it the whole time. You try on different outfits in the morning.

Being a Core Competency Mom requires spending lots of time at work (enough to truly be the best at what you do). It also requires a lot of thoughtful interaction with your family. Within a 168 hour week, there is plenty of time for both. But there isn't time to watch the 30 hours of TV the average American puts in, nor is there time to waste on things that don't matter. Turning off the TV is easy, but filling the other small chunks with productive things is a bit harder. That's one of the topics I'll be exploring in later posts.