The Five-Minute Challenge

When I began my blog, I planned to post twice a week, with more theoretical philosophy of life type posts on Tuesday and practical, hands-on posts on Thursday. I knew that I would be posting about time management occasionally. It’s a challenge we all face, and I consider it one of my areas of expertise. The problem is: Does it belong on Tuesdays because time is a theoretical concept, or does it belong on Thursdays because, although not hand on, it is certainly practical.

Practicalities forced me to post about time on Thursday this week. Practicalities also forced me to drop the idea of posting twice a week. I started a new job, so I less time that I can write. Every other week I will post a practical idea on Thursday; the other weeks I will post a reflection on life on Tuesday.

Today I want to talk about a little technique I use to break up overwhelming jobs into bite sized chunks, avoid wasting precious time, and make sure that certain tasks get a little attention every day. I call it the five-minute challenge.

I came up with the idea when faced with a very messy kitchen. It was so bad I didn’t know where to start. I decided to set a timer for five minutes and challenge myself to clean one section of the kitchen in that time. When that was finished, I moved on to the next section.

I discovered that the challenge gave me motivation to keep moving. Racing the timer gives a little adrenaline. I also found that I have an easier time facing five minutes of an unpleasant task than I do an unspecified amount of time, even if I know I am going to have to set the timer a few times to finish the task.

And it’s useful for other things too. There are those in between times like when you need to leave the house in 8 minutes. It’s not enough time to take on a project, but there’s usually something that could be done. If you wash 5 minutes worth of dishes now, that’s five more minutes you have to tack onto a project later. And the timer helps you keep from being late.

Then there are those everyday tasks like keeping your house clean. It’s good to keep somewhat on top of them, but you don’t need to do a thorough housecleaning every day. I use a daily five-minute challenge or two to keep on top of things like that.

What can you accomplish in five minutes? I’m going to see if I can do those breakfast dishes before I have to run out of the door.

Three Ways to Enjoy Flowers in Winter

I was planning on posting about flower arrangements, fresh and dried, when my angel wing begonia and my hellebore burst into bloom. That got me thinking about all the ways I enjoy flowers in winter: bouquets, house plants, and hellebore.

Bouquets

I tend to think of winter as the season for dried bouquets. I plan my winter bouquets in fall. I’ve been learning by trial and error which flowers will still be beautiful through the winter and even into the next year if you hang them upside down. It’s too late for that now, but it’s not too late to go out and scavenge for dried seed pods.

The only other option here in the North is to buy flowers. I don’t often indulge in purchasing fresh flowers, but I do enjoy them on occasion. I can get them at a reasonable price at the grocery store.

I’ve never had any classes on flower arranging. I developed an eye for it over time. Until recently I never cared much for my arrangements, but the nice thing about flowers is they are always going to be pretty. They are a good way to develop your artistic sense.

Here are some good things to keep in mind when arranging:

Choose a vase that complements the flowers. A tall bouquet looks good in a tall vase. A full bouquet looks good in a rounded vase.

Be conservative about how much stem you cut off. You can always take more off, but you can’t put any back on.

Go for balance in the overall shape. Having a tall flower or seed pod add a dramatic effect, but the shape of the rest of the bouquet should parallel or complement the tall form. A tall flower sticking out of an otherwise round bouquet will look out of place.

A few dollars and about ten minutes of arranging the flowers adds color and cheer to a dreary month.

Houseplants

Orchids are stunning. They like diffused light. Be careful not to over water them.

I used to kill houseplants, but I recently did a little stint of living in town. The apartment was bright and sunny, and several people gave me plants. There were gorgeous hibiscus. Unfortunately, these got a whitefly infestation that I never managed to control, and they died. But the orchid and angel wing begonia flourished.

There are plenty of beautiful houseplants available. Why not give them a try? Just because you didn’t do well with them in the past doesn’t mean you won’t in the future. Or maybe you didn’t have the right variety for your conditions. Some plants are easier to careful than others. I find begonias easy. Orchids need indirect light and need to have air get to their roots. They are sometimes said to be difficult to care for, but I didn’t find them difficult. You just have to be careful not to over water them.

The big things to remember with houseplants are: don’t tell yourself you will kill it, pick a plant you like and that will do well in your lighting conditions, and water at the recommended frequency.

Hellebore

Hellebore does well in the shade and blooms in winter. This flower is currently blooming in my woods.

As far as I know, these are the only plants you will find blooming in January and February in my part of the world. You can plant them in the shade. They make a beautiful evergreen ground cover. They require very little care, and they bloom in winter or very early spring. What more can you ask for?

Enjoy

I encourage you to try houseplants or flower arranging even if you think you can’t. But don’t stress yourself out over it. That would defeat the purpose. Enjoy the winter flowers even if you do nothing more than look at ones in the store.