Category Archives: Organization

DIY Fresheners

Because I want to, I will start with a random weird fact: the first McDonald’s Drive-Thru was created for military customers who weren’t allowed to be in public in their uniforms. I’m guessing nudity wasn’t an option.

Pre-emptive Intro: Look at those retro Elvis sunglasses! Feel free to submit my pictures as a visual for a “douche photo.” Even I cringe and laugh when I see it.

Listen, I know y’all are rich.

This means you don’t like your place smelling like dog farts or cat tootsie rolls. If you’re married to a man, you should be accustomed to it. If you have teenage boys, you might as well live in an Army dorm.

As noted philosopher SpongeBob said: “I smell the smelly smell of something that smells smelly.”

You can make really cheap do-it-yourself Febreze.

If you don’t love throwing money out, make your spouse or teenagers make the stuff for you at home. You can make it for much less than half a dollar a bottle. And it works just the same.

It’s not as cheap as a clothespin on one’s nose.

Febreze isn’t good for birds or Venezuelan Poodle Moth (which is real, and you should look it up!), but it’s pretty safe with all other animals. People with respiratory issues of any kind already know to be careful around this type of product. A lot of the commercial cleaners you buy can be replaced with simple things you make at home. I’ve noted that many homeowners wait until they need a flamethrower to clean some areas.

Most of the things you need for a basic homemade Febreze are already in your house. If not, your neighbor probably leaves their door unlocked, which is tantamount to implicit permission to borrow liberally from them.

Fabric softener, baking soda, alcohol, essential oils. You don’t need ALL those. There are various competing recipes on the internet. The ones which use fabric softener, white vinegar, a bit of alcohol, and water are the easiest. You can search for it using your favorite privacy-robbing web browser.

“Cleaning is putting stuff in less obvious places.” To which I’d reply: “Turn off the lights, and suddenly the mess disappears.”

Having said all that, do you know what works the best because it attacks odors at its source? Vinegar and water at mostly equal concentrations. Yes, the strong initial smell might throw people off, but it does a much better job after the application dissipates, as it attacks a lot of bacteria, something Febreze and knockoffs don’t. The smell will disappear. But so will a lot of what is causing the odors in the first place.

“Everybody wants to save the earth; no one wants to help mom do the dishes.”
P.J. O’Rourke

Did you know that psychologically speaking, just spraying something that smells like a cleaner often gives a person a mental boost? It’s associative; the scent triggers a similar feeling to actually having cleaned. Even if you spray and then walk out on the patio and drink a cup of coffee.

If you make your own, you can make anywhere from 10-20 bottles for the price of one bottle of Febreze or a can of air freshener.

You can use the extra money you saved to buy something nice for yourself. Like one of those virus-zapping robots. It won’t remove the dust, but your dust will be germ-free.

Hint for bad housekeepers… remember some of my helpful tips. Hang underwear on the door, or leave a murder scene outline inside your front door and then apologize for the mess. Tell everyone the coroner just left. Either usually stops the Q&A or wrinkled noses as visitors enter your nest.

X
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Penultimate Battle Regarding The Drug Shed

I waited for a day when I had enough pent-up energy to tackle what I knew would be the worst part of dismantling the drug shed behind my apartment simplex. I wore gloves this time (no, I didn’t on any of the previous battles) and used a regular claw hammer for the destructive part. It was loud as I grunted and hit the remaining support rails and metal with everything I had. It was therapeutic hitting that mess and watching it be reduced to its components. This time I didn’t worry about the noise or how ridiculous I looked – not that I ever do about the latter.

Instead of ants this go-around, it was mosquitoes. Hundreds of them. The torrential avalanche of insecticide I used on the ants after being attacked should have murdered anything crawling or flying back there. Wrong. I looked down at my sweat-soaked arm and saw no fewer than twenty on my right arm. I went inside and rubbed myself with oil. Naturally, I kept forgetting I was oil-soaked and got in on my face and just about everywhere else. Cleaning the bathtub after the shower was one of those things I should have thought out more clearly. There was one large black snake in the pile under the long strips of construction vinyl next to the fence. Just as I was about to reach down and swing it around by the tail and throw it across the fence, it slithered between the rusted chain links and escaped.

I filled about one-third of the dumpster with vinyl and trash; I have to meter out the quantity each time I use it.

I left every piece of metal out that I could. There’s a metal scavenger who frequents my dumpster. I reward his efforts in any way that I can. This year, he’s made a fortune in water heaters and air conditioners. Most of the ones here are from the 1970s.

The stout metal frame covered in rotted wood remains. It taunts me. Given that I made it this far, I’m going to remove every vestige of that horrible shed. Even if it kills me.

I sweated and felt my heart race for a solid hour. Though it fatigued me in one way, it also brought a sense of accomplishment. It’s pretty idiotic to feel happy about doing something that should have been done years ago. And by the people who own the place.

All these cleanup projects I’ve done are a testament to the law of increments.

It’s a good reminder and one I needed today

X
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“Will” You Or Won’t You

This isn’t legal advice. It’s not illegal either. Obviously, I’m not an attorney. If I were, I’d bill you for simply reading this. Or, more likely, I’d sue you for sharing conspiracy theories.

I know you’re immortal and will live forever.

Planning ahead regarding your death isn’t going to cause a Final Destination scenario. Or it might. Either way, as an adult, it is up to you to do the minimum to help the people you love once you’re gone. You never know when a giant log might fall off a truck and take your head off.

That’s no way to roll!

Every year at this time, I think about my thirty-one-year-old wife dying unexpectedly. Or the expert pilot getting thrown out of his parachute and falling to the ground at my feet. Neither really thought, “This is it.” No one does. They know it could happen. They turn an unseen corner and darkness falls.

If you don’t have a will, you’re leaving the people behind with extra baggage they don’t need. If people don’t have access to your financial accounts or your phone when you pass, I promise you that you’re causing needless agony on top of the grief they’ll suffer when you pass. It’s also a great way to encourage family members to behave like contestants on “Survivor.” And trust me, none of them will be as good-looking as those phony participants.

A handwritten will is acceptable. One that’s witnessed is better. The best is one witnessed and notarized. Probate courts love those. It’s one of the best gifts you can give your friends and family. (Not quite as good as living trusts and automatic survivorship or ownership – but much better than no plan.) Once you have one, I recommend telling your family you have one and what the contents are. It will be invaluable after your death if there are no surprised family members or someone claiming you said otherwise.

If you’ve not completed a will because it costs a lot or is a hassle, you’re wrong. It’s neither. You can do one from home in thirty minutes to an hour. After that, get it witnessed at a minimum and notarized if at all possible. The best part? It doesn’t require a lawyer. Doing it this way isn’t for everyone. But if you don’t have one, it is very likely that it will work perfectly for you.

Now that I’ve said all that, I can’t think of why everyone doesn’t have a will in Arkansas. Or share their passcodes.

Rocket Lawyer is my favorite do-it-yourself service. There are others. You can sign up for a trial and try it out. It is NOT expensive or complicated. You can edit it, download it, and easily use it. If you need help, have someone you trust to come to assist you. That will also help if a family member questions the contents. I won’t bore you with horrific family stories that ended in huge fights, court battles, or worse. We’ve all heard or been involved in them. I’ve known several people who died without wills and then had other family members destroy each other over alleged wishes and property. The simple truth is that you cannot know whether your wishes will be honored. Money and emotions cause uncountable family rifts.

If you have a lot of assets or are rich (define however you wish), it’s very likely you already have a will. For the rest of us, don’t worry about lawyers screaming that you should always use a lawyer to prepare one. If you have the money for a lawyer, please use one, but know that most of them use common template-generating software to fill in the information you’ll provide. Lawyers take time and money. It’s better to get one and then worry about “doing it perfectly.” Get a basic will now that covers most of the bases. THEN, follow up with the next step, even though we both know you’ll probably sit on the couch eating from a bag of chips instead.

Trusts and automatic transfer of your property are much more desirable than relying on a will, which might trigger probate. If you use a lawyer or estate planner, he or she will, of course, fill in the blanks for you. It’s best to have your property and assets automatically transferred to the person or people of your choice without the need for additional steps.

I live in the real world and know that many people don’t think ahead. They falsely believe that they will have time later – or that those whom they leave behind will capably take care of it. That’s foolish. All of us must face the idea that today might be our last day to grace this world. A few minutes of your time will save countless hours of agony. If someone you trust doesn’t have access to your phone, your computer, and your accounts, you are causing them avoidable agony.

Now that you know that it doesn’t have to be hard or expensive to get a will (or take the time to visit a lawyer), what’s stopping you? Most lawyers know better than to bite you, even ones who live in Madison County. I hope you live another thirty years. And if you don’t, that you take a little bit of your life to make your passing easier on your loved ones once you’re gone. If you’ve got time to watch an hour of SportsCenter or The Bachelorette, you have time to make a will or talk to a lawyer, estate planner, or psychic.

RocketLawyer
LegalZoom
Do Your Own Will
Trust & Will
U.S. Legal Wills
Nolo’s Quicken WillMaker
Your preferred lawyer or estate planner
Random Guy On The Internet

PS: 90% of the things that you think are valuable are valuable – but only to you. Your death cuts the cord of connection. Reduce, give away, donate, and triage your stuff so that what remains is the essence of what you treasure. Simplicity is its own reward y’all. If the things you have are valuable in the real world, sell them and use the money to live the life you want or to help those who need a hand. It could be anyone’s last day on Earth. Buried treasures help no one.

Love, X
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Underwear On The Door, Part Two

This post isn’t for you. You know who are, favorite DNA person. 🙂

Most of us live in our private nests.

Pretty much everyone feels like they need to clean more, reduce more, and spend more time in the bureaucracy of keeping their nest aligned with an arbitrary level of cleanliness. That’s okay, too. Each minute spent to do so should not be at the expense of your moments, your friends, your family – but more so, at the cost of your mental well-being. Time spent concerned about how your nest looks is time not spent being creative or enjoying even simple pleasures. You become too focused on the “ought to and obligation” of keeping your nest perfect.

Stacks of mail in the kitchen, dust everywhere it can be. Clothes to be washed, clothes to be put away, clothes that don’t fit inside the closet, dressers, and on the floor. Books to be read, magazines you will never read. You don’t have a crazy drawer, you have an entire crazy room, garage, or storage space filled with miscellaneous everything. Most of us do. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there! People keep their nests largely unhidden, so we wrongly assume they don’t have the same problem as we do.

You can’t triage the physical space. Look around. For the most part, whatever condition your house is in right now, it’s probably the default. That might bother you to accept. It shouldn’t. You can fight an agonizing fight to spend a lot of time and energy temporarily fixing your space, or you can yield and do the best you can and let it go at that. Homes and nests are meant to be lived in, and you will always have to make choices to keep it pristine or lived in. You can’t have both without wasting a lot of your now moments.

The same is true about your job, your diet, your vices, and your mind.

Each person’s best is variable, fluid, and often contradictory. And that is okay.

If you have precious things, keep those that are tied to defining moments and memories in your life. The rest? Sell what you can to have the things that add value to your life.

Donate, discard, disown.

We hoard and clutter partly because it makes us feel like our place is a home, a nest, and our place to be. But we also do it because we don’t see the arc of time getting shorter and shorter.

For a later day, I might need it, it’s valuable; these are all valid reasons to keep things. But it is not things that matter. Not if you don’t use them regularly, not if they don’t light you up, or if they fail to make your life fuller and more satisfying.

“Treasures that aren’t treasured, admired, or used aren’t treasures at all. They are anchors, ones that keep up from enjoying the here and now and the people in our orbit.” – X

Out of sound, out of mind, trinkets, and treasures stored for no witness or participant.

Things are to be used or admired. Everything else? It not only clutters your nest, it clutters your mind.

Simplicity is the toughest goal. It requires herculean effort to overcome the urge to keep, to store, to accumulate.

As someone smart once told me, “Ain’t nothing you got that can’t be taken except for your peace of mind. This world honors nothing with permanence.”

Love, X
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Pretxel Fish Is Born

What is Pretxel Fish? Arkansas’ newest LLC. Due to the craziness of my name, Arkansas had trouble understanding that my first name is just X. I used the ongoing bureaucratic melee as a reason to replace the ‘z’ in ‘pretzel’ with an X. If ‘xylophone’ can be pronounced with an X, anything can. (One of my favorite words is ‘xanthous,’ which has acquired new meaning lately.) What is Pretzel Fish, the name from which I derived my company name? A reminder to be grateful and to experience whatever is at your feet. Not the potential of what could be or what you’d like to be. You can make moves to change your life incrementally or you can adapt and find lemon moments where you are. It’s up to you and me. I’m not sure what I will do with this new business. And that lights me up a little with both humor and expectations.

Love, X
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Washington Regional Rebranding Idea

Infrequently, I try to use my endless ideas to create something ‘serious.’ I hate that word, as it needlessly demarcates life into impossible categories. I’m both ridiculous and contemplative – as most people are.

For years I’ve thought that Washington Regional Medical System needed both a new logo and a new name, one that reflects simplicity, recognizability, and appropriateness. The hospital system is flung across multiple counties, with dozens of clinics. As it has grown, the “Washington” part increasingly becomes a misnomer, especially as it encroaches on other systems in the area.

The name I invented is pronounced “Regional Plus.” The logo is just the word “Regional” with a symbol that uses the essential foundation of the complicated logo it utilized for years. It’s simple, recognizable, and has a plethora of built-in marketing potential. I’d rather have the word “Regional” be purple, too, but I used a nondescript gray to keep the suits and ties happier. Additionally, my proposed rebrand fits on t-shirts, badges, and marketing materials – something the longer current one does not. It will save a LOT of space on signs, too.

“At Regional +, we’re not just a hospital, we’re a hospital plus.”

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to extrapolate dozens of such marketing phrases. Naturally, I have several funny ones, too, but I’ll leave them for later.

I shared it with marketing and a few other people and didn’t get a response. Crickets.

The weird thing? Without evidence, I see this logo becoming the new one for the hospital.

Tell me that mine isn’t better and I will shut up.

X

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The First Saturday

I couldn’t bring myself to occupy either of the two bedrooms in my apartment. Being both weird and practical, I put the bedroom furniture in the living room. It says “living” right in the name of the room, right? “I might regret this later,” I thought, but simultaneously realized that such a thought might well be universally applied to anyone’s entire life. For anyone who doesn’t know, I sleep with a comforter – no sheet. And even though it causes consternation in the heads of my uptight ( 🙂 ) friends, I will not be ‘making’ my bed daily. Part of the reason for that is that my comforter is for a long twin bed rather than for my pillow-top queen, so even if I wanted to ‘make’ the bed, the comforter won’t cover more than 50% of it anyway. Note: another advantage of using smaller or narrower comforters is that they are much easier to keep clean and don’t overload the washing machine.

You can see my new backward clock in the upper right of the picture, marking its time contrarily and much too quickly. The two young movers who helped me yesterday were tickled by the backward clock, as well as some of my crazy art – and especially my hybrid Jesus/Zach Galifianakis picture.

My apartment has a great view of the busy street about fifty yards away. Beyond that, the traffic light and the railroad tracks. The building I’m in is a large “L,” and I’m in the inside upper corner of the nexus. I put my desk right in front of the large window. It’s too much sun but the view connects me to the world – and I need that right now.

Gregg is a busy street. Though I love the sound of a train, I will have to give the railroad a grace period, one in which I grow accustomed to the blare of the horn as it traverses this side of Fayetteville. The excursion trains run through on their assigned schedule. If I’m outside or walking, I can’t resist waving to the passengers. Truth be told, I’m gregarious with the neighbors, too, and for many of them, they are not accustomed to someone being so friendly.

I already put a hanging crystal outside, as well as a solar lantern I had painted. But no matter how I decorate this new place, I promised myself that I would stop thinking about my environment so critically. I’ve always lived inside my head in a way that others don’t seem to. Minimalists are supposed to appreciate the opportunity to acknowledge how transient all ‘this’ is and live accordingly. This is an older apartment building and it shows. The same can be said for me, even though I managed to rejuvenate my life and health a bit over the last year.

Starting over with very little has once again put my head into that space where I’d like to be aware of everything I add back into my life. Every single thing occupies space, requires care and cleaning, and makes our lives less portable.

I’m sitting in the office chair now, looking out the windows, listening to both birds and traffic. I am humbled that I made it to this point.

Love, X

Get To Know Me

I still buy an entirely new set of socks each time I need them. For me, they are like new tires. Buying a few is tomfoolery. As comedian Steven Wright does, I wear and sort my socks based on thickness rather than color. Colorblind people everywhere are in my corner.

If that joke doesn’t work for you, try this one by Steve Martin: “I like a woman with a head on her shoulders. I hate necks.”

Since you’re already a fan of mine as evidenced by the fact that you still somehow find the nerve to read what I write, you also know that I do not fold socks. It’s not that the mechanics of it escape me. It’s the folly of the days of one’s life spent doing it. Before you attack me, NO, I do not know what I’ve otherwise done with this amazing bunch of time I’ve saved by not folding socks.

Often, I of course use the old laundered socks as packaging material. Years ago, I accumulated them and packed them into my mom’s surprise packages I sent her. I sometimes wear the socks the last time when I’m on a trip and discard them once worn. There have been times I’m certain that housekeeping wonders what kind of lunatic discards his socks.

Not that y’all care to know, but I do the same with my underwear – except I don’t use those in my mailings, unless you ask me to. People tend to react unexpectedly upon opening a surprise box and discover underwear in various stages of decomposition. The idea of having underwear with different birthdays amuses me.

Before you mock me, I’ll admit that I CAN intermittently replace my socks and underwear without a total replenishment. But what else would I do with this obvious wealth I’ve accumulated in life? If one cannot splurge and buy a new set of underwear in its entirety, that is when life gets truly oppressive. You won’t find that written anywhere unless you inherited the diary of a madman.

For all the above reasons, perhaps you can now see why I am a liberal.

A Trashy Post

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Early last year, I wrote about our waste management company.  Previous post…

I discovered that many people didn’t know the precise rules about their curbside pickup. For example, they didn’t know the trash company must pick up all the extra bags you pile on the bin – or around it if necessary. My ignorance was compounded by observing neighbors furtively sneak around and put their overflow into other people’s bins.

The people at Waste Management were among those people who weren’t sure how it worked.

After writing to the City of Springdale and following up, the trash company realized that they offer an additional bin for residential use for just $7.50 a month.

They revised their CSR scripts and information to include the new details I had inquired about.

While you might be proud to own a shiny new luxury car, I can think of no greater luxury than having an additional trash bin at the house. Some weeks, there’s not much. Other weeks, you’d swear thirteen people live at the house, people dedicated to depleting all the earth’s resources.

We already get a large bin for weekly trash and a recycle for pickup every two weeks. I’d call it ‘bi-weekly,’ but a lot of people don’t understand if that means twice a week or every other week. I don’t blame them; English is a tortuous language absent much continuity.

To my credit, one recycle bin for us is not enough. It annoys me to need to put recycling in the regular trash bin. It annoys me worse than needing to repeat myself, especially when I’m the idiot that made it necessary.

Just to find out if the reality of having two trash bins matches my fantasy, I called and requested a second bin a couple of weeks ago.

Yes, jealous friends – you read correctly. I now have two trash bins to use.

I’ll be the envy of the neighborhood. Some of my neighbors already act like they don’t understand that the trash goes i-n-s-i-d-e the bin. They’ll pass out in shock when they see me displaying two trash bins and a recycle bin by the curb. No doubt the people working to pick up the bins weekly will not be as happy. My house will not be double the fun.

Now that I’ve done it, I’m wondering what it would be like to have two recycling bins.

A Sign Your Boss or Job Sucks

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Do you want to know a sure sign you work somewhere where either the organization is terrible – or the boss is?

If they want to limit discussion to only your reaction, rather than the actions, words, or circumstances which triggered you, it’s a poor organization. Even people accused of murder have the opportunity to detail the timeline of events that preceded the alleged crime.

People are complex. Most people rarely flame out or over-react.

If your boss fails to listen, regardless of how ‘busy’ he or she is, it is likely the job or boss sucks. If it becomes a pattern, it is a certainty.

If your boss vocalizes the idea or emails any insinuation that your concerns are trivial, you work for a poor boss.

If someone uncharacteristically lashes out, you need to stop and examine what happened – as if human beings are involved. Forget the check-boxes and paint-by-the-numbers nonsense that HR insists that you use. Good HR representatives are compassionate, but it’s vital to remember that their primary responsibility is toward the company, which by definition is impersonal.

Good people don’t lash out or lose their sh#t unless they’ve been ignored.

In the last few years, most of us have witnessed the role of HR diminish from watchdog to whitewash. As organizations silo their areas, poor managers tend to become worse managers – and without anyone properly keeping an eye on them.

So many of us tolerate stress, mismanagement, misbehavior, or other cumulative craziness without a comment. Without warning, the valve blows and we react.

The boss rarely understands that we might be around a toxic employee or drama llama, or that employees are expected to do too much or tolerate behavior that would never be forgiven outside of work. Because businesses are running leaner or management is less well-trained than previously, the issues tend to flame out with greater consequence.

I see this becoming a worse problem as managers focus on metrics and impersonal considerations ahead of our humanity. As we emerge into a postcovid workforce, I predict that there’s going to be a great deal of backlash with this, even though many workers will continue to work from home.

When managers shift to priority management, especially during a crisis, people have fewer ways to vent their grievances. Despite the fact that most bosses grow to despise this part of their job, it’s actually more important than ever that they grin and bear it as they listen to their subordinates. Even if they don’t appreciate the alleged severity of the issues, failing to provide a release valve will hurt everyone. Pressure always leaks out of the organization. Whether it leaks out harmfully depends on the individual who is being ignored.

While it is simply my opinion, I think organizations need to stop leaning toward efficiency. Most people do their jobs well without micromanagement. The human component, the part needing attention, is suffering now more than ever. I see it in real-time.

I know the agony bosses suffer when they listen to a lot of complaining. It works precisely like a marriage, though. If you stop listening, you’re going to find your stuff piled in a flaming heap in the driveway.

Besides, in my experience, the terrible bosses who do this sort of thing are the worst when someone does the same to them. They will destroy the entire business if necessary if they are judged in a vacuum and without being afforded the opportunity to explain why they lost their sh#t.