POOR, UNAPPRECIATED PARENTS
A few decades ago, my best friend called me with a “You’re not going to believe this!” tale of woe. A mom of four, she’d spent her little ones’ formative years teaching them, in age-appropriate ways, the essential life skills, including hygiene tasks like tooth-brushing, bathing, and hand-washing. She always explained how each helped keep them healthy, never stinting on science but also focusing on the “what’s in it for me?” aspect necessary to persuade tiny humans to do anything.
Her little daughter, however, was always reluctant. No matter how much my friend tried to bring home the concept of germ theory in keeping everyone healthy, she still had to remind, cajole, wheedle.
Fast-forward a bit to the day my friend called me. Her daughter had just returned from a day of kindergarten, and, as kids often do, held forth breathlessly on the delights and fascinations of learning something new. My BFF’s daughter solemnly, gravely spoke to my (college-educated in the field of child development) friend as if she were a dim stuffed animal and reported, “Mommy, my teacher said that we have to always wash our hands. There are little invisible bugs that if we touch them and then touch our faces, we could get sick, and if we touch someone else, we could get them sick. It’s very important that you do this!”
Mothers the world over know the sad, universal truth. You can’t make someone believe (or do) something, even for their own good, until they are ready. My friend’s daughter had to hear it from an authority figure who wasn’t her mom. Someone who made it interesting and fun in a non-mom way. Her daughter had sagely nodded along in class to earn the approbation of her teacher, and only then did the facts matter to her.
Sometimes, even we know something is good for us and everyone around us, it doesn’t matter who tells us; we just don’t do it. We don’t recycle. Or we don’t back up our computers. Or we don’t assign homes to objects and put things away, and instead toss bills on top of the microwave, where they gather dust.
Some people need to avoid the stick; others need the carrot. Organizing new health behaviors is no different.
WE NEVER WANT TO HEAR THE WORD “UNPRECEDENTED” AGAIN
Early in the COVID pandemic, we were repeatedly told that the best things we could do to avoid exposure to this dangerous virus were:
Many of us got good at figuring out how far apart six feet was. For me, I pictured two shopping carts. CNN had a post called Social Distancing Means Standing 6 Feet Apart. Here’s What That Actually Looks Like with almost giddy cartoon depictions like, “Two Labrador Retrievers standing nose to tail” and a “Man Wearing a Top Hat.”
MOM, HE’S TOUCHING ME!
Some pieces of advice were easier to follow than others. I mean, if you have had the chicken pox or poison ivy, you know it’s hard to keep from scratching an itch. But before COVID, did you ever give thought to keeping yourself from touching your face?
It’s hard! I mean, as an organizing and productivity professional, I can tell you how to turn off notifications on your phone to keep yourself from being distracted, but short of tying your hands to your chair, there’s not a lot of good advice for keeping your hands off your face.
A few weeks into the pandemic, Mike Bodge, Brian Moore, and Isaac Blankensmith developed Do Not Touch Your Face, a machine-learning, in-browser app that, once you granted camera access, would shout, “No!” at you when your hand got close to your face.
We made a little site that will yell at you… whenever you touch your face. Hope it helps you learn to stop touching your face! Try it out: https://t.co/IGNEQZIFAX Made with @mikebodge @lanewinfield #donottouchyourface #coronaoutbreak #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/jL5Ids9UV0
— Isaac Blankensmith (@Blankensmith) March 4, 2020
Weird but helpful, it worked when you were sitting in front of your computer, but not when you were anywhere but there.
Eventually, University of Hawaii Professor Kim Binstead designed the JalapeNO app for Fitbits (and soon, Apple Watches) to help people keep their hands off their faces.
WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN?
Back in March, who (except doctors) owned a mask, unless it was part of a Grey’s Anatomy cosplay costume? With a shortage of N95 masks and the need for them to get to healthcare workers, entire cottage industries have grown up around creating reusable masks for the rest of us. (A big thanks to friend-of-the-blog Jacki Hollywood Brown and her daughter for the gorgeous masks in Paper Doll‘s theme colors!)
Your favorite sports team? There’s a mask. (Go, team!)
Your alma matter? There’s a mask.
Masks that match your outfit? But of course!
A mask with some snark from regarding your favorite 19th century author? Is a single man in possession of a good fortune in want of a wife? I mean, come on, it’s universally acknowledged!
And now we’ve come full circle. Hand washing. In those first few weeks, we learned we probably weren’t washing our hands long enough, even if we were washing them often enough. We’re grownups, we assume we know how to wash our hands, but then the CDC came out with this somewhat daunting 11-step graphic:
Some people were singing “Happy Birthday” to make sure they were doing it long enough, but that got old. I’ve been studying Italian for the past few years, so I started counting in Italian to accompany the ritual. Quattordici. Quindici. Sedici…Venti-due. Venti-tre. Sigh.
So, I was surprised (but delighted) to learn that one of the companies beloved by professional organizers and productivity specialists, Time Timer, had joined the fight for clean hands. The same company I’ve praised in these pages previously (and previously, and previously) for how they help children and adults visualize time has created a special timer to make hand-washing, well, if not fun, per se, less of a chore.
The Time Timer® WASH is a touchless, water-resistant visual timer for hand-washing.
The Time Timer WASH gives kids, impatient grownups, and anyone who isn’t great at judging time a clear, easily understood resource for getting hands germ-free. It’s not exactly a video game, but the lights and sounds encourage children (and anyone who needs a nudge) wash hands for a long enough period to kill germs.
Time Timer has paired advice from the (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding the recommended duration of hand-washing time with Time Timer’s classic “disappearing disk” to help show the passage of time.
It’s easy to see it being used in bathrooms and kitchens, but also in classrooms and in certain workplaces, like labs, restaurants, anywhere yucky stuff might be encountered.
Start the Time Timer WASH by holding your hand (or slowly waving it) in front of the Timer. There are visual cues from the LCD light-up disc and auditory cues (music and beeps) for the different stages of hand-washing:
The Time Timer Wash has a variety of placement options. It can stand alone or be hung on the wall, and comes with a suction cup, which can be placed on either the bottom or back of timer. It does requite three 3 AA/1.5V batteries, which aren’t included.
It comes with a one-year 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. Per Time Timer, “If you’re not completely satisfied, return your Time Timer to us within 12 months for a full refund or exchange. No questions asked.”
Time Timer WASH is available for pre-order now for $26.95.
See it in action:
If you’re a parent or teacher, please note that Time Timer is offering a free downloadable Activity Guide to help education elementary-aged children in the importance of handwashing. Per TimeTimer:
This Curriculum-based Activity Guide contains 5 interactive activities for teachers or parents to use with children while teaching about proper handwashing techniques and includes worksheet and activity templates throughout. Adaptions for distance learning and in-home schooling are also noted.
ONE LAST THING
Remember my best friend’s daughter? She’s in her third year of medical school now, working in a hospital while doing rotations through pediatrics, internal medicine, endocrinology, and so on. She washes her hands…a lot!