Constructively Dealing With Negativity

 photo IMG_0708_zpsd2ce7173.jpg
My burner, cleaned as good as it can get,
drying in the sun on my porch.
Yesterday, my husband and I spent hours cleaning up my house, especially my kitchen. We cleaned the counters, washed the dishes, put away the dishes, swept and mopped the floor, etc...
So, when I woke up this morning to this comment on my post from yesterday...

"Maybe you should take the hint and CLEAN YOUR KITCHEN. It is filthy. Ewwww that burner is making my skin crawl. So much for health of your family, how can they live with burners and walls covered in muck?!?"

I found it just a tad ironic and somewhat amusing. I do clean my kitchen. We just cleaned it! We clean it every day or two, at most.

If I were someone else, maybe that post would have gotten me upset. Maybe it would have made me cry.

But it didn't.

And it's not just because I have a thick skin, but rather, because I have a certain life policy about how I view and react to negative comments (both on my blog and in real life).

In short, when someone says something negatively to me, I first ask myself- does it have any merit? Is it true?Or is it completely out of left field?

For example- I'm really tall (5'9.5) and really strong (physically and mentally). So if someone would name call and say "You're so short and you're a wimp and a weakling" it really wouldn't bug me in the slightest bit- because it is so far fetched and has absolutely no merit.
That goes for all negative comments that have no basis in facts.

However, sometimes negative comments do have a basis in fact. It could be something that I think is right and someone else thinks is wrong- but if I'm confident enough in myself and my stance and my opinions- who cares if other people think I'm wrong?

But lastly, sometimes a negative comment does have a basis in fact, and if I think about it, I actually agree with the thought being conveyed, even if the tone was meant to be insulting.

Take that comment above.

It was certainly worded nastily. But that's his/her issue.
And it certainly made assumptions about the state of my kitchen as a whole. Which, thank you very much, is actually very clean at the moment, since we just spent hours cleaning it yesterday.

But the commenter was right about one thing. The burners were filthy, and the wall next to the stove was dirty as well because of splatters that got there while cooking.

Instead of getting annoyed at the person who commented that, I decided to take his advice and not be lazy, and actually scrub the wall. And I did. And it's as clean as it can get now.

And the burners? Well, there's a reason why the burners are like that. These are my spare burners. I have two of them for when my gas for my stove runs out. I take them down as needed, and put them back up as soon as I get gas again. Because I only have 2, and things take so long to cook on them, and so, when they're down, they're nearly always in use, and they can't be cleaned either when they're being used, or when they're cooling off after (and they take a while to cool off), so I just never get around to actually cleaning them, because the window in which I can actually clean them is very small.
And then as soon as my gas comes back on, I am so excited to use my regular stove again that I just put the electric burners away immediately, without first taking the time to clean them off. Which I should do. So yes. I should have cleaned the burners. They were nasty.

After reading that comment, I went and spent a good 15 minutes cleaning that burner, scrubbing, scraping, soaping, wiping, etc... and then it got as clean as it was going to get.

So I allowed the comment on the post through, and graciously responded:
"You're right. They could use a cleaning. I'll get right on to it. Thanks for the suggestion- I really appreciate it! You know how sometimes things just slip by because of business? That was one of them."
And thought that was that. And thought that was all I'd be including in this post. The fact that, when someone criticizes you- either let it roll off you like water, if it simply isn't true, and if it is true, go change something about it.

But then when I went to use it after I got it clean... it shorted the electricity in the house.
Which reminded me. I knew there was another reason I had dirty burners. Because I need working burners, filthy or not. Not clean, non functioning burners.

I set the burner out in the sun to dry, and hopefully fix it so it doesn't short out my electricity next time I want to use it.
And now I'm in a bit of a bind. Because I have guests coming for dinner tonight, and now I only have one working burner. My other, filthy burner.
So yes, next time someone comments about my filthy burner, I'll let it slide right over me, because yes, its filthy, and I like it that way, because it means that it works. :-D

So, just an addendum to the originally planned post- it's always good to give the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you don't know the whole story, and there's a reason why things look in a way that you think they shouldn't.

And of course, that was going to be the end of this post.

Until someone left a comment (while I was writing this) that was even nastier than the first.

What do you expect from someone who goes dumpster diving for food? That house must be filthy, and you couldn't pay me enough to eat anything there.

And then, for the first time in this incident, I actually was hurt.

You know why?

Because I will admit, one of the things I struggle with the most is keeping my house clean. I am very messy by nature and come from a family of messy people. I married a "neat freak" and one of the things that has caused the biggest tensions in my marriage is the fact that I struggle so much with keeping things neat and clean, and my husband needs things to be neat and clean to function. (In case you were wondering, I asked my husband for his permission before writing this about him/us, as I respect his feelings and privacy enough to not write about him without his permission.)
I am well aware that I am a messy person, and that my house, on a day to day basis, is messier than I'd like it to be (thankfully, it never gets filthy, both because I am trying hard, and also because my husband works hard to clean whatever I don't manage to do). But my kitchen is completely hygienic, my food is clean and germ free, and tastes delicious, thank you very much.
But that has nothing to do with anything else, especially not "dumpster diving for food". Which, for the record, I don't do. I get free food from wagons in the farmer's market whose destination is the trash, but I don't go digging through dumpsters for food. I never get food from actual dumpsters. I do dumpster "dive" for things that aren't food, but that's only for things that are not food, don't look yucky or have anything yucky touching them, and that I can reach from the side of the dumpster.
But that isn't connected at all to my being a messy person.
I've struggled with being neater and tidier for years. And its something I'd be struggling with, regardless of whether or not I did frugal or extremely frugal things. If I were filthy rich, I'd still struggle with messiness, and that's what's so hard.
That no matter how much I try, no matter how much I work on myself, my house still isn't as clean and tidy as I wish it would be, as my husband needs it to be.
And that is why that comment stung.

That's where my policy doesn't hold true.

I can let something roll off my back if its simply false. I let it roll off my back if its something I am proud of, even if people disagree with me. And if it's something I can change, I will change it.

But when I am trying really hard to change something, and unfortunately, it's not going so well, and its something I am feeling bad enough about my inability to change it as well as I'd like, then nasty comments on that just rub salt into the wound.

The same way if I were trying really hard to lose weight, was self conscious about my weight, and someone would call me fatty, it would sting.

So, Mr Anonymous commenter who wouldn't want to eat in my house- that's ok. You're not invited anyhow. I try not to associate with people who are offensive and don't give people the benefit of the doubt, but instead ridicule them on public forums.

But for everyone else- if you see something that doesn't seem as it should be- maybe remember that there might be more to the story.

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Some people are just asshats. I've found people who are obsessed with clean houses tend to be insecure about their socioeconomic status and try to prove their self worth by cleanliness and critising those who arent as clean. Just my observation.

  2. We long-time followers of your blog already know about the messes and the cleaning, and that your husband often pitches in. You have written several posts about it throughout the years. For someone who makes everything from scratch (including her own appliances) to also keep her kitchen spotless while she did it -- I don't think anyone would believe it! ;)

    It is easy to send in sharply worded criticisms when one has no accountability. Your fans know the truth. Keep it up!

  3. I cannot believe the comments some people think they have the "right" to make about people they don't know, have never met and haven't any idea of their personal circumstances. Just because you read someone's blog doesn't give you the right to make unpleasant and personal comments about something you see. Especially when you don't know the back story of someone's life. If you don't like something someone says or does or shows you can simply leave the blog and not return. You don't have to make hurtful personal comments. That is just plain rude!

  4. I am so sorry that you got messaged like that. :/ I myself have a very time keeping tidy and have tried SO much- a lot has gotten better, but I think some issued will probably always be work for me and not automatic. (Like putting things away after I use them. I have to activly think about doing it, otherwise later will turn to never.) I saw the picture with the dirty wall and also thought- well that could use a scrub. (Knowing that I have a TON of places that could benefit from a srub. :D) But at the same time I think it is very brave and in a way touching how you share your life with the world? You do SO much every day, and I often think about how different our lives are. And still- how much I lean from you! I have used so many recipies and have gotten so absolutly bold about cooking. Also the mentality about how you work with what you have, helps me working with what I have. This month I had study-money canceled without knowing it before and have to manage the last days of the month without any money. But I was not crying or trying to borrow money, because I know I can do it. (And on Monday there should be at least some money in my account. :D)
    Well lastly I want to add two things that are lifesavers in my life. One is a blog, maybe you even know her? She is very honest in her slobish ways but has come an incredibble long way from where she started 4 (?) years ago. She now offers help for the helpless and starts way way lower then flylady. (Flylday can help, but in one way her system required quite a lot.)
    The other is Natriumhydrogencarbonat I am not sure under what name it is sold at your place. Soda maybe? I use it to clean my oven (stir in water, put the stuff everywhere, heat up your oven, then scrab of the first layer, then scrubb the rest) and almost any other thing in the kitchen. I am sure you already use somthing like that, but maybe you don't, so I thought I would tell you. :) Have a good day Penny, I hope you will not be too upset about what these two people said!

  5. I'm a pretty decent housekeeper, but there would be MANY mornings when I would not want someone seeing my kitchen. With 4 active, busy boys, sometimes at the end of the day, when the dishwasher is already full and running, I just can't deal with cleaning up everything else. It's much easier to face in the morning, when I'm rested. I often think how my mother (who would NEVER leave that overnight!) would be appalled if she could see it. But I am me and she is her. I also have realized that although my house is mostly clean, and can be VERY clean with a few hours notice, people do not come to visit because of my clean house. They come to see me and my family. So I let it go, knowing that when all the kids are grown, my house can be spotless if that's what I care about! Glad you don't let the naysayers get you down.

  6. I cannot imagine posting something as hateful as those two posts; I love reading your blog, and I appreciate all of your information/advice. I have learned a great deal from you ~ thank you!

  7. Penny, let me first start off by saying I absolutely adore your blog. It is the absolute ONLY blog I follow, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that we have so much in common. I know what it's like to struggle with being messy. Sometimes you're cooking on all four burners, may have something in the crockpot and in the oven, may be preparing a salad, etc. while simultaneously, you also have a child or two hanging off the side of your leg wanting attention. Food may splatter onto the walls and onto the stove and before you know it, you have crust and grease everywhere and vegetable peelings on the floor. Anyone who has the audacity to comment that you're lazy or that your kitchen is gross, but doesn't have the courage to post their name, is obviously a miserable coward. I admire you so much and a great part of my admiration for you comes from your thick skin. Thank you!

  8. I have lived frugally most of my life through choice, necessity, or a little bit of both, which means I have had to make do with items that were hand-me-downs, thrift store finds, or just plain old. Over time and with use, things tend to become stained to a point that cleaning the item could damage it or it just isn't worth the time and effort anymore. So I could just run out and get something new and shiny made in China and dump my old item in the landfill (though really, I would try to recycle or donate it first) or I can help my budget and the planet by using the item until it is not longer serviceable.

    We are starting to see the negative effects of hypercleanliness on people's health. Studies are showing that children who are raised in very clean homes tend to have more allergies and autoimmune problems. I think that's partly because of overexposure to cleaning chemicals, but also our bodies need to be exposed to some bacteria to build up our microbiome.

    I also wonder what this person thinks of food cooked over an open outdoor fire. Or what about cast iron? Seasoned cast iron has layers and layers of "dirt" cooked onto it and it is the best type of cookware there is, IMO.

    Sorry for the long post, but this really touched a nerve.

  9. Also, your family doesn't eat food off a burner or wall. And dirt isn't unhygenic per set anyway. Also, I'd like to see them take close ups with flash of select portions of their kitchens.

  10. For the life of me I can not understand why someone who feels that way about you/your life/your blog would even be bothering to read your blog, let alone post on it...anonymously. What idiots.

  11. As someone who has about 8 loads of laundry waiting to be folded and a blogger herself, I sympathize. I can't believe what insensitive, uncouth comments people make. Nuts to them.

  12. Thank you for the post. It makes me glad to know I am not the only struggling messy person. :)

    Only an unhappy person would would be so rude. Your honesty is admirable and your openness is impressive. You rock!!!!

  14. Am I the only one who didnt even notice that the burners/ wall were dirty until reading this post? I was just so impressed you figured out how to fix your pot that I simply didnt notice anything else.

  15. You're doing just fine. A truly awful house (and I've seen some) has backed-up toilets (which had been that way for a long time), rotting food left out where kids could get at it -- and they would because there was nothing else to eat in the house. One place had a long-dead cat in a corner. At least that one didn't have kids in it.

    As everyone else has said, that commenter has problems of his own, and it really has nothing to do with you.

  16. I think there is a big difference between "messy" and "filthy". When every area of the house is well lived in, especially with small children, it think it is fairly unrealistic for it to be tidy all the time. I believe it is also a lot harder when a parent is at home with their children all day, does not eat out, and spends their time doing many activities that other people pay for (cutting their family's hair, making laundry soap, etc.) I don't believe in "clean" houses because it is impossible for everything to be "clean" at one time. I feel like you should do your best, make it homey, and live your life. Hang in there. There will always be people who feel the need to judge in order to make themselves feel better.

  17. I think people who have ridiculously clean and tidy homes need to get a hobby ;) especially when they feel the need to criticise others for not being the same.

  18. I love reading your blog. It is always inspiring. So many good ideas and recipes, and you give us a slice of your life as it really is. I realized that reading blogs with gorgeous glossy pictures of perfect food & houses were making me feel inadequate. I'd rather come to you for ideas I will actually use! As a kid I was raised in thrift stores and I am happy to buy reduced produce to supplement what we can grow ourselves. Keep writing for all us happy readers!

  19. Penny, long time reader... I am having a horrible time leaving comments so this is under "anonymous" because I can't get Google to cooperate.

    People suck, bottom line! If all they can do is sit by & criticize your home/cleanliness, they obviously need a life... how easy to judge people w/out a clue as to what is going on in their lives. I am sure those same critics would be appalled by the rust stains in my toilets due to well water, but I know they are clean & the rust will only come out if I dump toxic chemicals into my toilets & septic and if I spend hours scrubbing them every week. I am not willing to sacrifice time or health just to make things appear clean. I know they are safe & as clean as they can be, which makes me happy. Rust, stains, or food spatters don't make for an unsanitary burner, stove, toilet, kitchen, or house.

    GET A LIFE to the critics!! Why don't YOU try & provide for your family as others do w/homes that aren't pristine because they don't neglect their families to scour things each day. Our homes are very safe & sanitary despite the fact that you think some crumbs & spills make for an awful mess.

    To the haters, go get your Starbucks latte, text / talk while driving and.or standing in line somewhere w//your family because God forbid you actually spend a moment truly WITH them (not just physically) & actually converse with them, & watch the Trashdashians while you Facebook... oh &, of course, don't forget to bash Penny for the amazing mom, wife, & provider she is for her family!! Yep, because that makes YOU such a great person looking down from your pedestal on the peons.

  20. I am SO sorry you were attacked by such ungracious, mean-spirited people who obviously need a lot more to do in their lives if they have the time to sit around and write nasty comments on blogs!

    I for one LOVE your blog and your posts are some of the few I read rather religiously! Love hearing all about your frugal tips and recipes, and I have never once gotten the impression from any of your posts that your house wasn't perhaps as tidy as it could be. And even if I had, so what? That's not anyone else's business, even if this is a public forum! And for the record, I would be honoured to eat at your house, should the occasion ever arise. :-)

  21. Penny, I'm so sorry about the trolls. It is sad how much ugly stuff people will say under the cover of anonymity. I will not make assumptions about who those two anonymous people are or call them names as much as I am tempted to but I do want to point out that these two individuals seemed to have been following your blog for quite some time to know a few details about you and cared enough to form an opinion and write a comment yet didn't dare do it on facebook or any place where their identity is revealed. I won't say ignore them because they hurt you and that's not cool but I will say that at any time, you can change the settings so anonymous comments can't be made. More power to you for your positivity!

  22. you do not need to apologize to anyone about your standards of living. we all live as we feel and no one has a right to tell us differently. sometimes I need to do a cleanup on things but because of work / family / things that come up, I can't always get to it and it needs to wait. keep up the gr8 writting! have a good week.

  23. Dear Penny,there is a saying that the mean-spirited comment-maker should bear in mind and that is that we should never judge another unless we have "walked a mile in their moccasins". Kitchens get messy when we use them instead of resorting to unhealthy convenience food. I have a huge amount of respect for you and the fantastic educational job you do maintaining this blog while working so hard for your lovely family. You possess wisdom and grace beyond your years.
    I have recently found tips on the "Fly Lady" website to be extremely helpful in helping me in my everyday life to become more organized and not to beat myself up about things.I find her very encouraging
    Penny you rock! Take no notice of nasty people. They should take Thumper's Dad's advice "If ya can't say nothin' nice don't say nothin' at all !"
    Thank you so much for all the fantastic tips and advice; you are amazing!

  24. I'd rather have a little crud on the wall than crud in my HEART!! What an unhappy, unpleasant person.

  25. Cleaning the kitchen walls is not the highest priority when you have 4 kiddos and one of them is an infant. Perhaps this person has never had children-

  26. My house is almost never as clean and tidy as I could like. As far as I am concerned it means I have a life and I am spending time with my kids and family and NOT excessively tidying the house.

    My theory is that a slightly untidy house is a sign of a happy family.

    Daisy in Canada

  27. There are stuff that are hard to maintain by "design"... :'(
    > All my plumbing sucks ! and any time I use my kitchen faucet, I have to remove gunk from the additionnal faucet fine strainer otherwise, either the strainer gets full (from as little as a grain rice) and water can't go away, either I remove the strainer and the whole faucet get blocked in the next 5 minutes. So there are always gunk around my faucet because I just can't go to the trash any time I use my faucet ! Kinda drives me crazy. Worst faucet / plumbing I ever had in my life.
    > Also electrical burners just look like shit even just a few days old. They look rusty as hell and I never found a solution for this issue (aside from upgrading for something better !).

    I think you ARE VERY BRAVE, for making work things that suck !
    You could be whining about not being to replace those with something better... But that is not your style :) Keep up the good work :)

  28. You can have a spotless house or you can have a life. Cooking is messy, especially if you are enjoying it! I know, my kitchen is messy when I'm in it too. Keep doing what you're doing and make your life the best you can. You have a great attitude and I really like your site. AM from Canada

  29. Just another fan here (and fellow tall woman!) wanting to say that I love your blog and your outlook on life. I have a toaster oven that looks WAY worse than your spare burner. The stains just won't scrub off. My mother-in-law tried to throw it away, but I saved it from the trash! :-) My husband and brother-in-law gently tease me and my sister about the giant messes we make and all the spoons we use when we cook. We enjoy cooking and get lost in the zone, I guess. You are a class act, and anyone would be lucky to eat in your home!

  30. Penny, I love your blog and have followed you through the birth of two of your children now.
    I truly admire your honestly, frugal lifestyle and bits of wisdom shared from across the world.
    I can relate to your struggle with keeping the house in order for a neat husband, while I am trying to homeschool, cook everything from scratch due to food allergies, and raise livestock so that we can have our own fresh eggs, milk, and meat. I think you are doing an amazing job, your children and husband will thank you someday and really they are the only ones who should count. In the mean time, whenever a negative comment comes your way...just read back through all the comments from today. It is incredible the positive impact you are having on so many people. You are awesome!

    Carrie from US

  31. Penny, I love your blog and have followed it for years. Keep up the good work!

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