Just because I am an unlikely housewife, doesn’t mean I haven’t tried to embrace it. I have been trying for years!
Every now and then I get a burst of renewed motivation to become a domestic goddess. After all, I tell myself, I’m well organized elsewhere (almost anal-retentive, in fact), a good cook and a decent hostess. Surely, I must have it in me to go full circle and become an all-around domestic goddess!?
When this happens, it’s like I’m on a mission—something that less-than-vaguely recalls going on a new diet: I find a system that sounds like just the thing for me, get the book, read it cover to cover, get all excited, start, then somewhere between the first week and the second (if I even get that far) I realize that it doesn’t really work for me.
Feng shui was the exception. I stuck with that for a couple of months, and my house never looked better. After all, what better motivation to clean house than to think you are bringing in more money, more love, more friends, better health? I finally felt useful, yay!
Sadly, it only lasted as long as I thought black hat feng shui was the way to go. When I found out that it was a “Westernized, simplistic version of the doctrine that only vaguely resembles the real thing” (as one poo-pooing feng shui practitioner put it) I lost all motivation. I looked into the real thing, but it was way too complicated and it totally turned me off.
I kept hearing about the FLY Lady, so I gave it a try. But it just didn’t do it for me. First of all, I lived in Switzerland at the time so the messages arrived at weird times for me. But even without the time zone issue, all the reminders were kind of getting on my nerves already after only a few days. Add to that the fact that she recommends you start your day by “putting on your shoes,” (which is a blasphemy in Switzerland, where wearing outside shoes in the house it’s frowned upon for hygiene reasons) and I really didn’t feel like I could use it.
However many people swear by it, and through the years I tried another couple of times, to no avail. The last time, I decided maybe buying the book was a better way to go, so I got my copy of Sink Reflections, by Marla Cilley, the FLYLady. The book is much more helpful than the e-mails IMO, and I definitely got something out of it. Plus it’s always there so you can always give it another go.
There were some things I didn’t like, i.e. the somewhat abundant religious references, which are an instant turnoff for me generally speaking, but overall the book is helpful so I’m not disappointed.
This is the stuff I got out of it that I think I can use:
- Make a list of daily chores: the bare minimum to do every day.
- Make a list of weekly chores: this list should include things like dusting, vacuuming, and changing the bed sheets, but no in-depth cleaning.
- Divide the house in areas and dedicate one week a month to each area; every day spend a little time in that area (in addition to the daily chores).
- Make checklists of things that need to be done in the area so you have a guideline and can spend your little time there constructively.
- Keep all your lists, checklists, areas etc in a binder, somewhere that’s easily accessible.
- Use a timer to help you do things faster: for instance give yourself fifteen minutes to unload and re-load the dishwasher.
- When you need to do “emergency cleaning” (like when you are expecting visitors and the place is a mess) work for forty-five minutes, using your timer and making mini-projects, and rest for fifteen minutes every hour; also, change area every so often to avoid “area burnout” and to make sure you spend some time everywhere.
- Don’t hold on to stuff: make sure you regularly get rid of anything that is broken or simply not being used.
The daily vs. weekly, zones, checklists, binder, and de-cluttering I already had from my “feng shui period,” but the rest is new to me and very good IMO. My favorite thing I think is the concept of “hot spot”—you know those pesky areas that just seem to attract clutter? Come on, think, every house has them. For us it’s the coffee table, the office desk, and the pillows under the bay window in the kitchen. Marla recommends that you hit your hot spots regularly to make sure they are clutter-free.
Now, onto the hard part: actually DOING the stuff. Right now I’m still at the “emergency cleaning” stage, and trying to implement dailies.
I tell you, it’s really like yo-yo dieting: if you are an all-or-nothing person, the plan either fits you perfectly or it’s just extremely hard to keep motivated to follow it.
I was wondering if I might get more out of the book that inspired Marla Cilley, Sidetracked Home Executives, when I read this review:
“If you are a SHE because you’re a frozen perfectionist, someone who never cleans because you don’t have time to do it RIGHT, this is not the book for you. The card-file is wonderful – except that I’m entirely capable of spending the next 6 months making sure I’ve got the file system perfect without ever actually doing any of the stuff on it.”
Boy, that sure sounds like me. I guess I’ll stick with what I have!