I think that I can safely label my father a “neat freak”. I was never quite sure that I was up to snuff on what he wanted me to do or how he wanted me to keep up my personal space, whether it was when I shared a room with siblings or when I had my own room (with its dedicated “junk drawer”). I do remember rushing to pick up the messes that we’d made over the course of the day before daddy came home.
As an adult, I first have to say that I am a very social person. I love company, I love hosting parties, I love just having people over for no reason at all. But until a couple of years ago, I would always “panic clean” when I knew someone was coming over (warning: deep dark secrets being revealed!): I would congregate loose papers and mail into precariously balanced piles, stuff items into the hall closet or the spare room, or even go so far as to throw things in a plastic sack and toss them in my bedroom (behind a permanently closed door). I hated the stress that this brought about, which would lessen my enjoyment of visitors, especially if I cut the marathon cleaning session too close to their arrival.
Then I was introduced to the FlyLady by my sister. So many of the things that she said made perfect sense to me; my primary problem was that I was too much of a perfectionist. What? A perfectionist with a disaster of a house? Yes, indeed. It seems that most of us have heard the phrase “if you can’t do something right, don’t do it at all”, and have subconsciously applied it to housework. If I didn’t have the time to do a thorough, detailed cleaning, I tended not to do anything at all.
As I have alternately been an at-home mom (and wife), a full-time student (and mom/wife), an out-of-the-house employee (and mom/wife), and owned my own business (along with being a mom/wife, have you noticed a trend?) I NEVER had the time to do a thorough, detailed cleaning. I also have had a tendency to get so “in the groove” that I would work on the minutiae of one room for hours, and then not want to clean anything else for days. And let’s not even talk about Mount Washmore.
The two most important things I have learned from FlyLady is that a little bit is better than nothing at all, and that the best thing you can do to make keeping your house presentable manageable is to PURGE clutter! I never considered myself a hoarder; I certainly wouldn’t qualify for the show. But when I started viewing our things with a more critical eye (Do I love this? Do I USE it? Does it make me smile?) I realized we were hanging on to a lot of stuff that we really didn’t use or love. It made much more sense to give it to someone who would.
Since we have starting decluttering in earnest, it has become so much easier to keep the house always “nearly neat”. Not spotless, mind you, but in the condition where I wouldn’t be embarrassed if someone stopped by unannounced. Things have become so much more peaceful around here. It’s easier to find what we’re looking for, because we don’t have to move 10 things that we never use out of the way to get to the one thing we need.
But another huge lesson is this: keeping things relatively neat and peaceful is a way to bless my family. Nothing shows your family you love them like clean underwear, clean dishes, and a clean toilet when you’re ill (vomiting is bad enough without having to hang your head over an icky toilet). Getting past the martyr attitude of “why should I have to do everything?” is key in learning to stop resenting housework.
This was a major issue with me, internally resenting and having it boil over into snapping at my family, yelling at them for not helping. I’m still pretty lousy at asking for help when I need it, and not “nagging” after I’m already at wit’s end. but I’m learning. Are we “perfect” at it? Certainly not. We have to remember that a little is better than nothing, and that sometimes, life just happens. But then you just jump back in and pick up where you left off.
Even though we’ve been decluttering for a couple of years, we’re still occasionally finding things that make us say, “why do we still have this?” The “Monthly Habit” for February is Decluttering. FlyLady suggests that we spend just 15 minutes a day nibbling away at the piles of stuff in our houses, deciding whether they deserve a place in our limited space, or if they should be given to someone who will love and use them. I can’t stress enough how helpful this is! And as the FlyLady says, “You can do ANYTHING for 15 minutes!”
How do you keep from being overwhelmed by the day-to-day drudgery of housework? Do you find nibbling at it is easier than marathon cleaning? What are some practical ways that you keep up?