Friday, September 18, 2009
I have a love/hate relationship with cleaning. I love the end result but the actual labor involved is not exactly high on my list of fun things to do. Still, my emotions and state of mind seem to be intimately connected to the level of tidiness of my house. A messy house makes me feel messy and disorganized inside, but when the sink is free of dirty dishes and the toys are all put away, I feel a sense of peace I cannot find anywhere else. For these reasons, I once surveyed our first apartment and, in desperation, typed “my house is a mess” into an Internet search engine. That led me to a website that forever changed how I feel about cleaning: www.flylady.net.
Flylady is actually a North Carolina woman named Marla Cilley who devised her own plan years ago to get organized and conquer the depression caused by the state of her house. She came up with simple strategies that help her followers, called Flybabies, gain peace in their homes. However, Flylady’s approach to housekeeping is anything but typical, and some of her assignments sound down-right ridiculous. I was very skeptical when I read her initial instructions to go and empty out my sink, pile any dirty dishes to the side, and then scour and polish my sink to a brilliant shine. I grumbled the entire time. Then I stepped back, looked at my beautiful shiny sink, and understood why she gave me such a strange task: it was just the sense of accomplishment I needed to kick-start myself into action!
Sink shining is the first of Flylady’s Baby Steps, and once that sink is sparkling, it is time to talk about shoes. Lace-up shoes, that is! Tying on shoes first thing in the morning puts me into work-mode and I am ready to tackle my day. If the trash needs to go out, I am ready to walk outside and take care of it. If an emergency arises, I am ready to run out the door. Some people have a problem with this shoe rule because they do not wear shoes in the house. I used to be one of them, and I still make the kids take theirs off at the door, but mine stay on so I am ready for anything. Why lace-up shoes? Because they can’t be kicked off easily and that makes me less likely to slip them off and slack off on my routines.
Routines are the nuts and bolts of Flylady’s program, and it all starts with the Evening Routine. Before bed, Flylady assigns a few simple tasks that make sure that the next morning will be peaceful and organized, even if everyone wakes up late and has to rush to get ready. Clothes for the next day are laid out for each family member, lunches are packed before bed, and some Flybabies even set the table for breakfast after the supper dishes are done! I haven’t gotten to that point myself, but the one Evening Routine item we never neglect is loading up a spot by the front door with the backpacks, library books, and other necessities for the day ahead. We call this spot our Launch Pad because we load up and launch off from there every morning!
The Morning Routine is just as important, and gets every day off to a great start. I start mine the moment I wake up in the morning and try to get it done by the time we leave for school. Every Flybaby’s Morning Routine is different, but all of them include making the bed, getting dressed completely (lace up those shoes!), and having breakfast. My routine has me scoop out the litter box every morning, and with three cats in the house, that is a necessity! My favorite part of the Morning Routine is the swish-and-swipe: a one-minute wipe down of bathroom sinks, counters and toilet. The toilet bowl also gets a swipe with the bowl brush and Flylady suggests using a few drops of soap or shampoo that is taking up cabinet space. Soap is soap! It is the elbow grease that makes the difference.
Flybabies are encouraged to only keep things in their homes that they use and love. A regular mission that Flybabies receive in their daily emails is to grab a trash bag and do a 27 Fling Boogie. Another crazy name, but it’s a great way to rid your house of excess clutter by getting rid of 27 things at a time. It’s amazing to realize what I can do without when I focus on finding 27 pieces of trash or 27 items for a thrift store donation.
The most important lesson I have learned during the past decade of doing things Flylady’s way is that 15 minutes is an amazing amount of time. I joke that I live and die by my timer because I set it many times throughout the day to help me focus on my work or to limit my computer time. When I am overwhelmed by the condition of the house, I know that if I can just focus my efforts for 15 minutes, I will definitely be able to make a noticeable difference. It’s not so much time that I lose interest, and it is just long enough to make a dent and get that sense of accomplishment. Flylady says that 15 minutes “puts a big measure of peace on you,” and she’s right. That peace is contagious and sets the tone for our homes. As a friend said in a toast at our wedding: “Happy wife, happy life!”
Top Ten Things I Have Learned From Flylady
1) I can do anything for 15 minutes!
2) A load of laundry a day keeps Mt. Washmore under control. Nothing says “love” like a drawer full of clean underwear.
3) Having clothes laid out and lunches packed the night before makes us ready for anything.
4) Never leave a room empty-handed because there is always something that can be put away.
5) My family doesn’t need, use or love half the toys and clothes they own, so out they go!
6) Knowing what’s for dinner by 10 am means healthier meals and less expense.
7) Doing Flylady’s “swish-and-swipe” routine in the bathrooms means they are always fresh and clean.
8) Housework done incorrectly still blesses my family!
9) Making sure my house is only “15 minutes worth of messy” means we can be ready to welcome unexpected company with little effort.
10) You can’t clean clutter! It needs to be tossed out, and then keeping house is much easier.
My Morning Routine
Shower and dress
Shoes and make-up
Swish and Swipe bathroom
Start a load of laundry
Scoop litter box
My Evening Routine
Make Cole's lunch
Put all necessary items on Launch Pad
Lay out next day's clothes
Wash up supper dishes
Do a quick sweep around the house for clutter
Wash face, brush and floss
Go to bed at a decent hour