Monday, January 17, 2011

Little Steps do Add Up, or Cleaning for a Non-Cleaner....

Years ago, some industrious people over at the Well Trained Mind boards began talking about the miracle of "Flylady" that they were using to help them keep their houses clean.  Like all those tried and true southerners who never have a house clean enough for company, who must clean for the cleaning lady or the repair man, I decided that I was interested in this approach.

After looking over it carefully, I decided that it was simply not for me.  My computer was not in a centralized location where I could here it beep as messages came in.  And I was not certain that messages pinging in all day wouldn't drive me crazy.  I generally didn't even get on my computer until after dinner at that time.  It would not work for me.

The lady who originated the approach had written a book, however, and it was available to me through my library.  I would check out her book and read the principles set forth in it to see if I could apply them.

The Flylady site, by the way is here:

...for those industrious enough to make use of it.  It was sold out to a different owner many years ago and they probably don't even mention the book that spawned the site any more.  I won't attempt to recall it, because, if anything, it was worse than the site, LOL!

The book called for you to make an index card box and fill it with cards that you would use for various types of tasks.  You would work through your card system each day, rotating cards into their next spot.  The problem was that as you went along, you had daily little chores, bigger chores, weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, annual, etc. chores.  By the time I was even halfway through attempting to create cards, I had practically given up.  I chucked the whole mess into a closet and there it sat for probably 6-7 years.

Last summer, while in the process of doing a big clean out, I found the filing system and sat down to go through it again to see if I were in a better place to attempt to implement it now.  NO WAY!  What a mess!  I just couldn't do it.  However, I've been doing a much better job the past few years of keeping my house tidy (not clean, but at least tidier).  How did that happen?

In considering, I know that my children got older and so not only more able to help, but less messy in general - able to do more for themselves.  My older son is at college this year and so not home as much, and that one less person in the house on a daily basis does make a difference.  But I didn't feel that was the entire solution.

Someone from over at the WTM boards mentioned recently on their own blog that they have gotten into better cleaning habits because of Flylady, and upon further reflection, I guess I would have to say that just reading over the site, even though I didn't adopt the actual plan of action, really has probably been at least part of the solution to my climb out of misery, too.

You see, when I was growing up, housecleaning was a weekly, weekend chore and it involved moving through first one room and then another cleaning from top to bottom.  I grew up thinking that one MUST do it ALL in EVERY room or not do it at all - hence, with my busy lifestyle, since I could not do it all, I was not doing any of it.

I must say that I still cringe somewhat at the thought of cleaning a floor before dusting.  One MUST dust first, after all, if the room is to be truly clean.  But any job done is still a job done.  If my husband will vacuum, but not dust, then I must be happy with whatever he has vacuumed.  If he will only vacuum the middle of a room and not the corners under the furniture - so be it.

I do think that the ideas of Flylady have freed me from the confines of cleaning as it used to be.  Once you have analyzed all the different sorts of chores you do in each room of your house, you will find an amazing number of them that take 5 minutes or less.  Many of them literally only take a minute!  If you string together only a few of these a day in the spare moments you have, you will find that it really does become habit after a few weeks (I'd give it four solid weeks) and that it really does make a difference.  After that, you can continue to add in more tasks over time and before you know it, your house may be at least a little tidier, if not entirely cleaner.

Over about the past 4 years, I have been able to get into a routine of moving through my upstairs straightening after I've started my younger son on his written work.  When my older son was home, I would check his room and spray it down well with either Lysol, a homemade air freshener, or a combination of both on bad days, LOL!  Now that my younger son is in that room, I find it almost as stinky and am beginning to wonder if it's something about the room.....

If my younger son has neglected to make his bed, or has left clothes on the floor, etc., I call him in to correct that.

I move through the upstairs of the house opening curtains.  I spray my air freshener throughout the upstairs as I go.  It is made using distilled water and some sort of essential oil - peppermint has become my favorite for its fresh smell.  I sometimes use rosemary in stinky guy shoes.  The extra little bit of moisture in the air during winter when our gas heat is very drying has had the added bonus of helping to stave off dry winter skin itchiness for us.

I pay attention to the carpets as I go and pick up any strings, etc. that may have landed there.  I pick up any items found in rooms that do not belong there or instruct my child to come and pick up after himself.

I sort laundry and get it started on Monday mornings, in general, and it is finished by the end of the day most weeks, just being done here and there around other things we have to do.  My son folds all towels, washclothes, place mats, etc. and puts those away.  He also hangs all his hanging clothes.

I make my bed and put away any items of clothing my husband has left lying around in our rooms into his closet.  I put his basket of toiletry items away under the sink.  I spray down our vanity and wipe it down.  I do the same in the boys' bath.  I will also spray down their toilet and shower on Mondays, and on other days, too, if there is much traffic in that room.  When I'm in the shower for the day, I'll spray down our shower before I get out.  I tend to use Method brand sprays for this as they are non-toxic and I love the scents, but I have made my own sprays in past, too.

This little routine through my upstairs generally only takes about 15 minutes all together!  That's not counting the laundry, which takes about another 30-45 minutes on my part, split up throughout the day.

If I have time, I clean and tidy in my kitchen during the day.  Otherwise, I'll clean as I'm making dinner.  I don't cook meals that take longer than about 30 minutes max on my part for prep work.  Many days, if we're going to be out of the house in the evening, I'll do crockpot type meals so that I can start them during the day and they'll be ready at dinner time.

At some point during the day, I will walk through my first floor and just pick up any items that I see out of place (or call someone else to pick up).  I will at some point during the week clean the powder room on the first floor, too. 

I think the biggest thing for me has been making certain that my stairway is generally cleared at all times.  It was always a conveyor belt in past of items on their way upstairs.  Now I pick up something every time I'm on my way up, or instruct others to do likewise.  Clean stairs!  Hoorah!

It's still not dusting and vacuuming/mopping, but my house feels a whole lot cleaner to me in general these days.  I've rewarded myself by purchasing some nice candles in scents that I really like.  Whenever we're home long enough, I will light those throughout my first floor rooms in order to infuse a nice scent throughout the house.  It even drifts up the stairway.

This may not be a revelation to anyone else, but it has been a good process for me to learn that little jobs really can add up to big results....


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