I am tired of running around like a crazy person when someone is coming over; or worse, being embarrassed when a surprise visitor pops in.
This is sooo familiar and is what my mom did. So, of course, when I had my own home I didn't have a clue how to keep it up. Then add the kids...you know. I really didn't want to live that way, but I was so frustrated and felt like I was cleaning all of the time and getting nowhere.
I started Flylady on a dare. I said it wouldn't work for me. But I read her introductory letter and did what she said. I didn't try to reinvent her program, I just decided to have faith that this was working for thousands of people and I would try. The biggest thing is to delete the emails for the first month. Just glance at the subject and delete them. Most people see all of the emails and just flounder. Set up a folder so they don't clog your inbox and delete those puppies. You'll know when you are ready to really read them. Many people try to jump in and do everything from the start. Don't do that. I read her book, which I found easier to understand the system from than the website.
dbsam asks: How long did it take until this process started working?
Really soon in the sense I felt like I had some guidance. My stress about the house and kids was going down. I had a game plan. The house initially didn't look all that different to other people, I'm sure, but I could feel the changes taking place. The big pay off was the first time I had my quilting group over (around four months into the system) and all I had to do was run the vacuum and make a snack. That just motivated the heck out of me.
Do you only vacuum the main living area? I'll come back to this.
I think I may be over packing my closets and pantries making continued organization impossible. (e.g. I have folded clothes on the dining room table because it’s such a pain to put it in the closets.) Did you organize your closets first? Flylady says to not even think about zone cleaning until you have decluttered every zone for the first month. I started with those unseen places first. The drawers, closets, kitchen cabinets, storage spaces. When they are packed with items you don't need and use, you have NO place to keep what you need. No one needs 50 pair of socks. I had pots and pans that I never cooked with. Simple stuff like three can openers taking up space in the drawer. Of course, while you purge some of those books off the bookself you end up dusting the thing. You just do.
The first time I went through the house I thought I was totally decluttered and couldn't possibly get rid of another thing. LOL, the joke was on me, because once you really start evaluting you posessions and think if you want to clean, store, pick up, maintain, whatever you find you really don't even want it. We have taken between $3,000-5,000 in non-cash donation deductions every year since I began this sytem. The beauty of the decluttering is that you finally have room in your closet, drawers and pantry for all of those items which were getting in your way in the first place. The clutter out in the rooms is the stuff you use. The packed closet is the reason you can't put things away. Remember, closets are not long term storage. They are for daily, useful, keeping of items you need and use.
Do you do your 'chores' first thing in the morning and then make yourself forget about cleaning the rest of the day? Pretty much. When I started Flylady I was teaching school in the mornings while DH was home with the kids. He went to the office when I got home. My kids were 9 months, 3, 6 and 16. They are now 7, 10, 13 and 23 (who is no longer living at home.) I retired from teaching last year, but I have stuck with my working schedule. I decide on priority of chores based on if the fact I don't do something it makes my life difficult. My life is difficult if we don't have clean laundry. My life isn't difficult if the windows need washing.
So, here would be a typical morning now. Up, dressed and make the bed 2min. Make sure the youngest two are up and I walk down the hall to my laundry room and throw in a load (I sort every five days and stack the baskets right next the the washer. I don't even have to think.) 2 min. Go up three stairs and I'm in my entry, which is grand central station for us. I grab a small vac out of the entry closet and quickly vacuum the entry and the stairs to the main floor. My entry is 25' X 5' so this takes me--you got it--2 min. I head to the kitchen and pour myself a cup of coffee (I set the machine the night before) and I unload the dishwasher. Maybe I better say 4 min. for that. If the littles are dressed and at the table I help them get eating. While they are eating I go use the main floor bathroom and swish and swipe before I come out. When you wipe down the bathroom daily you don't need to vacuum it. There isn't any build-up of hair in the corners. I keep a drawer of cleaning cloths and wet one down. Wipe the counter and sink, then the toilet. Then I plop that rag on the floor and my toe makes it to all of the edges and corners. In the hamper it goes. Straighten the towels, put out a clean hand towel for guests. 3 mins. tops.
I'm ready to help the littles load their dishes in the dishwasher. If they are still eating I grab my swiffer and do the living area, dining and kitchen. Again, just a couple of minutes because you'll notice that I'm not having to stop and pick up or put away items.
The kids are out the door to walk to school. Previously, I would have left at the same time for work.
After school, work, whatever the day holds by afternoon I throw the clothing in the dryer. Do some supper prep. Help with homework, etc. When they were babies I did an awful lot of this one handed with someone on my hip, you know? While homework is being done or something is cooking, I set my timer for 15 min and do a zone job. When the timer stops, I stop. Repeat this again. I stop when the timer rings. This was where the faith part of the system came in for me. The goal isn't to be done in 15 min, but to work for 15 min. As you continue to rotate through the house and the zones, the house begins to be maintained and it is quicker and easier to do each job. We were in pretty bad shape when I started, so in some areas it took a couple of months for me to say the area was kind of clean. But I wasn't overwhelmed.
When I started this system, I set aside 5 min. every evening for what we call a "room zoom." We made it fun. I set the timer and we all ran around like mad men picking up the living areas and putting things away. I kept laundry baskets all over for those toddler toys. We just pitched them in and cleared the clutter off the floor. Again, my life isn't difficult if the bookshelf needs dusting. If I can't walk without tripping over something, it's difficult. Now, the kids are older so we frequently do this before we head out for evening activities. They also get all of their stuff set up for the next morning. Backpacks ready, etc.
Day is done and the littles are getting in their pajamas/brushing teeth. I pull the laundry out of the dryer, fold, hang and put away. I only do one load per day. Any more than that and I end up with piles somewhere. One small load can be put away in...oh...2 minutes. Bedtime hugs and kisses and I come back to the main floor and put the rest of the stray dishes in the dishwasher, make sure my sink and counters are clean, fix coffee for the morning, plug in my cell phone, check the calendar for tomorrow and scan ahead for the week. Make sure I have all of my ducks in a row, so to speak.
I use the control journal concept and mark off items as I go. You could come to my house, use my control journal and know exactly what needed doing on any given day. I try and order my tasks to reduce traveling all over the house. Our laundry room is on the same level as our bedrooms now. When it was in the basement, I had a different order of when I threw in the clothing. If you need to wash a load of diapers, as well as clothing, everyday you'll end up with a different chore list than moms who no longer have someone in diapers. It may not be important to sweep the floor every day for some homes, but I frequently have a bunch of neighborhood kids in the house and I find it makes my life much easier to sweep up the grit daily. When I had carpet, I only swept it a couple of times a week in the traffic areas, but needed to sweep my kitchen floor a couple of times a day with a baby pitching food around. I save most jobs for when we are in that zone. Our bedroom (the only room with carpet) gets vacuumed once a month when we are in zone 4. So be it.
This is long and I sound like a someone who found a new religion, but this has had a profound effect on us. I have tons of time. Even when I was still working, I had time to run a play group, yard work, hobbies, volunteer work, etc. Now, that my kids are older, picking up after themselves is as natural as breathing. They know how to stay organized. They know how to pace themselves with breaking down tasks. They frequently comment that our house is cleaner than friend's homes and they understand it doesn't take a bunch of time, but it does take a daily effort.
p.s. I did find that having children required I lower/relax my standards about cleanliness. Yes, those things do come with the territory. But try to change the mindset that you are having to lower or relax the standards. A home with a clean window isn't really cleaner than a home with a smudgy window. It's just a window. All the window says is that there are kids in the house. The beauty of this system is that if the windows (and it's probably only the sliding glass door, right?) needs a quick wipe daily you can put that on your list. It's only 2 min.
I find that some people get stuck in how they view cleaning. I've had women go "EWW" when I tell them I just wipe the bathroom down with a wet cloth (water only.) I'd bet the farm that my bathrooms are cleaner than theirs, since they wait a week or two and let all the crud build up. I sometimes need to mop my kitchen floor a couple of times a week if there have been too many spills. I just damp mop it water. No need to haul out a ton of cleaning stuff. If you do it often, it doesn't get so dirty that you have to attack the poor thing.
Our house has five levels. I keep small, lightweight, inexpensive vacuums and brooms on the four main levels. Cleaning doesn't have to mean hauling some big heavy sweeper all over the house. Once I got the tools I needed and put them close to where I needed them, life got much easier. Skip the traditional storage of those things. I keep window cleaner in my entry closet because that's where I need it. I have a feather duster in a vase on each level. We have three bathrooms, so I previously made sure I use each bathroom sometime during the day and could do a quick swish and swipe. Now that the kids are older, they are swishing and swiping two of the bathrooms. Saved me a couple of minutes there.
We constantly evolve with this system. Our needs change as the kids grow, different seasons often mean different cleaning needs. If everything goes to hell in a handbasket for a few days, cleaning up after a few days really isn't all that bad. A couple of hours of effort and we are right back on track.
My best friend makes fun of me for using Flylady. "You need a computer program to tell you how to keep your house clean?" Yep. I do.