Wednesday, March 12, 2014

15 Minutes of Cleaning is Saving My Life!

Today is Whatever Wednesday, so I've chosen to share what I am most excited about right now. I know this is hard to believe. I can hardly believe it myself (blinks a few times), but it's housecleaning.

Don't run off just yet, I'm serious. You know me, right? I usually hate housecleaning. Actually, "hate" is too gentle of a word.

I despise it with the rage of a thousand rabid dogs.

I could get into all the psychological reasons for this and go into a long rant about my cleaning past, but the gist of it is that I had a wonderful mom growing up who did almost everything for me. I had to keep my room clean, help clear the dinner table, put my dirty dishes in the dishwasher, and do my own laundry (if I really wanted a certain article of clothing clean). Occasionally, I helped out by doing the bathrooms, vacuuming, etc. Other than that, my mom did it all and didn't really mind if my room was a mess, cluttered with a pile of unfinished projects. She was amazing. The table was cleared every night of homework and toys, dinner always on the table, dishes done before she went to bed.

And for some reason, I'm still living like she's in the house with me. Then, I seem surprised to look behind myself and find a trail of creative wreckage that no one but me is responsible for picking up.

Then, of course, the negative thought process kicks in, "You're lazy, you're still such a child, you're forgetful, you're not a good housewife," and worse, "Ellie will get sick, because your floors are dirty." Everything must be my fault.

On Friday, I had a particularly rough day feeling overwhelmed by the housework and expecting company to come over. I finally cancelled all my plans, and that made me even more upset. I had a meltdown, as something as simple and insignificant as the garbage not being taken out became bigger in my mind. I thought, "I'm not in control of my own life," and "We're all going to die." Thanks, anxiety.

For the first time ever, I called my counselor and cried like a baby. She talked me off the hypothetical ledge, told me to stop cleaning, to let Ellie watch a TV show, and to put my feet up and take a break (physically and emotionally).

She also asked me, "Was it like this when it was just you and Mark?" No. Well, sometimes, but we could quickly pick up on a Saturday when we had nothing else to do. Now we have a toddler who demands a lot of our attention and is also a little bit like a Tasmanian Devil baby, flying through our house and undoing any of our picking up in about 5 minutes flat.

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She then suggested FLY Lady. I was skeptical, but it was a project, and you know how I love starting new projects. I'm still very new to this project, and as with most things, I'm customizing it to work for me right now.

Here is how I started:
  • There is a list of baby steps on the site (here) that you can start any time. These are just little "habits" to get you into a routine. The first is to "shine your sink" every night. For me, this means, emptying the dishwasher at some point during the day, then before bed, all dirty dishes go in the dishwasher, and I wipe down the sink. As a result, my counters stay pretty clean, and I wipe those down when I can during the day.

    The FLY (Finally Love Yourself) Lady calls sink-shining her little "hug" to you in the morning -- seeing your clean sink. A bunch of baloney, you say? I thought so too. At first. But I have to say, seeing that clean sink each morning is nice. It makes my morning routine easier, which consequently makes the rest of my day easier, so it's a gift from myself to myself. "Thank you, self." "Oh, no, thank you, self!"
  • One of the next baby steps is to "dress to shoes" each morning. I'm almost always dressed first thing in the morning but rarely have a spare pair of shoes to throw on, so I've skipped this step. I believe it's geared toward those of us who need that extra boost in the morning, and I have a toddler boosting me most days. I will, however, make sure to do this on weekends.
  • But the BIGGEST and most important part of this little program for me has been the 15 minutes of decluttering. That's it. 15 minutes each day. I picked my target areas that I felt were most in need of picking up (though the site designates zones, as you'll see). On Monday, I decluttered the living room in 15 minutes. FLY Lady suggests setting a timer -- I use the oven timer. Yesterday, I cleared the kitchen table of mail and E's toys underneath. Again, I only did 15 minutes. When the timer went off, I was done. It's Wednesday. Three days later, and I have a relatively clean living room and dining room. My kitchen counters are clear, and there are no dishes in the sink.
  • I spend each afternoon only maintaining these areas -- pick up dining room table, empty dishwasher. I pick up the living room after E goes to bed which usually only takes a minute or two to throw her toys in a basket. Altogether, I probably spend about 15 minutes each afternoon picking up. If E gets into a game during the afternoon, I do my extra 15 minutes of decluttering then. If I get interrupted, I stop the timer and start again later.
Going Forward
When you visit the FLY Lady page, you can click on the "Today" tab, and the "Flight Plan" link. Everyone has access to this -- no sign-up or sign-in required. Here, she has everything organized into sections. Once I feel my home has been significantly decluttered (just focusing on trouble-areas for now), I'll be at a better starting point for moving into the "zones."
  • Each week, FLY Lady designates a zone to focus on, and each day of that week, you spend your 15 minutes of time in that zone. Read more about zones on her site, here. This week's zone is the Bathroom and Laundry Room. She assigns tasks for you to complete in that short amount of time, and at the end of the week, you have a spotless zone. Again, you can switch zones if you need to focus on another area of your house, but the tasks for each area are so well organized and explained, it's worth following the flight plan as closely as possible.
  • The site has TONS of other ways to help you get into other routines like drinking more water and detailed cleanings. It also has lots of products to help on your journey, but starting with these simple baby steps, splitting up my cleaning time, having time for the other things in life that make me happy, and having a relatively clean apartment (after only day 3) has been life-changing, and I hope you'll like it too!
Also, "I need help!"
Maybe it's just because Mark and I both work and have a toddler, but as much as I love this cleaning plan, I need help with it. I strongly encourage you to share your housecleaning plan (whatever it may be) with your partner and children. Let me tell you why...

The first night I shined my sink was an awakening for me. It was finally admitting to myself that I needed more help, that I needed FLY Lady to be my surrogate cleaning-mom and to tell me what to do each day in order to have less chaos and clutter in my home.

I don't need a perfect home. I just want to be able to make food in my kitchen, to have enough room on my couch so that both Mark and I can sit on it, to be able to use my dining room table, and for guests to be able to use my bathroom and not get exposed to some 18th-century disease that I'm sure is breeding in my toilet. Those are the very small goals I've set for myself.

So, I said to my beautiful sink, that first evening, "Goodnight, see you in the morning friend," and fell asleep happy. When I woke up, I remembered my good deed and rushed out to see it sparkle, to feel that happy feeling of doing something good for myself. And you know what?

Someone had put a nasty milk cup and bowl of old coleslaw in it after I had gone to bed. Ugh. Mark must have been too tired to really understand my little speech about sparkly-sink excitement the night before. I explained to him again why this was so important to me.

Now he knows, and even if he doesn't help me shine it, he surely won't put dishes in there before bed. We're on the same page, and it feels great.

He even has offered to do his own 15 minutes each night, and I've given him tasks that are hard for me to do during E's nighttime routine -- like take out the garbage and put the dinner dishes in the dishwasher. Those 2 tasks left me with a clean kitchen last night.

We both woke up this morning and smiled at each other in our clean kitchen. "This is nice," Mark admitted. Plenty of room to make lunches, and a clean sink to rinse dishes. "Yeah, it is."

1 comment:

Ashley DiMercurio said...

I love this post! I am going to read more about this "flylady" and work on making changes in our house. Thank you for being honest!