Monday, October 25, 2010

Simplifying: Cleaning Routines

A couple of years ago, I tried out the FlyLady's house cleaning methods--for one day. Long enough to get my sink shiny, but once I saw the next assignment (get dressed) I didn't really feel the need to go on. Seriously? When was the last time that I wasn't sick (and even if I was), that I got to stay in my jammies all day?

But, thanks to MaryBeth's inspiration, I decided to give the Fly Lady another go, this time using her book, Sink Reflections. There is much that is irritating about the Fly Lady: her "god breezes," her 8000 acronyms, her very scattered writing style, her excessive quoting of overly effusive fan email. But there is a lot that is useful in there, too. If you can get by the annoying stuff: routines--morning, night, weekly--letting go of perfectionism and working on things a little at a time, rather than waiting for a huge block of time to clean the whole damn house (these aren't exact quotes, just what I've gotten out of the book). As with most self-help books I've ever read, I thought of a dozen people who could benefit from the FlyLady even more than me. I even briefly thought of handing her book out for Christmas presents, but decided it wouldn't be very well received.

The one daily routine I've taken up consistently and which has really made a difference in house cleanliness is to wipe out the bathroom sinks and swish the toilets every morning. It only takes a minute, and it really is so nice to go in there and not cringe at whatever surprise the boys have left behind. I wash out the tub either before or after I give them a bath, and I scraped all the old dried soap of the soap dish in the shower while I was taking a shower one morning...this cleaning stuff can be addictive.

The Fly Lady recommends a weekly one-house speed clean that she calls a "House Blessing." That sounds too much like it involves a priest in vestments with holy water and one of those big brass incense burners, so I prefer to call mine a "House Bewitching." The results are almost as magical as Samantha cleaning the whole house just by wiggling her nose. The trick is to do six tasks for ten minutes each. Here's my Bewitching Hour:

1. Strip beds and stuff sheets in washer (if the sun is shining) and empty trash cans.
2. Pick up floor downstairs.
3. Dust livingroom furniture.
4. Sweep and dust mop downstairs.
5. Mop kitchen.
6. Dust and dust mop upstairs.
7. Water plants.
8. Hang out sheets.


OK, that's more than six tasks, and it usually takes more than an hour because I get interrupted by things like kids, breakfast (C. cooks Saturday a.m.) or soccer games. And, I don't stop what I'm doing when the alarm goes off, but keep going until I'm done with what I'm on.

The amazing thing, though, is that my house gets reasonably clean every week without me spending all day Saturday and Sunday cleaning it (I do still find myself spending a lot of time cleaning, but I have been working on that &$#@* basement and I spent a couple of days getting the yard, deck and front entryway cleaned). I used to mop my kitchen every few months (seriously...I horrify myself), usually when a guest was coming and it would take me an hour or more and several changes of water (each bucketful turning black). The FlyLady says it was my perfectionism that kept me from cleaning my floor more often, because I felt like I needed that huge block of time to do it really thoroughly. Now (wait for it) I don't even move the table and chairs out of the way and I only use one bucket. Once the floor is done (and the water black), I move on to the next task. I'm hoping that at some point I'll get ahead of it and the water won't get black anymore. I'll let you know how it goes.

The other FlyLady recommendation I have taken on wholeheartedly is the HotSpots. These are areas where stuff tends to pile up. My goal was to keep the end of our kitchen/dining table clear of school papers, mail, magazines, art projects, toys, etc. But once I got that cleared, I cleared off the end of the counter, my dresser, my sewing table, my desk, a small end table in our living room. I have one last HotSpot, a mail envelope full of things "to do"...like thank-you notes I never sent last Christmas (oh, yes, and a drawer in my desk that has started taking up random papers. It's such a relief to not have those piles of papers staring at me (though there are fewer places to look when I can't find something). Now when I go into other people's houses I'm on HotSpot alert.

The FlyLady recommendation that I'm having a hard time taking on is to Quit Whining and Stop Being a Martyr. Grrr...I've actually been extra grumpy and resentful about everyone else's messiness since I began the new routines. Right after I read the no whining chapter (and right after I had completely cleaned and rearranged the living room) C said something like, "Why did the cleaning people quit?" I'm sure he thought he was being funny, but, considering the house had been more consistently clean (rather than one huge burst of clean a few times a year) than it has ever been, I was really irritated. But immediately after that, he started sorting through some of the stuff on the two desks that make up his home office in our living room. So maybe he was feeling like his mess looked even worse compared to the rest of the house.

Now if I could only get the boys to hang up their coats and backpacks when they walk in the door, rather than dumping them in the mudroom doorway (and I'm not even going to talk about their bedroom...I've been cleaning and sorting and decluttering it for months--to the point even of just throwing everything from the floor into laundry baskets or boxes and taking it all to the basement...I've done this twice and they've neither noticed nor cared very much, and still it's like trying to scoop the water out of a hole on the beach; it just fills up again).

1 comment:

Life As I Know It said...

I tried FlyLady when I first started staying home full time - about 5 year ago. I did find some things helpful, like making a routine and schedule of what needs to be done on what day. But my downfall is that I usually put housecleaning on the bottom of the priority list (until we have visitors and then I panic and get it all done at once ;))

BTW, I love your kitchen cabinets !

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