Clear for take-off

25Apr10

It’s been a topsy-turvy time recently. Whilst things have been going well with my writing and my textile art, inevitably, I suppose, other areas of my life have ben suffering. Most particularly, my poor house, which always seems to be the bottom of every list and receives only what I call the “crisis clean” (i.e. the most terrible area gets a clean as and when it is shouting so loud even I can’t ignore it), beyond the basic routines of making sure we have enough clean clothes and dishes to get through the next day.

It seems anachronistic to get hung up on something as outmoded as housework, but when I spend a good 80% of my time at home, the chaos does make it difficult to focus on what I actually *want* to do and was starting to become a cause of dissent between t’o-m and I, because he just didn’t see what I was doing all day, even though I know I’m permanently running around like a scalded cat.

It bugged me, too, that I only seemed to be able to keep a small part of my life under control and running smoothly at any one time – if my writing and textile arts are working, then the house is suffering, or the children are missing out on my time.

Something needed to change, but after last year’s massive crash, I’m very wary of tying myself down to punitive minute-by-minute routines/regimes and have been avoiding stress-creating to-do lists.

Seems like a no-win situation.

Until I found FLYLADY a couple of weeks ago, via someone over at Forward Motion.

It looked like a good approach to a clean and calming home, a welcoming and comforting place. Better than that, it didn’t try to panic me by telling me I was living in filth, out to be ashamed of myself, and needed to get cracking or count myself an abject failure.

All she wanted me to do was shine my sink.

Seemed easy enough, and not too strenous or time-consuming. (Time is my constant enemy. I never have enough of it, and it’s always running out on me).

So I did.

I liked the shiny sink. It didn’t take a lot of time to maintain. I have kept the sink shiny.

The shiny sink has spread a zone of calm and clean around itself, and is amazingly easy to maintain.

T’o-m is a bit puzzled by the sudden change – there is visible cleanliness and tidiness, but I’m not spending hours more than I used to on cleaning. In fact, I’m probably spending less time maintaining it, than I was having to do the crisis clean method on the as-and-when. It feels all a bit ‘Stepford Wives’ too, to accept that housework is as important as everything else, because a clean and calm environment *does* actually make a difference to (my and) the family’s emotional wellbeing.

And so the Flylady method builds up, small step by small step, ultimately towards a clean, tidy and uncluttered house. Not overnight, not even in days, or weeks. No, over months. Until you’re on a rolling level of clean and tidy and uncluttered across the board, and maintaining it with minimum effort.

Of course, being me, I couldn’t wait to get stuck in, and went off like a greyhound out of the traps, jumping ahead and trying to fly when I could barely walk.

I’ve got a *lot* of decluttering and cleaning up done.

But my stress levels are back at toxic levels, and I was starting to think I could never make this system work for me.

Until I went back to the beginning, and read it through again.

I don’t need to be trying to do as much as I have been. All I need to do is stick to the basic, and anything else is a bonus. Build up gradually, one step at a time, establishing small changes in habits and routines – because even a small change like shining a sink can and does make a difference.

It woke me up, too, to my inner perfectionist. It wasn’t enough to “just do a little bit, as and when I can”. No. Not nearly enough. My inner perfectionist grabbed the idea with both hands, fashioned itself a ruddy big stick, and set about beating me with it.

So of course I felt stressed.

This week, I’m not going to try to do *any* decluttering. I’m going to just do the basic routines, and if I manage to get the time to spend 15 mins on a small area, then I’ll do it, and that will be a *BONUS*. I will not be failing if I don’t do it.

Hopefully, that will get my stress levels back down to non-toxic levels, and I can take another small step towards balancing the various areas of my life and start feeling in control again, instead of feeling constantly one step away from overwhelming chaos.

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4 Responses to “Clear for take-off”

  1. a suggestion for your inner perfectionist-

    when decluttering, you could set a timer for a finite amount of time. When it rings, you’re done(or you finish the specific thing you’re doing,such as take the things that belong in other rooms there, and yor’re done)

    Many people need the timer as a push to do more. Perfectionists can use it as a cue to do enough but not go overboard

    Just a thought from a passing psychic
    Catherine
    Foresight

  2. 2 Erin

    I’ve tried Flylady more than once myself, and I have recommended her to others. Last time I tried to go back to her, I just couldn’t — the flood of e-mails was one more thing to declutter each day, and trying to go to her Website was hopeless. (I’m constantly amazed at how much *stuff* is on the front page of her site when she talks so much about getting rid of clutter.)

    She has some good ideas, but feeling free to ignore 90% of her “You must do this” has left me a lot more peaceful.

  3. 3 Anne Lyle

    I’m in exactly the same boat – I always jump into things with both feet, then the novelty wears off… I think you’re right, though – you have to persist with the basics until the habits stick. We can do this together, right?

  4. Well done on recognizing the problem. I’m with Erin on horrible clutter on the Flylady website and constant barrage of emails, but she does have some great ideas.

    I had a client once where I just said – you have to keep the dining table clear. Nothing more. And from there it slowly spread but the only thing she focused on was the dining room table…


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