College was a really dark time for me. I was lonely and often ill and I really REALLY didn’t fit in. I cried a lot. I withdrew more and more. I’m sure that the other girls in my dorm talked about me as the weirdo that lived in the dark.
You’d think someone would have asked what was wrong, but that’s a blog for another day.
So one day I had my door open… which was rare. I must have been waiting for a delivery or something. I was sitting at my desk with all the lights (except my tiny desk lamp) turned off and the blinds pulled shut when a cute, skinny, preppy girl with a curly pony tail who lived across the hall stuck her head in and looked at my disaster zone and said, “You know, messy room, messy life.”
Gee. Thanks, sister. Maybe if you tried really hard you could be a little more superior and condescending.
As much as I’d like to forget that moment, that snotty preppy’s voice is stuck firmly in my brain.
I don’t feel like I have a messy life.
I’m not claiming perfection by any means! I over-schedule and things fall through the cracks. I’m lousy at managing my finances. I forget important dates.
But generally, life is good. Significantly better than it was in the college days. I have an awesome husband who, I’m fairly confident, likes me as much as I like him (and that’s a lot). My kids are (more or less) clean and well fed on a daily basis. I teach homeschool and I juggle work and community and all those things that make up life and I think I do it reasonably well. I’m quite fond of my life.
My house is still a mess.
HA! You’re WRONG horrible stuck up cheerleader in my head!
My messy room does NOT equal a messy life!
Still, it would be nice if my house were cleaner.
You know those people who say, “I just couldn’t relax because the house was so messy.”
Yeah… that’s not me.
If the rare opportunity to lay around for an hour with a good book or a non-animated TV show presents itself… well… just shove that pile of laundry off the couch. I’ll get to it later.
Housework gets put on the back burner.
I don’t want to live in TOTAL filth. You know?
So I spend an entire day scrubbing and polishing and trying to make order.
And by the next day I’m buried under dirty dishes again.
It’s frustrating, so I give up. But then things get rather gross, so the cycle starts again.
That’s the way life has been going for just about forever.
I go to other people’s homes and everything is lovely and shiny and pretty. They don’t have dirty dishes stacked on the counter.
Why is that?
“Just clean as you go,” some say.
But… when the baby is crying and the dinner is burning and…
“Fold the clothes the moment the dryer stops,” say others.
Seriously? I’m usually not even home when the dryer stops. I chuck a load in on my way out the door so that I’ll have clean undies in the morning.
Things pile up in my house.
Enter the big sister.
My big sister said, “I used to get so behind in my cleaning and then I discovered FLY lady. You should check it out. It all starts with a shiny sink.”
A shiny sink?
That made no sense to me, but she is older and wiser and generally freakishly awesome at everything she does, so I take her advice pretty seriously.
I went to http://www.flylady.net/.
FLY stands for, “finally loving yourself.”
OK. I love me. I can live with that.
The basic premise is that you can create routines for yourself so that you only need to spend 15 minutes a day cleaning and your house will always be “company ready.”
Fly lady says she will put an end to CHAOS (can’t have anyone over syndrome) in your life.
And it all starts with a shiny sink.
Day one: you take all the dishes out of your sink and put them wherever you feel the need to put them. Stack them on the floor. Hide them in the oven. Whatever.
Then you polish your sink to a high sheen. You don’t just wipe it out. There’s a whole tutorial involving bleach and baking power and SOS pads. And then you keep it that way. NO MATTER WHAT. Every day you keep that sink shiny.
Then there is a list of “baby steps” beyond the shiny sink as well as other tips and plans and so forth that you develop over time.
You are supposed to set a timer and never (well, most days) work more than 15 minutes cleaning your house and, in time, your house will miraculously be gorgeous.
“Well… that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard of,” I thought.
I’m going to shine my kitchen sink and suddenly there won’t be a laundry pile in my living room?
And she calls the people who follow her system, “flybabies.” Uhm… aren’t fly babies maggots? Gross!
Big sis… older… wiser… all that jazz.
So I grudgingly shined the stupid sink.
That was a month ago and dang-it! My house is clean…. er. It’s not totally clean yet, but each week it’s cleaner than it was the week before.
And I never really feel like I’m spending time cleaning my house (except for those 15 minutes each day).
If someone knocked on my door unexpectedly, right at this moment, I wouldn’t die of embarrassment over the state of my home.
That’s good progress for me.
There were always dirty dishes stacked everywhere and now they are clean (or at least in the dishwasher).
My front porch is tidy.
My bathroom is clean, though I’ll spare you the picture of my shiny toilet.
We’ve gotten rid of van-loads of clutter (literally).
There is still a mountain of laundry and the laundry room is a disorganized nightmare.
The baseboards are collecting dog hair.
I’ve not yet gotten very good at keeping my dining room table clutter-free.
But that stupid shiny sink really did lead to a cleaner house. FLY lady promises me that if I stick with her, eventually, the other stuff will get better too.
AND… she sends me email every day and tells me to stop feeling guilty about the above mentioned housekeeping shortfalls.
I like not feeling guilty!
Especially because I have a confession. I’m a half-assed flyer. I’m sort of just fluttering. I’ve taken a month to get through the first week of baby steps.
But the sink stays shiny, no matter what.
And, you know, when I wake up in the morning and I don’t have to balance the coffee pot on top of a pile of dirty pots and pans in order it fill it… well… that’s just a nice way to start the day.
And yet, I remain dubious.
Even though all evidence shows that her system is working wonders for me, I still doubt.
She wants me to keep journals and write encouraging notes to myself and exercise. I don’t do those things because I don’t see the point. Exercising will not fold the laundry.
Then again, I didn’t see the point in polishing my kitchen sink but, for whatever reason, the whole house is cleaner because of it. So maybe, at some point, I’ll do those things too. I’ll probably be glad I did.
So, here’s what I’m thinking…
What else can I do in just 15 minutes a day?
It’s overwhelming to consider changing our lives, our bodies, or our relationships.
Certainly it’s too much to bear to think about creating world peace or stopping poverty or ending disease.
But what if I spent 15 minutes a day of focused effort on a massively huge goal?
What if you did too?
What if we all did?
If SEVEN BILLION PEOPLE spend 15 minutes a day that’s 1, 750,000,000 man-hours EACH DAY of concentrated effort! Can you imagine what we could accomplish?!
And it all started with a shiny sink.