February 16, 2007


I know it was very recently that I was claiming to be satisfied with my current policy of not doing much housework. The problem is that writing it out like that made me think more about it, and when I thought more about it I started noticing it more, and when I started noticing it more I started feeling a little frantic under the weight of all this clutter and dirt.

And so I suppose what I am saying is that I am going to try to dig myself out. I suppose I am saying that I am intending to do a little housework after all. This is a terrible drag. Those of you who already keep your houses clean will not be impressed with my meager, flailing efforts, and those of you who don't keep your houses clean will feel betrayed by my apparent attempt to cross to the other side. But fear not, allies! My intention is not to turn this house into a sparkling masterpiece, or to spend hours (or even "hour") a day working on keeping it that way. My intention is to try to beat back the actual health and fire hazards, and then do the minimum necessary to maintain those safety levels.

If anyone else would like to join me, perhaps we could form a Dig Ourselves Out brigade. And perhaps those who are already living in cleanliness could contribute tips and motivating thoughts.

I'm starting with the few things I remember from a brief fling I had with The Fly Lady a few years ago. I still appreciate many of her main tenets, but at the time I got tired of the motivational seminar tone, and also of what I perceived to be an ever-increasing level of commitment to cleanliness: first it's "You can do this in just 15 minutes a day!" and before you know it it's 15 minutes of this plus 15 minutes of that plus 15 minutes of this plus 15 minutes of that plus 15 minutes of...and so on.

Here are some of the things she said that I remember, and still like:

1) It's better to do a little of something than none of it. That is, a single wet paper towel swiped across the counter is better than not cleaning the counter at all because you don't have time to do it perfectly and completely.

2) Even just 15 minutes of work a day will make a significant difference over time.

3) If it oppresses you, toss it out.

4) Don't start a load of laundry if you don't have time to see it all the way through to the bitter end.

5) Don't try to dig yourself out all at once.

Today I spent a little time cleaning some of the edges of the kitchen. It bothers me the way dirt and crumbs and fuzz accumulate on the floor under the little ledges of the cabinets and stove and refrigerator, and so I spritzed and wiped, spritzed and wiped, until all the muddy fuzz was gone. I was surprised at how much nicer the entire kitchen looked to me when this small task was done. I am a housecleaning whirlwind! Gather 'round and admire my tiny progress!


Trena said...

I have signed up with the flylady no less than three times in my life and each time it eventually comes down to my passive-aggressively avoiding the messages in my inbox.
It all starts out so well and I always have so much hope that *this* time I WILL be organized and stick with it--but alas, my true disorganized clutter-happy self emerges and we are right back where we started at.
The one thing that I took from the flylady that works for me is to set the kitchen timer to 15 minutes and work on an area for just those 15 minutes. It does make a difference and it always amazes me how much you can actually get done in 15 minutes!

mrsgryphon said...

delurking to say this...

I lasted about 3 days getting "Flylady's" emails before I bailed (so not me!) but I did grab on to the 15 minutes plan. I do it 2x a day - 15 minutes after breakfast and 15 minutes after dinner. Amazing how much better the house looks. Helps that the cleaning lady comes every 2 weeks, but those 30 minutes a day are golden.

Shannon said...

I think I spent more time deleting the hordes of e-mails than actually cleaning...which shows you MY level of cleaning. Add that to my current pregnant status and my commitment level has slid even more.

I'm game for a digging out party. My husband would be grateful.

Penny said...

I hate the Fly Lady. I briefly glanced her website out of boredom, and to me the the commitment seemed to be way out of proportion to what cleaning one's house should be. It seemed like joining a persistent, nagging, energy-draining program that requires you to spend many precious minutes checking in and recieving updates on "target rooms to clean this week" and "new ways to reduce your cleaning time." It may be better termed, "gnat-lady. buzzes into your ear at an annoying, constant pitch and though it is only a tiny addition to your life, can never be swatted away."

I have a better plan: spend all those minutes cleaning your house that normally go to reading and sweating over the fly lady's command for the week.

And, if I had to wait until the bitter end for my laundry i would be at work today wrapped in paper towels and washrags to cover my naked body, because all my clothes would still be dirty.

Whew. That felt good to take out my week's worth of work and life frustrations out on an abstract entity.

theflyingmum said...

My intention today was to plow through the pile of mail on the never-used kitchen table. I'm tired of sitting on the couch with a plate in my lap. But I seem to have sprouted roots into this damn chair. This is the LAST comment ont he LAST blog I will view today, I swear. No, I really mean it. Really!

Bunny said...

I fight this housecleaning battle every. day. With a baby and a toddler I fight having enough energy, drive and sleep to actually feel like cleaning. I keep us fed and most of our clothes clean. I was on the flylady program back when I had one baby and a smaller house and it was great. My house was clean, it didn't take me too long each day. But now, I have no. time. After dinner the kids are cranky and its time for baths and bed and then spending time with my husband. I just can't spend 45 minutes going through my "nightly routines." I learned a lot from her, many things like you said, but I am too tired.

Tessie said...

I wish my husband subscribed to the "see laundry through to the bitter end" philosophy. He thinks he's "done" a load if he puts it in the washer and transfers it to the dryer. Or maybe, if I'm LUCKY, I'll find it hours later dumped into a pile on the bed. What the hell? On the what planet is that load "done"?

Swistle said...

Tessie-- I HATE that! I finally had to forbid Paul from "doing laundry" in that way. Putting loads into the washer is the FUN part. I mean, if it can be said to have a fun part. It's folding and putting away that deflates my soul. And he would always be so pleased with himself--like, "THERE! I did all 'your chores' for you!" Finding two baskets of clean, cold, wrinkled laundry on the bed when I'm exhausted and getting into my pajamas = grounds for divorce.

4andcounting said...

I am always vowing to do a better job with the housecleaning. I manage the minimum, but not much else. My dear husband has suggested tackling one area at at time together until we get the whole house super clean. I like the together idea, and I am hopeful that if we get it all clean at one time then it will be easier to maintain a decent level of cleanliness. Or so I hope. Speaking of cleaning--that is what I am avoiding this very minute.

desperate housewife said...

I'm with everyone who finds FlyLady annoying. Signing up for her emails is a good way to clutter up and confuse what should be a fairly simply (though totally icky) concept: clean stuff up! I mean, probably some organization and schedule to it helps.
Like when you were talking about how your kitchen floor makes you crazy? That's a pet peeve of mine too. But maybe if you have one day a week when you do those edges, that will make you feel better about it the rest of the week. You can not stress, because you know at some point in the near future it is going to be cleaned.
I'm trying to think of other tips I would have to offer... I guess my best advice would be, always have Lysol wipes on hand. Always! They are the best all purpose cleaning tool ever. Also, for bathroom cleaning, Scrubbing Bubbles is awesome because it supposedly does the scrubbing part for you. So you spray, you let it sit, you rinse it off. So now I only actually scrub with a real scrub about once a month. The rest of the time, spray and rinse!

Kelsey said...

I like to keep the house relatively picked up and pretend it's clean. My mom was one who was ultimately anal retentive in her cleaning. People were afraid to sit on furniture in the house I grew up in. It didn't look like children lived there. I know my mom loved (loves) me, but I grew up in a place where there was a wrong way to do everything and never really learned how to clean because she could always do it better herself. Sometimes I think I'm working so hard not to be like that part of her (there are zillions of good parts I try to emulate!) that I go too far the other way. Like I'm taking some kind of stand by not falling slave to society's idea of "clean." I'm also lazy and I would rather read or check my email or blog than wield a broom. In fact, when I do sweep, my daughter tells me the broom is Nana's because my MIL sweeps every time she comes over to babysit! If the clutter/mess/whatever is causing you stress, I totally support your efforts to eliminate that stress. I'm still looking for my happy-medium, good luck finding yours!

Emblita said...

Oh god I really need to clean up too... I've been painting and putting in new floors in our new apartment. And we're living in the guest bedroom in my parents house and yegads its crowded and a mess. There is probably an entire sandbox on the floor and heaps of dirty clothing everywhere...

Although usually we do okey... because my husband is neat. He actually cleans up after dinner!!! We made the best deal EVER when we moved in together- whoever cooks doesn't clean. Since I looove to cook, I never have to do dishes! Yeah! I'm a total slob what can I say.
So yeah, I'm all for a little digging out party :p

Sarah said...

I would like to delurk and join the Dig Ourselves Out brigade. But if anyone starts adhering to my mother-in-law's instruction to her sons: "That bathroom floor should be so clean I could eat off of it!"-- then I'm done.

Mommy Daisy said...

I'm with you on this. I keep up with the chores that have to be done on a daily basis. I do dishes (by hand, no dishwasher here), laundry (which seems to never end), vacuuming, and I try to keep up with clutter. Other than it's once a week (or sometimes once a month). My house passes as "clean", but it's not sparkling yet. I'm starting to stress a little about this too, because we're having a bunch of people over for my son's first birthday party in less than 2 weeks. Ahh! And I'm with Kelsey, I'm also lazy. Playing with the baby, blogging, e-mail, reading, and other things generally come before housecleaning.

In honor of your "let's dig out" inspiration, I scrubbed one of the walls in the kitchen today. It's the one beside the dog's food dish. He always gets bits of food and hair on it. While no one else will probably even notice that I cleaned it, I already feel better for doing something. Hopefully I'll be inspired to do something like this every day now. In fact, I think I might go scrub the appliances in the kitchen. That sounds like fun. :D