Perhaps you are starting to wonder why there has been no continuation of the Let's! all! clean! house!! enthusiasm. It is because...well, it is because I have so far made no photographable progress. Like, I have not actually put anything away, thrown anything out, or cleaned anything.
But! I am gearing up, and in many ways that IS progress, much as it is progress to go from thinking of a diet as an optional activity to thinking of it as inevitable and imminent.
I have been looking around my house with a New Eye. I have been thinking to myself, "When I get started, THAT will go." I've been mulling often on the theme of housework. Here are the themes I most often mull on:
Something is better than nothing. I can get in a mode where I feel like since it is impossible to make and maintain a perfect household, I might as well not do anything at all; because I will not be able to clean and organize the whole thing before company comes, I might as well not even start. I read an article once that referred to this as "frustrated perfectionism."
An all-or-nothing approach doesn't work for me anywhere in life (I drink diet Coke and I eat hot fudge sundaes with nuts; I use handkerchiefs and I use bleach; I breastfeed and I have scheduled c-sections), so it's silly of me to try to be all-or-nothing about housekeeping. It really is better to do a LITTLE than to do NOTHING, and I remind myself of this again and again.
Start with what appeals. It's pretty silly to be pairing up mittens in the coat closet when there's a puddle of orange juice on the kitchen floor, but that's what I did the last time my mother-in-law was coming for a visit. I did super-thorough cleanings/organizations of the coat closet (how did I not take any photos?) and the bathroom closet. Not only was it motivating, those areas stayed tidy a LOT longer than the kitchen floor did. AND I felt as if anyone looking in those areas would figure I was actually a neat and tidy person who just happened to have orange juice on the floor---as opposed to what they'd assume if the house looked nice until they opened a closet and the house's contents fell out of it.
Prioritize. This is the opposite of the previous one. I use them both, because different moods benefit from different techniques. I use "prioritize" when I'm getting spinny and frantic over not being able to pair up all the mittens. I shift gears then, and try to do the quick things that make big splashy differences instead of the complicated things that make subtle long-term differences.
One of my professors used to start the semester by saying that students could accomplish an 80% effect (i.e., a B) for a 20% effort---but that if they wanted that extra 20% effect (i.e., an A) they would need to put in the other 80% effort. He seemed to mean that they should do that other 80% (though perhaps what he actually meant was "Don't think you're hot stuff if you get a B in this class"), but what I took away was that it was smarter to stop at 20%. My house can be cleaned to a B level, or I can work 5 times as long and get it to A? Not worth it to me. (Same in the areas of fitness, fashion, parenting, and, yes, schoolwork.)
Keep going. Tackling housework makes me see what an insurmountable mountain it really is. It can be hard to continue chipping away at it when it doesn't seem to be getting much better, or when it's getting worse at about the same rate it's getting better. But it IS getting better. See also: something is better than nothing.
C.A.Y.G. What, you didn't read housekeeping magazines for the comics? This was in one of my grandmother's magazines, and it was one of the few articles I read. C.A.Y.G. stands for Clean As You Go, and it's the idea that ACCUMULATION is what drowns/saves us. Refill the sugar bowl when you have the sugar out already to make muffins. Put away the glue right after you're done using it. Put the batteries away as soon as you bring them home from the store. Rinse the measuring cup after you use it.
Does it bless or does it oppress? This is one of those nauseating sayings my mom and I can't help using because it works so well. We have to put the word "bless" in verbal airquotes every time we use it. It is well worth it, because this is how I got rid of TWO sets of silverplate flatware, one from each set of grandparents. It OPPRESSED me. It's how I get rid of things that I feel I SHOULD keep or SHOULD want but I DON'T: my great-grandmother's china; a pair of sneakers autographed by Rosie O'Donnell; things I was sooooo happy to find on really! good! deals! but don't really want anymore; stuffed animals from my childhood I don't love anymore but feel guilty discarding as if they never meant anything. And it's how I know I want to KEEP something that feels as if it should be in the same category as the things I'm pitching.
Life-improving products, part 4 - (Continued from part 1, part 2, and part 3.) Stearns Youth Life Vest (photo from Amazon.com). I’d been too scared to take the kids to any body of water oth...