What Works Best Is the System You’ll Use

This started out as a reply to a comment, but I went on so long that I decided to make it its own post.

Before I start on my grand experiment (per my last post, I need to change the way I look at my housework, because the way I look at it isn’t working), sometimes, it helps to revisit where you’ve been.

I tried FlyLady, and it’s good. I found the emails a little annoying, which is why I stopped, but the philosophy is good. Small chunks— 15 focused minutes makes a difference, and she gives you a place to start and daily points you in a direction. She stops the blame and perfectionism that gets in the way of cleaning, for people like me. That’s extremely helpful. I found a spin on that on Tumbler, Unf*** Your Habitat, which is similar but less cutesy. She advocates 25-minute chunks and has an app with a timer that I sometimes use.

Growing up, my mom advocated cleaning by category— all of the trash one day, all the dusting one day, all the mirrors one day. I really respond to that, but I found that I needed more payoff— there’s little payoff in knowing that the mirrors are clean but the sink needs scrubbing, so in addition to daily things (make the bed, clean the cat box, feed the dog) I designated days to focus on particular rooms. Monday, my bedroom. Tuesday, the bathrooms. Wednesday, the kitchen. Thursday, the living room. Friday, the guest room/office. Saturday, big cleaning I can’t fit in during the week. Sunday, the garden/outside. (There’s a rhyme behind all that— I put the public spaces before the weekend so I could have people over to somewhere that had recently been an area of focus— that kind of thing, and I try not to “work” on Sunday, so gardening is more meditative and pleasurable than vacuuming. Except that the one thing that consistently gets done is Monday. Wednesday there’s never time, anymore, so the kitchen never gets the focus it needs. I never ever do my Friday plan… I’ve also tried a more random approach— put a bunch of tasks in a jar with some fun things (take a nap! ride your bike!) and pulled three a day. When I’m traveling, living with someone, or have guests, I am surprisingly disciplined. I have the discipline for neatness within me, but at home, I overschedule and live my life at the end of my rope. I’m trying to do better on that, and this is a part of that attempt.

Like a diet, the system that works best is the one that you’ll actually use. My systems reflect the life I was living six years ago better than the one I live now, so it’s time for some fine-tuning. I’m thinking that I need to figure out where the tipping point is. I don’t need a house that looks like a magazine page, but I do wonder where I’d find the point of diminishing returns. If I could clean to that point and call it good, I suspect that I’d find it not to be as painful as it seems from where I am.

I’m thinking about trying a couple of things. I have this chore chart from Real Simple that I got for renewing my subscription awhile ago (a three-inch trifold pamphlet— quite the subscription bonus. I’ll post the gist of it, if it becomes the basis for my system.) It breaks out chores into daily, weekly, and seasonal maintenance—I thought I’d try to follow that. A lot won’t apply daily— there’s a lot of daily cleaning of the kitchen, for example. I cook maybe a couple of times a week, so chances are good that I can skip/shortcut some of that on the days I don’t cook. I’ll start with 25-minute chunks (there’s good science behind that, and I know I can do more than 15 minutes because I’ve been on this road awhile. If you’re just starting out, maybe start smaller) and see how far I can get, through those lists.

A friend is doing 40 bags in 40 days. I’ll also take a look at how much of what they’re doing is routine-building, because that’s where I’m focusing. I’ve been purging clutter for a couple of months— heaven knows that the more of it I do, the better, but I’m not sure it’s addressing my primary concern, which is a maintenance routine. I’m also hoping to read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which I’ve been hearing about for awhile.  For now, I’ll track and research. I have guests coming just before Lent starts, so the house should start out in pretty good shape (shampooing carpets coming this weekend! Aah!). I’ll start whatever system on Ash Wednesday and continue to Easter, and then figure out what should stick, beyond that point.


One thought on “What Works Best Is the System You’ll Use

  1. Pingback: Chore Tracking, Days 2 and 3 | Adventures of Auntie M

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