About six months ago, my niece recommended a book to me: How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind, by Dana K. White. She did it in a “I’ve found this helpful” kind of way, so I didn’t feel judged by that recommendation, and I got it while it was on sale. I started out and made good progress on it, then stalled for the better part of six months, then finished it through some applied effort over the last few weeks.
I’ve subscribed to FlyLady, I’ve read up on organization, I’ve read about the Marie Kondo method, and I used to like that show on TLC where expert organizers would come in and tackle your house for you, CleanSweep. If you’re a long-time reader, you’ve watched me struggle with how to integrate housework into my life in a way that makes sense through Lenten Challenges and other crackpot schemes.
So to the point of the book. It didn’t say anything I hadn’t heard before. Simultaneously, it was super-helpful, because it’s written for someone like me— someone who thinks they can procrastinate doing the little things now and not be stressed out about the state of their house. It’s like what they say about the best diet for you— it’s the one you’ll use.
With that said, because I’m living with someone else (and that someone else is not typically making the house cleaner over time), I’m in a pretty good place with the house. I still apologize when people come over, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like it’s an “we don’t live in a magazine” kind of apology, not a “sorry there’s no place to sit” kind of apology. I’m also super-busy, which makes me a little more focused about how I approach things. You know, as long as you don’t count that place I dump my mail on the kitchen table. For the most part, I make my bed in the morning, I clean the kitchen if I cook, the mail gets looked through and junk mail shredded regularly, and the clutter isn’t as bad as it can get when there’s no one around to observe what I do. (What can I say— the Obliger runs deep in me.)
Essentially, the author says to people like me that procrastination is the problem. The problem is that yesterday, when I took walnuts out for the banana coffee cake I made, they didn’t get put back in the pantry when I was done. They joined the canister of jasmine rice from a meal last week and the packet of seeds I just bought, some measuring cups and the canning tools I hauled out to make dilly beans yesterday (along with the jars of dilly beans themselves), the Gorilla Glue I used to fix the countertop compost canister lid and some other detritus in semi-permanent residence on the kitchen island. If I had taken three minutes to return those things to where they belonged, my cleanish kitchen would look even better.
It’s had me itching to clean out my overstuffed closet and drawers since I finished it, but instead, I focused on some keystone habits that are making the rest of it simpler. I meal-planned for the week and did food prep yesterday, along with some garden-building stuff. I dusted and vacuumed. I put away the protest groceries (when Mom grocery shops, even if she does it alone, I unload the car and end up putting everything away [I expect to do that when I grocery shop, but I’m put out that she won’t even put away groceries she bought for only herself.] I don’t mind unloading the car [she uses a walker— I’m not asking her to haul groceries] and I put away anything perishable, because she’s often tired after the trip, but I’ll often pile non-perishable things that she’s bought next to the pantry, for her to put away. Except that she doesn’t. Stuff will sit there for months. I’ve explicitly asked her to put that stuff away herself and told her it would be a help to me if she did it, lest I get any sort of judgment about passive aggression.) I emptied, refilled, re-emptied, and refilled the dishwasher. I keep taking baby steps in the garage to build off the significant head-start my brother gave me last month. I’ve created a work surface for myself, defrosted and reorganized that outdoor freezer (RIP hairdryer), hung up mop and broom organizers I bought us when we first moved into the house, and hung other tools and cords and such. Broken electronics are now in the garage, so I can recycle them at BestBuy the next time I go there. Garden supplies I bought at the hardware store had a logical place to land in the garage when I got them home, and for the most part, I could find the tools I needed while I was building one of the two raised beds that arrived last month. Which was good, because part of it broke while I was transporting it to its new location, and I had to find stuff to fix that portion.
This, in combination with a Tony Robbins program my boss had me listen to is reminding me that I pretty much just have to identify the next right thing and do it over and over, and eventually, I’ll get where I’m going. And the further in advance I can do that (Like, if I plan the meals in advance instead of having to quick-thaw something and pull together a meal from scratch, not thinking about the fact that I also need to bake something for an event the same night…), the more likely I am to make rapid progress.
I’d prefer to think I don’t need to meal plan and I don’t have to plan out my day in advance and I don’t need to prioritize things in advance because I can do all this on the fly, and that’s more interesting and spontaneous, after all. But Tony Robbins and the author of this book are right— if I decide in the moment what I want to do, I’ll make a plan to (1) avoid pain (procrastinate) (2) maximize pleasure (procrastinate at the movies) or (3) make someone else happy, instead of moving in the direction of what I think is important. If I can find a way to more effectively add “rest” to my planning, I should be in good shape!