Monday, May 30, 2011

The Failure's and Success of Maintenance

Let me just start by admitting something (if I haven't before) I'm a pretty terrible housekeeper. I often laugh when people think that I'm a great example of a homemaker. Well, sure.. I'm home.. and I'm creative and I can sew and all that, but I'm NOT good at keeping up with things. My natural bent is to do things all in one go. I won't really clean the house for several months, but I'd do a giant "Spring Cleaning" and re-organizing thing in the space of a few days. Totally wear myself out in the process of course so that I would be too tired to keep it looking good and the viscous cycle would continue.

So, more specifically... a year ago (and before then) the dishes would generally stay in the sink and counter and table for more than a day or two. Making meals was always frustrating because dishes were in the way or I'd have to wash something by hand because I needed it.

Laundry was always a giant mountain to climb as well. I'd wait till the laundry basket was overflowing beyond measure and then dump it all on the floor to put into the piles and proceed to try and get all those piles washed and dried in one day. When each load was dry I'd dump them on the couch to be folded while I watched a show or something. If I ever got around to actually folding the clothes (which could take one day or much longer) I'd often just leave the folded stacks in the basket and they'd all get unfolded when people would look for their clothes or when one of the girls would dump them all out so they could play in the basket.

Those were probably the two most majorly constant things that I was always dealing with. I got a DVD course in organizing last year that really helped me view all of this differently.

You see, I'd read many other books over the years about organizing and schedules and so forth, but I always got the feeling from them that the goal was to be organized. To be organized is not the goal. The reason it's important to organize our homes and schedules is to Simplify our lives! That's what I needed. I didn't need more ways to learn how to make my house "guest ready" I needed techniques to make my home run smoothly so that my life would be simple. I also needed to be taught these things in a grace filled way so that I wouldn't be operating out of guilt. I want to spend time with my kids and do my own projects and homeschool... I do NOT want to spend all of my day picking up after everyone in the family and doing dishes and essentially doing the same thing over and over again. Like walking up a slippery slope where it's impossible to get to the top or move forward.

My natural bent is to try to take on everything all at once. Which, of course, is gearing up for more failure city! I've been struggling with consistency and feel like I will always struggle with this for the rest of my life... but.. I'm hoping it will get easier at least. Starting the dishwasher at night with a cleaned up kitchen and emptying it in the morning has been my goal (little harder with a new baby and two older kids of course, but the goal is still there.. just not always met at the same time of the day.)

Getting rid of things is really important. Giving everything a place is vital (forcing myself to DECIDE where their place is!) Learning to see "clutter areas" and clean up to the point where 2/3s of the counters at least are cleared of stuff is super helpful too.

Right, but that is just mainly the kitchen (the first stage of this process) .. there's still the other big one (for me) the laundry *DUnt dunt DUUUNNNN!* I now do a load or so a day rather than doing it all in one go. It is amazingly easier to get that much washed and dried in one day (yeah, it usually takes me the whole day pretty much to get it through the cycles) and I no longer fold on the couch. I take it to my bedroom so I can put my folded clothes away as I fold them. I then only have the stacks of the girls clothes or towels or something and EVERY TIME I have to bite the bullet (it feels like) to do that final step of putting away stuff. If you think about it though it really doesn't take that long! It always took a long time before, but that was because I was trying to wash everything from about a week and a half and fold and put away it all in one day. Doing the smaller steps really does make my life more simple

And simple is the key, remember?

I'm still not actually "cleaning" though if you've noticed. Dishes and laundry and picking up isn't actually vacuuming or cleaning the toilets or washing mirrors. I have some ideas for a weekly schedule of cleaning up.

I haven't been able to implement it really since I'm focusing on working into the girls school times, but I'll post my idea here in case someone in blogdum is helped by it.

Schedules give me hives. Well, no.. not hives.. but perhaps pretty close to a panic attack. If I start reading about someone talking about their daily or weekly "schedule" I often stop reading. It's just SO overwhelming to read each cleaning task. -- clean the toilet, clean the bathtub, clean the mirrors, dust the furniture, vacuum the furniture, vacuum the stairs, sweep the floor, mop the floor.. etc ect. -- Um. No.

I started to do a schedule like that and all it did was stress me out to think or look at it and then I did LESS cleaning as a result.. which brought on some feelings of guilt or failure or at the very least annoyance at my dirty house, and often more times of eating chocolate or escaping onto facebook so I didn't have to see or think about the fail.

When I was watching some webinars on a homeschool site last week I got some good advice about meal planning (another thing that I've tried to do and struggle with.) She said that she had a schedule that went like this --
a chicken dish on Monday,
a pasta dish on Tuesday,
a soup or casserole on Wednesday
a beef dish on Thursday,
and homemade pizza on Friday.

This felt revolutionary to me! It's scheduled, but NOT as detailed! I could choose at the time what sort of chicken dish to make on Monday, but it took a lot of the planning out of choosing from "anything"... I mean, there are only so many chicken dishes, right? Plus, I'm then free on Monday to pick something easy (with chicken) or something more time consuming and gourmet (with chicken) depending on how much time I have or how I feel.

Right, so what does this have to do with real cleaning? I'm going to do a "room each day" during the week. THAT way, I'll feel free to do as little or as much cleaning as I want to do on that day! There really are days when I get going cleaning up or doing something and see more to do and it's then easy do it. Other days I might be more tired or the kids might be more needy and just picking up the clutter and wiping down one counter will be all I can take.

So, that's the plan. I'm still struggling a LOT with all of this, but if there's as much improvement from now till next year as there was this past year we'll be doing well, and our lives will continue to become more simple.

Some final thoughts on what I've learned -

-You might get ideas from books and other people, and it's good to study and work to learn more and grow, but be prepared to keep changing stuff till you find what really does work for you.

-Keep the goal of SIMPLE in your head when you organize your house and schedule.

-Look at problem areas like a detective and find where the problem is and what you can do to correct it. The laundry basket sorter that I bought, for example, has put the success in the laundry situation.. other things to consider might be if you need to buy a bookshelf or if you need to move the table from one place to another to help things move more efficiently and simply. Baskets or other ways to organize are also really helpful.

-Organization is a lifestyle. You will never be "done organizing" BUT remember that it is EASIER to live in organization than disorder. If it feels harder, then you need to back up a bit to develop the most important (to you) habits and/or look for that thing to make it easier (like my laundry sorter example) to make that difficult thing simple.

My next post will be about managing toys and the kids room! *Dunt dunt DUDUUUUN!!!*

That is another HUGE issue in our house. And.. Lily thinks we need more toys. Um.. no.. please please PLEASE if you (or anyone you know) are planning or thinking or even have an inkling of giving my kids more toys, just.. don't. Project things are good.. art stuff.. books. NOT more TOYS!

Well,after MUCH trial and error in regards to managing the toys.. I think I've actually come up with something that will work. Stay tuned. ;]

Now.. if I could manage to be asleep no later than 10:30 I think I might actually be able to make these plans work.

In closing, I'd like to mention something that I alluded to earlier.
The point of organizing and maintaining is to simplify so we can focus on WHO is most important in our lives. I just read this article and it ended with this--

Duties are pressing upon me,
And the time for work is brief,
What if with purblind vision,
I neglect the very chief?

What if I do with ardor
What a thousand could maybe,
And leave undone forever
What was meant for only me?

No one else named “Mom” lives in our homes and holds our children’s hearts and lives like we do. Let’s not miss our greatest ministry!


jeremy and lenore diviney said...

good stuff. whatever works for you right?

RickCapezza said...

I think I am still searching for what works best for us, but am starting to get the hang of it. For me, coming up with a schedule and then trying to follow it is frustrating, but I find that if I observe how a good day goes, and see that there's a pattern in it, then I can be looking to be in the groove of that pattern each day. For example, on days when I decide to do laundry during the baby's morning nap and then realize that I'm more on top of things if I do it then, I keep it in the back of my mind that that way worked great for me in the past so without thinking too hard about it, I fall into that groove again and I feel more in charge of the schedule rather than being a slave to it. Not sure if that makes any sense, but for me it helps me to feel less burdened throughout the day.

- Rachel (just too lazy to switch from Rick's account ;))

Lynne' said...

I like that Rachel, it's pretty much the same idea.. as far as finding a way to not be a slave to the schedule or being frustrated by it. After all, it's supposed to HELP us and make things EASIER not stress us out! I was thinking of making a check list for school things that take 30 min or so, so that I can fit them in between the babies naps and other things that come up rather than trying to schedule it too tightly and then getting frustrated.