So one of my goals for this year is a continuation of my goal for last year: to get the house organized and consistently livable/in a state where I wouldn’t be totally embarrassed to have unexpected company. This has always been a challenge for me. Since the first moment I was physically capable of strewing things hither and yon, I have tended to live in a state charitably described as chaotic.
It’s partly that I am often easily distracted, so I can walk away from something, and instantly forget that I had left it out, or was halfway through working on it, or that I had ever touched it in the first place. It’s also that I am strongly Out of Sight, Out of Mind, so leaving things out in plain sight is an important way to remind myself of things I need to do or take care of or even remember that they exist. Unfortunately, when you get too many things left out in plain sight, individual items get lost in the clutter, which kinda defeats the whole purpose. When you add the fact that I am paranoid about throwing some things away (particularly paperwork), because I know deep in my heart of hearts that the second I get rid of something is the just when I will desperately need it, and that I am very sentimental about gifts (who cares if the tchotchke is badly made, garishly decorated, and currently hidden at the back of a lower shelf because I don’t really want to look at it, someone gave that to me, and so I must keep it forever), and you can understand how things tend to get a little… cluttered.
In my ideal world, my house would still have quite a lot of stuff it in (because I am interested in quite a lot of things), but every item would have its home, its own spot in which it would dwell. Everything would be so organized that I could always lay my hand on whatever I needed the instant it occurred to me to need it. And things would be clean – the hardwood floors a gleaming expanse, the furniture shining with lemon oil, fresh sheets on the bed, and the bathroom somehow always freshly scrubbed. Of course, my house is almost never actually this way. Sometimes, right before a party, it gets close, but the next day it starts its inevitable slide towards chaos again.
I find this embarrassing, almost a personal failure. If I were the person I really ought to be, the housekeeper, the woman I should be, my house wouldn’t always be so horrible. And then I give myself little lectures about internalizing societal constructs of femininity, and why should I hold myself solely responsible for maintaining the house when my (male) cousin who lives with me should be equally responsible, and… well, in the end I’ve scolded myself into feeling guilty about feeling guilty, and the dishes still aren’t done.
Anyway, one of my other goals for this year is to get rid of 50% of the things I own. I was reading another blog (I think it was Castle In The Sea), which mentioned the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge. Basically, the idea is to get rid of 40 bags of unnecessary stuff during the 40 days of Lent. I thought this was awesome, and while following the various links, came across Fly Lady. She’s an online personality with a large and somewhat cult-like following, who teaches a system for cleaning, decluttering, and maintaining pretty much every area of the your life. You tackle tough jobs in fifteen minute increments, do daily maintenance on problem areas, rotate areas of concentration, and use checklists to make sure you don’t forget anything. This is all supported by a barrage of daily emails providing positive reinforcement, encouragement, reminders, and exhortations. Although at first I was somewhat skeptical of her superstitious attachment to lace-up shoes, and the totemic significance she attaches to having a shiny sink, I decided to give it a try, and subscribed to the daily email list.
And, well, it’s working. I’m taking things a little bit at a time, but so far my bathroom is clean, my laundry is caught up, and while my living room is not perfect, I wouldn’t be embarrassed to have a friend knock on my door right now. I mean, as long as they didn’t look at the dining room (that’s maybe next week). I’ve been spending lots of time thinking about what I want my life to look like, and the routines & habits I need to build to make it get there. There’s been a lot of writing out lists, not to mention actually working on the house. It’s been taking a lot of my energy, both physical and mental.
This means I haven’t had a lot of energy left over for, say, blogging. But I’m hoping that as things get settled, and I get more caught up, I’ll get my energy back. Already I’m starting to see dividends. This is the first Sunday in a long time that I haven’t had to worry about cramming a couple of loads of laundry through so that I have clean uniforms on Monday. Since I’ve been doing laundry all week, my uniforms are already clean, and upstairs in my room ready to wear. My floors are swept, my kitchen is clean, and yesterday I even got out to work in the garden. And that’s amazing.