Thursday, May 19, 2011

{pretty, happy, funny, real} Reasonably Clean

I have something I've wanted to write about for a long time.  It's nothing deep or weighty—just one of those every day ramblings about housework.  The photos will have nothing to do with that (or almost nothing).  There is just so much to do every day that spending a long amount of time blogging just doesn't happen.  It's thanks to Leila's idea for {pretty, happy, funny, real}, that I do any blogging at all lately!


Two out of three in their Pascha (Easter) best.  This was actually taken on Bright Wednesday since on Pascha proper, they were all asleep by the time I thought to take any photos.
What I wanted to write about, though, is this.  Awhile back, I stopped doing housecleaning "systems."  I've done FlyLady, I've tried rigid schedules, and finally, I just stopped them all.  Instead, I vowed, I would clean things when they were dirty.

It seemed that with any kind of imposed system, I was training myself to ignore dirt.  I tend to have this problem in lots of areas of my life.  I ignore the time on the clock, the crying baby in the playpen, the alarm on my phone going off under my pillow—all because I don't feel like attending to it.  With housecleaning, I talk myself out of needing to do it right then because it doesn't fit into my "system."

So, with the "no system" system, I simply look around, and if it's dirty, I clean it.  No talking myself out of it unless it's truly dinner time, bedtime, or time to leave for somewhere.


These are the bay leaves that are thrown around the church on Holy Saturday.  As soon as I put John down in them that morning, his face lit up with delight.  He didn't know where to crawl first.  Of course some of them went in his mouth, but they're just spices, right? 

Now, I'm not truly satisfied with this way of doing things, but I think I needed the step to sort of tune up my awareness of mess.  I'm incredibly indebted to FlyLady's system as a beginning point.  When you have absolutely no idea where to start, go there.  She told me exactly what to do and my house was a whole lot better than when I was doing nothing because I was so overwhelmed.  But I also noticed that I never seemed to finish anything.  With all the timers and not doing "too much," I never actually seemed to get anything to the point where it was actually clean.

I do understand that a huge part of her system is not being a perfectionist (which is, amazingly, what often causes me to do nothing) so I see the value of learning to do a "good enough" job.  But I was coming to the point where I knew what a clean floor was, and with her way, I never had one.  Maybe I was doing it wrong, but I wanted to actually spend as long as it took doing the floor occasionally.  I suppose she does provide for those tasks somewhat with her daily missions, but since I am terrible at doing anything every day, I would often skip the missions because inevitable adding them to my life would cause me to "crash and burn."


This kid will not leave the DVD player/VCR alone.  Doesn't matter what I put in front of it—he is obsessed.
Getting back to my "non-system," though, I knew it was lacking—things were going too long between cleanings, and I knew I could be more regular about it.  Plus, I needed to be able to set aside time for homeschool.  I'd noticed some things about my laundry that were starting to fall into a sort of routine.  We'd gotten rid of enough clothes so that the task wasn't as daunting and actually needed to be done at least weekly instead of me being able to stretch it to two or more weeks without really doing it completely.  I also started to finish it up by Saturday so I didn't have to do it on Sundays. 

I finally thought I could handle some kind of schedule without falling apart, so I went back to one of Leila's Reasonably Clean posts—The Moderate Clean: Two secrets to keeping your house on track.  I was a bit nervous about this, but I sat down with a pen and pad of paper and tried to make a system out of it.  One thing I realized was that I still hardly ever "cleaned. the. room."  (Quoting my Dad.  It drove us nuts when we were kids, but we'd ask if we were done cleaning, and he would inevitably respond, "Clean. The. Room.  Listen to the words.  When the room is clean, you're done."  Makes a lot more sense to me now!)

Notice the artful stacking of these dirty bowls from smallest to largest?

So, here's what I pulled out of her post:
  • I need to clean up (blitz) the house every day.  Blitz!  That implies quick!
  • Most of my hard work each day should be in one zone.
  • In zone cleaning, I need to "clean. the. room." Begin by putting things away, removing things that aren't supposed to be there, getting the room into an ideal (or passable) organizational state, and then actually clean (as in dust, sweep, maybe even mop!) the room!  Now, this probably won't need to be done weekly in each zone, but at least I should assess the room (with my new-found "dirt awareness") weekly from the aspect of "is it clean?" and daily from the aspect of "is it passably tidy?"
I did come away with a schedule of sorts, but I'm also being very flexible with that.  Yesterday was not supposed to be kitchen day, but I felt like the kitchen hadn't been truly clean in weeks, so I went there yesterday—and finally figured out how to clean our toaster oven (by... um... scrubbing it.... I'm a slow learner).  Basically, I'm making the zones fit my actual house and how much I can do in a day (or week) and I'm making the schedule flexible as dictated by what is actually dirty.  But the schedule is there so I don't neglect to truly clean, say, the bathroom (as opposed to a quick wipe-down) for a couple of weeks!

The thing I'm trying to figure out is how she gets it all done in an hour (including dishes and laundry!) every day.  It gives me a good goal in that I need to work faster and that I need to be OK with "good enough" in some aspects and just move on to the other things in life.  And I'm sure that after these days of initial cleaning after a period of neglect, the work will go faster on subsequent days.

If you made it this far, bless you!  Here's your bonus photo:

 {just because}

Someone having a blast at the Chicago Children's Museum.  His gap-toothed smile is SO. CUTE.  ARGH!
My personal bonus in all this thought about housekeeping is that after truly cleaning something, life is actually easier! Whee!  For example, it's so much easier to cook in a clean, orderly kitchen!  And I certainly don't feel like I was lazy.  I'm even a little bit sore from all that scrubbing!

round button chicken


  1. I love your post. I love your thought process.

    I'm pretty sure I said that the basics can be done in an hour. A blitz, put on the laundry, make the beds, get the kitchen in order. As in, doing enough to realize what you actually have to do, as opposed to just never getting beyond the chaos.

    I'll have to go re-read what I said :)

    But on a day when you are zone cleaning, no, much longer than an hour :)

    God bless!

  2. i understand this struggle all to well and I only live with a cat! sending love to you!

  3. Basically I feel like I am running about putting out fires all day--I get the living room tidy while the older kids are schooling, and the younger kids are creating what looks like a demilitarized zone in the bedroom, and so forth throughout the day!

    My favorite shot is the baby after the dvd player...ah, the rugged determination!

  4. It has taken me a long while to figure out how to keep my house clean and organized. It isn't always perfect, but the system I used now helps a lot.

    BWT- I just gave you an award on my blog :) Go check it out and pass it on.

  5. Phew, Leila! I'm glad you don't ONLY clean for an hour every day either. I get that the blitz, the laundry, the kitchen—the basics—would take an hour, but adding in zone cleaning too?

    Elizabeth, I'm actually a better housekeeper now that I have three kids and a cat than when I was single with just the cat! I TRULY struggled back then. I can't believe my husband even married me after he saw my bedroom!

    Nadja, I feel this way SO often. In fact, I haven't had the mental capacity to do much in the school department for a little while now. I had a hunch that doing some deep cleaning and decluttering would help me to clear my head, and it has!

    Michelle, do you have a description of your system up somewhere? And thanks for the award!

  6. I love the rearend of a child sticking out a somewhere they are "not" suppose to be...

    Ha Ha,

  7. (visiting from PHFR) I have come to this type of system as well. After trying the MOTH, and Mother's Rule of Life type schedules I always felt like I was failing. My house was always neat and orderly but I was never able to make the schedule work for me. Instead, I sat down and made out a listing for each room of the house the cleaning tasks that needed to occur for me to feel that the room was clean. Then I broke them down into daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually lists. It has made all the difference!

  8. Love the pictures, Patty! Mmmm...bay leaves.....
    I'm sort of doing the "no-system system" by default with limited success. It's been worse, but it sure could be better. I'm just super lazy and pregnant right now. Someday.

  9. Oh, congratulations, Abby! You have every right to downplay the housework right now. No Mom cooking a baby is being lazy—you're doing work even when you're sleeping! ;)

  10. Patty- Here's the link to our cleaning charts:


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