Confessions of a self-professed slob
I’ve never been what you’d call an organized person. I’m most certainly not a neat freak. If my room wasn’t a total mess when I was growing up, it was still cluttered, with a “residue” of mess around the edges of the room, stacks of books and papers, a messy desk and a layer of dust so thick in some places that an archaeologist might have a little fun excavating my trinkets. And don’t get me started on the hairballs that could be scraped up off of my carpet or pulled out of the vacuum cleaner. (Of course, with waist-length hair, the hairballs are inevitable no matter how often one vacuums.) My closet was the stuff of Flip This House nightmares. All three of them. Closets, not nightmares.
Strangely, however, I had this uncanny ability to know exactly where 99 percent of my belongings were at all times. Even more, I could usually tell if anything had been moved, or if anyone had even been in my room while I was gone. I retained this ability even after having been away from my room for months at a time during my first couple of years of college. All bets were off after my mother got it in her head to paint the room (which still hasn’t happened) and packed up all of the stuff I’d left behind.
Anyway…there’s a point to all of this, I swear. Back to the “when I was growing up, my room was always messy,” part. I, like any other kid (I hope), had to clean my room sometimes. By the time it came to this, though, the mess was always really overwhelming. As a perfectionist (and an impatient one at that), this always made room-cleaning time into a bit of a battle, as one might imagine. Now, in the midst of one of these battles, my mother devised a method that would forever change the way I cleaned my room: BBBC — Bed, Buddies, Books, Clothes. I still don’t think she realizes how brilliant this little list is. You pretty much pick up or neaten up each thing in the order of the list — make your bed; pick up all “buddies” (what my family called stuffed animals or plush toys); pick up and straighten all books and put away all clothes (whether “away” means in a drawer/closet or in the laundry hamper). Under most circumstances, doing these four things would never take more than an hour, and my room would look at least 70 percent cleaner. Having a method provided me with two things when cleaning my room: 1) It gave me a place to start, and 2) It made visible progress very quickly. Both things are very heartening when faced with the daunting task of a huge mess.
I’m a good bit older now, and I have greater cleaning responsibilities than just my room. While it’s not large, I still have an entire apartment to worry about, with slightly different mess compositions in each room. I’m just as much of an impatient perfectionist as ever and still just as much of a slob. I don’t exactly have my mother breathing down my neck anymore to clean up after myself, but there is something to be said for not living in total chaos, especially when I have to get around to cleaning up eventually, lest I run out of clean dishes or clean clothes. I’m still not a big fan of housework, and between work, school and having a life, there’s really not a lot of time for it.
I was musing about all of this to my boyfriend late one night, lamenting that there just didn’t seem to be a good, clear method like my mother’s brilliant BBBC that applied to cleaning the whole house. I guess a late-night musing was all it really took to get the universe’s juices flowing such that a couple of days later I found a thread on one of my usual online communities raving about FlyLady.com. The site provides step-by-step lessons and tips for organizing your life through setting routines and forging habits. Now, I’m not one who can allow herself to get too rigidly set in routines, as I have one of those lives that resists certain types of routines (like the “Thursday is grocery day” type. Sometimes things happen and grocery day just has to wait until Friday). Anyway, before I go off on what all I don’t like about the site, I really need to talk about what I really DO like. It really does have some wonderful tips and guidelines for getting your house (and life) in order. Specifically, and most importantly for me, it has that all-important “quick list” that I’d been looking for that would make that one-hour massive improvement in the neatness of my house: The Weekly Home Blessing Hour.
It works a little different than BBBC, and it doesn’t really have a nice pneumonic device to help me remember it, but it has pretty much the same results. Set a timer for 10 minutes for each of the following tasks: vacuum, dust, mop, polish mirrors/doors/shiny fixtures, purge magazines and papers, change the sheets, take out the trash. Stop when the task when the timer goes off, and move on to the next one. Go as fast as you can. If you don’t get to everything, don’t worry, just start there next week. Some tasks take less than 10 minutes. Just reset your timer when you’re done and move on. When you’re done, you’re done. You only have to do it once a week, and it puts just enough of a “dent” into the mess you’ve got to inspire you to do more later. FlyLady also has a few other tips that work in conjunction with the “Blessing Hour,” including 5-minute “hot spot” cleanings, 15-minute decluttering sessions, “swish and swipe” in the bathroom and, most important of all, sink polishing.
Yes, I said sink polishing.
I thought it was crazy, too, but I had a little extra time on my hands the night I came across the FlyLady site, so I thought, “What the hell; I’ll give it a try.” Including the time that it takes to fill and soak the sink basin(s), it takes a couple of hours to get the initial polish and shine. After that, though, it only takes a couple of minutes each day to keep it up, and the shiny sink alone makes your kitchen look 100 times cleaner, even if you don’t do anything else. And with such a clean, shiny, brand-new-looking sink, you don’t want to mess it up by leaving dishes in it, either. Seriously. I polished my sink a little over a week ago, and it has made me much more diligent with keeping up with emptying clean dishes from the dishwasher and putting dirty ones in it right away. Here I am, a self-professed impatient, perfectionist, overworked, underpaid slob, and something as crazy as polishing my sink has caused a sort of disease of cleanliness to begin to spread through my house.
Most of the people reading this don’t know me and have no reason to believe that I’m not really some mini Martha Stewart (with or without the insider trading…take your pick) or Suzie Homemaker or whatever, but just trust me on this one. Polish your kitchen sink.