Friday, June 02, 2006

Cleaning House

With a new book looming ahead of me, I have this strange urge to get my life in order so I won't be even more scattered when I emerge from Book World. Yep, that means it's time to clean my house. This has been a life-long struggle for me, and I've tried a number of approaches:

1)FlyLady -- This is a routines-based system that has you develop habits to gradually get your house clean and then keep it that way. It's great if you're so overwhelmed you don't even know where to start because it breaks the process down into tiny tasks. Instead of having to clean your whole house, you just go spend five minutes on your most cluttered spot. Then later, you find 27 things to throw away. Later, you spend fifteen minutes on a particular room. There's even an e-mail list that sends you reminders to do these things.

This actually did work for me when I tried it. I got into it soon after I got laid off and went freelance because I felt like I needed some structure to my life, and for the first time in forever I was able to get my house clean and keep it that way for more than a year. I could invite friends over spontaneously without the usual panicked cleaning that required (though I think the fact that at the time I had someone over a couple of times a week helped, too -- the house can't get too dirty between company cleanings when someone's coming over that often).

Why didn't it last? I think it was a number of factors. For one thing, the friend that came over most often moved out of town, so I had less motivation to keep the house company-friendly. After a while, I started ignoring the e-mail reminders. The e-mail list generated a lot of noise, with about ten "mission" messages a day, plus the inspirational messages they started sending with testimonials about how the system had changed someone's life. I didn't care to hear all that. I just wanted to know what I should go clean. When I went to a conference, I went no-mail on the list and never signed back on. That conference was where I met an editor who thought that crazy idea I had for a book might work, so that was also when I got busy writing. Things kind of fell apart from there. I think I'd been using all the cleaning as a way to avoid actually writing, so when I was writing and it was going well, I lost the urge to clean.

2) The "Clean Sweep" approach -- Inspired by the TV show where they tackle a problem room by clearing everything out of it, sorting through stuff to get rid of and stuff to keep, and then putting everything back in the room in a neat, logical order. I tried this on my office while Enchanted, Inc. was out with publishers as a way to distract myself, but before I was done sorting through stuff, the book sold and I suddenly became busy. A lot of that stuff is still in boxes, and I keep having to dig through the boxes to find things. I think you need a good attention span and a big chunk of spare time for this to work (having a crew show up to do the work for you would also be nice).

3) The Company Cleaning approach -- Have a party, which forces you to get the house clean, and then you swear to yourself that this time, you'll keep it that way. Not very effective because it usually means stuff is just stashed wherever, and that makes it hard to maintain.

So now I'm trying to find something else that will work for me, maybe going back to the FlyLady system with bits of the others thrown in. This week I've tackled all the dishes that needed to be hand-washed, put away all my laundry and taken a bunch of stuff to the recycling center. I'm now going to spend the rest of the day playing loud music while cleaning as much as I can. Anyone have any helpful hints for getting the mess under control?

1 comment:

April Erwin said...

I just chalk the clutter up to 'my creative side'. Aren't all artists supposed to be a little messy? I don't know that I have a great system either. I use the 'company's coming' method frequently and I try to set one night a week minimum that strictly for house work and then make myself stick to it. That doesn't always work though when the latest novel or project is calling. I sincerly think the best method is cleaning service, but who can afford that on a regular basis?