Your housekeeping fantasies

lilydillyMay 25, 2008

Ok, I'll admit to using that phrase partly as an attention getter LOL, to generate more posts, because I love reading what everyone writes, and I've read all the old posts now and run out.

But I *do* have a genuine house oriented motive as well.

Last week I watched "The Neverending Story" with my DGD, and next day, while looking through the house for more lurking clutter, I was thinking of "The Nothing" in the movie-- the force that started taking over Fantasia, and leaving "nothing" in it's place. I decided I was like "The Nothing", moving through my home, and leaving "nothing" in my wake. Crazy as it seems, it helped me to make decisions about what I could get rid of. Would I be glad or sad if The Nothing "got" that old dish; would I try to protect that half finished embroidered doiley that I've been guilty about for 5 years, would I say to The Nothing, here take this, but pleeeasse leave my ---.

I look around the house and in my cupboards, and I can see where The Nothing has been, but I also see where I should let him back in too, what I'd like to be gone, disappeared, evaporated, nothing-ed. I'm getting quite fond of "The Nothing", actually.

Ok, anyone else have fantasies like this. I don't mean the dreams where you imagine living with 3 maids, a perfect home, a DH who is an organizing guru.... but rather the fantasies that you can actively use as a tool, to get things done.

I remember how much fun I used to think it was to clean Mum's cupboards out when I was a kid.. She'd let me re-arrange and prettify things to my heart's content. It was like playing adult cubby houses to me. Somewhere along the way, with responsibility, it changed from playing house to drudgery. I'd love to bring back the sense of play and fun to housework.. Maybe now I'm in my middle age, I can play cubbies again??

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Well, mine is not a good fantasy, but it is a burnt-in memory that keeps me junk & clutter-free.

My grandma & grandpa were semi-packrats and masters of clutter. They kept so much stuff around that they couldn't and didn't clean properly. I wouldn't call it extreme like we see tv shows on, but it was more than average.

They had mice in their house living on the farm. We could hear the mice scurrying at night...and would find the droppings on the countertops & kitchen table in the morning.

Grandma just wiped up the droppings in the places they were & proceeded to prep food and do normal kitchen things in the small spaces she had cleared out.

She had so much crap and stuff on her kitchen counters, there was NO WAY she could even clean up mouse droppings without spending hours moving her stuff around just to get to the point of cleaning she didn't clean properly.

It was not uncommon to have a mouse scurry out from behind the toaster or blender in broad daylight.

Being around that made me very aware at a young age the importance of not keeping stuff piled up. I am PETRIFIED of mice, and we had them at our house too. As a kid, I never collected toys or had extra stuff in my room because I wanted to see if any mice were around. If we woke up at home to mouse droppings on the kitchen counter, my mom scrubbed all the counters.

To this day, I keep NOTHING on my kitchen counters just so when I want or need to clean my kitchen, I can do it right.

This concept follows through with just about every room and every thing. I don't like anything piled up. If I don't have room for something, then it has no place in my home.

Yes, I decorate. Yes, I keep things in my closets. Yes, have the stuff I want and need. On the other hand, I do not collect stuff. I collect the memories of people, places, and things. If I feel I'm accumulating or find I need to make special storage spaces above and beyond what's already in my house...I unload the extra stuff.

It all goes back to the mice.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2008 at 10:06AM
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I'm gonna hafta see that movie.

For a long time, I prayed that I would somehow find myself "doing the right thing at the right time." After I started to pay attention more, I realized that I was NOT doing the right thing at the right time, and that I really didn't have any idea what the "right" thing might be. I was frustrated for years. I spent a lot of time avoiding the very activities (house cleaning) that might have solved my frustration problem. But I didn't know how to get started. I had given up. I would look around the house and say to myself, "Where do I even begin?" 

I kept struggling toward that ideal of "doing the right thing." For a while, I told myself that if I took care of the house, it would take care of me. Well, that fizzled. It wasn't the right way to frame my problem, apparently. 

Then a well\-meaning doctor told me that I had to spend an hour every day doing something fun. Well, how could I justify spending that much time on something fun, when there was so much work to do? I did start to spend more time sewing, but I couldn't avoid the fact that I was still surrounded by the mess. How could I spend time on anything else until I do something about this house? Guilt should not result from having fun. 

And so it went ... for years. I struggled with the mess, but never gave myself permission to declutter. Most of it was hubby's stuff. Than last year, I discovered FlyLady, and accepted her assignments and challenges, and started to declutter my home, with hubby's permission to toss the stuff he never used. 

My biggest breakthrough has been to declutter my list of "shoulds." 

Yes, I had to be content with doing just a few things every day. But I made sure they were the most effective activities for meeting my goals. I had developed a terrible mindset at my last job, where I made long lists of things that never got done, because new tasks kept coming in far faster then anyone (even a super\-human) would be able to complete those tasks. 

At the end of each day, I looked at my list and only saw what I had not accomplished. What I had completed didn't count. I was constantly told, "Don't let anything slip through the cracks!" 

I have had to work very hard to overcome that stupid idea. It never made any sense intellectually, yet that was exactly what was expected of me by my mis\-manager and my department. Under the stress of the company being bought and the changes that ensued, under the stress of being mowed down in the crosswalk on my way to work one morning, and having very little mobility & inexplicable pain, under the stress of believing that I had to keep working because hubby was still in school, I went into a war\-zone mentality. Survive any way possible. Even though my strategy was not the healthiest. 

Fortunately, all that is in my past. I am changing. It is getting easier to figure out a small number of important tasks that will help me accomplish my goals: a pleasant home, home cooked meals, a healthy body. (I'm still working to re\-establish the exercise habit.) 

I still pray that I will be doing "the right thing at the right time." Some days, I have had enough sleep, I'm not stressed out by the previous day, and my head is clear enough to select a few tasks that are the most important, instead of spending too much time on activities that distract me from the frustration, and do nothing to alleviate the cause of the frustration. 

I guess if I have any fantasy at all, it is to visualize what I will be doing once I get my routines built up. I will spend at least a little time each day exercising. I will spend a little time each day cleaning and putting things away. Each day, I will do things to care for myself, my hubby and our critters. For fun, I will spend some time cultivating the garden, or tending to houseplants in the winter. I will spend a little time each day sewing, whether clothing repairs, or charity quilts, or quilts for myself.

I also visualize what I will look like. No longer wearing clothes that are run down, with holes. Wearing something that flatters me. Having done something to make my hair look cared-for. Maybe a bit of makeup. (All that has started to happen!) And perhaps I will be a bit thinner and stronger, because I'll be spending more time moving around doing all the cleaning, and doing the exercises that will help keep me strong.

If I have a fantasy to motivate me, it is what my life will be like when most of my activities further my goals, instead of fighting them or simply occluding them.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2008 at 3:34PM
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Gayle, ugh! I have a spider phobia, and am so thankful we live in a screened house. But I keep my patio free of pot plants and yard junk because of them.
Maryliz, your post really gave me food for thought...."My biggest breakthrough has been to declutter my list of shoulds".
What you both said helped me to think this through even more, and helped me see why I want to start "playing" house again.
For years I've been motivated to clean and tidy because I didn't want to live in a mess, so I was doing housework to prevent that. Like you Gayle, being motivated by your fear of mice moving in. Then Flylady taught me to be motivated by the thought of blessing my house and family. Like you expressed it Maryliz, when you said "My biggest breakthrough has been to declutter my list of shoulds".
It helped me a lot, to be motivated by a positive outcome, rather than to just prevent a negative one. Guess that comes back to the old pain/pleasure balance.
But what I'm wondering about with using fantasies, imagination, play etc, as tools, is why not just enjoy the doing of something for fun.
I watched my little grandaughters playing house and "mothers and fathers", and they were off somewhere in their imaginations, busy clucking around organizing their dolls and teacups and sweeping up and arranging their little "house".
Then when playtime was over, and it was time to tidy up and clean up for real, it all changed, and suddenly it was work again and the fun was gone out of it. Is that what happens to us?
What were their little minds doing, when it was fun. What switched on and off the "fun" button?
I know there is the stress of time, of tiredness, other people, busy-ness etc, that is all part of the adult world, but I just wonder if we've lost the ability to play house, because the "fun" button is switched off?
I know just what you mean, Maryliz when you say how much it helps to fantasize about what life will be like when we are further along with our goals. But I'm wondering what it would be like to be *in* the fantasy in the present, not just the future.
To put it simply, yes, it's lovely to imagine the nice shiny floor when we've done mopping, but can't I be the princess and my mop the magic wand *while* I'm mopping?

I can do it when I garden. Yes, I'm motivated because I don't want a messy yard, yes, I'm motivated because I want a beautiful place, but that's not really why I garden. I simply love being among the plants, the growing things, nature, I love to watch the bugs, I'm conscious of the breeze, the smells, the sense of the earth... my mind is totally *present*. When I was a child, the garden was a kind of fairyland to me, and I could drift off to any place my mind took me. I can still do that in the garden today.
But I want to re-capture that feeling inside my house too.
Oh my, that's how at home I feel on this forum..... I know you won't think I've "lost the plot"..or if you do, well, you'll understand that too. (LOL).
Time for me to go and put on my Superwoman cape, because I have Kryptonite dust to zap in Planet Bedroom.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2008 at 7:23PM
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In a 4 month span in 1989, my sisters and I had to clean out (empty) our parents fairly tidy home and also our never married aunt's 2 homes. Dear aunt was a saver and cleaning out her homes was a royal pain.

I keep in my mind the fact that I never want my successors to have to go through what we dealt with after our aunt's death.

It's pretty simple for me - If it's not been used/touched in 2 years, it's out of here.

Oh, by the way, "should" isn't in my used to be until I realized what a shaming word it is. To me, nothing good comes from using the word "should".

    Bookmark   May 27, 2008 at 8:16AM
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the "magic wand" idea resonates w/ me. That's what I think I visualize when I clean--seeing the dirt or smudges dissolve behind my rag.

When I was a kid (teenager), I used to pretend I was some woman on a TV commercial when it was my turn to clean the bathroom.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2008 at 9:46AM
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Well, maybe "shoulds" isn't the right word. (I used to say "should" to myself a lot, and now, for some reason, I don't.) It's more like a list of stuff I want to do. Sometimes, the list is so long that I can't get to all of them. I realize that it only takes a second to write it on the list, but some of them actually take a long time to complete. I'm starting to realize that some are not even worth writing on the list. Other things are far more important. Priorities. I'm learning to be happy with a smaller list.

So, fantasies ... back a few months ago on the FlyLady list, she was suggesting that we wear a tiara when we do dishes. I kinda like that idea. But I'd have to make myself a tiara. That's too far down on the list of priorities. Maybe I should visit the local costume shop. They might have something fun!

I could be the house cleaning queen! That might make it more fun. Why not dance and sing while I clean house?

    Bookmark   May 28, 2008 at 3:29PM
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I look at TV shows and movies for inspiration. The homes are always lovely, clean, sparely furnished, without clutter. Did you ever see a pile of dirty dishes in june Cleaver's sink on Leave It to Beaver? Or even on the Brasdy Bunch? My goodness, there were six kids and three adults in that housegold! And never a pile of toys in the living room!

    Bookmark   May 28, 2008 at 3:38PM
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Dear, dear maryliz,
I want to offer you a thought.
"Should" is an idea, not just a word. Your to-do list and your search for systems have become part of the idea. The fantasies about what your life might be like have, too.
I think I have been in a version of your situation, and I suspect that you are being terribly hard on yourself in the way you talk to yourself.
It took me into middle age to understand that brains are not all alike, that we all process things in our own ways, and that what works for one may be a burden to another. I look like somebody who can handle anything, do anything, excel at everything. I wore myself out for years supporting that illusion. I felt like one of those big lumberjacks running on a rolling log in the river, trying like mad not to fall in. The truth is, I am distractable, I have to work to focus, and I made myself a little nuts because being anxious and stressed and slammed up against deadlines all the time was a focusing mechanism for me. Then I would retreat and hide out in a stupor until my energy came back. And I realized that I was losing all my time to things that weren't important enough, and that that's all life is...time.
If you are in fact like me, you need, first of all, to tear up the list.
Everything you add to it is an additional weight on your precious soul.
Control is an illusion. The only way to manage life is to limit what you let into it, leaving space in your life for growth the same way you leave space in the bookshelf for what comes later.
You will never have everything in your house or your life under control until you just shovel out everything, everything, you can spare, and that means tasks and ideas and categories of activities as well as things. Life is big, and messy, and surprising, and the only way to enjoy it and keep it manageable is to leave a whole bunch of stuff out.
Tear up the list, dear lady, and figure out what you are going to do tomorrow, and no more. You know in your heart of hearts what is important and what isn't. You are a child of God, sufficient and whole exactly as you are. Tear up that list!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2008 at 5:21PM
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Our house isn't cluttered, except in the DH's office and my sewing area (still working on that one.) It's just a normal house with 2 adults and 4 kids, with pretty clean living spaces. What I ignore is things like washing windows, cleaning the light fixtures, touching up the dirty spots of paint.

My birthday gift one year was for the DH to hire all of the windows washed and the mini blinds professionally cleaned. Cost a chunk, but they haven't been that clean before or since.

Oh, and I'd like for someone to sweep the sidewalk leading to the front door every morning. It would keep all of the leaves from blowing in and make the house look tidy.


    Bookmark   May 31, 2008 at 2:02AM
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