Where to Start

msmarionJuly 28, 2008

I'm feeling overwhelmed about where to start cleaning and organizing our home and our business. I've been reading FlyLady and have been lurking here off and on. It's time to get busy. Every room in the house and garage needs attention. DH isn't able to do much (awaiting double knee replacement).

I'm at work about 60 hours per week. Boy it's tuff to get motivated to do much of anything besides dinner and laundry. Do you use the Fly Lady method? Any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks!


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If your husband can't work and you are away so much, don't bother with Flylady just yet. Concentrate on the three D's: dinner, dishes, duds. Make meals, clean up afterwards, and make sure you both have clean clothes. The house can wait till he is better. Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 5:32PM
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I agree...you have enough right now. There will come a time in the future when you can worry about organizing.
Good luck on keeping up with the necessities!

I guess one of the things I believe is on flylady is to remove 5 items from a room...it will be small, but will add up in time & yet not over-burden you any further!

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 7:47PM
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You could pick the smallest room, and purge. The bathroom is often a great place to start, because it's much more manageable than people realize.

You could pick the spot that has the biggest impact on your life. Like, maybe you desperately need a landing/launching spot inside the back door, so youc ould set that up and maintain it.

Or you could "do a dozen" every night for a dozen nights, and see what progress you've made. ("Do a Dozen" is the game where you throw out, or clear away (donate, etc.) 12 things every night.)

Jannie, that's eminently steal-able: the three D's: dinner, dishes, duds.

You have to pipe up now and then and mention them!

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 10:23PM
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If you are working 60 hours a week it will be hard to get to much of anything but do agree that you should just look around and see things that you can donate or trash even doing a little of that each night and you will see progress. What I have been doing is when I watch TV I will take some papers that I haven't filed and go through them to see if I still need them or if they are ready for the shredder. Thankfully most are ready for the shredder.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 11:19PM
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Oh, Marion! You are dealing with so much right now. Just worry about the basics. Food and clothes. I know it's hard to look at the mess. I was in a similar situation following my accident. Remind yourself that it's not going to be this way forever, even though it is unbearable.

If I have any advice about how to read the FlyLady messages, it is this: Create a mail filter that will put the daily zone missions into a separate folder. Then just read those, and do the assignment. That's what I have to do. Just that one assignment. And if I have time to read or do anything else, good.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 7:57AM
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Marion, dear, is there someone (sister, child, neighbor, friend) who can come and help you for an hour or two a week?
Overwhelmed-ness is the biggest obstacle to change, and a second set of eyes and hands can make all the difference.

The hardest part is letting somebody see what a big giant mess you have! And I promise you, that person will feel better, either because they will feel relief that their mess isn't as bad as yours, OR because they will see that they aren't the only ones...and that it didn't kill you to let them in.

I had a good friend many years ago, when we were both single, who would come over, sit on the couch, have a beverage, and read a magazine or talk to me while I cleaned my house. She understood that I didn't need her to work...I just needed her to be there as my witness and my companion.

Remember....YOU are not your messy bits. YOU are the orderly serene soul hidden under it. Resist and reject the urge to feel ashamed. There is no moral component to the mess!

One more bit of encouragement: remember that you feel the biggest flood of affection for someone who admits a weakness and asks you to be there for her/him. And that flood of affection will come to you when you admit that you are beyond your ability to cope at the moment.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 8:55AM
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I'm coming back to say that I disagree with most of the other posters--I think you should *not* "just focus on the basics.

I think you should seize that motivation you're developing, and make the most of it. I think this is the perfect opportunity to start making some progress.

Life will *always* be hard; logistics will *always* be overwhelming if you let them be, and there will always be *some* reason why "now is not a good time."

But you've got the itch--that's sometimes the hardest part! So, scratch it.

And the progress you see will actually ENERGIZE you to do more, and it will relieve the anxiety. What it is they say--if you want something to get done, give it to a busy person? Once you start, you will BE that busy person.

I once had a very stressful job, w/ thousands of things that needed to be done. When I'd get in a conversation about how much there was to do, or when a coworker would see me stressing a little, people would say, "Just sit down, rest, take a break."

Sometimes they'd even "lean on me" a little bit, that I should take a little time to "chill." It used to make me MAD!

The problem was that I had so much to do! If I sat down to relax, none of it would get done. And I wouldn't *actually* be able to relax!

I found then that what worked was to DO some of those things. To take a brief survey, and to do 3 really easy things. 3 things that weren't complex, didn't need a big conversation, would each take only about 5 minutes.

Usually those 3 things were way down there in importance.

But I found that once those 3 things were off my list, the list *looked* more manageable. It probably wasn't REALLY more manageable, but it looked it.

Also, I discovered that I felt encouraged--I had accomplished something, so I knew I could continue that.

And I felt brave enough and capable enough to tackle the harder, more complex things on my list.

It took about the same amount of time as sitting w/ my feet up for 15 minutes. But it was MUCH more powerful.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 9:59AM
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I broke my response into two parts, bcs I wanted my comments about the value of DOING something to stand alone, w/o distractions.

But I also wanted to toss out some specific thoughts, in case they'd help you figure out something that will work for you.

You asked, actually, "Do you use the Fly Lady method? Any suggestions would be helpful."

So, I'll tell you what *I* did.

First, I picked a symbolic problem--for me, it was the DR table. I picked that bcs it's the family "in" box, and it's in the center of the apartment.

And I made a rule: I could not go to bed until it was cleared off. Sometimes I made myself get back OUT of bed in my PJs to go tackle it.

But I got several benefits:

* I always had a sense of order in my home at the end of each day

* I discovered that it didn't take as long in REALITY as it did in my EXPECTATION

* I discovered that it didn't take as long to DO it as it took to PROCRASTINATE about it

* I found that I was less and less likely to get lazy about it--since I made myself do it eventually, I found that I'd actually do it earlier

* Things were easier to find in my home, because they were put away properly off the table

* It got easier and easier every night, because it was only 1 days' accumulation

* It got easier and easier every night, because I got much better and faster at putting things away (this surprised me--it makes sense that muscles get stronger and more fluid w/ exercise; these skills do, too, and I hadn't expected that)

* I developed a habit of putting stuff in its RIGHT place instead of putting it on the DR table, because in the back of my mind I knew I'd have to put it away before I could go to bed.

* the habit of "just put it all the way away now, so you don't have to take it off the table later" started to spill over into other areas.

My point is, since you can only spend a little time, then pick one well-defined area, and make that your baby. It may seem like you're not making wide progress, but you'll be making deeper progress (in building and establishing and strengthening the skills to tackle other areas)

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 10:05AM
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Actually, I broke it into three parts.

If the three D's are almost all you can handle, then maybe you can concentrate on organizing THEM (won't take long, honestly, and it will streamline that work so that you *will* have energy, physical AND mental, for other areas).

Some ideas:
-Make sure you have infrastructure (like, a place to leave the clothes rack up permanent, maybe; or move the laundry soap so it's stored right next to the washer instead of on the other side of the basement; or get some baskets or bins to hold stuff in a more organized way in the pantry--whatever is getting in your way, and making the three D's harder, eliminate it)

-Declutter, by weeding out all the cooking utensils you don't need, or clean out the pantry over the course of the next week by eating stuff up or ditching it; or each time you put a load of clothes in the dryer, go look at what's LEFT in your closet or dresser (unworn), and take 2 things out for either the Goodwill or the garbage.

-Create systems: Think of a habit or a routine or a system or a rule that would make your tasks streamlined.
Like, run the dishwasher EVERY night, no matter how full (maybe a "go back out in your jammies to turn it on at bedtime" habit), and EMPTY IT every morning while the coffee brews. Then, your sink and counters can be kept clear of the day's dishes. Your DH may be awaiting knee replacement, but he can sure help w/ things like always putting the dirty dishes IN the DW, or whatever other small habits will make your home more orderly.
-create a place to put the mail, so it doesn't get lost AND is likely to get sorted and acted on.
-create a TIME in which you "clean out the 'in' box" of your business or your life.
-figure out a laundry routine--on Sundays before church you strip the bed; when you get home from church, you put the whites in the washer; just before you start to cook supper, you switch them to the dryer; etc. On Tuesdays, you wash all the darks. On Thursdays you do colors.
-map out your basic menus and their shopping lists, and set up a routine for shopping and cooking.

These are just random ideas, of course (some of them inspired by my house & my husband--maybe yours already puts his dishes in the dishwasher).

You can probably spot things in your own home that will make a difference for you.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 10:17AM
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Sue, what great ideas!

I'll just add that when I'm in a "I don't feel like doing anything" mood I grab my timer, hang it around my neck and set it at fifteen minute intervals. It's amazing how much you can get done in just fifteen minutes and as time goes by you start working harder to get even more done before the timer goes off.

Also listening to upbeat music can help too.

Good luck Marion. Please let us know how your hubby's surgery goes. I'll be praying he's like a new man when all is healed!

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 12:33PM
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I am completely in accord with Talley Sue's advice. "Give yourself a break" is a lot like, "Eat a doughnut; it will make you feel better." No, it won't!

What you need is energy, and resting only gives you energy after you have done something. Resting before you do something just increases inertia.

Why don't you print out her three sections and pin them up next to your desk. Then you can pick and choose which of the things to take on.

If you still find it impossible to start after a few days of really meaning to, you might like to have a little chat with your doctor about the possibility that you may be depressed. There is no shame in that, either. The brain chemistry of stress can easily kick you into the brain chemistry of depression. If that's it, treating it can make a spectacular difference.

I speak from experience...

All best,

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 1:25PM
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Marion - The other posters have given you a lot of good ideas, support, and advice. I would say to not let the mess get worse or allow areas you have decluttered to get messy again. It is too demoralizing to see work you've already done reappear!

I keep a good sized waste paper basket next to the shredder in the office area, where I can sort through the mail, shredding and *file 13ing* as I go. If I think I might want to look at a catalogue but I'm not sure, I toss it - and I've never yet wished for it later!
Establish routines that make keeping up easy. As Tally Sue suggests, I run the dishwasher every night and put away clean dishes while the coffee is dripping the next morning. I don't have to think about it at all and the dishwasher is empty and ready for the first dirty spoon - dirty dishes are never waiting in the sink.

I agree, you could use some help. If you find it at all possible to get someone to assist you then you should do it without hesitation. It will make you feel more in control and able to plan your next mode of attack. When I found myself unable to do routine tasks like vacuuming due to illness (I have MS) I hired a housekeeper to come every two weeks, with the understanding that she would help me sort and organize areas that were too cluttered to clean! I have ended up just letting her clean while I work on clearing a little more clutter each week. Knowing she is coming keeps me from slacking off as much as I might if I didn't have her involvement with my house.

Another thing that has helped me tremendously is having my robot workers Roomba and Scooba! I am able to keep the house much cleaner with semi-daily floor care. It was an investment, but well worth the cost if you can afford one or both AND if you have hard surface floors that are sealed and/or carpet that is not too thick (short to med pile).

I like to throw kitchen towels in the washing machine before I go to bed, then in the morning I take a load of wash with me and toss the towels in the dryer and a load into the washing machine before I make coffee. Each load is small and only takes a few minutes to fold, so I have two loads washed and folded and put away by the time I finished my morning routine. Of course, IâÂÂm not working 60 hours a week like you are. If I were I would be happy getting one load washed at night and dried in the morning. The thing is just to make it easy for yourself with as few wasted steps and as little effort as possible!


    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 2:40PM
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Thank you all for you suggestions and support. Thank you Sue for taking the time to type up your suggestions. I truly appreciate it.
I truly believe I am depressed. We have no health insurance or extra money for me to get help. I've tried looking for a sliding scale program but if you were born here you get no help. Moving to FL was a big mistake for us. We had good jobs and a beutiful new home with no mortgage. I know there is no going back in time but only forward. We should have closed our business (motorcycle service shop) a year ago but we are both unwilling to admit defeat. DH uses a wheel chair while at work. He's going Thursday to have his knee drained. This will help until we are able to pay for his surgery.

But on a brighter note I did a few things last night and this morning that make me feel a little better. Sometimes it's the getting going that's the hardest part.
Thank you all so much for your suggestions!

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 4:37PM
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Tally Sue is right on when she says streamline what you *are* doing already. A few months ago I decided to "organize" my laundry and kitchen routines, and it's really made a huge difference in how much time I have for other things, now that those "necessities" practically take care of themselves. I still have alarms that remind me to get off my butt and do certain things at night after work when I'm unmotivated, but even that can help drag you forward when you don't feel like it.

Incidentally, gaining control of even a small portion of your life right now might help with your depression - it's certainly worth a shot! :-)

Try setting an alarm to go off in the evening to remind you to do something. Even just put a load of laundry in (and then set the alarm again for when you need to dry it!). Even when I don't feel like it, that beeping gets me going again (however reluctantly), and I find it easier to stay in motion once I'm up (put the alarm somewhere you can hear it, but not reach it, so you have to get up to turn it off).

Good luck...

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 5:39PM
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Is your business something that you can sell? Have you considered talking to a business broker about that? It would take some work to find and vet a good one, but it might be in your interest.

Let me also tell you everything I know (I am not a professional, I hasten to say) about handling depression on your own. If you are having thoughts that scare you, then the hell with the cost...go to your county health clinic, or call mental health professionals until you can find one who will at least give you an initial consult at a price you can afford. If this is hard, ask a friend or your husband to sit with you while you make the calls, and remind you that you are not being personally rejected by those who won't.

But if you judge that you have the kind of low grade depression that comes from grief over a life left behind, try these things.

Don't drink any alcohol for a month. I am a light social drinker, and if I do more than have a glass or two of wine on the weekends, it causes me to sink.

Try to stay away from sugar. The up and down in your blood sugar is hard on your energy, and whatever is hard on your energy is hard on your spirit.

Take the time to get 30 minutes of vigorous exercise every morning. Brisk walking is perfect. If you aren't in shape for that, work up to it with ten minutes, and add five every couple of days. Go to bed earlier so you can get up earlier and do it before you start your work day. In a week or two, you will get the time back in energy and lightness of heart...exercise releases endorphins, and you need them.

Get plenty of sleep. Choose a bedtime, and keep it holy. A glass of milk or a cup of chamomile tea, and a little light reading at bedtime helps. If you wake up anxious, get up, turn on a light (somewhere else if it disturbs your husband), sit somewhere comfortable, and do some simple deep breathing to relax. Then go back to bed and imagine something lovely, like a mountain top or a lovely beach...birdsong, surf...whatever makes you happy. You will get better at concentrating the more you do it.

Keep yourself really clean, and attend to your grooming. I know this sounds odd, but don't let yourself slob about. Your own self should come first in the cleaning and organizing, every day.

Try to let go of any anger you are feeling about what is happening in your life. Even if you are entitled to it, it takes away the tools you need to maintain yourself.

An old friend who is a recovering alcoholic told me about something they say in AA, and I thought it was really good for all of us...think "HALT" - don't let yourself get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.

All of these things will help you until you can find the solutions you need to the underlying trouble you are having.

And know that we are all pulling for you. Keep in touch here, and let us help you keep your spirits up.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 7:53PM
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Congrats on hanging in there! You DO have a lot on your plate, but I believe you are the only one who can decide whether you have it in your to deal with it right now. Everyone is different. If it would give you a positive jolt (and I believe you said it did), go for it!

I can somewhat relate -- my husband has a disability as well, and it can be draining. We also have some similar financial concerns. I knew I was depressed, but I got re-energized by cleaning out the clutter. However, I have friends who thought I went crazy!! Those little improvements got me in a better mood. That might now work for you though.

If you do decide and want some tips, there is another group at Yahoo that just got started that I checked into -- Messy Makeover HQ. It's a Fly Lady subgroup. It's the website of a professional organizer and her website looked pretty good -- all free -- no advertising and good info on where to start (which I believe was your original question).

Anway, I'll keep you and your family in my prayers. Blessings!

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 10:29PM
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Just chiming in on the depression/organization link.

For me personally, when I'm fighting low-level depression* doing some small organization project helps. It's being able to point at something that I accomplished, that's an improvement, that makes my life easier/better in some way - no matter how small - that gives me a bit of a boost. It can't be an overwhelming project (organize entire house), but something that is doable in one or two sessions of time that I have (clear off dining room table; toss old magazines to reclaim nightstand; etc). Getting started is the hardest part, but if you've got that motivation going already - go for it!

Start anywhere - just start! Come back here and report, and you'll get all the kudos you rightfully deserve :)

The advice bronwynsmom gave are all things I've found personally helpful as well.

*Just echoing the advice that if you're in a serious depression (thoughts of self-harm, etc), get professional help and figure out the rest later.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2008 at 11:44AM
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Lena M

Here is the general principle behind Just Do It:

Accomplishing Something leads to Happy Thoughts
faster than
Happy Thoughts lead to Accomplishing Something

and BABY STEPS are key.

best to anyone dealing with overwhelmth, Lena

    Bookmark   July 31, 2008 at 10:23AM
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