Keep doing the same things over

Frankie_in_zone_7July 5, 2011

Wrong things, I mean. I use lots of organizing tips and intermittently get things under control but then find I'm back at square one. Usually it boils down to drop-itis combined with put-off-itis--meaning, I think I am hanging up/putting away my clothes but then find, hmmm, didn't put away the dressy purse, put the shoes back in the box, didn't fold and put away the laundry. Kitchen and dining area same--clean up but leave out this and that, maybe a few things that go in other rooms. My study and hobby room--oh boy.

So then as they say in the Cat in the Hat--this mess is too big and too deep and too tall (or whatever!) to do in any one hour, or day, so then feel like, it will be okay if I just spend ...(insert: the weekend, the holiday, a day off) getting things picked up, get back on track. I do have a challenging job and it can have peak times with no breaks for days. And while I had housecleaning service a while back, I let that go so now need to both pick up and clean (I am thinking about taking the plunge again on cleaning service so can focus my energy on keeping up with the tidying but have the basic vacuuming/dusting done). So obviously the balance between my daily or weekly maintenance system and my daily ability to mess things up is not robust enough to keep up!

Has anyone else been there, done that? Just see yourself repeating the same pattern even though you think you are making progress.

I believe it's several issues, of course--one is I think I keep things too complicated --maybe need simpler wardrobe ( I won't win any awards for complicated high-fashion dressing, but I still seem to need to have the shorts for this but not that, pants for here but not there, change after work sometimes into casual vs. grubby, and on and on and, so it seems like constantly changing, hanging, folding); simpler cooking plan, fewer hobbies to dabble in, prolly a more streamlined life while working. When things are in perfect order, it seems okay to have alot of "stuff" and stuff that goes with stuff, and play with home decor, but I think that ultimately it is too easy (for me) to become unraveled, because so many things are used and need to be put away. Meaning, I seem to have the time and energy to either cook OR clean up, ya know? Or I could either read the magazine or rip and file it, but not both. A lot of my systems, when you look at them, are not nearly "simple" enough--like having only black socks for work and white socks for play!

Regarding stuff, be it clothes, home accessories, books, kitchen supplies--I wonder if it can be like alcoholism for some people--you think you can manage a certain amount of it, it all fits on your shelves, there is space for that tray from your MIL so why not add it to the 3 trays already there, or whatever-- but in fact you need to be much more rigorous--like you can't handle as much as you think you can or you don't recognize when you're over your limit, or something. That you have to cut much farther back than at first seems necessary or logical. That sounds odd, I know.

Second is, probably haven't ever done that "30 days to a good habit" or whatever approach--meaning, I keep thinking I'll do better at maybe 15 habits or things simultaneously and have not layered on one religious habit upon another.

Three is, as in some recent posts, I clearly overestimate how long some things take, so don't do quick simple 10-minutue jobs, and then underestimate how long it will take to do 20 of those jobs added up, later!

Four--and there has been some discussion on this--things never stay the same even when you've fixed them, so I think I underestimate that too--for example, an appliance or device is replaced and you have to clean out the old accessories, manuals. Maybe it doesn't fit in the same place so you have to shift storage around--whenever you do that, in my experience, it causes some temporary mayhem that you've not budgeted for.

I think if I read another book I'll faint, since they haven't fixed me yet! I mean, it's like I know all the things I am doing but like all bad habits, just keep on. But, maybe it's time to at least read through a couple again for re-inspiration. I even have the ones on "why you do what you do" and thought that helped but hmmm--back again.

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Check out fly lady on line. Makes you feel good too. I particularly like her "bless your family by ......approach.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 11:28AM
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Yes, I think her approach in part emphasizes the layering on of one thing at a time, which is useful advice.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 1:03PM
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My motto is Progress Not Perfection. There's a sign in our local park "Please clean up after yourself, and remove at least one more piece of litter."

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 8:23AM
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Frankie, a few years ago, I could have written your post. The mess was enormous, and I just couldn't see how to get out of it. I was basically paralyzed from the chaos.

This is going to be a long post, but I'm going to tell you what worked for me. Not because I think you should follow every step I did, but because maybe my thought processes will help you figure out what will work for you.

1. Get enough sleep. When I'm tired, not only do I not do regular housework, I create more mess. I can make dinner, but then I'm too tired to clean up after dinner. Not a good place to be.

Along with getting enough sleep (and it take take a week or two to get to a well-rested place), get a physical, if you haven't had one recently. Make sure you are not anemic or have low B-12 or any of a number of other things that can make you tired and turn your brain to mush. Once I started B-12 and iron supplements, things started to get better.

2. Don't make things worse. In other words, start today to clean up after yourself. Make a sandwich? Before you go to bed, clean up the crumbs from the counter, put the plate in the dishwasher and make sure the mayo, bread, cold cuts, etc. are all back where they belong. Don't worry right now about cleaning up the existing mess; just don't add to it. Some people call this Eliminating the Evidence--meaning that you don't leave evidence of what you've been doing.

3. Find techniques that work for you. FlyLady, if it works for you, is great. But the goal is to find things that work for you, not someone else. These are my techniques.

A. Use "wasted" time. Every morning, I stagger out to the kitchen and put on water for tea. While the water heats up, I empty the dishwasher and dish strainer, feed the cat and make my bed. While the tea steeps, I go around the apartment and open the shades and get dressed. If I'm microwaving something, I use the time to change out the dish towel, wipe down the counters, sweep the floor, write a shopping list.

B. Get in a rut. For some things, having a set routine can work well. My morning routine can be carried out even if I'm half asleep--put on kettle, empty dishwasher, make bed, pour water over tea, get dressed, open shades. And it has the extra, added benefit that it's 6:15 in the morning and I've already made the bed and put the dishes away! Nothing like starting the day accomplishing something!

I have an evening cat care routine that involves cleaning the litter box, refilling water bowls and checking the food bowl. The cat is so used to this routine that she follows me around, checking up on me.

The key benefit to a routine is that you have done it so often that you don't have to think about it, you just do it. Somehow, that makes it easier for me to do.

C. Try to create habits. I started by deciding I would add one new housekeeping habit a month. My goal for the month would be to do that task every day. I started with the litter box, because why should the cat have to suffer because she came to live with me? I would get out of bed to clean the darned thing if I forgot. But at the end of the month, it came much more easily to me to remember to do it.

Then I started washing the dishes every night after dinner. I have a dishwasher, but there's always stuff that can't go in it and that stuff would pile up in the sink until I couldn't use the sink and then I'd have to wash it all in a hurry because I needed to use the sink. But for a month, every night, I'd wash whatever was in there. And I got used to walking into the kitchen every morning and seeing a nice empty sink.

At this point, I have the cat care routine, the evening kitchen routine (do dishes, wipe counters/stove top, sweep floor), the morning routine, and an evening routine of change to pajamas, wash face/brush & floss teeth, read for half an hour. Those are the daily routines.

Weekly, I deal with one room a day. It gets "tidied up," i.e. everything gets put back where it belongs. Then it gets dusted and vacuumed. Once a month, each room gets a slightly more in depth cleaning, with dusting of the baseboards and window sills, vacuuming behind the furniture, etc.

When I started the weekly room-a-day routine, it took me forever to clean one room, because I had to stop and think about each and every step--oops! I forgot to dust those table legs! Oh, heck, I need to empty the trash! Guess I should have put that stack of books away before I backed into it and knocked them down.

After two months (it takes me a while), I got used to cleaning each room, I knew the best way to get all the work done, and it took me less than half the time it did when I started. And this was an important lesson for me. It takes longer to clean a dirty room than to clean a room that was cleaned last week. And the more often you clean, the faster and better you get at it.

So for the stuff you have to do--dishes, laundry, cooking--try to find a way to make it as routine as possible. I get up on Saturday and put in a load of laundry. Then I clean the bathroom. Then I move the laundry to the dryer and start the second load. Then I make a meal plan for the week and write a shopping list. Then I put the first load away dry the second load. Then I head out to the supermarket. Then I get home, put the food away and put the second load away. It's 10 am on Saturday, the bathroom is clean, the food is bought, I know what I'm eating for the next week, my laundry is done and I have clean underwear for the upcoming week. I can goof off for the rest of the weekend with a clear conscience. (And I do!) But that started with just doing the laundry Saturday morning, and has slowly grown to include the other things over time. Start small. Work up to big.

D. Do tiny things. Clean for just 10 minutes. Or clean just one small area--a drawer, a table top. If you do just 10-15 minutes of "extra" housework a day, you will be surprise at how much better things start to look in just a week or two. It may seem silly--"The entire place is a mess! What good will 10 minutes clearing off the kitchen table do!?!" It will make your house look 10 minutes cleaner, and that's better than nothing.

5. Analyze your messes. If the kitchen table is always covered with stuff, sit down and write out a list of the stuff. Why does it end up on the kitchen table? Is it because it has no place else to go? Then it needs a home. You need to find a place to store it. Is it because you enter the house through the kitchen and you need to put things down to take off your coat? Then you need a system to make putting your coat away easier and a system to clear these things off the kitchen table--or in other words, another routine.

Clutter, for me, happens for one of two reasons. I don't have any place designated for the stuff to go, or it's too difficult to put stuff away.

I'm a firm believer that you can't make it too easy to put stuff away. I remember a Clean Sweep episode where the husband tossed his dirty clothes all over the bedroom floor. So in the final reveal, they showed him his new laundry hamper. And I knew instantly that he'd never use it. It had a lid, for one thing. It was in his closet, for another thing, and it was tucked under a shelf with barely an inch to spare. So, just imagine this. You have dirty clothes in one hand and you approach your closet. You have to 1) open the closet door, 2) pull out the hamper, 3) open the lid, 4) put the clothes into the hamper, 5) close the lid, 6) push the hamper back under the shelf and 7) close the closet door--all with one hand!

A big laundry basket on the floor of the closet would have worked better. 1) Open closet door, 2) throw clothes in laundry basket, 3) close closet door.

Frankie, you mention putting your shoes back into their box. How do you store the boxes? Are they on shelves that are easy to get to, or are all the boxes stacked one on top of the other, so that it's difficult to pull one out and put it back in the right place?

Is storing the shoes in their boxes the best, easiest solution for you? Or would a free-standing shoe cabinet work better--open door, put shoes in cubby, close door? Or shelves? Or putting the shoe boxes on shelves?

Take a good long look at what types of things aren't getting put away. It may take some thinking and analyzing to figure out why they aren't going where they belong, and then some more thinking to figure out how to make it as easy as possible to put them away. But once you've found the solution, it becomes as easy to put things back where they belong as it does to keep them out. And your home looks much nicer as a result.

And if you've managed to read to the end of this novel, I'm amazed. But I've been where you are and if I can help at all, I want to. I hated living in chaos. I vastly prefer a neat, tidy, clean house.

Yours in the messy sisterhood,

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 11:43AM
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jannie I think that is a good motto. Perfection is the Enemy of the Good is similar--I am obviously one of those people that tends to over-think how complicated something may be, or that doing just a bit is not good enough so why start, and that is a real roadblock to doing "pretty good" .

Thank you, Cammy, that was very much along lines that I think is where I am and it isn't too scary--it's more about trying to see if I can really put my actions where my hopes are.

I really don't have huge overt clutter or mess (except to very neat people) and anyone could walk in my house today and feel just fine--places to sit, counters are clean most of the time, shelves and table tops with pleasant items--I actually like how things look a lot of the time. But, I myself would like things to be better and not sort of 2 steps away from a big mess. Plus, there is what I call un-done projects and hidden stuff--closet with photos from years back, hobby stuff--that does not cause a problem when "entertaining" or just sitting around, but is part of the mental drain that has been discussed here before--it preys on your mind.

I am working on the tiredness thing as that is an issue. No health problems, but job intermittently requires lack of sleep! So, it is 2 things--one is I actually need more time to sleep during the catch-up times, but also, as you noted, when I am overtired I can actually make more mess, or fail to nip things in the bud, than when not tired. But, I love to cook and make interesting healthy things,use as much fresh food as possible and I don't like to buy a lot of deli food that is full of mayo or oils in amounts you can never tell, but you know is too much( tastes great, though)!
But, the choice is clear on many nights--figure out how to eat more simply or will have a mess that however big or not, is more than I have energy for. I have a file (ripped magazine pages, naturally!) of healthy cabinet/deli meal ideas, but haven't really tried to re-up my efforts at PLANNING--resolved: I will have this lovely food on hand to eat this week that takes no prep.

I am lucky with DH in the food area--he enjoys tasty interesting food but makes no complaint whatsoever I do. He does prepare some food and is happy to get take-out for us but we think we're at our limit there. He eats a bigger lunch than I so has said he ought to just eat fruit or something simple. I am probably the instigator of the cooking/mess as I really like "supper" and savory foods. But it would be healthier for me to eat more breakfast and then have cereal for supper. So thinking baby steps-- could I plan to eat a bowl of cereal one night of the week? It would be great for me and almost no dishes.

The shoe box question is on target--that is why I said I ultimately I have too many (shoes, clothes). I have a great system of stacker shelves for shoes that is extremely easy to use, and that's where I put my everyday work shoes, but I've filled it with multiples, as I use both black and brown shoes (big mistake simplicity-wise, but I may be truly addicted there and haven't figured out if I want to change!) so when you then add sandals and dress shoes for special occasions, I have more shoes than what will fit in the easiest places. So there you go. When everything is put away it looks like it all fits, but we all know that that can be like a puzzle, that if one piece comes out, may not go back . So if I had fewer items, fewer high-up items that were in any common use, etc, I would be more likely to put things away. So that too is not simplified as much as it could be. I did start working on that this year and am making some progress culling.

You are right about routines--I am very resistant to them but at the same time I hate spur-of-the-moment and can see how it causes more problems. The classic thing is the grocery--on Sat I will say oh, it is too nice outside, too rainy outside, this other task is more important. Then surprise, no groceries, so Monday or Tuesday I go after work, then of course it's busy, I'm pooped, then the cycle of coming home later, put stuff away, then what to eat? My DH and I joke about going to the store and coming home with nothing to eat (not immediately, anyway) so I have tried to make more of a effort that if I go to the grocery after work, I will buy something that we can eat with minimal prep.

So you are right--at some point there is just no substitute for some planning and routines, or things will not happen the way I really want them to.

I have had "Just Do It" posted several places for years but this year it is working a bit better for me. It's like I have finally figured out that it is not nearly so painful. So I think I can do more of that.

I am also the family organizer--I know that sounds ironic!--but what it means is that in order to keep up with some of that, I need to "save" time in other areas. So that is all part of my not being realistic about what I need to do and make good choices. If my plan this week is to work on organizing some family papers or photos or something, then I need to really streamline other routines. Or make a different plan.

Didn't mean to do such rants as these, but I think I am ready to go to "the next level" from where I am now, and so it is helpful to be able to think out loud. Hope for an epiphany, but I think it will be the small steps that do it. A lot of posts by other people have helped me, and so maybe my situation and how to make progress from where I am now will be about the same place someone else is.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 1:33PM
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