Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Being Domestic

I love being a housewife. More accurately, I love being a wife and I happen to be at home most of the time. I also love being a mom. Especially now that they are older and not AT home most of the time. Don't get me wrong, I love my kids. I also love quiet and eating ice cream for lunch - neither of which will happen of there are ANY children in my house.

One thing I don't love is mess and clutter, but you wouldn't know that to look in my windows right now. (No, you're not actually coming in the door!) Just because something bugs me doesn't mean I am going to DO anything about it.

That's not really fair, though. I do keep house...sort of. I know what I should do during the day and what my house should look like. I do keep things well enough that they aren't dangerous or unsanitary. I really just hate to spend all my time trying to bail out a sinking boat. With kids around - especially MY kids, there is only so much I can do before it feels like I am chasing my own tail.

I have tried several different ways to try and get things under control and running in a smooth way. I think I fall short in the consistency area. In truth, my kids keep things together much better than I do. They thrive on routines and schedules much more than I ever have. I didn't grow up having specific routines so it is hard for my brain to wrap around the ability to follow something like that. I love that they can be a little better at keeping things together than I am.

A few years ago, I found a website by a woman called FLYLady. (Some of you know her, and those that do will be able to understand this a lot better.) FLYLady is a woman named Marla Cilley who lives is NC and runs a website to help disorganized people get their houses clean and their minds in order. She has books, music CD's, and even housecleaning tips and tools. Her way of doing thing sounded really interesting and a little wacky, so I tried to follow her guidelines for awhile.

The routines she recommends will help your house get clean, your laundry under control, your kids fed healthy homemade dinner every night, and even help you lose weight and be a better person. This sounds like a tall tale, but it works for a lot of people. She recommends creating a routine every day that starts with a few small steps and cleaning chores. Small cleaning habits build on each other until you are doing them without realizing it, even before they need to be done and eventually everything becomes clean and tidy and wonderful.  As I said, that is the way it seems to work for a lot of people.

I have managed to take a few of her tips to heart and they have helped me to one extent or another. Making the bed, for one thing, helps my bedroom look a lot less crummy and sometimes it keeps me from crawling back in bed after the kids go to school. Doing one load of laundry (at least) every day helps make sure that everyone has what they need for school and work. Keeping your sink clean and shiny (yes, even shiny) helps you to respect the empty sink and take care of your dirty dishes as they appear instead of when you have a sink full of nastiness.

The thing that has helped me the most is to have a list of the things you should do every day, and do them in the same order every day. This is also the thing I have the hardest time following. My kids on the other hand, love it. They have a much easier time sticking to their lists than I ever have. In fact, most of the time, all I need to tell them in the morning or before bed is, "Check your list. Have you done everything you need to do?"

It has made a major improvement in Little Heart's health. She has to take several medications once and twice a day. You would think that after 12 years of doing this EVERY DAY OF HER LIFE, she would just do it without thinking. Still, she will forget if we don't remind her to check her list. If I get lax about reminding her, she will forget and then she will feel yucky all day because of it. When she remembers and sticks to her routine, the medicine works better, she feels better, and she has more energy.

When the kids follow their routines, it benefits me more than them, I think. Because they have laid out their clothes the night before, getting ready in the morning takes 1/4 of the time it used to which makes my life much easier. After school, they know that once they get home they have to put away their backpacks, change out of their uniforms, have a snack, and then get homework done before anything else. In the evening, I tell them to get ready for bed by 8:00 and they will be ready to go to sleep before 8:30 even with showers thrown in there. That gives me more free time in the evening ('cause you know, I need more free time...) Besides that, having a predictable pattern of events for them to follow makes for much fewer arguments and a lot less nagging. That makes me happier in the long run, because I really don't want to nag at them. I notice a general improvement in behavior altogether when I enforce the routines and they get a long with each other a little more, too.

So, if all this is so great, why don't I do it? That is a complicated question to answer. Part of it is probably just sheer laziness. I don't want to get off my butt and do what I am supposed to do. Another part of it is that if I do stick to a routine, and things start to become all clean and pretty around here, what happens when I stop?  The mess will pile up worse than before and I will be kicking myself not only for the current mess but because I could have prevented it, but I failed. In my mind, I am doomed to fail because I know I am not capable of keeping up any level of consistency for very long. That sounds fatalistic, but that is my whole problem. I don't have any faith in my own ability to take care of things.

There is another, even more sinister reason that I resist the whole routine thing. I am as afraid of success as I am of failure. It has taken me a long time to figure this out an come to terms with it and I haven't yet found a way to get past it. There is a part of my mind that thinks that I am just not good or worthy enough to have a nice home to live in and a stress-free day to enjoy. Other people have it together, but not me, and working that hard to achieve something like this is just a denial of the truth. I don't deserve to have a calm, clean, inviting home any more than I deserve to have a well paying job, or to actually be healthy enough to participate in daily activities. Again, I know it is twisted, but there IS a part of me that thinks like that. My Sane Brain (the one that kicks in when I am thinking clearly) knows that this is nonsense and isn't true at all. The Gray Monster, however, has other plans for me.

I'm not blaming my entire pig sty on Depression, although it does play a big part of it.It is just one of the many issues I have been dealing with for the past few years. Pain, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and remembering things, and a general lack of interest in life have all helped to contribute to the overall problem around here. Like Depression, the mess tends to wax and wane in some sort of a cycle that isn't very predictable. I would definitely say that the two issues are directly related and are most likely influenced by each other.

Procrastination is another demon I face every day. It is in my nature to put things off until I absolutely have to and then nearly kill myself trying to do them. I know it only makes more work in the long run. I know that Smart People take care of their business when they need to and not only when they have to. My Sane Brain doesn't always kick in when it should, though, so the dishes do wait until they are everywhere and the laundry is primarily done by Darling Husband. In my defense, I prefer him to at least wash and dry the laundry because he is very particular about it. I am fine with only having to fold and put away the clothes after they are clean. But, I also put this off until he has washed and dried five loads and I have to spend  more than a few hours taking care of it. Of course, by then my back hurts, I am cranky, the kids balk at helping with such a huge pile, and I never want to look at the laundry room again.

Starting today, I am going to try and change this un-pattern of events. I want to have a company-ready house all the time. I want to feel like I am on top of things again. I don't want to feel guilty that I am home all day and I haven't done what I needed to do. Most of all, I want to be proud of my home and proud of myself. I know I can do this because I have achieved (although only briefly) several times in the past. I am going to follow the wise words of my dear FLYLady and not worry about being behind, I am going to jump in where I am. Progress, not Perfection has been something I have striven for but now it will become my motto.

Stay tuned to see if I can actually accomplish even half  of what I have aspired to!

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