Originally published on 14 April 2007.
At the time I found Flylady, I was going through a nesting phase, and read an article about her system. I bought the book, plunged headlong into it, and then bought the books she based her system on and implemented those as well. I quickly became overwhelmed, and quit. But at the same time, I realized mentally how much I could benefit from lists of things to do…after all, I used them in every other area of my life, so why not with the household?
Before Flylady, I would never clean things until they were obviously dirty. And because this took so much longer, often our weekends would be filled with cleaning, and no time for relaxation. Half the time we never knew what was for dinner, and ended up eating out a lot. The areas of the household I was in charge of were always either excruciatingly clean or horribly cluttered and dirty. (More dirty than clean, sadly). I also spent a lot of time in the morning staring at my closet, wondering what I was going to wear, and fumbling around as I tried to get all of my stuff together to head out the door. These problems amplified in the first few months after the arrival of the baby, when my sleep-deprived brain would shut down unexpectedly.
Flylady has helped me to build my routines up slowly, so that they become ingrained. The “secrets” of her system is that one starts slowly, and adds to the system over time; one learns how to go slowly, rather than an all-or-nothing mode; and one must customize the system to work.
What the Flylady Offered
Flylady offered me a way to keep up my house that has expanded into other areas of my life. The system, based on another system that just used the basic lists, sets time limits and encourages consistent action to keep things on track.
How I Use the Flylady System
My house is run on the Flylady system. Every morning I have a list that I go by to make sure I have the basics covered. This includes setting things up for later in the day, such as starting dinner in the Crockpot if necessary, starting a load of laundry, or setting up the robotic vacuum to do its work. When I walk in the door after work, I have another list that includes getting laundry in the dryer, emptying out the dishwasher so that I can put things in as we make dinner, and doing my 15 minutes of Zone cleaning. In the evening, I make sure I have everything together for the next morning, the coffee is made and set on the timer, and my clothes are laid out.
Zone cleaning consists of breaking down the house into five zones, and cleaning 15 minutes in that zone based on what week we are in the calendar.
In addition, I use these principles in other areas of my life. Some examples: at work, I never let my files get so out of hand that I can’t clean them up within a few minutes. I have a starting work routine that allows me to check the important things before being pulled into the work for the day. My ending work routine ensures that my time sheets get in (and I get paid) as well as update my notes on what I have done that day for my status reports. In my yard, I tackle the weeds a bit at a time, rather than waiting for months and trying to pull back the unwanted plants all at once.
What I Have Learned from the Using Flylady
Too Much Is As Bad As Too Little; Or Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Cycles of hyper-activity followed by no activity just encourages things to pile up. By taking small concrete steps every day, I accomplish a lot more and don’t get overwhelmed.
Setting Time Limits Can Be Very Good
Using a timer, or another means of setting time limits can keep me on track, limit time that gets dawdled away, or can get me started on something I don’t want to do. This doesn’t just apply to my house; I use this method to tackle reading I don’t want to do or to get me started on a particularly tedious task at work.
Writing Things Down Is Essential
Having lists written down and not in my head is essential to stemming the panic that I sometimes feel while trying to remember everything I need to. As an extreme, but classic, example, when my partner was in hospital for an emergency appendectomy, those lists kept me going without thinking. I was able to maintain the basics of what I needed to do while my brain was completely elsewhere. A friend offered to come over to stay with my daughter while I went to the hospital, and all I had to do was pull out the list of things that needed to be done.
Doing Things Before They Are Out Of Control Requires Less Effort
Even though things don’t look dirty, I will still clean them if I am in that zone. Why? Because I have discovered, for example, that taking one month’s worth of soap scum off the shower walls requires a whole lot less effort than pulling off six month’s worth. It applies elsewhere: taking care of my filing a week at a time means I don’t have to spend hours weeding through papers when I put it off. Pulling weeds when they are little is easier than when they are twelve inches high. Writing my work accomplishments and time down daily means entering time and status reports goes much faster.
This simple “housecleaning” system is actually more of a life philosophy. I do wish I had learned this much earlier in life. The details of the house system can be applied by anyone, regardless of country, sex, age and working status. And the techniques used to maintain the home can be applied to anything else in life as well.