Friday, November 20, 2009


we all have habits. some good, some bad, some indifferent. a lot of the time i will be frustrated with myself, blaming the things i am displeased about on ‘personality traits’, but really, it’s just bad habits. i am not naturally a ‘clean freak’ kind of person, and it takes a LOT of motivation to cause me to WANT to clean. this is not to say that i enjoy living in a mess! i guess you could say that i’m a clean freak trapped in a slob’s body. this is an endless source of frustration for me. over the years i’ve tried several ways to ‘fix’ this problem, some with great success, others with minimal, but nothing seems to stick. i’ve read countless books, subscribed to websites, made to-do lists, bought or created tools with which to organize my cleaning… as if somehow that process would cause the house to be clean.

my best effort came from a system described in the book sidetracked home executives by pam young and peggy jones, aka the ‘slob sisters’. these were women like me, homemakers that missed the boat on the whole cleaning and organizational thing. i loved this book and could SO relate to their woes. their system involves a card file in which you store 3x5 index cards which have your chores written on them. you organize these by jobs which must be done daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, etc. the cards are then distributed throughout the week, month, etc. and rotated through as you complete the chores. this worked great for me. i had a lot of fun creating this (there’s that aspect of my personality that likes to get distracted by the lesser details of projects like this) and for awhile, the system worked well for me. it was while we were still living in ohio. shane was in kindergarten, layla was just shy of a year old, i was finishing up my BA, and frequently watching my 1 year old niece during the day. yet i made this work. the house was clean, the clutter was under control (for the most part), we ate real meals every night, the laundry was caught up (and this was when i was hanging everything out to dry) we were able to have drop-in company and overnight guests w/out a major production, freak-out, break-down or frantic stashing of stuff in closets behind closed doors.

and then we moved.

i never got in the habit again.

they say it takes 21 days to create a habit. i have to say that it’s pretty unfair that it takes that long to create one, but only one day to completely derail it.

i have all sorts of excuses. i found the system a little patronizing. it seemed to me that you shouldn’t need a card for every little step of cleaning the bathroom (clean toilet; scrub sink; wipe counter; polish faucet; wipe mirror; scrub tub; empty garbage; sweep floor; mop floor; change towels; etc.). i figured that if i just put in a card that said ‘clean bathroom’ that should be enough. i think i kind of sabotaged myself with that, and in other ways too. i tend to be a perfectionist and an extremist. if i can’t do something all the way, i would rather not bother at all. therefore, if i didn’t get something done, i would feel bad about it, i would figure there was no point in trying, if i wasn’t able to do it all. another aspect of the system is delegating jobs. kind of like giving your husband and kids their own chores. but then i didn’t know what to do if they didn’t do it. i felt bad, or even resentful, if i kept having to cycle their cards through, undone. it drove me nuts actually, but then i didn’t want to be a nag either. at any rate, i had all sorts of excuses for why this wasn’t working, and so i quit. my cardfile is still sitting on the shelf right next to me right now… hmmm…

the thing i’ve learned from all of this (and my many other attempts as well), is that there’s nothing out there that will work unless i actually DO it. the thing i’ve been searching for, the ever-elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, is the book, website, tool, system that will cause me to WANT to get off my butt and keep my house clean.

let me assure you, this DOES NOT EXIST.

somehow, this i’ve allowed this lack of motivation, this tendency toward laziness or distraction (ahem, knitting? reading? facebook? blogging?) to become a legitimate excuse. somehow, the fact that i don’t WANT to clean out the microwave or wipe the windows, and the world won’t end if i don’t is enough for me to justify NOT doing it. i hate that. then i’d get all depressed about not doing it, which is a real motivation killer. what a great cycle. so helpful.

it’s time for me to create some new habits. i know it’s not impossible. i have made new ones over the last few years, that i’ve been keeping really well. bed making, for instance. i make the beds (mine, layla’s and micah’s) just about every day – weekdays, at least. dishes, i run the dishwasher every night and try to make sure i unload it every morning. i HATE when dishes get piled up on the counter or in the sink, and it’s just so much easier to dump them immediately into an empty dishwasher. meal planning… as my last post would indicate, this has become a GOOD, necessary habit. the one i’m the most pleased about is my daily bible reading. this is something i’ve always known i SHOULD do, but never have been able to make it a habit. i’ve not been perfect about it, but more often than not, i do it. oh, and since we’ve had sophie back with us, i vacuum EVERYTHING every night. this also causes the floor to have to be tidied up (this has become one of shane’s chores), which is always a HUGE improvement. when you have little kids in the house, it’s a never-ending battle, but life is so much better when you’re not tripping over the same toys for days. okay, that’s not exactly realistic. we do trip over the same toys, but that’s just because they got strewn back out on the floor, NOT because we left them there! ;)

i kind of wish i had someone who is in the same position as me, who would be willing to be my ‘accountability’ partner on this. kind of like how people do better about going to the gym or working out if they have someone they go with… hmmm.. any other slobby people out there want to do this with me? i’m serious. help!


  1. Me! Pick me! I'm a slob. I'm a lazy person. I would rather blog and FB then declutter.

    I feel great when my surfaces are all tidy and cleared off, but honestly it doesn't last long because my dear husband and kids make such messes, and I would rather be a slave to FB then a slave to cleaning up their messes.

    I'll be your partner in crime.

  2. I'm pretty sure you just invaded my brain and wrote my thoughts down !! I am 100% identical. I totally want to be perfect and tidy but that doesn't seem to motivate me enough to do it all the way, and if I can't do it all the way then I don't even start and I get depressed the house doesn't look perfect and so I distract myself. Sigh. Thanks for the post :)

  3. I think you know we're on the same page with this one. I'm better than I used to be, but still have a LONG way to go! I'd volunteer to be your cleaning buddy but with the time difference and my nocturnal lifestyle, I don't think I'd be much help to you. Sometimes I wish I had OCD so I'd have no choice but be a clean freak!

  4. Rachael, This is exactly my life to a T--I could have wrote that blog--except the fine details. It is a never ending battle--my house is never clean it does not matter if I have spent all day cleaning. I blame it on my husband, my mom(who lives with us), my kids all three of them, the 2 cats, and the 2 dogs but it is me. I get inspiration to do something but never quite make it through the whole project--is it ADHD? My husband gets very frustrated with the clutter. I understand the frustration--I live it 24/7 but I still don't figure out how to get rid of it! Yes, I am lazy and unmotivated but what is so hard about it! I should be able to figure this out.I would love to get this undercontrol! Maybe you are right about the partnering up and making each other accountable.



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