I was thinking of that sinking feeling that I get when I don’t know how to keep everything afloat last week. It was a good week to think about this, as we had a cold/cough/crud thing move through three of our four children. I couldn’t seem to get everyone taken care of in a peaceful way. I like things somewhat quiet. I feel like when there is chaos going on that everyone is getting overstimulated, and so there are many times when I ask everyone to calm down, talk more quietly, etc.
It was funny though, as I was thinking about feeling overwhelmed as I held one baby, had another crying at the gate, and was trying to get a sick Ava some warm tea and oatmeal, I smiled to myself. I feel so much less stressed these days than I did seven years ago, or five years ago, or two years ago.
When Gracie was a baby I felt crazy ineffective. One of my friends says that the life change that happens from zero to one child is completely underestimated. I agree. I know for me, the process of having a baby and not knowing how to structure life balancing my needs, those of a baby, and the running of a household was not what I expected.
One evening seven years ago, at a La Leche League meeting, some of the mothers were talking about how they were helped by a system known as the FlyLady for getting their homes in order. This was it, I thought, someone is going to give me the secret to getting my life and self in order.
I probably had a 6 or 9 month old baby at the time, and I felt like I was pretty good at the whole mothering bit, but oh so bad at the housekeeping bit. FlyLady helped a lot in the beginning. I enjoyed her take on CHAOS (can’t have anyone over syndrome). It was comforting to know that I wasn’t the only person who struggled with keeping up, and that I wasn’t the only person who was hard on themselves about it.
Honestly it hadn’t even occurred to me that I was hard on myself about it, until FlyLady pointed it out…..I just knew that I hated cleaning…And then my mood would suffer. Do you ever get into that rut where you’re pissed that your dishes have been piling up higher and higher over the last 3 days, and your laundry pile is growing, and who knows when your bathroom or floors were last cleaned…and you’re pissed at yourself, and so you do the next most logical thing….you take the whole thing out on your spouse. Probably you were beating yourself up about it, but it was like you couldn’t take it anymore…so you just blew. Yeah, that’s what would happen with us.
I know that there are people out there (like my own Mama), who actually like to clean. Kudos to them. I admire that. Even though I’m using cleaning as an example here, this really isn’t about cleaning. It’s about the overall feeling of being overwhelmed. The FLY in FlyLady is an acronym for Finally Loving Yourself. It worked for me for a while. I’ll never forget that a month or two in to doing the whole FlyLady system that I had some company over that hadn’t been there for a while. One of our guests was someone in my life who is rather outspoken. As such her compliments sometimes hit me funny. She came in and said “Wow, the house looks GREAT!”. It did, but I was a little embarrassed that the house looked different enough to comment on it when you walked through the door. However…
There is a huge “but” coming. BUT, I was white knuckling the whole process. I was freaked out that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with all the tasks that were on the list…and I was still adding more tasks from the FlyLady list…and it was taking up 3-4 hours a day in reading emails and testimonials to keep myself motivated, doing the tasks, and then thinking about the most efficient ways to do the tasks. And don’t get me started about how disrespected I felt if Tommy messed up my system. I know that it’s against the FlyLady way, but I would seriously chew him out if he didn’t dry out the sink after rinsing something off or getting water or God forbid if he left a dirty dish in the sink.
Yeah, I went a little FlyLady nuts….I just wanted someone to tell me exactly what I needed to do at all times of the day so that I would be happy, and have an organized and clean home, and still have fun with my family. I didn’t really have time for the fun with family part, though. I was constantly worried about what item was next on my to-do list. So I crashed and burned…Although I still tried to do versions of the FlyLady routine for hmmm…. 5 years.
It isn’t FlyLady’s fault. Her system is supposed to be about gradual change…and she has so many tips because different things work for different people. However, I am an all or nothing type of person. I cannot look at a home organization and cleaning system and go….oh, I’ll take this, but leave the rest. I think “oh, well this is working for me, but the rest must make it 250% better….let’s do ALL the things.”
This is my personality. If I feel overwhelmed, I take a hard look at what I view as the problem. I to stare it down. I analyze it from multiple angles. Then I try to clobber it over and over again. That whole clobbering it thing doesn’t work for maintaining a clean and tidy home. It’s an okay strategy for things that take short intense bursts of energy, but yeah, not so much for everything else.
I have always disliked routine. I feel like I’d like to just get through the unpleasant part so that I can get to the fun part. The problem is that I can’t ever seem to get through the unpleasant part. There is always a new unpleasant thing to get through.
So, I’m going to say something that would have really annoyed me seven years ago. No one can give you a checklist for running your life.
Feeling overwhelmed is a sign of imbalance. Here are the things that were out of balance for me.
- We had too much stuff (for the record we still have too much stuff…and I’m doing a decrappifying challenge with some friends at the moment.).
- I had unrealistic expectations for the amount of time and energy that I could spend cleaning and still be happy….but I thought if I just white knuckled long enough that I would get to a point where everything would run on auto-pilot…That’s one of the things that FlyLady talks about…that a few months in your home would be on auto pilot because your routines would become natural. I didn’t know if she was right because I couldn’t ever make it a few months in a row of adding routines to get there.
- Yet, I really felt bad in a messy home…
So that’s where I come from on this whole cleaning and organizing journey that I have been on…forever. No wonder my New Year’s resolution was “get organized” for 7 years in a row. Is cleaning and organization something you struggle with? Do you have tips to share with others (even if that tip is “stop looking at the mess.”)?