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Monday, June 18, 2012

Having Routines Doesn't Equal Having Perfection, But It Equals Having Sanity

Whenever I present something to you, in terms of a routine, it's going to be a full one that I write out. I do this because I both want to share as much info as possible, and also remind myself of my commitments. But since they're innately very complete routines, it means that I may not even need to do every single step in the routine every night. It also means (big deep breath here) that, being an imperfect soul, I may forget a step or get so tired that I can only do a partial routine. And I'm here to tell you that it's okay to be just like me. Our routines that we write down are often an ideal. This ideal changes with time, with the people who are coming & going, with changes in the home & in your lifestyle. Big life gains or losses will always require re-evaluations of routines to a degree. If you do every single step every single night in perfect order & keep a pristine house in the process, I'll give you the Wayne's World "We're not worthy!" right now, because I definitely don't match that ideal. Nope. What has changed from my previous scatterbrained existence is that I think to do at least part of the routine now, that the routine exists to begin with, and if I drop something off the schedule, I try to do so consciously. Gasps all around, I know. The woman preaching routines sometimes doesn't complete her own?! How can we trust her? Easy. I'm brave enough to tell you the truth about my imperfections, so I'm going to tell you the truth about everything. I have routines written down, I attempt to do them in full every day & night, but I often fall short. I like to pass on routine-making to others to help them develop their own schedule & feel more in control of their life. Existence isn't easy, and we should be here to help each other. There, you now know my full motivation. It isn't to brag (what a hypocrite I'd be if I did), it's just to share knowledge.

Here are just a few things that almost always do get done, unless I'm on death's door with illness, that didn't get done years ago because I didn't have routines written down at all:
* My dishwasher gets unloaded, loaded & run at least once a day. The kitchen doesn't look like Martha Stewart's does, I'm sure. But we always have clean dishes to eat off of & flatware to use. Impressive enough for me!
* It may not be perfect, but my kitchen counters will at least get a once-over with a damp cloth once a day.
* My cat always gets fresh food & water when she needs it (not when the water in the bowl is just about evaporated). I adore my cat, I would never purposely leave her without anything to eat or drink, but she has a weird quirk. Unlike most cats, maybe because she's a gigantic Maine Coon & stores stuff like a camel in her body, she won't alert me when she's out of food or water. My previous cats would practically eat me alive without food in their dish & fresh ice water, so she's a complete anomaly to me. In any event, I have to pay attention, or Tess might go for a couple of days without eating due to her politeness. Who knew a cat could be so thoughtful as to not bother their human for food? Weird. Also, the litter box gets scooped out daily. I was always pretty good with this chore, but I'm great about it now. My cat may not be picky about me feeding her on time, but Tess definitely will start balking if I fall down on zoo-keeping duties otherwise. She also now demands a daily belly rub, back rub & a brushing out of her long, three-layer coat. If you think I'm joking, I'm not. Cats are creatures of habit, and develop their own routines extremely well- and no routine is more fun to them than bossing their humans around.
* The dishes from elsewhere in the house will always make it to the kitchen. In fact, the entire habit of picking up after myself is completely ingrained now. Once I noticed I didn't pick up after myself, I could change my habit of not doing so. That's the key- you have to notice what's causing the problem in the first place. The problem isn't a character failure, it's usually just a missing habit somewhere. I fail on a lot of things, but that particular routine always sticks, unless I'm really feeling like death warmed over. A big part of cleanliness is just remembering to pick up after yourself, as FlyLady has said she learned from someone born organized, too.
* The house always gets dusted & vacuumed at least once a week. Yes, it needs it twice a week. But at least it's done once.
* My sheets always get changed once a week.
* Other than on Sundays (which are a day of rest to me), I do a load of laundry a day, and never experience what FlyLady calls Mt. Washmore. Doing a load a day, rather than saving it all up for one day a week, is easier on my aching & cranky lower back, too. Laundry isn't a big deal for me, I'll admit- I really don't mind doing it. Everybody has their one chore they just despise with a passion. For some people it's doing the laundry. For me it's hand-washing pots & pans. Whoever invented the dishwasher, come & find me- I owe you a gigantic kiss (if you're still alive, that is- I don't kiss dead people, no matter who you are).
* My kitchen floor gets washed at least twice a week with the Sh-Mop & all-purpose cleaner. If I still used a mop & bucket, it'd be back to once every couple of weeks. I once turned over an entire bucket of dirty water back onto my just-washed kitchen floor, which led to a major meltdown. I don't like those disposable things because they're expensive to keep buying fresh cloths for & they're not the greatest for the environment in that respect. The Sh-Mop uses washable cloths that just slip right over the mophead. These cloths last for YEARS. So I thank technology for this habit, because my chore is made so easy, even I can't find an excuse not to do it. You can buy the Sh-Mop & the cloths for it at www.thecleanteam.com. Their microfiber cloth is good for wood or laminate floors, while the cotton ones are best for vinyl/tile/linoleum. FlyLady sells a similar style of mop. I don't own hers, but other people like it a lot, from all I've heard.
* My bathroom surfaces get wiped down & the toilet gets swished with a toilet brush & some all-purpose cleaner virtually every day. The towels get changed twice a week. My bathroom rug gets thrown in the washer at least once every couple of weeks. So that room always stays nice. Having a bathroom that is never embarrassing to me is worth it's weight in gold. 'Nough said.
* My bed gets made every single day. I almost never made my bed, until a few years ago. I was just too creative for that. Who wants to make a bed when they can go sing, get a massage, draw, watch TV, surf the Internet or meet with their book club? Then I realized the bed only took one minute to make. Which brings me to another big point. We often don't do a chore because we over-estimate the time & energy it'll take, or we make it more complicated than it needs to be. My bed-making consists of tucking in the flat sheet at the bottom of the bed (not the sides), straightening up the pillows, throwing the comforter over the flat sheet, and then folding down the comforter & flat sheet together. It's all ready for me to get into at night easily. No shams, no tucked in flat sheet at the sides to kick off, no complications. Just four pillows all for me, cool cotton sheets & a soft comforter. Lovely.
* My computer desk gets dusted every couple of days, because I have dusting cloths right there in the desk drawer & wrote down the goal to not have a dusty house. Point #3- if you do not make cleaning easy on yourself by having tools right where they're be used- dusting cloths, toilet brush, countertop spray, etc.- you are much less likely to get the chore done. Stop thinking everything has to go into a utility closet or be hidden away, like I used to believe. If the people you have over don't like that your toilet brush sits out in the bathroom (even though it's always disinfected & it's not hurting anyone), ahem, tell them where they can go. Send them to me if they get offended, and I'll be more than happy to talk to them for you, as well!
* Mail is sorted through every day, junk gets thrown right out (catalogs fall in that category automatically, too), other stuff gets dealt with then & there. Since I clean out a desk drawer or file a day, my desk is always neat & nothing is ever paid late.
* I use a paper calendar on the wall, and Google calendar on the computer, to schedule everything. My Google calendar emails me all of my reminders so that my aging brain won't forget what to do that day, and when. Whenever an event shows up on the horizon, I immediately put it on both calendars. The paper calendar's for the household to see, Google is for me to look at. Everyone wins that way.
* My outfit for the next day is always laid out right after I get dressed today.
* I get dressed to the shoes every day & take good care of myself. For those who've ever suffered crippling grief, depression, anxiety and/or agoraphobia (I have suffered from all of the above at various points in my life), you know that even daily bathing, grooming & dressing can be a factor in how we feel about ourselves. When you're in the midst of major stress, these "simple" things can feel anything but easy to do. They're sometimes the difference between hating yourself & liking yourself, though. If you don't like the way you look, you won't want to go out & you won't want to accomplish anything. It's that simple. Being clean, dressed decently, hair done, a little makeup on if you like being made up, teeth brushed- basic stuff, yes, but sometimes overwhelming. Not taking care of yourself won't make your problems go away, it'll just compound them. Some people in society don't understand how self-care can't be automatic. But I get it. Depression & other mental factors can strip you of self-esteem & motivation. Sometimes you just have to force yourself into doing this, though. If this is something you're struggling with, it's not because you're a bad or undisciplined person. You have to fight, though. When the self-care gets done first, a lot of other things fall into place. It doesn't replace medication, counseling or other help- but taking good care of yourself & your home can't do anything but help your problems.
* There's no spices older than eighteen months hanging around, no expired medications sit in my kitchen cabinet, no funky stuff's growing in my fridge that Louis Pasteur himself couldn't identify, the coffeemaker filter gets changed when it should, the sugar bowl's always filled & so is the salt shaker. I write down groceries, spices & herbs on a list to replenish as they're used up so that they can be replaced in a timely fashion.
* My computer runs well because I'm reminded to run Backup, Disk Cleanup & Defrag every week, added all of the memory to the hard drive it that I could, clean out the Internet cache all the time & clean out the hard drive with compressed air every single week on the same day.
* I write things to do down as they come to me immediately, before they flit out of my little blonde head again.
* The washer & dryer get wiped down once a week.
* The dryer lint trap's interior (where the trap itself is stored) gets cleaned out with a dryer brush every week. I always did clean the trap itself after every load dried, but I didn't know about other needed dryer maintenance until I moved to my last home nine years ago. At least twice a year, the entire trap gets cleaned via a Shop-Vac (which requires the front of the dryer being removed on my model), and the entire dryer hose gets cleaned out, too. When this happens, it's looks like my dryer hose is creating outdoor snow. Birds LOVE to build nests in those hose ends outdoors, by the way. So no fire hazards here in my home, no little birdies get hurt AND my dryer takes a normal amount of time to dry clothes. If your dryer's running slow, invest in cleaning it out thoroughly NOW. A dryer brush is cheap, easy to buy online, a cinch to use & provides quick but deep cleaning when it's done frequently enough.

Usually the only difference between wanting a nice home & actually having one isn't so much knowing which chores that you do, it's knowing when you have to do them in the first place. Deconstructing household chores room by room also helps. Sounds obvious, right? But it wasn't to me, and not to millions of others. "You mean I have to purposely unload, load & run the dishwasher every day, and then I won't have a mess on my hands in the kitchen come Saturday morning? Why didn't someone tell me this years ago?!" I wish I was exaggerating, and feel free to blame my blondness if you wish, but I'm telling you the truth. Good weekday habits are what prevent weekend madness. Go from room to room in order, do three to five small things a day in each room, pick up after yourself & wham, your house is going to be automatically neater & nicer.

Here's to being a happy organized minimalist,
Liz

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