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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Another Post for Fellow FlyBabies: Sometimes it Does Take YEARS (Not Days or Weeks!) to Build All New Habits

Okay, so I got inspired to write this post by a kind comment made on the blog entry I wrote for following FlyLady's program while disabled.  I've always felt that letting each of you know about my personal struggles trying to make FlyLady's program work might be helpful, and I hope that's the case.

Just seven years ago, I was pretty darn disorganized.  I was so embarrassed when people would stop by my house without notice.  I was never tardy for work or anything, but I always felt I was playing "beat the clock" when it came to balancing work and home.  I was frustrated as all get out.  My mind felt like a tornado was whirling through it constantly.  It took backbreaking housework to make my home look presentable every time that I attempted it.  When I did clean, the house would look great, but only for about a day (if I was lucky).  I blamed my full-time job for taking time and energy from me, but that really wasn't the problem.  Because even when I was home all day puttering around the house during rare days off, I still couldn't seem to get anything of any value done.  I'd try to get stuff accomplished, but it was if I was always playing catch-up- and I hardly ever won the game.  I couldn't seem to prioritize correctly.  I felt guilty spending time on formal exercise or going out with friends, because my house almost always looked like a mess.  I honestly thought that I was missing some imperative gene that made keeping a home nice while holding down a full-time job, working out regularly and still socializing a fair amount of time with my friends possible.  I was almost resigned to being a lifelong "messy", or having only certain aspects of my life be successes, with others relegated to "utter failure" stature.  I worried about what kind of wife or mother I'd make in this state.  But at least I knew that I had a problem, right?  That truly always seems to be the first step in solving problems, knowing that there IS an issue to begin with.

I was desperately trying to get organized when I stumbled across FlyLady's program after doing a Google search one day on organizing.  When I read her website's details, I had a major "Eureka!" moment.  I was the type of person that just didn't see a mess until it was already out of control.  The idea of daily chores were virtually unheard of to me back then.  Habits?  What were those?  Undertaking a series of daily household routines never even entered my mind pre-FlyLady.  She was describing me when she talked about sidetracked home executives (though I worked full-time outside the home, it didn't matter- it's a personality type we're talking about here).  Wow, she got it!  I was hopping mad that no one had pointed out the common sense stuff she was talking about before.  All of those years that I was condemned for not being as neat, organized and together as other people, but the people doing the condemning never gave me any tools to be anything other than what I already was.  Finally, someone gave the blueprint for a better home and a better life!

But it wasn't as simple as just following Maria Cilley's program step by step.  I faced a lot of inner rebellion.  Why the heck did I have to be the one doing all of the housework?  Why should I schedule my life around cleaning?  Why do I have to pick up after myself when no one else does in the house?  (And yes, I blamed my cats for not picking up after themselves- total insanity on my part, LOL!)  I must have written up and deleted fifty different control journals, the deletions coming along each time my inner rebel won the unending mental argument in my head.  But finally I realized that if I followed the program, I actually wouldn't be a slave to a cleaning schedule.  I'd have the darn cleaning out of the way in a relative jiffy if I followed FlyLady's plan, and then I could have loads of fun (or get other work done...) the rest of the time.  It took me a couple of years to get over the rebellion, to be honest.  If it has taken you some time to do the same, or you're still feeling that way, take heart.  You aren't alone, and it doesn't make you a terrible person or homemaker.  It's a natural feeling.

Anyway, I first started following her program in 2007.  If you read her website, you may think that you can have your home swept into shape within a month or at least within a year.  For some people that may in fact be true.  But I'll be quite honest- it took me five years to really have the habits ingrained.  And only now can I say that I do these things on auto-pilot.  Make the bed when I get up, swish-and-swipe the bathroom first thing when I go in there each morning, unload/load/run the dishwasher as needed during the day and evening, wash the dirty pots or pans up promptly after dinner...these are all fairly automatic habits to me now.  They're not always easy to accomplish or focus on, mind you- but I no longer need a reminder to know that they need to be done from any outside source.  I actually see messes now immediately, which was a big part of the initial problem.  It is a true habit now to put things away when I'm done with them, take dirty dishes back to the kitchen from the dining room, start a load of laundry each morning.  If my chores don't get done for some reason that day, it's by my choice and not because I forgot.  Five or six years to accomplish this mindset- not five days, weeks or even months.  There's probably a scientific reason for that.  I'm no scientist, but I do know that it takes some time to build new pathways in the brain, otherwise known as creating new habits.  Every person is different.  You may be lucky and get on auto-pilot far more quickly than I did.  I had an upbringing to overcome where I wasn't taught ANY of this stuff.  I'm also daydream-y by nature, not always grounded in the present time and place the way others are naturally.  Just be patient, no matter what your circumstances are.  The time is going to pass by regardless of what you do.   

Some habits were easier to build than others for me too, and I think that you should fully expect the same for yourself.  I got the laundry habit down rather quickly, within a few weeks.  Within a few months, the Weekly Home Blessing Hour and other weekly events were etched in my mind.  Within a couple of years, laying out clothes daily and making my bed became ingrained habits.  Next came the swish-and-swipe.  Last to come on board was cleaning up the kitchen after dinner every single night (mostly because I hate washing dishes, no doubt!)  The chores that you like the most will probably become the first ones that you memorize, and the ones you hate will probably be the habits that you retain last.  Now my house runs like a neat little battleship with a wise, intelligent captain...well, most of the time.  Think of just how many years a dancer must train to become agile, fit and flawless enough to perform a whole routine for an audience.  One learns those complex routines by doing each step over and over again in order until it becomes automatic, and that's after many months or years of training to develop a body fit for dancing in the first place.  Or look at how many years it takes a person to become an accomplished engineer, able to design a building without flaws.  That goal also takes many years of school, experience, overcoming failures and hard work to achieve.  No in-depth knowledge worth having and no skill worth doing becomes perfect overnight!  It has nothing to do with the innate intellect or talent of the person, it just takes years to retain enough knowledge and skill to get things done at a high level of excellence consistently.  Some people have loads of energy, tons of mental focus and no disabilities.  If you do suffer from a disability, though, the work may get done more slowly and perhaps with more pain involved.  This is just the nature of life- and another good reason not to hold yourself up to a standard which you can't achieve no matter how hard you try.  No two people are built alike.  Other, more temporary things, also work against us.  Depression, anxiety, grief, argumentative relationships with people in your household, acute physical injuries...all of these elements make even very short and simple chores more challenging, let alone the bigger and longer chores.  Expect this to happen sometimes.

Don't put yourself in punishment mode if you are taking more time than you think you should be to "get it all done".  You'll get there!  Many, many times I thought that I just couldn't cut it when it came to mastering the FlyLady program.  But here I am writing to you about organizing, when seven years ago I knew virtually nothing on the subject!  Have faith in yourself.  Celebrate the successes, even the tiny ones.  I now have a 4.0 GPA in college, am an Honors student, my house looks better than ever before in my life all the time- and yet I also still battle fibromyalgia daily.  If I can do it, anyone can conquer the chaos of life!  It does take time, lots of reading on occasion and plenty of focus to get organized and then stay organized, but it can be done.  Please don't let one bad day, week, month or even year stop you, either.  Sometimes I just have to amend her program to suit that time period's particular problems.  My main focus now is that I get done what's on her daily Flight Plan at some point during that day.  In other words, not everything in the "Morning Routine" will always get done in the a.m.- I may not be able to get around to unloading the dishwasher until it's time to start dinner that evening.  Getting it all done in the a.m. is an ideal (and a good one to have for many people), but it doesn't always work out in reality!  It depends on my schedule, energy/pain level or if some crisis comes up during the day.  I simply accept that now.  FlyLady wants people to dump perfectionism.  And to me, this includes demanding we get everything done in the a.m. as we believe a "perfect" follower of FlyLady would.  Some people also are just not morning people (count me in on that one).  Fighting this fact really isn't very helpful.  Adapt, adapt, adapt the FlyLady lifestyle to work for you (and your family, if applicable).  As FlyLady says, "Just jump in where you are!"  Take those words to heart for good.  If you get done what's on the program most days, sometime during each day, your home and life will stay in good shape!  You will not be spending all day every day cleaning with her system, either. 

Here's to being an organized minimalist,

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