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Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Rules I Live By For A Clean House and a Calm Life

I've been a procrastinator since birth (or so I'm told).  I've lived mentally-overwhelmed for many years, though I fight that well.  I just finished reading a good Kindle book that taught me something big, called Your Life Can Be Better: Using Strategies for Adult ADD/ADHD, written by Dr. Douglas A. Puryear, M.D.  Now, I've had FlyLady and many other good mentors for years now via books and the Internet, but I know that I can always use new tools in my belt to manage life even better.  This latest book helped me crystallize an absolute truth for me, one that I know will also apply to many of my readers (especially the ones who often procrastinate, just like me).  When you want to consistently do something in your life, make a rule out of it.  So, in order to help all of you, I'm outlining my rules for living, from a.m. to p.m., each and every day.  They're non-negotiable; that's how they work for me.  They bring calm, order and cleanliness to my life.  They make my own world as peaceful as possible in the midst of this insane universe.  Many rules are rooted in FlyLady's plan for lifestyle management, some others I picked up along the way from others and then certain rules I just developed on my own.  I hope that outlining my rules will help you develop and stick to your own ones.

The Rules

When I wake up- I make my bed.  I hasten to add that I don't mess with achieving hospital corners or military-style bed-making.  I just straighten up the pillows and bedspread, tuck in the sheet, turn down the flat sheet and bedspread, then spritz it with a little Febreze Fabric Refresher.  Since my mother is disabled, I also make her bed whenever she gets up.  Every bed that's been slept in should be made each morning when the person gets up for the day.  

(A note about bedding- I change the sheets every week on Mondays, during Weekly Home Blessing Hour.  The old used sheets are washed, dried and put away on Mondays, too.  I do this for both my bed and my mother's bed each week.  Like making the bed daily, the weekly changeover is a set-in-place rule.  Every three months when the seasons turn, I wash all of the other bedding- mattress pads, blankets, pillow covers, etc.  I also turn the mattress over or around, if possible, and vacuum the mattresses to get out some excess dust.)

When I head to the bathroom first thing in the morning- I swish-and-swipe my bathroom.  If the mirror needs wiping down, out comes the Windex.  I always use a Lysol wipe to disinfect some surface in the room, whatever happens to be a little dirty or dusty that day (the vanity, toilet exterior, floor around the toilet, etc.)  Then I swish the toilet bowl with some Lysol All-Purpose cleaner and a bowl brush.  Sometime during the day, I also do this for my mother's bathroom.

I start a load of laundry- It's a rare day that I don't have at least one load of laundry to do.  I follow through with washing, drying and putting away every load.  Sometimes I must do this task later in the evening, if I have no time in the a.m. to perform this chore.  But if I can get it done in the morning, I do so. 

If I'll be making dinner that night, I find out what it is I'll be cooking- If I need to put out something to thaw for later on that night, I also do it now.  If you'll be using a recipe, I highly recommend double-checking it now to make sure that you aren't out of something important.  I also double-check the expiration dates on stuff in my pantry or fridge to make sure that the items I'll be using aren't expired.  Time goes by so quickly in life that it's really easy to think, "I just bought that ------" when actually it's ten months old!  This "dinner check" means that occasionally I'll end up saying, "Oops, I'm out of ------", meaning I need to make a grocery store run that day.  But it's better to find that out at 9 a.m. rather than at 6 p.m. that night as I'm about to start cooking!  I'm trying to plan more efficiently now so that this doesn't happen anymore.  (Ideally, I would sit down once a week the day before going to the grocery store, and carefully write down my dinner menu plus my additional grocery list.  Then shop once a week and get everything I need that day at the store.  But that is an ideal right now, not my reality.  And I just have to work with reality!)

(Note: I clean out my fridge and pantry once a week.  This doesn't mean that I take all the items out, scrub everything down and rearrange stuff to look like it belongs in Martha Stewart's house!  I just throw out leftovers that are more than two days old, any condiments with mysterious and unknown "dates of opening" in my mind, anything expired or just not palatable to me anymore for whatever reason.  Then I simply wipe down the fridge shelves really quick with a Lysol wipe or cleaning cloth/antibacterial cleaner- not the whole shelf, just what's exposed once I've cleaned out the fridge.)

I unload/load/run the dishwasher, as needed- Typically I've run the dishwasher the night before, so I empty it now.  I also try to keep my sink empty throughout the day and evening, so that cooking and cleaning is easier.  I love starting the day out with a clean kitchen!

I eat breakfast- Besides abiding by rules for my house, I also have rules to follow for my health every day.  Eating breakfast may mean sipping on a protein shake, eating a bowl of cereal or chowing down on a bagel- whatever I'm craving that day.  I try to make whatever I eat during the day healthy and full of protein, vitamins and minerals.  It gets my brain and digestion working to eat breakfast.  I drink a small cup of coffee in the morning, as well.

I grab my water bottle- I use Flylady's stainless steel one.  I own two of them, so when one's getting washed in the dishwasher, I can use the other one.  I keep this bottle by my side, all day, every day.  I try to drink 64 oz. of water a day.  If I work out intensely or do a lot of housework, I often end up drinking even more that day. 

I brush my teeth, wash my face, put on some perfume, get dressed to shoes, style my hair, put on my jewelry and apply some makeup- Even if I plan on doing absolutely nothing that day, I still perform my full grooming ritual.  I never want to be embarrassed to see someone if they come to the door, if I have to go outside for a bit or run an errand unexpectedly.  I want to look and feel my best every single day of my life, with no exceptions.  I should add that I dress casually- bootcut pants, a polo shirt and lace-up sneakers are my typical uniform.  Comfort is key, but one can be comfortable and still look pulled-together.

Once I'm done getting dressed, I lay out tomorrow's outfit- I find this to be a more logical time to lay out tomorrow's clothing than at night.  It's up to you- just make sure it gets done each day.  Rules are easier to follow if they're done in a particular order every single day.  And they're easier to remember that way, too.

I clean out the litter box- Again, this is self-explanatory.  After I clean the box out, I spritz some Lysol Disinfectant around the area.  I'm pretty into disinfecting, I must admit...

I take out any trash bags that are full to our apartment complex's outdoor bin- Pretty self-explanatory once more, right? :D

I brush down the furry areas down where my cat likes to sleep, quickly feather-dust the house, run the carpet sweeper (I have wall-to-wall carpet in all but my kitchen and bathrooms), then spritz Febreze on the upholstered furniture- This sounds really long and complex to do daily, but it actually doesn't take much time.  I've learned to work quickly.  It doesn't need to be perfect.  My cat doesn't shed much, but she leaves little clumps of fur here and there that make my home look dirtier than it really is, if I don't follow this daily routine.  Doing this routine doesn't mean that I never have to vacuum the floors or upholstery, or do detailed dusting.  It's designed to make my house look company-ready day-to-day, not leave it obsessively clean.  More importantly, when I follow this routine, my home looks and smells nice to me.  That is really what's of primary importance here!  A clean home (or the illusion of clean, at least) makes me feel calm and happy, so this chore is worth the time invested to complete it.

(A note about the household- I take a dusting mitt or cloths and furniture polish or Windex, depending upon the surface, to my household surfaces every Monday for Weekly Home Blessing Hour.  Then I vacuum the upholstered furniture and all the flooring.  I wash the vinyl flooring in the kitchen and bathrooms during this time period each week, too.  But the daily cleaning that I do makes the weekly work go faster.  The Weekly Home Blessing Hour is also a rule I follow, though realistically it takes me more like two hours to complete.  The smaller your home, the faster this will go, and vice versa.  I'm not a speed demon, I admit.  I have tricky knees and a bad back, so I'm careful in order not to wrench anything out of position.  I know, I know- FlyLady wouldn't be happy with me taking more than an hour to do my home blessing.  Oh well.  In this case, my rule trumps hers because it's my own life! :)

If there's a Zone Cleaning to be done that day, I do it- This may involve "extra credit" type work, like doing  Kelly's Mission for the day or detailed cleaning, which you'll know all about if you're a fellow FlyBaby.  Sometimes I just use the time (up to fifteen minutes) to deep-clean an area that I know needs it.  There never seems to be any shortage of these places in my home!  Baseboards, underneath or inside of cabinets, all of the closets...yikes.  I only do this on weekdays, taking weekends off deliberately.  

I get the mail, sort through it, tossing the junk, dealing with the important stuff now- I also clean out one file folder or desk drawer a day.  This is also my time to respond to check my voicemail, read any phone messages, pay bills, write business emails, make important phone calls or set up appointments for things that need to get done.  If at all possible I do this routine during normal business hours, in order to avoid procrastinating if I've got to call or email someone.  Handling this stuff on a daily basis means that, usually, very little time is required of me to get home office-related work done.  When it doesn't get overwhelming, there's really not much to procrastinate over.  Sticking to this rule of daily mail-sorting and responding plus doing a very minor desk clean-up means that I also have no paper clutter.  Zilch.  Isn't that worth the work involved right there?!  Though she dislikes me for it sometimes, I also make my mother do this daily now, as much as I can force her to comply, that is.  In the end, she's glad I make her live a de-cluttered life...I'm such an awesome daughter sometimes. ;D

All of my keys go to one little dish on the living room end table when I'm done using them- House, car, mail keys, etc.  Everyone in the house must use this dish.  Period.  I don't care how tired I am.  I put things back where they belong when I'm done with them.  FlyLady advises us of this.  I agree with her, and have established that as another steadfast rule.

All jackets, purses, cardigans, backpacks, sunglasses, etc., get put back where they belong when you're home for good that day- DON'T LET FATIGUE RUIN STICKING TO THIS RULE! I speak from experience.  Establish ONE place for ALL of these items and put them back in that one home every single day or night when you're done with them.  No exceptions.  You'll thank yourself later.  It makes housekeeping easier.  Make others in the household abide by this rule...or more realistically, pick up after them if they forget and they're not children that you can threaten with some kind of punishment. ;D  Yes, it's a pain in the neck sometimes, but it's worth it.

I light a scented candle or two shortly before it gets dark- It just makes my home lovely.  It's a FUN rule to follow!

I do a 2-minute Hot Spot cleanup- This usually involves cleaning off one of my living room end tables, the ottoman or basically...ANY surface that my mother has gotten a hold of that day.  De-cluttering and organizing her miscellaneous stuff could be a full-time job alone!  But I only spend two minutes max on this and no more, every single day.

Around 6 p.m., I start dinner- I make dinner from scratch nearly every night.  It's just healthier that way.  I throw on an apron and get to work.  If I'm home, that is.  Sometimes I'm at college, and on those nights I just eat something quick but healthy whenever I get home, like a bowl of soup and some whole-grain crackers.

Within an hour of eating dinner, I clean up the kitchen- This was not a fun rule for me to establish, because I hated doing kitchen duty, especially when I was exhausted after work or school.  When I was young, I didn't even notice kitchen messes until they were just ridiculous, as in having no clean flatware or drinking glasses left.  I wasn't brought up to clean up after dinner each evening.  But when I made it a firm rule to clean up every single night after dinner, it got easier over time.  FlyLady recommends shining your sink nightly.  I, however, recommend just putting on your big boy or girl pants and cleaning up the darn kitchen completely.  A dirty kitchen is embarrassing and hard to work in.  If you're a cook or a baker at all, you don't need the hassles that come with waking up to an icky kitchen each day.  After dinner, unload/load/run the dishwasher, if you have one.  Wash the dirty dishes, pots or pans.  Prep the coffeemaker or teapot for tomorrow, if need be.  Wipe down the countertops, stovetop and sink.  Change the kitchen dishtowel and hand towel.  Feed the pet(s) if needed, and give them fresh water.  Fill your water bottle for tomorrow and put in on the fridge door, so it's ready to go.  If you take a packed lunch to work (or have immediate family member that does), prep this stuff now as much as possible.  Make them help you out if they can do it!  If the kitchen floor is quite dirty, take a broom, mini-vac and/or mop to it.  Until doing these things become an ingrained habit, you may want to put a checklist on your fridge door or cell phone so you don't skip a step in the routine.

Once dinner is digested, I exercise- Ick.  I still hate doing this most nights.  But it's necessary in order to stay in some semblance of shape.  It's a rule that still leaves me kicking and screaming, at least as I start out.  If you can manage to perform morning workouts, do so.  I just personally can't face exercising first thing in the morning.  Sometimes, all that I get done is some gentle yoga or stretching.  I simply make it a point to get in at least fifteen minutes of movement every evening.  (I also try to get in a quick outdoor walk at some point during the day, though by no means does that imply I'm in great shape!)

After exercising, I brush and floss my teeth, take a shower, dry the shower tile and bathtub with a clean hand towel, groom for bedtime and dry my hair- I love taking an evening shower.  Taking a shower at night saves me time getting ready in the morning, for one thing.  Performing a tough workout beforehand makes my shower afterwards feel even better!  Wiping down virtually all of the moisture from my shower tile and tub means that I almost never have to clean my bathtub, because it never gets mildewed or dirty.  The main thing with this rule is to not wait until I'm dead-tired to being doing all of this, like my idiotic younger self would do!  Now, I'm single and child-free, so I have the option of not putting myself in last place every night.  I get it, that not everyone is so fortunate.  Please adapt these rules to your life.  These rules were NOT designed to make life harder- just the opposite!  Do what you can and drop the rest.

I make sure that my backpack or purse is packed and ready to go for the next day- As I'm in college full-time now, I make sure that I have my appropriate binder(s), textbooks, any assignments that are due the next day, school supplies like pencils, that my wallet is in there, that I've refilled any used-up supplies like lip balm or tissues, etc.  The same thing applies with a purse.  Put it by the front door or some other consistent spot.  If you have anything special that needs to go out the door with you tomorrow- a paper prescription, a special project, a particular presentation on a flash drive- make sure that you put it in your bag and/or by the front door the night before.  Procrastination and poor memory often go hand in hand (once again, I speak from experience!)  When you're not stressed out, your memory will be better and you'll likely be able to think more clearly.  Keep your keys on a hook by the front door.  Buy a purse or backpack that allows you space to take your water bottle and a travel umbrella with you each day, if at all possible.  (Note: I like cross-body purses like ebags Piazza bag or the Donner Bag.  My backpack is one from Dakine and it's awesome- it has well-padded straps, the straps are highly adjustable and will fit even the biggest arms and shoulders, the zippers are super-strong, it holds a lot and it's also feminine in design!)

Before bed, I sip a cup of Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Tea, read a book or magazine for a bit, write in my journal briefly and spritz Aura Cacia lavender spray on my sheets- Ah, my sleep hygiene routine.  This is the most enjoyable rule to follow by far!  The point is to pamper and relax ourselves before bed.  It should be a time to decompress from the day.  I make sure that if I need to get up at a certain time, too, that my alarm clock is set.  Right before hitting the sack, I put in ear plugs and turn the alarm clock around so I don't see the time on it at all.  (This just helps me relax more.)  I go to bed when I start getting sleepy- I no longer fight it and stay up later than I should.  I must be aging, with all of that being said...

And oh yeah...I blow out the candle before going to bed. ;-D

Here's to being an organized minimalist,



  1. Very good suggestions, as always! I really enjoy your Blog posts, they are very helpful to me, as I am a great procrastinator myself :(

    1. Thanks for the positive feedback on the blog, Sue. :) I'm glad that you enjoyed this post and that it's helping you out. Don't feel bad- I think more people procrastinate over stuff than not! Celebrate what you accomplish each day and don't beat yourself up over what you don't (come to think of it, that should be another rule!)

  2. I loved to read this post and I will see if I can manage to "upgrade" myself so I don´t procrastinate more. I found your post by googling "organize" and "minimalist". Keep up the good work!

    1. Thank you for the kind words. I'm so glad that you enjoyed reading the post. :)

  3. I really appreciate your use of the words "rules" and "nonnegotiable". That really spoke to me, for some reason. I've been with Flylady over ten years, but have only used the reminders as suggestions, especially if I come home exhausted.

    I'll be visiting your blog frequently, one I've finished MY new RULES! My challenge is decluttering, especially papers and books. Thanks again.

    1. I'm so happy that this blog entry helped you out. :) And I completely understand about needing rules in your own head to make things stick. I can't speak for others, but setting a rule is a means of establishing boundaries, something many women struggle with.

      If you'd like, check out my blog entry on how I got my own paperwork under control. I started that project seven years ago and I've been free from paper clutter ever since!

  4. Reading tonight, promise ;)