Organizational Systems and Trying Something New

Since I was in my teens, I’ve liked playing with organizational systems. FlyLady, Konmari, a budget book when I was first married, Everyday Systems… I’ve worked with lots of them.

At first, I thought I was looking for The Perfect System. But you know, I don’t think I am. I think what it comes down to is that I like playing with ways to structure life. Which, regarding Real Productivity, would be considered a waste of time. The focus should be more on organization and productivity, not the system, right?

I started to feel guilty about that, but then I thought, “Well, of all the weird hobbies or obsessions one could have, enjoying exploring productivity and organizational systems is hardly a bad one. You do have a clean house. Your bills are paid. Obviously, this is not subtracting from your enjoyment of life, nor from living effectively.”

Which is the point. Playing with systems and routines over the years has ultimately gotten me some things I actually want. Whether or not I stuck with a particular one doesn’t matter as much as the fact that the play and exploration itself has taught me things and I have gained rather than lost from it (I do still shine my sink and question whether or not a possession sparks joy). Is it a weirdly obsessive hobby? Yeah, it sure is.

This brings me to the Bullet Journal. Do I really need this, since I’ve got OneNote and Remember the Milk and a Household Notebook and… Well, you get the point.

No, I don’t need it. I could get along perfectly well without it. My life is pretty organized and has been for some decades. I am productive. My business makes a modest profit and at least pays for our groceries, even in a bad month. Still, when you watch a video on it, and your husband brings you home a blank notebook in which to try it, we’re talking about a hobby/experiment that’s cheaper than my knitting or the books I buy. Why not?

What is a Bullet Journal?

Ultimately, a Bullet Journal is on paper. This is for the Luddite. Normally, I’m all about technology and beepy reminders, so this is going to be a very different experiment.

It is set up in some basic modules that you then use to organize anything you care to, but ultimately your life. It is meant to be quick-n-dirty. In its original form, you don’t need to spend a lot of time doing the logging.

A warning: If you look up Bullet Journals in social media, you’ll see pretty calligraphy, drawings and all kinds of nifty stuff. This isn’t what you’ll see from me. My handwriting stinks. I can’t draw. This is going to be a lot more basic than how many people with considerably more calligraphic ability and artistic flair will use it. My stuff is only pretty when there’s the aid of a computer available!

How does the Bullet Journal Work?

The Modules

The Bullet Journal is broken down into several modules, but the basics are the Index, the Future Log, the Monthly Log and Collections. They work together so that you can integrate and update your work on the fly. This is meant to be dynamic and intuitive. I’ve already found it works well to organize the results of brainstorming.


The Index is exactly what it says on the label. A place to record information and where to find it. You list topics and then the page number of where you can find these topics in the Bullet Journal. The advantage here is that this can be a work in progress acknowledging you don’t know what the future will look like. If you need to add something, but there isn’t room, it’s easy enough to add and record where to find it in the Index.


Future Log

After you’ve created your index, you turn to the next two-page blank spread and create your Future Log. While you can break it down however you want, I’ve taken the advice of the Bullet Journal originator and chosen a six-month period for my spread. As I think of things I need to get done in the future, this is where I can record it for future reference. When the month approaches, I can then copy what’s necessary to my Monthly Log. Remember to write down the location of your Future Log in your Index!


Monthly Log

To create a monthly log, turn to the next two blank pages and begin. You’ll notice I did not do two blank pages for September. It’s almost over. When I get to October, I’ll do it properly.

On the left-hand side, you number the dates and then list the days of the week beside each date. For those of you who have packed days, THIS IS NOT A MEETING CALENDAR. You can adapt the Bullet Journal for that by adding a calendar module, and if you scan the Internet, you’ll see that many have. The point here is to record important, high-level highlights for your month.

On the right-hand side, you list the things you need to accomplish in the month. As you start to use the journal over time, if there are things from the previous month that you did not get done, you can migrate them to the new month. This sounds like a lot of tedious copying, but in fact is a feature rather than a bug. If you’ve postponed it month to month for a long time, is it really that important? Maybe you ought to cross it off your list. It’s a great way to evaluate what’s genuinely worth your time.


Daily Log

The Daily Log is where you focus on a day-to-day basis. Notice how you’re already encouraged to take a longer view, and then an increasingly more granular view of your time as you progress? This allows for both big picture planning as well as breaking this down into actionable items you can do on a daily basis. I really like how this works.



Sometimes you’re working on something that’s more properly a project and should be organized in a single place. This is where you can record your ideas, tasks you need to accomplish, any brainstorming or notes about the project. When you create tasks, you can migrate these to your daily tasks, thus keeping a daily to-do list pretty organized. More about migrating tasks under Bullets.

I decided to make a Collection to organize for the holidays this year. It’s a decent enough project and should be a good experiment.


The Bullets

The bullets are symbols or signifiers indicating what the entry actually is. You’ll start by listing tasks with dots. Then it is easy to change these symbols as you need to reschedule a task, or need to indicate it’s important, or just about anything else.

  • Task (Just a dot)
  • * = High priority task
  • X = Completed task
  • < = Migrated to Future Log
  • > = Migrated to Monthly/Daily Log
  • 0 = Event
  • – = Note
  • ! = Inspiration
  • = Explore/Needs research



In playing with the system for a day, I do find it kind of fun. It’s not yet ten in the morning, and you can see I’ve already completed a few items on today’s list as well as written this article. Over time as it becomes more mundane, I’ll do another article to report on how much I liked it, what works, what doesn’t and if I want to keep up with this.

The KonMari Report –Six Months

Okay, I think I am going to have to refute Marie Kondo’s claim that once you go through the house according to her method, you’ll never be untidy again.

No, my house is not particularly a mess. My bed is made, my clothes put away, the only laundry that isn’t put away is either in the laundry basket waiting to be washed, in the washing machine being washed or is currently drying in the dryer (yes, I’m doing laundry this morning).

My drawers and closets are still neat, sure enough. But I do have a craft project on the dining room table. There are dishes in the sink because I need to empty the dishwasher (I think my husband ran it this morning before he went to work. Thanks, sweetie!)

There is a napkin on the arm of my chair.

Is my house messy? Maybe by Ms. Kondo’s standards, but I can’t think of anyone else who might think so.

So, no. The house is not perfect. I do not empty my bags and purses the second I get home every day. I have a gym bag (emptied of sweaty or wet stuff, true) sitting on a rocking chair in the jungle room. I’ll be filling that to go do my swim in a few minutes, so I am fine with that.

Does this mean I think that Marie Kondo’s method didn’t really work?

Goodness no!

I am very glad we did it. We really did keep only what we use and makes us happy. I have plenty of storage space for my stuff now, and it is easier to put things away. That means I am generally quicker to do so.

I think part of the problem was a simple one. It doesn’t look that dramatic because in general, the house didn’t look too messy to begin with. We recycle properly now, and have a place to put recycling because we cleaned out the mudroom properly. We have a nice place to store cleaning supplies because we cleaned out a junk storage place properly. The changes are less dramatically visual and more centered around the fact that we don’t waste house room on things we don’t use and love.

Do I ever look in a closet or drawer and ask myself, “Does this spark joy?”

Totally. So I weed a little bit every now and then just on a routine basis. I’m quicker to toss the pen that doesn’t write well, or the makeup that doesn’t really please. It does keep storage under control.

But that little bit at a time stuff? That’s FlyLady habits.

It was a thought I was having as I was comparing the two methods, and I think we’re getting into a “right tool for the right job” situation.

For a massive declutter, you need the big shovel. That’s absolutely the Konmari method. Hands-down, I think it is better for the Big Declutter.

For daily maintenance? FlyLady. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up doesn’t address maintenance at all, and I think that’s a big hole in the process. She claims you’ll just naturally stay all tidy. I’m not so sure about that. Don’t get me wrong. The reboot was wonderful. Having good storage space and a big, dramatic change in how much I had was great. It is hard to put something away when you have nowhere to put it. I agree wholeheartedly that expensive storage systems are silly. I did buy a charging station for my bedside table for my devices, and I really love it, though.

But the Konmari method presumes you’ll magically maintain this. I’m don’t. Not really. I have to think about it. I do scans of the house to see that things are put away. I don’t get up and put things away the second I am done using them. I put it away the same DAY, which is certainly fine, but I do have to clear off flat surfaces that are collecting stuff like mail, packages and general detritus from the dailiness of life rather than putting it away immediately. I really think that the habits of dailiness and daily routine that I’d been working on for fifteen odd years were what made the whole big declutter a more useful thing. It’s been years since my house has gotten more than fifteen minutes worth of messy, barring a party or something.

I may get to things a little quicker than before. I’m less tolerant of my surroundings being messy for a long period of time, so I do take five to put stuff away more regularly. But do I keep it perfect and pristine all the time?

Nope. And I’m cool with that.

Habit and Possessions Tetris

I’m looking around my still-neat house.

Clutter? None. Bed made, drawers from which I pulled my clothing, neat. I see that I have three more pair of underwear left and I’m going to be working tomorrow, so I grab my laundry basket from the bathroom and take it downstairs to put on a load of laundry. I have this enormous washing machine, so what would be two in another situation is one for me.

I go downstairs. The kitchen has no clutter on the counters. Dirty dishes are in the dish washer. The few dishes we hand-wash that had been drying in the rack (air drying dishes is cleaner) were put away. I am assuming my husband did that before he made coffee this morning.

My laptop is on my little writing desk where I charge it. I grab it and my laptop desk to lounge in my writing chair to write this little essay. On the way, I notice a receipt that had flutter to the floor. I grab it, record it in my household account application on my phone and toss it. Then I prop my feet up to write.

When I do so, I look at my little to-do checklist that I’ve kept for ten years or so to try to keep me on track keeping the household neat. Some of the stuff is truly a to-do list rather than reminders to make my bed and stuff. Other stuff? I don’t do it that way any more.

  • Clear hot spotsHot Spots are a FlyLady thing — places where clutter tends to accumulate like counters and bare tables. *head scratch* I don’t have any. I have a place for everything. No kidding, I mean everything. I put it away when I’m done using it, whether it’s a pen, pair of scissors, or a laptop.
  • Declutter downstairs
    I used to spend ten minutes or so putting away stuff before going to bed. Don’t do that any more either. That place for everything? I put stuff away after I finish using it. Before I go to bed, I might put my laptop back in its place to charge and put my current knitting project back in its basket before going up to bed, if I were knitting or screwing around on the Internet before bed. We’re talking two minutes, tops. My phone lives in my pocket unless it’s on the charging station overnight, so that goes up with me.
  • Make Bed
    I used to think I needed a beepy reminder for this. The last couple of months, I’d turned off the reminder even though I left it on the checklist. *shrugs* Bed still gets made every morning. No, not to military bounce-a-quarter perfection, but I kinda don’t care, so I don’t bother.


If you don’t care about a neat house, you probably shouldn’t bother, either. I do this because I like it better and the ease of it has been a happy thing for me. What really is amazing me is that once you get the house reset, once you pare down your possessions to the point where you don’t have overflowing storage, maintaining it takes no noticeable time. I’m sure if we actually timed how long it takes to put each item away after its use, we’d be looking at a good ten total minutes scattered throughout the day, mind. But I don’t notice it.

What’s also interesting to me is that the easy storage also makes it easy for other people in the house to put things away. A good example of this would be our linens and cloth napkins.* We stored them in a drawer in the dining room hutch, but it was frankly overstuffed. Once we decluttered the storage areas and started storing the the items folded and stored vertically, even my husband, who tends not to be particular about storage, found it a simple thing to fold the same way and file them.

That’s a lot of why this is working. There’s no fancy or complex method here. Storage is not visually cluttered, and it is simple and obvious where everything should go. I guess that’s the whole “ask your house where things should go” part of the Konmari method, but I freely admit that I did not ask. When I started putting things away, because I didn’t have to play Possessions Tetris, it really was that simple.

I think I need to re-assess habits and routines and what they should look like, because I lot of the work I used to do has just been eliminated.

My mother’s method of keeping things tidy is, indeed, to just put it away when you’re done using it.  She doesn’t really use serious schedules, either.  When she sees it needs attention, she attends to it. I used to boggle at that.  But at a certainly level of tidy, I think I get the point.

* Some friends in Portland just use them casually as a daily thing to reduce waste. I was so impressed with the simple obviousness of it that I started imitating it.

Housekeeping Systems and Crab Bucket Behavior

I read up on housekeeping systems a lot. I was an extremely messy child, and over the years have learned to be neat. I suppose it could be considered to be a foolish and trivial thing to learn to do well, but in my defense, I’ve developed other skills, too. My focus on learning neatness ain’t as shallow as all that. It’s meant to serve other things in my life.

In reading up on various systems or routines, I notice a theme in the criticisms that bugs me a lot. Some facet of the system doesn’t work for the writer, so they then say the entire system is junk.

That strikes me as uncreative when I’m feeling charitable. When I’m not feeling charitable, the image of a bucket of crabs all pulling each other back leaps irresistibly to mind.

So, I wanna look at some criticisms of some of the methods and rules around housekeeping systems, talk about what I do and what I don’t and why.

Flylady first. She wants you to dress to the shoes in the morning. I actually did this for a while. The idea behind it is that if you get dressed and put on your shoes first thing in the morning, you’re putting your mind in “work mode.” Many freelancers will tell you that you’re only going to go so long working in your jammies before you get sick of the lack of boundaries between your work and your personal life and start getting dressed to work.

In my own experience as a homemaker and a freelancer, I think she’s right. I am certainly less likely to procrastinate Getting Stuff Done when I get dressed.

The shoes part?

I don’t do this. I don’t need it. I hate shoes.

Does this mean that FlyLady’s system is full of it? Of course not. For that matter, I am sure there are plenty of freelancers who get lots and lots of work done who do it in their jammies, too. I’m just not one of them.

The point is to try the system in good faith to see what works well for you or not.

The Konmari method has elements like this. She encourages people to empty their bags every night, and store the empty bags/purses only to fill them in the morning when they’re going out for the day.

I do this with my purse and it works quite well. My purse doesn’t accumulate crap like it used to, which is awesome and since I store my daily work things in a specific, easily-accesible place, it’s a matter of a minute to pack my purse for work.

My gym bag for my morning swims?

Not so much. I learned this the hard way. If I pack the gym bag in the morning instead of the night before, it is guaranteed I will forget something. Yesterday, I forgot my turbitowel for my hair. Not so big a deal, as I can use my bath towel to dry my hair as I am getting dressed. My hair just isn’t as dry when I go to put it up. This morning was a different story. I forgot my underwear. I wear a bathing suit under my clothes to the gym, since I am getting in the pool right away. This gives me the option of going braless and commando, or putting on clothes over a wet suit. I chose commando and a towel over my shoulders to hide my braless state.

But that’s two for two here. So, I found something in the system that doesn’t work for me. I pack my gym bag the night before.

Does this mean I won’t empty the bag every day when I get back from the pool? Nope. Leaving your stuff in a wet bag all day is a great way to get moldy goggles, towels, bathing suit and cap. I’m all good with emptying the wet crap out of the bag and letting the bag dry out during the day. But I clearly need to pack it the night before.

I could, of course, latch on to that one thing as a reason that the Konmari method isn’t a good one. The reality is that 90% of it does work well for me. (I don’t greet my house or thank my stuff for a good job, either). I picked what worked well for me, which I think is the core of the method — getting rid of a lot of your stuff, especially the stuff you don’t love and then designating an easy home for it, is a good one that works well.

I think that if one is going to criticize a method, it needs to be more thorough than targeting one little item in it and look at whether or not the structure of it works or not. Which most criticisms of housekeeping methods do not do and I have an uncharitable opinion why.

Konmari v. Flylady

In decluttering using the Konmari method, I am quite struck with the differences between it and the FlyLady methods of tidying. They’re both good; even if I find FlyLady a bit twee and Marie Kondo a little silly in her animistic attitude towards possessions.

The Basics of the FlyLady Method

Shine your sink every day before you retire for the night.

The idea behind this is to have some island of cleanliness and order to inspire you. Many people (*ahem* ME!) do have a bad habit of leaving random dishes in the sink rather than putting them in the dishwasher or washing them right away. The clean sink is supposed to help inspire you. Honestly? YES, walking in to a clean sink in the morning is helpful. (A clean kitchen is even better, but this is about starting small and presuming a great deal of clutter and disorder)

Get dressed to the shoes every day, even if you are not going to be leaving the house.

Sounds goofy. The idea behind it is that when your shoes are on, it puts your brain in work mode rather than lounge mode. If you’re dressed, did your hair and face (if you wear makeup) and are wearing shoes, you’re in Get Things Done mode.

There is some truth to this. I have on my personal to-do list today to declutter my sewing and knitting supplies. I did not get dressed this morning, it’s about ten and I am still in a purple caftan I really love to lounge in. So, my mind is kind of in screw around mode (writing this blog post is definitely screwing around rather than getting what I planned to do done). When I was working harder than I do now on my consulting business, no, I did not work in my pajamas! Putting on clothes and all does give you something of a psychological edge.

The shoes part? I don’t wear shoes in the house. I could put on slippers or something, but I don’t when it’s warmer than about 65 degrees. I don’t intend to change that. Never did. I just never felt the need to whine about it on mailing lists.

Have a morning routine and an evening routine

I do this. I love this. It helps. There some be a few (not too many) chores that bookend the day. For me, it’s making my bed in the morning, and prepping for the next day before I go to bed. I’m not organized by nature, but this helped me learn how to do so.

Break your house into zones and spend a week in each zone either detail cleaning or decluttering fifteen minutes a day.

This wound up not working for me. The idea is that detail cleaning can wait until you’ve decluttered, which has its point if you’ve got so much stuff you don’t need that you can’t get to the table to dust it.

I found that by spending fifteen minutes a day in each zone, I was re-doing a lot of things that didn’t need it and really avoiding the hard parts because I knew I’d be getting to that zone later on. This means that my clothes are actually organized, but I spent years before I decluttered papers and never tried to touch my books.

And I’m better at heroic effort rather than daily plodding. Do I need to learn a certain amount of daily plodding in my desperate attempt to pretend to be an adult? God, yes! I work on that, and I am better at it, but my personal preference is to dive intensely into projects. My house did look nicer using FlyLady. But oh, my closets and desk drawers!

Make sure you take baby steps.

Baby steps have their place, as does starting small. But at a certain point, you need to assess whether or not you’ve developed enough skill that those baby steps are really lazysteps.

I’m a swimmer. When I started, my workout was 450 yards. That was a baby step. My workout now is more like a mile. Baby steps were great for starting, but after a while, you need to get your full adult stride.

The Basics of the Konmari Method

Understand clearly why you are decluttering

I love this. It’s something that really gets missed. The assumption is that everyone wants a neat house so of course you’re going to spend all this time to have a showcase home.

That’s silly, when you think about it. What do you hope to get out of this project? Why do you want to do it? Ms. Kondo recommends that you ask yourself “Why?” each time you give yourself an answer until you get several layers down into why you want to have a tidy space.

It not only helps your focus for the job, which in the Konmari method is pretty big and dramatic. But it also will help you have an idea of when you are done rather than make it an endless project.

I actually stopped up short when I started asking myself why I wanted to do this. I was a very messy child and I always envied the girls in school with their neat desks, their perfect homework turned in with perfect report covers and pretty drawings on them. I envied the fact that their perfect handwriting got great grades even though for the most part they’d copied the answers to questions from the relevant paragraphs in their textbooks. My sloppy handwriting, but original content, wasn’t graded as highly and I resented it. I recognize now that neat presentation is important because it helps people get to that content and understand it more easily, but I didn’t understand the point at twelve.

In my mid-thirties, the priority and motivation shifted. I started associating clutter with some extremely bad times in my life. Neatness to me now means a kindly household where people and possessions are valued, and the neatness is a staging area to help the members achieve whatever goal makes them happy without baggage or unpleasant distraction. It means calm. It means order. It means abundance and creativity and living consciously and a safe place to return to after a serious challenge.

These days, my house is neat enough I wouldn’t freak if the tidiest person I know dropped in. I find creative work is easier to do without the distraction of a lot of visual clutter, which is why I keep it that way. I would not bother if I did not get anything out of it personally, since I spend a vast majority of my time alone, anyway. It’s been that way for several years, so why this intense decluttering of the stuff behind the closet walls?

I want it to be easy to maintain the neatness. When it is easy to put things away, you are more likely to do it. So, sheer laziness.* And I can even feel good about that.

Declutter all at once

Ms. Kondo is not a fifteen minutes a day baby steps kinda gal. In her opinion, when you declutter, you should do it all at once. This might be a period as long as six months, mind. I’m nearly done, I live in a four-bedroom house, and it’s only been a month.

The idea is that when you declutter, you’re pressing a reset button on your life and that the dramatic change will help reset habits. I was dubious about this one, but I have already done all of my clothes and my closet and drawers are as neat as ever.

Keep what sparks joy

Now, this isn’t really too different from what FlyLady recommends. She has a few questions to ask yourself when it comes to decluttering, but both of these women do strongly recommend asking yourself it the item makes you happy in some way.

Declutter by item category, not location

The idea behind this is several-fold. First, it is easier to tell when something sparks joy. The principle is that when you get everything in a category out and put it on the floor (no, really, you do!) – all of those things are by default going away. You’re sorting through it to decide what you want to keep. Holding something in your hand and asking yourself, “Does this spark joy?” is incredibly powerful when trying to decide what you want to keep. The psychological shift of taking everything out and putting it on the floor packs a subtle punch I didn’t realize until I got to the books. See, your mind doesn’t see stuff on a floor as being as valuable as stuff on a shelf. When you pick it up, that little sense of “Yes I love this!” is going to be a lot more accurate than if you leave everything stored on their valuable shelves.

The order Kondo gives is:

  1. Clothes
  2. Books
  3. Papers
  4. Komono (Miscellaneous. This has several sub-categories)
  5. Sentimental Items

You’re supposed to practice your sense of what sparks joy on things that are easier like clothing before moving on to harder categories like books, and then leaving sentimental items for last when you’ve built your intuitive muscle to its strongest.

Don’t Worry About Putting Things Away Until After You Declutter

I don’t know if she means I’m supposed to leave my house entirely in chaos until everything is decluttered in every category or if you put things away after you take care of a category. I did the latter, because I’m not going to leave my clothes and books on the floor for a month. Just ainta doin’ it!

But after you declutter a category, if you’re only keeping what sparks joy, I promise you’ll have a place for your stuff. It’s okay. I was wondering if I was going to need to buy one or two storage items in the process of my decluttering. It has turned out so far that I have not needed to buy a single thing.

A Final Analysis

I think in reviewing this (and giving it considerable thought while actually getting dressed, taking a break from writing this and actually decluttering my knitting and sewing supplies), that FlyLady is a lot more about household management, and especially helping the forgetful run their lives well. The Konmari method really is focused almost entirely on the tidying process and storage, while not really having a lot to do with household routine. I do have routines I’ve kept up with from the days when I was faithfully trying the entire FlyLady method, and I’m glad I did.

In my session with getting my sewing and knitting materials properly sorted by the Konmari method so that I can keep what I love, I am going to have to say that there is no way in the world I could have properly accomplished it in focusing on it in fifteen minutes a day. It needed a couple of hours and a decluttering all in one go. Doing one little drawer at a time doesn’t do what I really need: Give me that reset, and give me the space that I can put away what I keep with ease.

I think what method you choose might have a lot to do with whether you’re feeling overwhelmed or not. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, my word yes, nibbling away a bit at a time at an issue has huge positive results over a period of time. It lets you progress and can keep you from procrastination paralysis. If you’re feeling motivated and rarin’ to go, I think that going full bore until you’re done can work very well, indeed.

I don’t agree that you burn out from going full bore, necessarily, unless you take an all or nothing approach. If you only clean the bathroom to perfect spotlessness and never just take a simple swipe at it, yes, your bathroom can get pretty nasty between cleanings. If you give yourself permission to take the swipe, or clean to perfect spotlessness, you actually have a cleaner bathroom overall.

Aiming for perfection is fine. Saying “Perfection or nothing” isn’t really going to help.


* Well, in “The Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail” sort of way, anyway. (You can find the story in Robert A. Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love. It’s a cute story.)


(This post contains language that is not drawing room fashion at all. At all.)

There’s a housecleaning method that many of you may heard of called Unfuck Your Habitat. You could say it’s FlyLady, only not as twee, but that’s not entirely so. It’s really meant for people whose lives may or may not fall into the Husband’n’Kids scope that is most of Flylady’s demographic. This works as well for a teenager living at home as it would for a middle aged woman with that prescriptive Husband’n’Kids.

It’s also not quite as organized. Yes, yes, yes, there are routines that UFYH encourages you to follow, but they’re pretty basic.

Having tried out both methods, I’m going to say that I like one over the other depending on how much time I have to devote to the house. Flylady is for when I am working from home. I can do housework on breaks, I’m devoting more time to home care and in my Suzy Homemaker mode. It’s mode I enjoy, as I like doing the homemaker thing a lot, but it’s not nearly as good for my bank account as some others.

Unfuck Your Habitat is much, much better when I’m 40-50 hours a week in an office. Why? The routines are considerably more scalable to how tired I am one day or another. It’s based on the idea that you should work for 20 minutes, then take a ten minute break – Lather, Rinse and Repeat as desired until you’ve worked as much as you need/want to. UFYH calls this a 20/10.

There’s more of an element of random in it, especially if you buy the app. It’s been available for a while in iTunes, and was just released in Android format. Being an Android user, I was excited to try it out.

As I said, this is not housecleaning app for when you want a Master Plan. =Oh yes, I have and like them, but sometimes you’re too damn tired to think much, and want a little motivation to do a little something.

The app takes this into account with a choice of times for different random challenges.

For instance, you’re wandering around your cluttered, messy house, feeling yucky and low energy – not really into thinking, but really wanting to do something.

Random Timed Challenge to the rescue!

Friends, you’d be amazed at how much you can get done in a paltry five minutes and how motivating it is to see things finished.

And it gets better!

If you do five of these challenges, you can get a star!

Can this be a little silly and childish? Of course. Ideally, the Real Grownup sees what needs doin’ and does it, right?

Yeah, fine. You’re probably right. But deciding I wanted a star and doing five challenges in my kitchen got me a star and a clean kitchen without feeling overwhelmed about it, so who cares? The kitchen is clean.

But suppose you want to make a plan. There might be specific things you want to do on a given day. The UFYH app does take we planners into account, too, with My To-Unfuck List.

Yes, I really do intend to do these things today. And when you do everything on your list, yes, you get a star, too. Goofy, but it does kind of motivate.

The reality is that while a clean house is satisfying, if you’ve got a big mess, you can be overwhelmed. Both Flylady and UFYH have methods to cope with both the overwhelm and keeping it from getting too bad in the future. It really depends on what appeals to you. I like both and think both are worthwhile.

Oh, and buy the app if you’re into UFYH and have a smart phone. You’re supporting female developers. The development team, from the project manager down, were women.

Clean All the Things

I am not particularly neat by nature or general habit.

I am neat by taste. I like order. You can see the conflict, yes?

I do have some habits to take care of this adapted from Flylady. We do have a slightly different approach, but the goals are similar. We’re messy packrats who really would prefer to live in a neat home, and frankly made a pig’s ear out of the attempt for most of our lives.

Part of what I do is daily routine. (Make my bed the minute I get up, make sure the kitchen is cleaned up once a day, etc.)

Part of what the household does is weekly routine. Clean All the Things. (Declutter, dust, vacuum, change bedsheets, give hard floors a quick damp mop). Depending on how bad things are, this can take from 20 minutes to an hour. It’s not enough for white glove inspections, but it keeps the house from degenerating into chaos, and getting used to piles of clutter in corners to the point where we don’t even “see” them as we climb over them. I’ve lived like that and I didn’t feel good with it. Hence the change.

This week was definitely a 20 minute week, especially as my son and I did a very thorough Clean All the Things last week.

In fact, so much so that when I commented it was time to Clean All the Things, my son objected, saying the house wasn’t very messy. (It wasn’t). I said that he was right. The house wasn’t all that messy, so if we did Clean All the Things, it wouldn’t take very long. Neither would it next week. Stuff wouldn’t pile up. He still disagreed.

We took a vote1, and his father and I carried by a 2/3 majority, so All the Things got Cleaned.

I talk a lot about the mundane keeping up of stuff, I know. It’s something I never learned as a child. Not that no-one tried to teach me, mind. It’s just that it was really difficult for me to learn, and I didn’t even really see the value of it. I was into epics, for pity’s sake! Heroic effort, I could value, and get into. Moderate, patient, long-term effort? Not so much. It’s why being able to keep my house clean on a regular basis was such a victory for me and one I still reflect on a great deal.

Now, my pleasure centers still light up at the intensity of effort stuff, and I think that’s okay. I can pour everything into the few hours I’m in front of a class. That’s not hurting anything. In fact, it’s good. But then I need to go home and be patiently moderate about studying for the next class, writing the handouts, and dealing with the other aspects of my life.

I think the theme of this year is going to be learning to be moderately immoderate.

Though I swear, I thought you were supposed to have everything sorted out by the time you were in your forties?2 Goodness knows, my grandparents seemed to in their own minds. I wish I could ask them what they were working on personally (if anything) when they were my age. My parents had my brother and I to deal with. NO-ONE could possibly feel like everything was sorted with us as children. We were kinda challenging to rear.


1 Unlike many homes, that vote was not fake. If 2 out of the three of us voted not to Clean All the Things, None of the Things would have been Cleaned.

2 At least, it’s what I used to think at sixteen. Yes, I know, in many ways I’m mentally still a teenager. Stop laughing at me. It’s not nice to laugh at people who can’t help it.

Whose Job is the Housework?

“The guys just don’t feel the same way we do about the house. They don’t have the guilt that eats away at them.” Flylady in an answer to a letter about the Husband’s clutter.

Oh boy…

Here’s the problem.  Do you know why men don’t feel guilty if the house looks like shit?  It’s because quite often they feel it’s the woman’s job to clean the house.  You can’t feel guilty about something you feel isn’t your responsibility!

Now, as it happens, I am the one who takes charge of how the house looks.  There are several reasons, and yes, one of the reasons is that I’m the one who cares the most about it and I’ve made some life choices that give me the time.  But you know what?  If I had something else I was doing that I considered important[1], I would consider that the important thing to do.  I will, have and do react incredibly badly to the automatic assumption that having a uterus means that I’m the one who should automagically be in charge of how the house looks.  Lack of help cleaning up after dinner would have me quite disinclined to cook another single meal.   I haven’t the slightest problem with asking people to pick up after themselves, and consistent refusal to do so is definitely a relationship-killer with me.

But the guilt thing?  Friends, that’s some sexist socialization there.  Partnerships and equitability are one thing, but you wouldn’t establish a business partnership with the relationship  and responsibilities unexamined.  Why shoot yourself in the foot with your life partners?

[1] A book deadline, for instance, would mean that instead of me doing the lion’s share of the household chores, we’d be splitting housework up in thirds Or There Would Be Serious Trouble.


Drinking the FlyLady Kool-Aid

I think I’m developing a bit of a split personality about having drunk the Flylady Kool-aid.

On the one hand, I really do like the system quite a bit.   Between the routines, the decluttering and the missions I get in the email, the house looks nice and runs smoothly.  Anyone could walk in right at this second and I would not be embarrassed about how the house looks.

On the other hand, I’m tired of reading testimonials about how a product has changed someone’s life on a site about decluttering.  I’m sorry, but “buy more stuff” is seldom a good solution to a clutter problem, especially when clutter and hoarding problems are usually related to problems with shopping too much in the first place!

On the other hand (yes, I know, three hands.  When do I ever follow a system without adding my own twist?  Get over it)  I’m all for people creating successful small businesses.  I do have a bit of a squick at the idea that she’s selling stuff to people with clutter problems, but only a small one. I mean, the woman sells cleaning cloths, for heaven’s sake.  I might have made my own out of old towels rather than bought some, but it’s a reusable product that’s genuinely useful.

I certainly don’t tell my family Flylady loves us and wants us to have a clean house.  (Yes, some of the testimonials posts have mothers saying that they’ve said this to their children.  I find that creepy as hell). I don’t don’t follow the system exactly.  I am wearing slippers, not shoes. I don’t “bless the house”.  I dust and vacuum.  I don’t put in 15 minutes of “loving movement”.  I work out!  I certainly don’t have some picture of a Cheerful Fairy with a fishing rod and tennis shoes shaking her finger at me on some household appliance.   I look at my schedule and think, “Yep, I need to empty the dishwasher.”

Certainly if all twee nonsense works, it works.  If you need all that to get organized enough to suit yourself, you need it.  I sympathize with needing tools.  My mother, for instance, does not need a notebook or a schedule to keep the house clean. She just does it.  She doesn’t need a battle plan for something as simple and obvious as housekeeping.

And that’s where I get really weirded out.  People will write the author of the Flylady site to argue with her about her system.

Why why why?

You don’t wanna wear shoes in the house, don’t.  If your life wasn’t changed by buying a feather duster, that’s just fine.  If you like spending one day a week cleaning the house from top to bottom rather than using routines, that’s your call.  If you don’t want to worry about having a clean house at all, whose damn life is it, anyway?

You don’t need Flylady’s permission.

Though, I am unsubbing from the list because I’ve got what works for me, and I’m not that into reading commercials.

Flying Solo

I’ve been teaching my son to cook.  Tonight he made dinner by himself from a recipe, though he did have a bit of an issue with converting the rice recipe to more servings.

Still, the meal came out tasty.

But that’s not the story I wanted to tell.

See, I’ve been doing the Flylady system for awhile in my house.  Decluttering, Zone work, routines — all that smack.  It sounds goofy, but the house looks nice, so laugh all you want.

What’s even goofier is that I have a notebook for my household routines.  It’s a checklist of chores that need to happen every morning, early evening and before bed, as well as any zone work that needs to happen.  It’s a printout of a checklist in plastic sheet protectors, so I can just use dry-erase markers to check ’em off and wipe ’em off for the next day.  Laugh it up, but at least this means I get to detailed cleaning in each room.  I’m not naturally neat, and can ignore a pig sty for a long time (just ask my mother what it was like to raise me), so anything that works is really nothing short of a miracle.

I have it for myself, to keep me on track, but it’s on the counter in the kitchen because it also has the menu plan and the recipe book I’d written as a teaching tool for my son.

Tonight, the man of the house was cleaning up after dinner, and actually went through that checklist, sweeping the floor and things I don’t think are mentally part of washing the dishes in his eyes.

I hadn’t asked him to.  In fact, I’d assumed he hadn’t, didn’t look and just went to sweep the floor when he asked me if I’d looked at the checklist.  Since I do have the notebook mostly as a self-reminder, I didn’t give it a lot of thought.  Most of the kitchen cleanup had been done.  I just made coffee for tomorrow.

No, I don’t think a control journal (that’s what Flylady calls the household notebook), is going to make the household magic, and everyone will decide to be as concerned with keeping the house clean as the DCF.  It won’t.

And it doesn’t need to.

What is cool about it for my household is that it gives clear and rather impersonal guidelines for keeping the house clean and picked up.  Instead of a person constantly reminding, there’s this list that stays there all the time. Yeah, I know I wrote it.  That’s not the point.  It’s that what needs to be done and what gets done become impersonally clear at all times.

Now I’m lucky.  I live in a household of people that like to contribute.  I can’t imagine that if it were a household where people were upset with each other and didn’t mutually care about the condition of the home, nor mutually contributing to the pleasantness of the household that a control journal would do a damn bit of good.  So no, it’s not the magic a lot of Flylady testimonials like to put out there.

But it is a good tool.