This is the third installment in a series on the turgid and titillating subject of Home Management – how we’re all doing it (wretchedly or expertly) and why it should ring your bell as much as it does mine.
For Part 1 of the series, click here.
For Part 2 of the series, click here.
For people who maintain a general level of cleanliness by following an internal clock, the concept of scouring the internet for a comprehensive system that helps you not be supremely gross might seem beyond foreign. But for the rest of us, it just so happens that I LOVE scouring the internet for this exact sort of thing. And for that, you are most welcome. Here are the systems that I’ve used to try and get my household into some semblance of working order. I’ve succeeded and failed at them all, in turn, but here are the parts that worked for me and why you might want to check them out.
Flylady is a pioneer in web-based home management and decluttering. She’s grown an empire from humble beginnings, encouraging women to take control over the domestic realm one step at a time, starting with letting go of the ideal of perfection.
Flylady is super rad. She just is. She regularly dissolves into what she refers to as “purple puddles” on camera and she doesn’t care. And, dammit, the world needs more of this. Because it shows you that a blubbering mess can get her shit together and maintain her home – which by default means you sure as hell can hack it, too.
Flylady taught me about ditching the Big Perfect Picture and letting little things add up. This is where I got my thing for sweeping the kitchen. She has a system for keeping your sink shiny, and recommends you start there, but I can only maintain that about 50% of the time. Point is, small acts of progress spread like a plague. A desirable plague. When your bed is all made and looking spiff, it makes all the crap on the floor look extra crappy. And a voice within whispers, “It will take 30 seconds to pick that crap up.” So you do. And then the whole room looks awesome. Wa. lah.
Flylady taught me about not worrying when the whole system falls apart and you are back to being you again. When sputtering through a new system, it’s easy to throw the baby out with the bathwater, deciding you simply aren’t cut out for an elevated standard of living. Truth is, you have to work this shit out. You need to build habits, and practice them so they stick. Tailor them to fit your natural proclivities, so there’s less of a chance of it all going to hell. And when it does go to hell – because you get sick, or your hormones go especially berserk one month, or you fracking forgot to get bloody effing milk at the store AGAIN and you can’t deal and want to scream into your pillow for an hour – you can just let it go and start right back where you left off. Sweep your kitchen floor once you can bring yourself to look at it again, and get back in the saddle.
Flylady taught me what extreme perfectionism looks like. And it looks like my backyard. Perfectionism is a dirt wasteland brought about because the sprinklers put in by the previous owners weren’t water-saving enough. But we never had time to replace them to meet our (elevated, better-than-yours) standards. So we never used them. So the grass died where it was wont to. And thrived where it was some mutant Chernobyl variety blown into my yard on a Pacific storm. And this wasn’t ever mowed because there wasn’t enough time to do that and weed whack – and you can’t just mow, you can only weed whack and mow. Even if we’re only talking about trimming back tufts resembling those on a mangy dog. And because the whole thing looks like a compact plot of clinical depression, we don’t bother ourselves to pick up the dog ca-ca that proliferates. Ever. Take it from me: Ban perfectionism from your life. Good enough will do just fine. Just pick something and get it done already.
The emails. The god-forsaken, unholy amount of motherloving unending emails. That are formatted weird. And sort of hurt to look at. And that are purple. If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy learning the system, gleaning what works for you from it, and promptly unsubscribing because the sheer amount of emails to your inbox will drive you nuts. There is a single daily email, but it is super long and difficult to read. I can’t abide the emails. Just can’t.
It’s a little… cluttered. The product and personal testimonials were too much for me to handle on a daily basis, and the overall usability of the site isn’t that great. There are a lot of moving parts to the system and they aren’t presented in the most streamlined way. Ironically, it is a bit overwhelming to work through.
It’s a little feelsy. Flylady is doing very good things for a lot of people. She gets very deep into the emotional side of maintaining a home, and while I see how this is relevant for many people, it doesn’t speak to me. I am very clearly not her target market. Flylady wasn’t something I could bring up in conversation with most people I interact with daily. Which is a little weird. Occasionally, someone I know will “out” themselves by mentioning their Shiny Sink – but they’ll get all shifty-eyed and change the subject. Sike – actually, we’ll both jump up and down and clap our hands a little, and then we’ll start talking about how the emails made us unsubscribe.
I do what I want. The Flylady system relies on a Control Journal (which is a home maintenance bible of sorts that has everything in it you need to run your household… no pressure or anything), Daily Routines, and dividing your house into “zones” that correspond to sections of the emails sent daily. Being old and having to pay taxes and feed people dependent on you is an okay gig only because you get to decide what you’re doing that day and what time you go to bed that night. Dude, Flylady is telling me I need to dust my living room and go to bed early? Screw that right in the ear. I quit.
Actually called that, or UfYH for short. She is also rad, for very different reasons than Flylady. As you may have guessed. And I am not in her intended demographic, either. Sensing a trend here?
Relevant language. She drops F-bombs all over the place, which I feel lends an appropriate level of anger and passion to a subject that makes me feel angry and passionate. Her system is based on Flylady’s, but is updated in a lot of ways, many of which address the fact that most people trying not to live in filth are not stay-at-home-whatevers, and need systems that take into account overwhelming work schedules and stuff that sucks the life out of you. Not that staying at home with your whatevers makes keeping your house in check any easier – for the record.
Mobile phone apps available. Way better to me than email, for some reason. Some reason probably involving my sort-of peripheral-millennial status. And I find it super funny that Apple made them call it UnFilth Your Habitat. Rad.
Testimonials in the form of a prolific archive of before-and-after photos. People post photos of their disaster states, before and after the cleaning session prompts issued by the app. It can make your life seem normal, which sometimes makes you face the fact that you can, and need to, do something about your living room.
Relevant language. She drops F-bombs all over the place, which means you can’t really share this site with, like, the nice admin lady at work. Unless she’s like that. Which she probably is. So go ahead.
Mobile phone app. Still tells me what to do, and when to do it. The 12-year-old in me just called, UfYH. She wants me to tell you she hates your face.
Testimonials in the form of a prolific archive of before-and-after photos. Photos of people’s insanely fucked habitats were starting to call forth my inner asshole. A few “after” photos had me slack-jawed and all, “Well, that’s not clean… hey, cute bra. But you seriously need to get rid of, like, 90% of your anime figurine collection. How the shit can you sleep in there with all of that towering over your head? What if it avalanches and you die in that room?!? Hey, I had that same duvet in college…” Not nice. UfYH’s target market is people suffering from depression or disability advanced enough that they experience limited movement and have difficulty meeting basic living standards. I like her style, I like her mission, but again, not a great fit for me.
The Flylady system was so close to almost working for me (except for all the parts that were horrible), that I decided to look into the system she cites as the foundation for her ideas, from the book Sidetracked Home Executives by Pam Young and Peggy Jones. This is a pretty complex system that takes time and effort to develop – so I only recommend it to people who are really not joking about needing to get a serious grip on their home management. It uses a stack of regular old index cards that you label and file according to their instructions and use as a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly reminder of what’s in need of care around your house.
Maximum flexibility. Finally, a system that isn’t telling me what to do and when to do it. When a task comes up in the rotation, you can take care of it right then, or put it off up to three times (or, if you use my modification, until you start to hate yourself a little). I also like that you build the system from the bottom-up and you can add or remove elements as your life needs change. And it is very fall-off-the-wagon-friendly. You can let everything go to hell for a while, and just haul your sorry filthy ass back up on the wagon and try to look like nothing ever happened. And succeed, even.
Highly customizable. Standardized cleaning checklists raise my hackles. I don’t even know what’s happening here. They trip every negative self-esteem trigger in my brain, which I’m totally not used to. With this system, each task is something you’ve written and prioritized yourself, so the system reflects your specific needs instead of making you feel like high school trigonometry is happening all over again.
Uses introspective methods to dig into the work of creating the system. One of which is to ditch the complaining and excuses, and get on with it, already. And then it doesn’t revisit the emotional underpinnings of why you suck at maintaining your household ever again. It just matter-of-factly moves you through the steps of keeping your life in order.
Very portable. For me, any system requiring a huge-ass organizational binder with a million dividers in it is getting filed under “Pain in the Balls.” This system is compact and can easily be handed over to another person – so you can try to wrangle unsuspecting others into your special brand of compulsive mania.
Decidedly analog. Is this a Con? I don’t know. The system itself is a stack of index cards you keep in a file box, organized and color-coded according to the system outlined in “21 Essays to S.H.E.” You move through them, front to back, until you’ve come to the start of the stack again. Day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year. There’s no app for your phone. No emails to your inbox (halle-fricken-lujah). Also, the S.H.E. website is pretty… rudimentary. And a bit dated. As in, liberally sprinkled with posts from 2008. They have a newer site, www.makeitfunanditwillgetdone.com, which has a blog and more up-to-date elements. But the overall feel is still clunky and not very user friendly. I really wish someone would get their web developer mitts all over this thing and blow it out of the water… I feel like it could take over the universe. Or maybe just the First World. But we need to start somewhere.
Not for the faint of heart. This is the perfect system for someone who procrastinates by researching ways to stop procrastinating. As it turns out, you fiddle through all the little steps of setting this thing up, and before you know it, you have a complete system tailor-made to your household needs, you dive in, and stuff magically starts getting done. I live and breathe by fiddling. I’m a full-fledged fanatic fiddler. But if the thought of following a 21-day, step-by-step program for thoughtfully setting up a foundation in home management makes you want to retrieve the melon baller from your “To Donate” box and scoop your eyes out, this is the wrong system for you.
All the systems mentioned so far rely quite a bit on paring down your possessions. Less nonsense to clean means less time cleaning it all. Project 333 is specifically about creating a capsule wardrobe, and ditching all the other things in your closet that take up space and serve little purpose. Fewer items in your closet means less time ruminating over what to wear in the morning, less time folding laundry, and more freed-up storage space for all that crap lying all over your room that needs to be put away already.
Unmitigated, scathing simplicity. Project 333 allowed me to finally admit what I had been in denial about my entire adult life: I like wearing a black t-shirt and jeans. All the time. With no variation in any part of it. Ever. Except for special occasions when I will camp it up like a drag queen on speed. But other than that: Black t-shirt. Jeans. Maybe some sort of jewelry if I need to look “put together.” Project 333 has you pare down your closet to 33 items of clothing per season, INCLUDING accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes. Did that just make you spit your Manhattan all over your laptop? Then this isn’t for you. Move along. Me? Holy God, I was beyond motivated to do this. I seriously just needed an excuse to stop trying to infuse color into my life. Fuck color. I am a die-hard monochromista and I DON’T CARE. Project 333 is completely up my alley.
Unmitigated, scathing simplicity. (Again with the Pros and Cons being the same thing… but ain’t that just life?) I know most people could not, or would not want to, do this. We identify through how we present ourselves to the world, largely through fashion. The tools we use to craft our appearance are important to us, and most of us like having a wide variety of tools to select from. Even my husband thinks this is a bad idea. And he is the dudeliest of dudes as far as fashion is concerned. Homeboy buys the bulk of his wardrobe at Walmart. If you think this has “Con” written all over it, consider that.
Marie Kondo is the absolute shit. And I’m not alone in this opinion. She’s a delicate pixie-tigress of ruthless organization who has descended on my life to obliterate my compulsion for settling for the hand-me-downs and craaaaaap that lives in the wrong home: my home. And she is ridiculously cute to watch on YouTube. Like, painfully cute. God.
Um, you mean aside from all but promising you’ll lose weight, find your life’s purpose, and achieve spiritual enlightenment by following her system? The Konmari Method is supposed to get deep into your clutter issues by forcing you to face every single object in your house and decide if it brings you enough joy to justify its rent. Kondo claims that every client she’s ever had has stuck to their decluttered ways, and that their lives are revolutionized by their new, joyful and streamlined surroundings. I have only just finished reading her book – but, dude, I’m in. Way in. The dog is looking nervous, I’m so in.
Did you notice where I said every. single. thing. in your house? She’s not joking. She means you will be taking every item you own (according to categories laid out in the book, and in specific order to avoid too much overwhelm during your decluttering marathon), and deciding item-for-item whether it “sparks joy” or not. And then, after you declutter, you are to revisit your things and work out detailed ways of organizing like with like, all according to category and ownership. And you are to do this all at once, to create a clean break from your past hoarding habits – not bit by bit over time. This system is not for people who can’t liberate a few solid days from their schedule to declutter and organize.
It’s a little woo-woo. She talks a lot about the relationships we have with our things, and gets a bit into animism, describing how your socks need a rest after working so hard all day to protect your feet. I’m not big on this sort of thing, but I have been thinking a lot about how I live in a lifeless shell of a dwelling with no attachments to anything in it… so maybe I could use a bit of animism injected in my life.
What if there’s only joy? Or no joy at all? Exactly what “sparks joy” is somewhat vague in the book. But one of the reviewers I read described her relationship with her closet as completely joyous – even though it was crammed full, and overflowed through her house and into multiple storage units in different parts of the city. She may have been exaggerating a little. Or been completely bat-shit. But one of my fears preventing me from diving head-first into this system is that I’ll be left in a completely empty house, shivering and naked, save for my favorite red-and-gold-striped over-the-knee socks. Most of the things I own have simply landed in my lap, handed down from someone else when they decided they didn’t like them. I am a passive accumulator, and as such, I don’t get feelings of joy when I look around the room I’m sitting in. Per the Konmari System, that means everything goes. So what the fuck? Am I to get rid of my couch? My two pairs of pants? The other 31 items in my wardrobe? Shit, man. This should be interesting…
SO, if you’ve made it this far along in this monster of a post, thank you. What’s the take away here? That there are as many home management systems as there are variations of compulsive disorders? Correct. But also that there are ideas for keeping your life together that are tested and are online for your perusal – so rather than reinventing the wheel for yourself maybe take a spin around the ol’ web-a-roo and see what’s worked for someone else. The fact is, most of us haven’t been systematically taught how to do this stuff at the appropriate age. All we have is now, so why go the rest of your life without the skills required to keep your house in (sort of, relative, on-again/off-again) check? Your sanity will thank you. Sometimes.
Stay tuned for next week’s final (and definitely shorter) installment of Know What’s Sexy? Home Management, That’s What, where I reveal my secret weapon for keeping my household in relative order.
AND, leave me a comment below about systems you’ve tried – and why you’ve loved or hated them.
I love this shit. Hook it up.