By Mac Fife
Hello. I’m Mac, and I’m a recovering slob.
It’s not that I hate order. I walk into the beautiful, organized, color coded land of Target and say, “I want to LIVE here!” One peek at the planner/organizer aisle elicits a biochemical reaction similar to romantic arousal.
You see, most people automatically close cabinets when they’re open. I was born without that instinct. Most people don’t find it monumental to return the toothpaste lid to the tube. The thought rarely crosses my mind. Most folks pick up after themselves. I can barely remember to take things home with me from a friends house! (Bectoria knows this well.) And, while some slobs have a loving counterpart to enforce some semblance of order, the man I married is missing the exact same set of brain cells I am.
Folks like us tend not to notice the messes we’re making until they’ve overtaken the entire home. It suddenly seems like it would take DAYS to pick up! Overwhelmed, we procrastinate until we have time to do it “right”. While we’re paralyzed, the mess grows.
There was a time when we could almost NEVER allow guests in our home. (Stephanie, did we EVER invite you over when we were neighbors?) However, over time I’ve found ways to adapt in my weakness. Despite the dire condition I was born with, I’ve achieved a respectable quality of life! I’m sure deep down inside, I am, and always will be, a slob, but these days I am company ready in 15 minutes, keep food born illness out of my fridge, and maintain a walk-in closet I can actually, well, walk in! The transition didn’t happen overnight, but it’s not been the hopeless battle I once thought it was. I’ve narrowed it down to three crucial steps.
Step one: Be Kind to Yourself!
This first step is the trickiest, not just for me, but for everyone who tells me about their housework woes. When every show and magazine features perfect, never-messy houses, we feel inferior! If “cleanliness is next to Godliness,” do we have a moral issue?! Our born-organized friends make it more embarrassing. Their spaces are always tidy, while those who battle the same issues are often too ashamed to share. I remember the sinking feeling: I’m the only one, and nobody else can see how I really live.
Sometimes, we talk to ourselves with hurtful words we‘d never use on anybody else. This is no way to live! Let’s start here: You’re not lazy. You’re not lazy. You are NOT lazy… Okay, maybe you’re a little lazy if this is the first break from “Angry Birds” you’ve taken today, but I PROMISE you, laziness has nothing to do with getting good at keeping house. Don’t equate this challenge with moral deficiency. Self loathing is unproductive.
Most of our “laziness” is really just being overwhelmed. When I finally stopped hating myself, I was able to focus on fixing the problem!
Step Two: Work With Your Habits, Not Against Them!
I was that sucker spending fifty bucks when those nice looking wood charger stations first came out. With it’s black finish, brushed metal knobs, and velvety compartments for each electronic device, I would never look at jumbled power cords again! That was fine, until the power cords kept dropping back into their hidden compartment. Every day we would fish them out and thread them back through those tiny holes just so we could plug in before bed. Frustrated, we eventually left the whole thing open and disheveled. Today, it’s probably collecting dust in a Salvation Army Store, while a plain old basket holds our easily accessible mess of wires!
If the headaches that came with my phone charging station embodied all of housekeeping, I’m not sure I want to be tidy! Julie Morganstern’s book, Organizing from the Inside Out, changed my life in one major way: I stopped working for my home, and started making my home to work for me!
Some practical examples? If, like me, the toothpaste lid is an issue, don’t ever buy toothpaste that doesn’t have a lid attached! If a game controller is not wireless, it is no longer allowed in my home! My toddler never plays by himself in his room. Why would I store toys in the nursery? Get the picture?
I want to make my home the most convenient and beautiful place on earth! While the two are not mutually exclusive, we can sabotage ourselves with decorating. I remember when sitting in my living room involved throwing at least two to three pillows on the floor. The room was BEAUTIFUL, but sitting on the couch trashed the whole thing! Your décor can greatly aid your quest to keep tidy, or make it nearly impossible. (But don’t think throw pillows can’t be cute AND functional! I want this: http://www.engadget.com/2010/11/15/universal-remote-arrives-within-a-pillow-makes-channel-surfing/)
Step Three: Prioritize and Form Habits
I’ll admit, my house is tidy most but not all days! We’re okay with that. When things are totally wrecked, I still feel peace if three things are managed: The laundry, the dishes, and my family‘s meals. If these bases are covered, who cares if there’s toys on the floor?! It isn’t easy at first, but developing routines will get that stuff happening on autopilot. Imagine a morning where before the sleep fuzz is out of your brain, the bed has been made, the dishwasher has been unloaded, and laundry is already spinning in the washer! My hero, “The FlyLady” Marla Cilley, has made a career of brainwashing people like me to do the work automatically. The free brainwashing on FlyLady.net doesn’t happen overnight, but if you stick with it, you’ll be surprised how quickly things start coming under control!
My journey from slob to organista will be lifelong, but if you take anything from this post at all, know that anybody can eventually enjoy a tidy home… even slobs like me!