Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Why Cleaning is Like Dieting

Everyone knows the secret to losing weight. I did it this way, so stop whatever you're doing, do it my way and you'll be skinny. Eat less. Exercise more. No carbs. All meat. No meat. Go vegan. Go raw. It's your fault your fat, you just need to do what they tell you.

If you are either a slob or have a hoarding OCD, you get the same crap from people all day long. Just throw everything out. Once it's clean, just maintain it. Everything has a place. Pick it up now, not later. What's your problem, just do what they're telling you.

Yeah. Because it's just that easy.

What it comes down to is that we're all wired differently. And what works for people that are capable of keeping their homes spic and span without breaking a sweat is not going to work for us cleaning challenged people. It just doesn't. Neat People, take a deep breath, don't say "But..." Really and truly, it's not that easy for us.

So I've created for myself a plan that I will not try to convince anyone will work for them. But I'll share it with you in case you find something amidst my new found plan that might work for you.

  • Trial and Error. You buy a box, you put a specific group of stuff in it. Then all the crap you put in it winds up back on your coffee table and not in the box. Don't keep trying to coerce it back into that box...it doesn't want to be there and you'll wind up with the same results. Round them up and find them a new home as many times as it takes to relocate them. Eventually you will find the right place for them to be in.

  • Clean Up Should Be Easy. I had a big plan about building a shelf for my daughter's stuffed animals. Above her window so she can reach it from her loft bed. The more I thought about it, I realized she was never going to carry them back up and put them up there...it would take forever. So instead I threw a couple of bins on the floor next to the loft. Now she can easily toss them in from the floor or from her loft after a tea party. Not neat, pretty or perfect...but it works!

  • Specialty Containers Don't Work. I know the Container Store looks so pretty. I know IKEA sells lots of inexpensive options. Heck, even the dollar store is apt to have containers just right for what you need. Don't buy them. Seriously. Just don't. I bet that you already have plenty of containers. Use them. And if you don't have enough, it's because you have too much stuff. See the suggestion below.

  • Throw it Out. Seriously. I know it's hard. But organizing things is good. Organizing crap you don't need isn't...why? Because it will never really have a home ever and will always wind up cluttering up your house. Force yourself to throw aways things that you don't need. If it makes you feel better, freecycle it, donate it, or sell it on ebay. I have a chair who's cushions are mangled. It's over thirty years old. I was going to fix it...why? I have no place for it. It's killing me but it's going out on garbage night. You have to learn to let things go. It gets easier the more you do it, I promise.

  • If You Can't Throw it Out, Use It! If you're a hoarder like me, then you understand this. I needed to use a wire tie today, but almost didn't because I thought I should save it for when I really need it. I've had these wire ties for years...I'm talking over twenty years. You're saving it to use it, so use it. Maybe there'll be some better life or death moment to use it, but I doubt it. Just use it already. If you get absolutely nothing else out of this, I hope you're using the stuff you're holding onto.

  • If You Can't Throw it Out, At Least Make it Organized Chaos. Clean house people will tell you to throw things away as if it's some magical notion you never thought about. If you have a hoarding OCD, your brain will actually fire off pain receptors when you throw away stuff, so don't feel like crap because it's hard for you to do. A big problem is the theory that whatever it is, is still good and you're going to xyz it. Well, get some big boxes, those huge ziplock bags or a shelf in your basement and designate it to be freecycled or ebay-ed. If you plan on donating, put it in your car and as soon as your truck it filled, go drop it off. Sure the crap is still in your house, but now it has a home somewhere.

  • Stop Banging Your Head Against the Same Wall. For many years, I've tried to get my house cleaned based on what I thought I was suppose to be doing...much like my efforts to lose the baby weight. And guess what? I got the same yo yo not very effective results. If the methods people tell you are suppose to work, don't work for you, then stop doing it. Find out what works for you. Keep trying new things. Eventually you'll find your grove.

  • Don't lose faith. And don't lose your mind over this. Sure. You might feel better if you're house was cleaner, but don't stop living to do it. Let your kid fill your house with artwork. Play with the playdoh. Paint without inhibitions. Your kids are only kids for a little bit. Don't trade off your happiness for an ideal other people want.

But don't stop trying. You don't want your kids to be embarrassed to bring their friends home. And you don't want the legacy you leave you kids to be a house full of crap no no wants. You can do it. We can do it. One day, some day, eventually. We'll figure it out together.

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