Frustation. There are many causes but one is sure to drive me to it faster than anything. Clutter, disorder, uncleanliness. Pick one, any one, and my blood pressure rises regardless of whether I actually notice it. It’s funny, after many years of marriage, I have learned to tune out the sight of things that annoy me but I can’t tune out their effect on me. Tonight I was especially unsettled. Eventually, I pinpointed the problem and decided to ignore my heart and lungs and DO something about it.
Ten minutes into my pick up job and I was winded, heart racing, and confused. Usually, no matter how bad the room is, ten minutes is more than enough to have a clean and cheerful room. I spent twenty minutes and it’s still a contender for disaster movie of the year. I scratched my head, grabbed my laptop, and sat down. I looked around the room and tried to ascertain the real cause of my discomfort and disorder. The answer was so simple I almost laughed.
Then I started thinking. I frequent two message boards and occasionally visit two or three others. At any given time you can find a post that originated within the past week on one of those boards about how we “get it all done”. I don’t like those posts. They bother me. You see, if you answer the question forthrightly, you sound like an arrogant prig. If you admit to struggling to accomplish your daily tasks, you leave others with a negative impression of home schooling, large families, or home businesses and similar things. Not exactly what you had in mind. If you strive to show a balance. Show that there are days when it seems like nothing got accomplished but that there are just as many highly productive days, you appear to be a wishy washy mealy mouthed Melanie Wilkes with no backbone.
So, no matter how much you desire to be transparent enough to help someone, you know that whatever the truthful answer for you, it won’t be acceptable. You’ll be called to defend it on some score, and let’s face it. That gets really old sometimes.
What does this have to do with tonight? Well… I’m glad you asked. You see, I was sitting in the recliner, gasping for breath and rubbing my chest, my eyes crossed trying to figure out why a quick job wasn’t quick. I could see taking 20 minutes to do a job that usually didn’t take more than ten when you’re ill. But twenty minutes to do a job and you can’t tell a difference was made? That’s bad.
As I pondered the great meaning of life (isn’t housework what that is all about?) I suddenly felt foolish. I knew why the room was still a perfect set for a crime scene on Monk. It’s the same reason why some people can accomplish double what others can and has nothing to do with natural ability.
You see, when I first got married, I was an inept perfectionist. I remember cleanign my room as a girl. Mom and dad would tell me to clean it and I’d go in and start with the drawers. Then the closet shelves. Then I’d do under the bed, in the cabinet, all my shelves.. I’d work and work until there was a huge pile in the center of my bed. It took triple the time of just doing what mom and dad required but I never could. The room felt dirty if I knew my socks were jumbled with my underwear. They needed to be in separate piles or I couldn’t honestly say the room was clean. Pathetic, I know.
So when I got married, imagine my frustration when I realized that I couldn’t clean house that way. I mean, you can’t empty all the kitchen cupboards daily and then scrub and organize them and put everything back before you do the dishes! Some days the dishes would sit while I avoided them. I didn’t understand what my problem was back then… I do now. Once I finally got past that, I just knew housecleaning/keeping would be a fast brisk breeze.
It took a while but my next revelation was stuff. Most of us have too much of it. Combining two households with all the showers that come with a marriage meant an abunance of stuff. We purged. For YEARS we purged. We received lots of hand-me-downs. It took me a while to realize that no matter how great something is, it isn’t great for YOU if it’s a burden to take care of.
If it takes longer than 10 minutes to straighten any room or if your closets are a pile of jumbled stuff, you probably have too much stuff for your space. Do you need six 13×9″ pans? Do you use four angel food cake pans? (I own six or seven and use them all when I use them) How about clothes? You don’t wear four sizes at once… if you really do fluctuate that much between sizes, how about choosing every other size? Get rid of the size 8’s keep the 10’s get rid of the 12’s and keep the 14’s. At least do it until your body chooses a size. Do you have craft supplies that you’ll never use? How about craft suppies that you won’t use for a LONG time? What about just too much of the same thing? Do you need all of your yarn? What if you got rid of those 20 skeins that you really don’t like. You don’t have to knit them up just because you have them. Make room for skeins you do like! The same goes for fabric, patterns, paint colors, scrapbook stuff… the list is endless.
I could go on almost forever. Stuff takes up room, lack of space makes the care and keeping of a house difficult, and so often it’s all things we don’t want/need anyway. Do you have sentimental knicknacks that you don’t like but someone dear gave to you? Take a picture of it, of you with it, and give the gimcrack to someone who really wants it. In today’s scrapbooking society, we can take SHELVES of “things” and put them on just a few pretty pages journaled with why they were important to us.
The next move I made was learning to put things where I’ll replace them. If my mail was always in one drawer, I quit trying to keep it in a carefully filed system. I simply cleared the drawer and made cleaning it out a bi-weekly event. It wasn’t worth fighting my own natural inclination. I didn’t have time to retrain myself in a “system”. Maybe some day, not then. The same was true of where I stored the broom, the fabric, the shoes, the jackets… Things needed to be put where I would actually put them away. It may be true that if the spatula belongs in the garage, on the left of the dryer, top shelf, behind the untouched laundry soap that I should always put it there regardless of the inconvenience. This may be very true. However, I know me. I won’t put it back there. I will, however, stick it in a crock on the corner of the counter. Guess where the spatula is stored?
I’ll never forget a particular time we cleaned up for unexpected company. Friends called and asked if they could come over. Of course, we said yes. They live five minutes away and have several children so it took at least five minutes to load them up. We called the kids in and said, “Get a move on!” They did. We did. And in less than ten minutes, the house was clean. We were actually sitting around waiting for our friends to get here. For years before that, if someone called and the house was a mess, we were still frantically throwing things in closets, unseen rooms, and in laundry baskets with a blanket on top when the knock came on the door.
What was the difference?
- We had less stuff to mess with. Fewer clothes, toys, books,- well, ok so not books- and other things to put away in the first place.
- We had a place for all that stuff to go!
- Because of one and two, it was done regularly so most things were put away already.
Everyone just put away what they were working on when the call came, a few stray things that we didn’t notice, washed the few dirty dishes or filled a sink for them to soak, and voila. Done. It made such a huge difference in our lives. Mom could get the flu and the whole house didnt’ fall apart.
So what does this all have to do with getting it all done? What does it have to do with the posts about how we can accomplish everything as wives, mothers, and teachers of our children? Everything. And nothing. Depending on a few things.
First, what is everything? I’ve heard the definitions… “nutritious meals, clean house, nice wardrobe, completed school, hobbies, field trips…” Well the problem is, that you can’t define those things generically. One person’s idea of “nutritious meals” is everything baked from scratch from organically grown (and hand milled) foods. It is growing most of your own food and eating it year round. To others, nutritious meals means you didn’t make it from a box. There is a vast difference between dinner with home baked home ground bread and dinner with healthy bread baked for you and purchased at the store. A difference of at least an hour of time. One isn’t necessarily better or worse than the other but it is DIFFERENT and means a usage of time.
The fact is, no one does it “all” in one day. The Proverbs 31 heroine didn’t do everything she did in a 24 hour period. One day I might do all the running around type things that seem impossible on days when I’m busy making dresses and diagramming sentences. You can’t look at each day and expect that everything that can be done will be done on that day. It won’t work. No one can and no one does do “it all” (however you define that) every day.
What CAN happen is that you can accomplish more with what you do when you learn to make your movements “second nature”. I firmly believe this is the difference between high productivity and low. I can sew three times what most people can in the same amount of time because I don’t have to think about my movements. They’re second nature. I know instinctively that I need to pick up the collar next, gather the sleeve, attach the cuff… I don’t have to look at instructions or debate when to do what on 90% of all of my sewing. The same is true of cooking. I don’t have to pause to read a recipe. I just do it. I’ve made these things such a part of who I am and what I do that I dont’ have to think about them. The same is true of house cleaning, educating the children… Some parts of life need to be on auto-pilot.
So… if you’re trying to get more done in a day, do a few things.
- Get rid of stuff. Lots of stuff. Make stuff your enemy. Keep what you need, all of what you love, much of what you like, but kill everything tht is just “there”.
- Give your stuff a home. It needs a place to call its own. Make sure the home is in a neighborhood you enjoy. (In other words, don’t move your favorite things across town just because it’s ‘nice’ over there. Put your stuff in homes where you can “visit” them regularly and then send them home. If you move them too far away, you might find that your stuff never goes back home.
- Repetition. Do whatever you do, over and over and over until you can do it in your sleep. Take one thing at a time and just do it every day, many times, until you don’t have to think of the steps. Then move to the next. Make every activity that you do often, so familiar that it becomes second nature.
Oh… and in case you were curious… my living room was evidenc of all three things. I have too much stuff. I haven’t been purging like usual because I’ve been living in a chair. You forget to keep up routines like that. Once I purge my life of extraneous stuff, I’ll lose 1/8-1/4 of the mess in this room.
Second, because of my chair boundness, I also have stuff in here that I do want to keep… but it doesn’t have a home in here. My smocking supplies don’t belong in the living room. They belong in the garage. However, I can’t store them out there because I can’t go get them everytime I need them. So, they need a home in my living room for the time being. Now that I know this, I can do something about it.
And finally, once my homes are set up (and I already have done half of it) I need to make USING those homes “second nature”. I’m already getting so much more done (As you can see from my Eclectivity blog) just because I adjusted my home to accomodate my illness.
You can accomplish so much more than you think you can when you are efficient with the time and space you own.
Make everything second nature.