Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In which I will be shocked if anyone actually reads this whole thing, but I'm writing it anyway because it's cathartic

Instead of writing a presentation for my 5Pillars class last Tuesday like I'd planned, I organized my closet. 

Really down 'n deep cleaning, too. I went through my pajama drawer and threw away a bunch of ratty t-shirts and found some extra sports bras that I forgot I bought. They're pink.

The top of my dresser was next. It was one big jumble of Legos. Safety pins. T-pins. Coins. Love letters. Pictures, pictures, and more pictures.  A map of the Phoenix zoo. Clothes tags. Several pens. Receipts. Puzzle pieces. And quite a few old grocery lists. 

Basically my life in a 1x2 foot nutshell.

I moved on to the shelving. Pulled out all the winter clothes and folded them neatly into their bins. Made piles for Goodwill and several friends. Organized my shoes, and even threw out a couple pairs - one of them was broken beyond repair anyway. (I miss them already.)

On to the hanging clothes! I ordered everything. Lingerie, dresses, skirts, shorts, pants, tops. I found at least twenty empty hangers. There were several winter and maternity items still lurking between clothes - they got put away accordingly. 

When I was done, I sat on the floor and beamed up at the beauty surrounding me for at least ten minutes. 

Order. 

D&C 88: 119 is well known: Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.

Order has never been easy for me. I've always been a "throw it in that pile for a later day" kind of girl, and Later Day never arrived. My slovenly habits only worsened in college.

Of course, I've always been quite good at the whole facade thing. The front room - now that I can keep presentable. But open a drawer - a cupboard - a door? Chaos. 

And one day, I just got sick of it. 

I'd say it started about a year ago, right before the NBC was born. I assumed it was the normal (and short-lived!) "nesting instinct." I organized the junk drawer, catalogued the pantry, scrubbed out the bathroom cupboards and lined up the shampoo bottles by height. 

But then - I didn't stop

My organizational urge kicked up a notch a couple months ago. Papers are filed right away - instead of left in a pile by the phone. Magazines, once read, went straight to recycling - instead of junking up the space next to the computer. And - wonders!  - the Band-Aid wrappers were thrown away as soon as the Band-Aid was put on. 

I know!

For some of you, this "put it away, right away" response may be reflex already. For me, it has had to be learned.  Very, very   s  l  o  w  l  y.

I do not pretend to be an organizational expert. (I totally got stuck on orgjunkie.com the other day. It sucks you in, man. So many pretty baskets .....) But I have learned some things.
 
First step: decide what's important to you. Do baseboards drive you crazy? Do you like your clothes crisp and well-ironed? Or are you perhaps someone who needs their windows crystal clear at all times? 

(I am none of these things, bytheway.)

Divide your "important" list into three priorities - daily, weekly, or monthly. You can even have a bimonthly or semiannual list - whatever floats your yacht.

Next, WRITE IT DOWN. I have all my cleaning chores written on 3x5 cards. They are organized and divided in a little tupperware container that used to hold deli ham. I just pull them out on the corresponding day and do what it says.

For me, this is what my mornings look like:

  • 5:00AM The alarm. I wake up. I head to Maria's and we sweat it out and laugh it up.
  • 6:15. Home. Scripture study. Prayer. Spiritual rejuvenation.
  • 6:45. Shower. Get dressed - to the shoes and earrings! Feel awesome. 
  • 7:15 Kids usually up - start breakfast, get 'em dressed, make beds and brush teeth.
  • 7:30 Empty dishwasher. I am a firm believer that happiness is directly related to a clean sink.
  • 7:30 - 8:30. Alternately be with kids and:
    • Clean up breakfast. (Which includes sweeping.)
    • Make lunch.
    • Wipe down kitchen counters, stove, microwave, fridge, as needed.
    • Wipe down bathroom counters and toilet. Teeth brushing is amazingly messy.
  •  8:30 Kid scriptures and prayer. Morning bike ride as we take Little Prince to school. Shut the door behind me knowing the house is clean. 

Mondays are laundry, grocery shopping, and "recover from Sunday" days. No play dates, no visits, no responsibilities. Just me and the kids. And laundry.

Wednesdays I do a "quick dusting" with my feather duster. I always feel like I need red lipstick and heels when I use that thing. 

Fridays are the bathrooms. I can clean all of them in an hour, if I do it during nap time. I also wash sheets and towels.

Saturdays are vacuuming,  furniture polishing, and "extra chores."

Extra chores are as follows:
First Saturday - Spot the family room/kitchen walls. Dust fans. Clean inside of fridge.

Second Saturday -  Windowsills. Spot living room walls. Dust plants.

Third Saturday - all the wainscoting woodwork in the living room.

Fourth Saturday - Spot hallway/bathroom walls. Behind and under living room couch. On top of fridge. Inside stove.

Fifth Saturday and/or combined with Fourth - clean pantry and/or laundry room as needed. 

The kids alternate between scrubbing tubs, windexing the windows and back door, watering plants, and vacuuming the stairs. They are also responsible for keeping their rooms and the basement clean. They pride themselves on their work. If you ever visit my house, please compliment the stairs.

Second tip - find a place for everything.

I have found that most of my junky places (the counter next to the phone, the computer desk, and the top of the dresser) are filled with items I don't know what to do with. Decide NOW where everything goes. Then stick to it.

Third tip - Proactivity.

Our family cleanliness motto is "put it away, right away!" If you see a wrapper, put it in the trash. If there's a spot on the floor, clean it. If the lightbulb needs changing, change it. Soon doing it "right away" becomes second nature. (It took me about four months.) The more you put it off, the more you agonize over it, the more difficult it will be come! 

Fourth tip - Maintenance is the easiest path.

After every meal, we wipe down the table, chairs, and all kitchen surfaces.  This includes the microwave, stove, and fridge. These are excellent areas for kids to be in charge of.  Spot mopping the kitchen floor is also a daily chore. Daily maintenance is a thousand times easier than less frequent germ annihilations. 

The final tip - patience.

 I've learned that organization and cleanliness is a process. We strive for a "manner" of organization -  not a "state." At this very moment, the inside of my kitchen appliance cupboard is covered with toaster crumbs and a mysterious black sticky goo that I think used to be hot chocolate. My sewing supplies are all in a jumble, and opening the closet on the back patio may be hazardous to your health. 

That's okay.

The point is, you will never be done organizing. You will never have a home that is perfectly clean. Because you live in that house. You're creating life in that house. That house is a living, breathing friend of yours, dynamic, cultivating personalities and enriching relationships. 

Now.
As I put my house in order - my physical surroundings - it is inevitable that my thoughts turn inward. Cleanliness is a habit. And it doesn't just apply to our address.

In the  process of expunging my home, I can feel myself mentally sweep up the piles of information in my head. Put that piece of juicy gossip back on the shelf where I found it. Dump that unkind thought in the trash. Vacuum up frustration. Dust away anger. Get down on my knees and scrub out the impatience.


First tip -  Plan. Prioritize what it important to you, spiritually. What virtues are most dear to you? What are you doing to work on them? Decide on a plan to develop those characteristics and write it down.

  • 6:45AM Personal scriptures
  • 8:30AM Kid scriptures
  • 12:00PM Read Ensign over lunch
  • 5:00PM Listen to general conference as I make dinner
  • 6:30PM Family scriptures and prayer
  • 10:00PM Couple prayer

Go to the temple. Weekly date night. Read the Relief Society lesson. Take the sacrament. Serve. Love. Repeat.

These daily - weekly - monthly rituals keep us focused and fresh. Within them peace can be found.

Second tip - find a place for everything. This is something I'm still working on.

Designate a "temple spot" in your house. Keep this area sacred to you. This is where you go for personal ponder and prayer. You may want to keep a picture of the Savior and/or temple there. Tell your children that this is your temple spot - please whisper when passing by. Even when everyone else has the flu and the entire house is a wreck, make sure your temple spot stays clean.

Third tip - proactivity.

Decide - now! - to just plain do what we're supposed to do. Don't participate in that gossip circle. Flee from tempting internet time suckers. Put down the book that introduces unclean thoughts. Be proactive about your mind and spirit.

Fourth tip - Maintenance is the easiest path.

Scriptures, prayer, Family Home evening, temple attendance. They're so easy a Sunbeam knows that those four things are the answer to virtually every question. But that's because it's RIGHT. We feel good when we do the right thing. So why not keep doing it?

And finally - patience.

We're going to mess up. The best of intentions are ruined by the most human of happenings. Just like your daily cleaning ritual may be interrupted by a particularly clingy two-year-old, your attempts at Christlike patience may be disturbed by the same source. That's okay. Loosen up. Be flexible. Don't get down on yourself for not being the perfect wife or perfect mother or perfect woman. Heavenly Father knew what he was doing when he entrusted us with a bunch of little kids. The Atonement is for them, too - to fix all the wrong things we do to them! It's okay. Loosen up. Have patience with yourself and trust to the Lord to sanctify your efforts.

'Domestic goddess' has become a catch-phrase of today's society, but isn't that truly what we are? Goddesses-in-training? And what better way to learn to be divine than in our own little kingdoms here on earth.

And right now, in my closet? It feels absolutely celestial.

16 comments:

Kristen said...

Happiness is TOTALLY related to a clean sink. I agree.

I love this post (and got lots of great ideas). I am in the process of doing one cleaning project a day for my "spring cleaning". Whether it's cleaning a closet, cleaning out the fridge, or wiping down walls... my house WILL be clean soon. :)

Great thoughts.

Sarah said...

Read it all, loved it (no surprise there, my dear), and now I think you should tweak it a tad and send it in to the Ensign. More than just my fellow blog addicts need this.

Melanie Jacobson said...

I need to put it away, right away. That would make such a big difference around here.

One small thing that does help me is what I call the Rule of Five. When I start to feel overwhelmed by the mess in any single room, I make a point of picking up or putting away at least five things in that room any time I enter or leave it. It's amazing what a difference that makes.

Jill said...

Thanks for this! I feel myself on the cusp of "getting it" and I appreciate the image of organizing my thoughts and feelings in a like manner. You are becoming a friend whose "visits" I look forward to regularly. <3

Happy Mom said...

I'm still firmly in the put-it-in-a-pile-to-take-care-of-on-a-later-day-that-will-never-come category (dashes are annoying to type!)

But you give me hope. You actually changed categories??!!! That's a beautiful thing!

Wonder Woman said...

Sounds like the person you used to be is quite similar to the person I am now. And that's comforting.

I've seen the notecard thing before. I think I need to try it. I'm not a list person, or a particularly organized person, but when I DO make a list, it helps me stay focused and I generally accomplish what's on the list.

Thanks for this, Girl. And, bytheway, I also think you should send it to the Ensign.

Rachel Sue said...

Our cleanliness motto is "Put it away, WHERE IT GOES." My children have yet to realize that throwing the brush up the stairs does not equal being put in the bathroom drawer.

I am where you were about 4 months ago. My closets aren't quite a disaster, but they aren't great, either. That pretty much sums up my life. It isn't a disaster, but it isn't great either. I should print your list and hang it all over the house too, because I know EXACTLY what I should be doing, I just don't. And I don't really have any excuses either.

Anyway, after that lovely ramble, I'm glad you wrote this. And I agree with Wonderwoman. You should send it to the Ensign.

Marcia said...

I read a book a while ago that suggested something like that note card system. I tried it a while. Then I tried FlyLady. Man, she drove me nuts! Now I make my slaves *a-hem* I mean, darling-children pitch in here and there. But we all know that's really more work for Mom in the long run. *sigh*

JBSquared said...

Read it all. Loved it. Have had this same topic on my mind for the past several months, and I'm still in that "don't know where to start" stage. Your story gives me hope. Thanks for sharing. :)

Erin said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your process. I need to do this myself. Some things I'm good at (listening to conference or Sherrie Dew while I clean) and something I'm better at ignoring (laundry).

And yes, I also get sucked in to orgjunkie!

Kimberly said...

I'm actually going to read this a few more times, because I am SO in this place right now. My house is very weird at the moment because the cupboards and drawers are PERFECT and the floor is sticky.

Must...find...balance...

Must read Becky's brilliant post over and over again...

Caroline said...

Forget the organizing tips, I'm still stuck on the part where you say you own winter clothes...in Arizona!?!? ;)

Oh and I'm totally using all of these helpful hints. Love you!

Qait said...

Not to be the pessimist, but there's an extreme at each end! I used to go so crazy with the "put it away, right away" thing that I would pretty much run around my house like a chicken with its head cut off (such a useful little phrase), grabbing everything the instant I saw it...
I love these tips, though! The patience part is key; you've got to step back and remember that life still has to happen!
I agree that you should send your list to the Ensign. It's beautiful. :)

Julia said...

I read it all and thank you:) I love being organized but never am. I think I can use some of your tips.

Bridget said...

Great tips! There is just one thing I don't understand: HOW IN THE WORLD DO YOU GET UP AT 5 AM?!

Nikki said...

I read the whole thing. And I loved it. every. single. word. What an inspiration you are Becky!

I've saved it to my favorites. I'm going to need it to help me train.