This week, we're going to talk about something that you may not really think of as related to self-care. The degree to which it affects you may vary, but we’re all impacted by it to some extent. It’s our physical space.
How our environment looks and feels to us can help or hinder our mood and our goals. The visual and physical messes and the feelings that can bring up can be dramatic. When we have piles on our desks or on our countertops or just general clutter, it can definitely increase our stress and decrease our motivation because it can feel very overwhelming, and it can make us feel like we’re failing, especially if we're already stressed. Of course, that can then impact us in other dimensions of our lives.
For example, if the kitchen is dirty, we're less likely to cook a healthy meal or go to the grocery store for fresh produce. Instead, we likely eat something that we have laying around that maybe isn't the best choice, or we get takeout which may not be ideal for our budget or for our health. I'm not always the biggest fan of cooking but I am much more motivated to do so when I'm starting off with a clean kitchen.
Moving on to time, we waste so much time hunting for things that get lost in the clutter. Have you ever felt the frustration of looking for a favorite shirt or pair of pants, and then realizing that they haven't been washed? Or maybe they're laying in a pile somewhere wrinkled because I know that for some of you, maybe washing the clothes isn't such a big deal, but you hate to fold them or put them up.
If you’re like so many women, myself included, who sometimes feel like there is no way to get, or stay caught up, on housework, check this out.
I tried to sell my husband on the idea of hiring a housekeeper to come in and clean regularly. My thought was there are people who do that for a living and are going to do it much better and much more efficiently than I am, and why not spend my time doing things that I am more gifted at? He was not on board with that. Instead, we agreed to go back to our previous system that had worked pretty well - we’re going back to Flylady.
Now if you're not familiar with Flylady you can check her out at www.flylady.net. Some of the stuff may be a little corny, but it really changed my life years ago. “Flying” stands for Finally Loving Yourself and when I first discovered her, I didn't necessarily see it that way. But now I believe that taking care of yourself, and your home, is an act of loving yourself and loving your family. She focuses on routines and talks about a “weekly home blessing” instead of weekly cleaning. The activities are the same but the mindset is different. And that can make it feel different. Her program walks through Baby Steps, which are simple things that we can do that enable us to add them in gradually and form a good routine.
Honestly, when I first started doing it, I didn't really grasp the routine part and I thought of it as a checklist. And here's what I figured out. The checklist, yes, it's nice because you have all of these things that you want to do, but then you're still going back and forth and consulting the checklist and making sure that you've done everything.
With a routine, however, you do step one, then step two, step three, and step four. And the point of all of that is not only to get the things done, but you eventually come to a point where you can get the job done without much thought. It becomes very automatic. Not only does that allow you to get it done in less time but it frees up so much mental space. There are not a lot of decisions to make. You don't have to decide, “okay, which thing do I want to do first?” Instead, you know: “I do this and I do this and then I do this.”
You likely have some things at home or work that you do routinely at least most days, but think about other things that you can sort of automate. Yes, you're still doing them, but you don't have to put much thought into it beforehand. You just do it.
My stepmom is a great example. There are things that she just automatically does that she doesn't even realize that she does. Her house is always and I mean always company ready. Clean, no mess, no dust, but very comfortable and inviting. Even when she was working full time and was very involved in church and other activities, they still always had time to visit with people and just relax and enjoy themselves. And I think that most of that can be attributed to the routines that she had in place. (And also the very small amount of time she spent on TV and social media, but that's another subject.)
So getting back to daily routines, they can all be modified to fit your own needs and life stage. This is something that I am still working on because my life has been very different with being out of town, working nights, and so on. But by the time you read this, I will be back home and implementing my routine, and part of that is going to be focusing on what I want my mornings to look like.
I believe that's part of what needs to fit into your plan for having a space that you can be comfortable in. What do you want your days to look like? Or what do your days currently look like? There are some things that are likely non-negotiable, such as if you work outside the home or if you have kids that are in school. There are certain times that can’t change. But if you are someone that is retired or works for yourself, or have some flexibility with that, that can be a blessing and a curse. Thinking of all of the parts of your schedule, and whether you can change them or not, what do you want your days to look like?
At first, you may feel like you don't have time to do anything different and that's why things have gotten out of control. But stick with me - I think we can start implementing some small changes.
You can check out Flylady’s morning routine here, but make sure that you are putting something in place that feels right for YOU and your life at this time. You can always adjust if needed.
One of the things that stood out to me when I first got started with Flylady was the concept of the shiny sink. And I didn't completely understand it, but I knew that the way that I was handling things was not good. It wasn’t working well for us. And so I decided to try something different and listen to what she said.
You can see the complete instructions here, but you get all of the dirty dishes out of the sink and get the sink looking great. Then you wash and put away all of your dishes. Just having that space clean and clear can bring a sense of peace and hope when you see that that area can be managed, then it can inspire you to move on to other areas. And once you have it done, then make it a goal to shine your sink every night.
starting with the area that bothers you the most, or if it feels overwhelming, start with a small area and get it under control. Having that sense of accomplishment can give you the desire to make more progress. Stay tuned next week for more on clutter, but in the meantime here are a few tips.
Taking care of “hot spots”, which is how Flylady refers to those areas in our homes where it seems like you lay one thing down and the next time you come back, there are 20 things in that same place. It's those little clutter areas that we all have. You may have many of these, or only a couple, but getting those hotspots under control can be a game-changer.
A simple exercise is to walk into your house and imagine that you’re a realtor or someone who hasn’t been there in a long time and just look at the things that you see first. And maybe there are things that you don't even really notice because they've been there for so long. But for us, we have a couple of hotspots or clutter areas. One of them is our kitchen table where my husband loves to pile all of his stuff. Now part of that is because we haven't been eating at the table much because of our schedules, and part of it is because he doesn't have a lot of other space.
There's a variety of reasons for it, but it can be easy to not notice it. Especially if you're my husband ha-ha! But it's the first thing you see when you walk in the door. Well, I take that back. It's not exactly the first thing you see. The first thing is probably our cat’s food, which is on a towel right inside the door in the living room. And it’s there because that's where he likes to be. Last summer he had a stroke and wasn’t able to stand up well on the kitchen floor, so we moved him into the living room since there is carpet. And he seems to enjoy being in there in the middle of the action so to speak, so that’s where it has stayed. He’s almost 18 years old, and, and moving his food is not something that I am willing to do. However, my husband's piles and a couple of areas where I tend to set things down I am more than ready to get under control.
The point is, as you work through this make sure that you are taking your values and lifestyle into consideration. If you have a little one who is crawling or walking all over your house or have pets that are in and out then you may need to sweep or mop on a daily basis whereas someone who lives alone may not need to do it that often.
To help keep your home clean without feeling like you're always cleaning, there is a Weekly Home Blessing that involves a series of seven things that are done imperfectly.
You can read more about that here. I know that may be difficult for some of you. And there may be times when you end up digging in a little more. But be reality is that doing these things and setting your timer for 10 minutes for each task can actually make it kind of fun. For example, if you are vacuuming you set the timer for 10 minutes. You start and you vacuum the middle of the room. You're not pulling out furniture or doing a deep clean, you're getting things better than they were before. Now depending on the size of your home, you may be thinking “I can't do it all in just 10 minutes”. And you may be right. If that’s the case, you just do what you can and then next week you start in the areas that you didn't get to.
And how often does doing it later or doing it tomorrow turn into a month of no vacuuming? Or in my case, dusting. Dusting is my least favorite thing to do, and it probably always will be (part of that is related to clutter, but that’s a topic for another day).
Now if you are somebody that is incredibly booked up and you feel like you legitimately do not have an hour, it can also be broken up into different days. So maybe that looks like to be one each morning before you go to work or doing it after work. Maybe it’s getting the family involved, which is our plan for when I come home. We have four adults in my house - me, my husband, and two kids, so there's no reason why only one of us should be doing everything. Even when the kids were young, they knew how to help out with these things, although they didn’t often do it without prompting.
What action can you take today that will move you toward more peace in your physical space?
Make sure to come back next week for tips on conquering clutter!
If you start a new habit with excitement, but then lose motivation before you get the results you’re looking for, my upcoming membership community will be perfect for you! It will incorporate live coaching sessions, support and accountability for habit change, and fitting joy and meaning into your schedule (even if it’s jam-packed already). Be one of the first to find out more about becoming a Founding Member (and locking in at the introductory rate of less than $5/week) here.