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Cleaning Log7/3/2014 12:42:56 PM

Cleaning Shame and a Little Light

I have been toying with writing this post for quite a while, but I have to admit that I am a little uncomfortable sharing my failings to the world.  However, this blog isn't just about building things and things that make me happy.  It is also about my life, because maybe in my failings and attempts to recover and over-come, someone else may see something that helps them.

So... this dire preface sounds like the world ending, but I am actually talking about cleaning.  And for those of you who feel like the two might just be the same thing... I am right THERE most of the time.  Cleaning is about on level with getting a rusty nail to the eye, or a visit to the dentist for me.  It isn't just something I don't like.... I loath it.  But as the stay-at-home-home-maker in this house, most of the cleaning tasks fall to me... because... lets' face it... the cats don't help at all.

Now, it is not like I don't know how to clean or organize, but a lot of my dislike for cleaning stems from not having a proper place to put everything and how over-whelming things can feel because of it.  Even as a child, it would take me hours and hours just to clean my room because everything had to be organized and in a proper place, and if it could not go into a proper place, it could not be put away until a proper place was made for it.  Okay... maybe my semi-functional OCD started at a young age.  And worse... I have to admit that sometimes it is all I can do to get out of bed and to the coffee machine each day.  Depressing and ridiculous, but true. 

So for the last couple years, I have made my new-years resolution to... you guessed it... do a tiny bit more than drink coffee every day.

The trouble is that when cleaning, I evidently have an unhealthy amount of attention deficit... I would start by wanting to clean up one small area of a room... totally do-able and not at all over-whelming, right?  However, in the process I would need to take one thing to another room.  But when I got there, this and that needed cleaning just to put item #1 away, so I would start cleaning there until something else took me to another room... until the entire house was torn to heck and I was left feeling so overwhelmed that I would give up half-way through and everything was worse than when I started.  Or if I managed to keep at it, everything would be a complete disaster for days and sometimes weeks of cleaning and then finally... poof!  The whole house was clean.  And stayed that way for a whole five minutes.

The whole process meant that I got everything clean, but the very thought of cleaning one area was so daunting that I would start to hyperventilate at the mere thought of what it would snow-ball into.  And the distress of knowing that it would again be a complete mess after all that epic work would make my stomach more than a little queasy.  Ridiculous, I know, but there it is.  Maybe the first case ever documented of house-cleaning-phobia.

Finally, my first cleaning epiphany came when my bad hip gave out on me after the twentieth time I stepped over a pile of stuff in the hall and had to careen into a pile of laundry to break my fall.  Laying there gasping like a fish out of water, I realized that I spent more time traveling from room to room than cleaning.  No wonder cleaning one little area ended up being so exhausting!

This was a hard habit to break, but I started by just dumping everything that didn't belong out the door to the room I was cleaning in, and then when I was done with the room, taking all the stuff and putting it away with the rule that I didn't linger as I did it.  And an improvement over that would be to put it all into a box or basket so that it could be carried away easier in the end.  Something so simple, yet such a dramatic change in the process.  It turned cleaning an area into cleaning that area instead of the entire house.

The second thing I realized was that cleaning an area to perfection was another huge reason I ended up so over-whelmed that I didn't even want to start.  Giving up on the idea that I was going to "clean the house", or even "clean a room", released a lot of the pressure constricting my chest.  Instead, I had to accept that more often than not, the best I was going to do was "make some progress".  So I changed my approach and started with the idea in my head that all I had to do was spend 5 to 10 minutes to make a little progress on an area.  Then stop.  

The surprising thing was how much improvement that concentrated little bit of time would make on an area as long as I didn't spend most of it traveling to put away other things and getting distracted by other messes.  Of course, without direction, I found that I often cleaned up one or two areas and the rest of the house continued to become more and more of a mess.

So my new-years resolution for the last two years has been simply to succeed in check-marking this list on my refrigerator every day (or more accurately... filling in the little bubbles like a test sheet... because that is much more uniformly neat and organized... Wow!  I am really sounding more OCD than normal today). 

Cleaning LogI have the house separated by days... and grouped by the type of cleaning or cleaning equipment it needs to get done.

Monday is bathrooms and watering plants / fish tanks.
Tuesday is the office and spare bedroom.
Wednesday is the hallway, utility room, and cat litter box.
Thursday is the living-room, loft, and master bedroom.
Friday is the kitchen and dining-room.
Saturday is outdoor or car projects and home improvement.
Sunday is home improvement projects and cat litter box.

The X means exercise.  I added that this year.  5 minutes or more of exercise... easy to say, but often not easy to make myself do.

  • The main rule is that I make a little progress on the specified area on the list each day... it doesn't have to be much, but at least something. 
  • Do not leave the area to put things away until I am done... then put them all away at once.  ( I am still regularly struggling with this one. )
  • Weekends don't always have to have every item checked (except the cat litter which must be done to go out with the trash on Monday morning).
  • While once in a while, catching up on something the next day is okay, I should try to always take care of the items on the day they are listed.

I don't always succeed, and I admit that it makes me feel completely ridiculous that I have not been able to make myself do the exercise portion on four days of the last week.  However, even though it makes me feel like a kid with a list of chores to do, it also makes me feel good when I see that list fill up with check-marks (little neat bubbles) week after week.  And the house is looking better and cleaner than ever before... Not perfect mind-you, but better.

The hardest part is still doing a little work on the list item if I have been working my butt off all day on another project.  But something I have discovered... like any good habit, it is much harder to keep up if I skip even a couple days.

So there it is.  My shame, my struggle, and my wavering little light in the tunnel... and as usual, writing it down has made me a little more inspired to get-with-it, and that X for Exercise is going to get a little filled-in bubble from my sharpie today.

          1/2/2015 11:24:29 AM - Happy New Year 2015 and the Shortest Resolution Ever

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7/3/2014 3:24:49 PM Mom
Good for you! We have always been big on lists and checking them off.

7/3/2014 6:30:40 PM Punkin
WOW! There is someone else that loathes house cleaning like I do. I also hate charts so I carry on without one of them things with all the lines and boxes. Every word you wrote made me feel like I was reading my own words. I am also too old for any light at the end of my tunnel.
I have found that if I don't tell myself I am going to clean but just start and do small things I get more done. I don't sit still anywhere for any length of time so I might get up to go to the bathroom or kitchen and end up watering all the plants or cleaning the bathroom, etc. I fool my self and I am pleased when something is done.
All of your words made me feel so much better as there is more than just me out there, LOL "Go Little Bubbles Go"

7/3/2014 7:37:45 PM TinkerT
Thanks to you both for the support.  Sometimes I just need a little boost to keep it going, and it really does help.

7/3/2014 7:57:03 PM Blake
loved your cleaning blog...... sounds like me too except that I keep stuff that might have a use some day ( never get rid of good things)  or it all has some sentimental value cause the kids played with it when they were younger & nicer

7/3/2014 7:58:27 PM TinkerT
I know what you mean about hanging on to stuff that might… possibly… maybe… have a future use.  That is probably the #1 reason I can’t find a “proper” place for half of the junk we own, but I can’t get rid of it either.  The bad part is hubby keeps anything that I might be willing to get rid of, and vice-versa, so it is nearly impossible to get rid of anything. 

How I long for that mythical garage that will hold all that crap in a nice and organized way.

7/8/2014 2:02:09 PM Blake
loved your cleaning blog...... sounds like me too except that I keep stuff that might have a use some day ( never get rid of good things)  or it all has some sentimental value cause the kids played with it when they were younger & nicer.....gotta hang o to the "nicer" memories.. much better than the snarky new ones.....

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