Cleaning With Meaning

Is housecleaning spiritual? Ask "FlyLady," the fairy godmother of decluttering and guru of organization.

BY: Jana Riess

 

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Despite her own Christian beliefs, FlyLady is adamant that her list is nonexclusive. "I try my best not to push my religion on anyone," she says. "We have every form of religion and non-religion as part of our 300,000 members. My basis is love, and that’s what God and Jesus preached--loving everyone."

This message of universal love, coupled with concrete daily tasks and a cyber-community of likeminded fellow travelers, has made FlyLady a spiritual leader as much as a home organizer. Her community is about therapy, the kind where people air both their literal and their figurative dirty laundry out to dry. In the cool obscurity that is cyberspace, they confess details about the chaos that has come to define their homes and their lives.

Ordinary objects are often invested with extraordinary significance. One woman wrote to say that during a decluttering session she encountered a bent old frying pan that she kept under her bed. This was the frying pan that her Navy-officer ex-husband used to beat her with, and after their divorce she held onto it as a reminder of the fact that she was a survivor, not a victim. FlyLady understands that her devotees' clutter isn't just stuff; it represents their stories. And people don't simply toss their stories without a backward glance. "One day she will be able to get rid of it, because she won't need it as a reminder of her courage. She'll have it inside her all the time,” FlyLady predicts.

FlyLady's reach is about to extend far beyond her email network and into a wider audience. One of her self-published books, "Body Clutter," has just been picked up by Simon & Schuster for a January 2007 national release. Her speaking engagements are booked well in advance, her weekly radio show is now the top-rated program on WorldTalkRadio.com, and a FlyLady doll will make its debut in September. Cilley is excited about the opportunity to reach out to women who have not yet heard her message. "What I've done, with the help of a lot of people, is to teach people the beauty of routines. We can have it all if we just stop beating ourselves up about not doing everything perfectly."

Five Things I’ve Learned from FlyLady

Here are some tips I've gleaned from my six months on FlyLady's email list. Some of them may work for you too.

1. Do it now. Procrastination is a symptom of perfectionism and needs to be overcome. Do what you can, when you can, the best you can. Then let it go.
2. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Set your timer, work steadily at one task for 15 minutes, and then stop, even if you're not completely finished. The next day, pick up where you left off and do another 15 minutes. Trying to tackle an entire room or project all at once can be overwhelming.
3. Go shine your sink. When FlyLady was moving from chaos to order, the first thing she did was shine her sink. Go ye and do likewise. It is amazing what a clean sink can do for your spirits. You’ll feel inspired to spread that sense of order throughout your home.
4. Clear your "hot spots" every day. You know what they are: the kitchen counter that collects all the mail and school flyers; the bedroom chair that would be great for reading in, if only it weren't covered with laundry. Clutter always attracts more clutter.
5. Start where you are. We’re all going to have periods where we fall off the wagon. FlyLady wants us to just dive in wherever we are. Our houses did not get messy overnight, and they won’t be cleaned in just one day.

Three things FlyLady teaches that I will never, ever do:

1. Wear lace-up shoes every day. Not a snowball's chance in hell, FlyLady, despite your promises that I’ll be more productive. Sorry. My "mules" are comfortable and functional.  
2. Do at least one load of laundry a day. FlyLady wants us to keep the laundry moving, but I've found a twice-a-week schedule to be more efficient and environmentally friendly.
3. "Swish and swipe" the bathroom every morning. Let's get real. I'll feel great about myself if I scrub the toilet once a week.

 

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