Cleaning With Meaning

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

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FlyLady’s domestic views may strike some as a 1950s gender throwback. Indeed, she calls her followers "FlyBabies," a possibly irritating sobriquet. And her advice sounds some traditional bells: Have dinner as a family every night. Wear a smock for housework. Scrub that sink. But she also recognizes that today’s American family is very different from that of fifty years ago. Most women work, and it feels impossible to balance it all. “As women, we all have the same needs and desires for our homes and our families,” FlyLady declares. “From the day we’re born, we’re taught that we can have it all as women – the wonderful career, the family, the wonderful husband, the polite, gorgeous children. And that we’ll look like a million bucks. We can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan. But no one ever told us how to do it.” That’s why one of her mantras is that housework is more fun when the whole family does it together.

Despite her upbeat nature (she is working on a book of daily affirmations), FlyLady can be tough. “Whining is not allowed,” she warns. Her system is based on fixed daily and weekly routines, rituals that give a sacred rhythm to housework. When she started getting organized herself in 1999, she had an epiphany (which she refers to as a “God breeze”) about why no other system had ever worked for her before. “I didn’t have routines,” she explains. “I decided I couldn’t do it all at once, and had to establish one routine at a time. My first habit for January was to keep my kitchen sink clean and shiny. And then the countertops get cleaner too. And then the stove says, ‘clean me too!’ and before you know it, the whole kitchen is clean and sparkling, and you don’t mind going in there and cooking dinner.”

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Part of FlyLady’s routine is to dedicate one hour each Monday to vacuum, dust, and wash down the house. That’s right--just one hour of swift action. No more, no less. FlyLady calls this a “weekly home blessing” ritual, and it's clear that it's just as important as, say, an hour spent in a worship service the previous day. Each Monday, women become priestesses of order and grace, blessing each room of their homes with harmony and organization.

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Jana Riess
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