September 21, 2011

My Biggest Mistakes in Getting Organized & Cleaning

Mistake 1.  I purchased books and e-books or I spent time reading library books to tell me how to get organized and how to clean or set up a cleaning schedule.

I have a shelf of organization and housekeeping books.  The books I refer to the most are the ones that are more the advice type of telling me how to get out a particular stain and so on.  These are the old Home Ec style books.  The others are books that give advice on how to set up a cleaning or organization schedule. 
You might as well save your money.  We are all different and everyone has a different housekeeping style.  It set me up for failure to try to duplicate what someone else was doing.  While I could glean some tips, the bottom line was that what works for someone else didn’t necessarily work for me.
I remember when the first Sidetracked Home Executive books came out in the early 1980’s.  I read them because they did address the side tracked issue but I couldn’t keep up with their card system.
A better use of your time would be to sit down with a tablet of paper and ask yourself these questions.
a.  How much time do you have to spend on cleaning?
b.  Are you a “clean a little bit at a time each day person” or are you a “deep clean once a week kind of person.” 
c.  Can you delegate some of the tasks to other family members and do you want to do that OR would you prefer to do it yourself to your standards?
From these questions I could see what was realistic for me and what was unrealistic for me.  My goal was to have an uncluttered home and relatively clean home that I could maintain. Yes, that is right, that I could maintain and what was realistic for me.
Spending some time writing down a plan that was tailored to my personality and my needs was the best use of my time. 
Mistake 2.  I went out and bought a bunch of plastic containers before I started doing anything. 
You know what it is like.  You wake up one day and think “this is the day I will get organized.”  So you get in your car and go to the Big Box store and buy a bunch of plastic bins and containers to put stuff in.  Save your money. 
As you put things away, you will find out very clearly what you need or if you need anything at all.  Many times just clearing things out of closets and throwing and giving things away will clear up space.  After doing that you may need some plastic bins and tubs and you may find out you don’t need as much as you thought. 
Mistake 3.  I tried to tackle everything in one day.
I would get “Gung Ho” about cleaning and organizing.  You know what it is like, you make an announcement because you are at the end of your rope and decide that you will get your house in order that very day.  After an hour you begin to grow a little weary, you lose focus and you start to wane.  Many times you are left with a bigger mess because you leave things all over the place (piles that you are going to organize) thinking you’ll get right back to it later.
You didn’t get into this mess overnight and you aren’t going to get out of it overnight.  It’s great to be motivated, but don’t go overboard.
Mistake 4.  I tried to clean and organize at the same time. 
This is much to do at one time and again, it is too overwhelming.  It was much better for me to put things away in their proper place and then clean the house.  When the house was clean and in order, I could then start to sort through closets and drawers and de-clutter and organize. 
What has worked for me?
Again, remember, everyone is different.  I cleared off an area of the dining room table for me to work at so I wouldn’t be too distracted by my surroundings.  I sat down with a tablet of paper and a cup of coffee and I wrote down my ideas for getting things done.  The goal was to have a clean house and maintain it.  Then the second goal was to spend time going through all the stuff in my house and decide what would be kept, what would be tossed or given away and what I would need to organize and maintain the stuff. 
I cannot do a lot all at once not only because of my chronic back pain, but also because I lose interest.  So I came up with a plan to get things done by doing a little bit at a time and delegating things out when I wanted to.  Yes, I like things done my way, but there are some things that I don’t mine passing off on someone else. 
One thing I have quickly found out is that if I can pick things up at night in the main living areas of the home and then when I get up in the morning everything looks good enough that I feel motivated to get my work done.  Even if I need to clean, it is much easier to face it in the morning when everything is put in its proper place.
We are all different and we have special gifts and talents.  Time is better spent coming up with your own plan based on your personality and your style of living than to try to replicate someone else’s plan. 
It may be frustrating at first to sit down amidst the mess to make a plan, but it will help you out in the long run.  You will have a tailored made plan just for you. 
Here is my best cleaning and organization secret that I will give you for free.  Yes, I could go on t.v. and offer this for $9.95 plus shipping and handling, but today it’s free. 
What is this amazing tool?  A wire bound notebook.  Yes, a 1 subject wire bound notebook that you can get at Walmart for 15 cents during the back to school sales is my secret tool.   Keep this notebook in the room that you are cleaning or organizing in order to write down anything that you are remembering to do while you are working.  This will free your mind to stay on task because you don’t have to worry about remembering other things.  For example, while I am cleaning I will think of things such as the need to fill my prescription for my thyroid medicine or I will think of a gift to give someone for Christmas.  When I quickly write these things down in a notebook, then I can stay on task knowing that these thoughts are written down in a wire bound notebook that won’t get lost while I am working.


Paper Memories4u said...

Martha, I've really enjoyed reading your blog when I get time.
You are so right about the fact that there isn't one right way to clean or organize. You have to do what is right for you. I have been home in varying degrees for over 28yrs. and I have found that if you make or use a system that is to difficult to carry out you are setting yourself up for failure.
And always stay flexible with your cleaning schedule. I have changed my cleaning schedule many many times over the years. You have to change it as things in life change. When you have babies at home you clean differently than you when you have school aged kids in sports and your gone all the time, teenagers that are taking on more responsibilities, as a empty nester and as your volunteer schedule changes. And always remember, a clean house is never more important than time with your family.

Jenni @ RainyDayGardener said...

Great post! I agree with all your points..I just tend to forget about it when I'm in the middle of doing too much at one time :)

Rose said...

You are so right that we all have different styles of cleaning and housekeeping. When we try to adopt someone else's method, we often fail because it doesn't jive with our personality, style, and thought process. I think over the years I have adopted bits and pieces of others tips, but I have developed my own methods over time. For me, the worst is deep cleaning and doing cleaning of thinks like the baseboards, and dusting the tops of my china hutch.

I constantly battle clutter. I don't know about anyone else, but mail, paperwork and everything like it multiplies like little bunnies overnight. I have to battle the piles one at a time. Others build up while others shrink. It is ongoing and I just do m y best to keep on top of things so they don't get to the overwhelming stage.

saving for travel said...

Small tugs up a big mountain.

Sft x

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all your advice! I too have fallen into the trap of spending money on organizing books or going to buy containers at the Container store before knowing what I need them for! One of your points that I especially find useful is to not try to organizing and clean at the same time. It's do simple but I guess I never thought about it hence it takes M's forever to get stuff done! Thx again! -Adele

Paula said...

For many, many years I did a thorough seasonal cleaning like clockwork every six months, in March and September. Dusting walls, washing windows, blinds, and curtains. Cleaning three walls of book shelves, the china cabinet, etc.

Now that I am older, plus have a retired/disabled husband at home all the time it is so much harder. What I used to do in about ten days while he was gone to work, now takes me a month, with constant interruptions for three meals a day and making his appointments, plus my volunteer work.

Two years ago, I admitted that twice a year is just too much now. I do it once a year, in Sept. This gets us a nice fresh house for the holidays and enjoying the fall and winter, when we have more free time.

My new habit is to use the free winter months after the holidays to do a few chosen projects that are hard, but quicker than seasonal cleaning, whatever is bothering me the most. Things such as cleaning out kitchen cabinets or especially troublesome closets. Weeding out books to donate to the library. I may start doing the pantry one shelf at a time and end up doing the whole thing. Cleaning out my desk and shredding things is another good project for winter.