Mar 7, 2011

Flylady, Flybabies and Brutal Honesty

There have been brief glimpses of organization and functionality over the course of my lifetime. When I had four children, five and under and ran a home daycare, caring for two other small infants (so I had at one point a three, four and five month old in my home!) the house was pretty orderly and ran according to a schedule. People were coming to my home twice daily to pick up and drop off their babies so it had to be presentable. Additionally at that point a copy of Emilie Barnes "15 Minute Organizer" fell into my hands. It was just what the doctor ordered--chapters were at most 2 pages long and to the point. It helped me start the decluttering bug and establish a housework schedule. The habits were solidified (I thought) when I went to a series of workshops taught by another homeschool mom based on the "Sidetracked Home Executives" method. About the worst it got was a laundry room floor covered in laundry, a pile of clean, waiting to be folded laundry on the couch and a messy closet and at the time I thought those things were to my shame--I was distressed about them but never found the time to work on them. Of course I laugh now at the thought of those things bothering me so!

Fast forward a few years. Now we had six, going on seven children. I was still a Emilie Barnes devotee and the house was fairly on schedule. Laundry still piled up and that pile was larger but I pretty much felt on top of my game. My "secret areas" of clutter are larger and some, not so hidden. Friends from church came over one day to help me whip the 2300SF into shape because my father was coming to visit for a week. My dad had never been in my home with me as an adult woman in charge of my own household since he left shortly after I married to move across the country. I remember finding it hilarious (and a bit embarrassing) when I heard peals of laughter coming from our "homeschool" room. It seems that as they worked their way down through a tall pile of "junk" on the table that served as a "catch-all" for clutter only to find at the very bottom my "15 Minute Organizer" book. Touche.

Then...I was pregnant with our seventh child. My main source of support, our church, closed. My father was in prison over an hour away and weekly visits were a fixture. My mother-in-law received a terminal diagnosis and moved into our home to die. My mentally unbalanced father-in-law came as well, coming, unsettling the entire household with erratic and threatening behavior before leaving for several weeks, only to return to repeat the entire process all over again. When number seven was born he had several health issues that absorbed the limited energy that I had after caring for the other six plus my mother-in-law. When my mother-in-law passed away it was expected that it would be back to business as usual but that was not to be. I was drowning. I found Flylady online and added a few new words to our household vocabulary such as "hot spot" and maintained a habit of trying to keep hot spots under control. I internalized the benefit of morning and evening routines, shiny sinks, and dressing for the day but though they were inside my head they didn't make it to my fingers to get done. I was still committed to decluttering and occasionally the household went through purges but still--I was drowning. My efforts were akin to the little boy sticking his finger in the dike; a tiny, usually futile attempt to keep from being overwhelmed by a deluge. Things continued on a downward spiral until the biggest blow--we moved.

Moving was good, it was a desired move and we embraced the lifestyle change of moving to the country but adding in the care of ten acres and livestock created cataclysmic changes. Babies kept coming--four more in the less than seven years since we moved. We had moved from 2300-plus SF with four large walk-in closets and a respectable pantry to 2000 SF with no such walk-in closets. I will spare you the details but suffice it to say--the picture was not pretty. Once we built the dairy and it became licensed there was a higher level that needed to be maintained at least in the dairy building because the quality of our product depended on it. It proved more difficult than it needed to be due to the fact that we had been flying by the seat of our pants so long, only finding the time and ability to put out the biggest fires. We found that we were unused to doing things on a proactive rather than reactive basis and establishing routines and order in the dairy was like having to relearn how to walk, talk, etc after a major event such as a stroke or accident! We did it--but it did not need to be that hard.

Now we are at a place where we are committed to working on these issues as a family. Several changes have occurred that bring us to this place. In the past few years I have been diagnosed as having ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Appropriate treatment, both pharmaceutical and counseling have given us a handle to deal with this. (I will save the debate and discussion of this for another post, so please spare me the comments regarding your opinion on the validity of the diagnosis or appropriate treatments. We can do that later, OK?) After several years spent caring for both my father as he battled and succumbed to cancer and Tim's father as he battled and succumbed to dementia and sundry other mental illnesses we have reached a place where the demands that might be placed by extended family are much less. The business has gone through it's growing pains and seems to be on somewhat smooth waters. So...time to turn the focus to the family and the family home and in that spirit we have become "Flybabies", turning back to Flylady.

I have my doubts. I have been on a organization bug whereby I am determined that any and everything in my home will be contained in a tote of some kind with a lid. I wish we owned stock in Rubbermaid and Sterilite! Flylady says that clutter is from too much stuff in too small a space and I understand this. She also says that clutter can not be contained or organized but must be conquered and eradicated. Honestly? We have fourteen people living in this house. Fourteen people amass not just personal items, there is also no small amount of supplies that must be stored because we no longer live within walking distance of even a so-called convenience store. I will take the admonitions at face value and on faith work towards eradicating any and all clutter that I can but let me go on record as saying that while I 100% understand and agree I simply do not see us being able to pare back to a point that the house is still not filled with stuff. I am determined, however, that the stuff will be organized!

I am also resigned to the fact that although I may follow Flylady to a "T", I have a house full of people who may not ascribe to the plan with the same fervor. I also have the trio of destruction--six year old Noah, four year old Judah and two year old Seth to contend with. It is entirely possible that I dedicate my life to Flylady and no one sees any discernible change. In this case my challenge will be to continue doing what I know I need to do despite the outcome and not become angry or frustrated, remembering that I am working on the house for my family, not that I am expecting my family to work on the house for me.

In a desire for accountability besides my wonderful long-suffering husband whose desire to be my cheerleader sometimes overrides his ability to be a sometimes needed drill-sergeant I am posting this here, for anyone to read. I am endeavoring to be brutally honest both to avoid any temptation to justify relapses and because maybe--just maybe--there are others out there who, like me, are sure that things are hopeless. Our struggles to reclaim our home should serve to either justify your demands for a larger home and myriad housecleaning staff lest you fall prey to the same fate or encourage you to roll up your sleeves and join in on your end.

From this point forward this post may not make any sense to the uninitiated in all things Flylady so you are permitted to simply wish me well and move on with your day or mosey on over to Flylady to better understand the terms and concepts.

At this point I am still working on the shiny sink. At our house we actually have someone besides myself assigned to kitchen duty and it is supposed to be their job. The daughter assigned kitchen duty for the month is due to spend most of the next few weeks working at the Livestock show in Houston so it is time for me to reclaim the kitchen duties after years of it being assigned. We have had struggles in the past few weeks because we have had a plumbing issue with drainage in the kitchen sink but that is repaired now so we should be able to move forward. I will update on the shiny sink project later.

I gave myself permission to allow boots as well as lace-up shoes because they should prove equally difficult to kick off in order to 'lounge' and I have been consistent to wear one or the other.

I have been using a timer for 15 minute decluttering sessions.

I swished and swiped for the first time this morning.

I have been reading the emails and testimonials regularly and I splurged by ordering a few of the Flylady books and tools.

That is about it. Morning or evening routines are not established. I have not yet begun anything akin to a control journal. I am working on not feeling guilt or condemnation regarding what seems to me to be a slow pace but truth be told...I have twelve children including a baby who still needs lots of mom time. I have a business growing beyond anything we anticipated. It is the craziest time of year for us, with goats kidding and older children, usually the backbone of our household working sixty miles away. I will keep interested readers informed of progress and relapses but remember--this is a work in progress, as is true of every area of life and that is part of the journey. Specifically I see this as part and parcel of my own sanctification, the challenges that as a whole are used to refine and shape me as a person, not to be ever completed while I draw breath but a journey worth traveling none-the-less.


Dee said...

I especially like your sentence "I am working on the house for my family, not ..." If only I could keep that in the front of my mind!

Tstorm said...

well a few weeks ago I dragged out my old control journal .... and I'm doing well to look at it each day .. : ( ---- and sorry but Fly lady will never ever get me to forego my bare feet .. but in the past I can say that while dealing with mom's daily doctor visits .... running a business in the ghetto ... and other such things ...that FLYing kept what little sanity I had left intact . hang in there ...and KUDOS to you for starting up again . (Les)

Anonymous said...

Oh, my goodness, I am so grateful for stumbling on this at 4 a.m. I needed to hear brutal honesty...your story is very similar to mine in many ways. I have my doubts, too. It was a relief I cannot describe to realize I'm SO not alone in these feelings! We just left the country due to our ranch being foreclosed on (unfairly, but oh well), so we are smashed in a duplex in the city & I am so overwhelmed. I, too, just buried my mother in law, and have special needs kids to tend to in addition to other things. It gives me some sanity to even read FlyLady, as Tstorm said, yet my life like yours has gotten SO much more complicated than it was many children ago when I used to be able to "handle it" re: cleaning/organizing. Now I am older, more tired, and almost baffled at how hard this has gotten! I am not really complaining; God will help me, but when I hear some tough older birds telling me "just do it", I truly wonder "HOW?" sometimes. Thanks again for being so has helped me feel like there's one other soul out there inching along like me instead of leaping, and that is somehow comforting! Hang in there! We can focus on what we DID do today I think, and maybe no one will notice, but WE will, and He will, and that little boost may give us enough to do one more teeny thing. Who knows? :)

JQ said...

Hang in there. Your not alone. Your kids are amazing and your doing a fantastic job. :)