Fun Monday: A Way Out of Chaos

I knew what I would be writing about as soon as I read this week’s topic. Ann at For the Long Run was clear: "For today's Fun Monday, I want to hear about a web site that's changed your life." There really is only one website that fits that description for me. I also knew I would be slightly embarrassed to write about it, because there’s a part of me that thinks this site is completely nuts. Like loony-bin, over-the-top, OCD nuts. For the record, I'm pretty sure I could live without this site, and I wouldn't nominate it for a McArthur Genius grant. BUT – it did change my life, so here goes:

The website that changed my life is For those of you unfamiliar, this site is for folks who find themselves living in a household of clutter and chaos, with no apparent way out. That, unfortunately, was me a year and a half ago. Flylady has a whole system to help housekeeping-challenged people like myself from becoming headlines that read: “Woman Buried Under Laundry Pile: Lost for Three Weeks.”

When you sign up with flylady, you start receiving emails that basically teach you how to organize your home and the rest of your life. Her mantra, or one of them, is “You can do anything for 15 minutes.” Which, I have found, is true. Not only is it true, but it is also true that you would be surprised by how much you can get done in 15 minutes. Here’s how that has changed my life.

My small, crowded house is usually a big mess. With five small kids all getting into toys, books, art supplies, dress-up clothes, games, etc., by the time dinner rolls around, we don’t let anyone in the house who doesn’t have extra insurance. How does this usually make me feel? Like a big, total, complete loser who cannot control a damn thing. Or at least, that’s how it used to make me feel, BF (Before Flylady). Now, I know that I can set my timer for 15 minutes and blast around my house putting things away, and that at the end of that 15 minutes, things usually look very, very different, and I feel like a person who can make things better. On a good day, I do this 15 minute blitz three times: once right after breakfast and the kids have gone to school, once right before or after lunch, and once sometime between 4 and 7pm, depending on our schedule. On a less than good day, I do it once, in the evening. My kids also do 15 minutes of cleaning up on most days. 51% is most, right?

There is much more to the Flylady “thing” than just the 15 minute deal. In fact, there’s TONS of stuff…some might say a ridiculous and overwhelming amount of stuff. I get emails reminding me to put my shoes on in the morning, asking me what I am having for dinner that night, telling me to go to bed, and on and on and on. But the flylady people are good about reminding their members that if the emails don’t work for you, just delete them, or set your membership preferences to fit better into your life.

One of the biggest ways I have benefited from Flylady was by following her suggestion to have a morning routine and an evening routine. These help me enormously. I have spent most of the past nine years being woefully sleep deprived, and my normally scatterbrained personality has become positively swiss-cheese like…my memory, my thought-processes, my brain itself is full of holes. Here is some of what I am juggling:

1. Well, let’s start with the five kids. Mind-boggling amount of work right there. Between feeding and dressing them each day (read: endless grocery store runs and endless laundry), making sure their homework is done, getting them to practices, games, and playdates, . . . all while hoping they won’t hate me when they are adults . . . it’s a very full life.

2. Keep up with the house. Seven people, 1245 sq ft. Way too many shoes, books, coats, backpacks, and towels. And mail: way too much mail.

3. Help Rick run our garden design business. I do the scheduling, some shopping for plants and such, invoicing, returning calls to clients…a real mish-mash of stuff, whatever is needed.

4. Work as a freelance graphic designer/editor/project do-er. I have three main clients, and a smattering of other small projects at any given time. I am overly familiar with what’s on TV at 2 am, since when I finish working I am usually too keyed up to go to sleep and end up watching all kinds of strange things late, late at night. This isn’t always a bad thing: I finally got to see The 40 Year Old Virgin this way, and I haven’t laughed that hard, that late at night, since college.

With all of that, plus bills to pay, friends to stay in touch with, and God knows what else in any given week, I was at a point where I NEEDED someone to say: “OK, now put your shoes on. OK, now make your bed. OK, now drink some water.”

Flylady threw me a lifeline. Gave me some simple things to do to make a difference in my house and my life. Oh, and it’s all free: free to join and free to participate. They do have a shop on the site that sells products to help you organize yourself, but I’ve never bought anything there, and have always found other ways to do the things they suggest. The site is not primarily about selling stuff; they don’t push their products too much at all.

The funny thing is, if you looked at my house right this minute, you’d never be able to tell that I’ve had any help at all. It’s 10pm and the sink is full of dishes, there are piles of laundry in the kitchen – some clean and waiting to go upstairs, some dirty and waiting to go out to the garage, from where I type I can see a wide area of the living room floor covered with what looks like cheerios, bits of toast, and other food-related crumbs, Christmas detritus is still piled in a couple spots un-touched since December 25th (although most of my decorations are at least down, in their boxes, and in close proximity to where they belong). EVEN STILL, even with the chaos that surrounds me right now, I’m way better off than I was a year or so ago, because I know that I can get this place whipped into shape fairly easily, in 15 minute chunks of time if need be, and that a little bit of effort really does make a big difference. So I can sit here writing, sipping the wine my lovely husband brought me, and waxing eloquent about this nutty site called, knowing that it’s a damn good thing, for me and for my family, that I found this site when I really, really needed it.

Go view the other Fun Monday blogs for today; the list is at Ann's!


Joy T. said…
I've heard other people say they really like FlyLady but I've never checked them out. I'm definitely going to now that I read your post!
Hootin' Anni said…
you say: "headlines that read: “Woman Buried Under Laundry Pile: Lost for Three Weeks.” " ---I had to laugh, 'cause this read like something from Erma Bombeck.

Thing is, when you get my age, clutter and a messy house isn't all that bad afterall, it's life that really matters.

I enjoyed reading your Fun Monday blog today.
You make me laugh!! Flylady?? Chill a while!!
Sandy said…
I will check this out! My organizational skills have evidently left the building. Maybe I just need a booster!
Kaycie said…
What a great blog. I know how you feel, to a degree. I had three kids and a husband in a house that was 1410 square feet for a long time. That's not enough space by a long shot.

I have more space now, but I still have endless laundry. And endless grocery shopping.
kitten said…
I have heard of that site, but never have went there. Sounds like I really need to. Thanks for sharing.
Michelle said…
I am definitely gonna be checking out this site. I love to organize but with 3 small ones it is difficult!! Thanks!!
-Ann said…
I've heard radio interviews with said Flylady but have never checked out her site. I think I'll have to.
Fianna said…
I have heard wonderful things about Flylady. I read about Motivated Moms as well. It is a printed calendar that tells you various cleaning things to do each day, to maintain a clean house. Things you never think about until you get into a mad cleaning frenzy - glass doors, dusting, organizing. It helps contain a bit of the madness.
Cynthia said…
I tried her for awhile, too many emails! But I still cary one of her mantras. I always go to bed with a clean sink. Usually!
Alison said…
I have never checked out Fly Lady..have wanted to, need to, but now I will..thanks for the reminder!
nicole said…
look at you with all your flylady you!
Pamela said…
First I've heard of Flylady. My curiosity is piqued.

Seven people, 1245 sq ft -- I would be just moving piles around, and bodies, too.

You've got my vote.
ChrisB said…
I think I need 'FlyLady' if I was better organised I could spent even more time blogging!!
laurie said…
hi, monica!

man, flylady sounds like a website i could use. my husband claims we have "laurie piles" all over the house. he's, um, right. i stack things up neatly but then instead of clutter spread out it just turns into clutter stacked up.

re irish peat (from my blog): yes, you can still order it from irishpeat dot com. but you can also get the irish peat incense pretty easily. you can order it from this place in my town, or really just about any irish gift store carries it.

good luck! more clutter!
Tiggerlane said…
Wow...I think I remember this site when it was in its infancy - but it is AMAZING how much time I could spend on it now! I signed up - I sorely need it.

Going to clean my sink....
Jettie said…
Iam a bit slow in getting to all the other blogs.. I have 4 kids and I am sooooo glad Iam NOT the only one who at times has cherios and other food particles laying around!!!!!!!!!
I am most definetly gonna check that blog out!!

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