I had a couple of “ahaa” moments this morning as I was looking at a bathroom window covered with mildew spots. As I was standing there, I realized I was wondering if I had enough time to clean it the “right way”. REALLY?!? Wouldn’t it look better even if I just got it a little cleaner? I just couldn’t believe that I have been living my entire life and not realize that I don’t need to clean everything perfectly; even 1 minute every morning will get that grimy window sparkling in just a few days. As I was thinking about this, it was like my life was flashing in front of me.
I was raised by my grandparents. They were both wonderful people and the house was always spotless. People dropped by unannounced on a regular basis and were welcomed inside without a thought to how the house looked. I had friends over and sleepovers all the time. Beds were always made, the bathroom always sparkling, carpets always spotless, and even though we didn’t have a dishwasher, there was never a dirty dish in the sink, or a pot left on the stove.
Flash forward thirty years. My house was in CHAOS. I even told my brother he couldn’t come visit (he lives a couple of states away) last year, even though I knew he desperately needed a break from his stressful life, and is able to find solace here (we live in a rural area with lots of horses). Anyone who stops by has to stay on the porch, and if they need to use the bathroom, it’s up to the barn they go. Even the porch was embarrassing. My DD (11) and DS (8) can’t have anyone over unless it’s warm enough that they can stay outside the ENTIRE time. They’ve never been allowed to have sleepovers!
We own our own business and would always have to file an extension for our taxes. Every year about two weeks before the deadline I have to rush around looking for receipts, balancing a year’s worth of statements, and spend 12 hours a day getting everything ready to go to the accountant. Last year I hit rock bottom. Our dear friend and neighbor (the only one I’d let into the house because I knew he would not judge my CHAOS) was hit and killed by a drunk driver. This also happened during our busiest season and right before my mother-in-law was to come visit.
I was running our business, dealing with mine and my family’s grief (he was my husband’s best friend and much loved by my DD and DS), and helping his wife make service arrangements, so I didn’t have time to crisis clean before my mother-in-law’s visit. She arrived a couple of days before the service and was sweeping the cement floor in the office when I came in to greet her. Immediately she told me that the entire place looked terrible (I don’t think her exact words would be allowed) and asked if I didn’t have any pride. This went on for a few minutes.
I was paralyzed. All I could do was say thank you for sweeping the office, turn around and walk away. Yes, it was harsh and I wanted to (and did for a while) blame her for kicking me while I was already down and bleeding. But I also blamed myself because I thought I deserved it. I felt like I deserved everything she said then, all the snide comments, and everything she said with her disapproving glances.
Time passed, summer turned into fall. Our busy season was over. I thought, I’ll start cleaning when I have time, but my heart and spirit were broken. I didn’t have the courage or the ability to get all the CHAOS under control. You see, when I was growing up my grandmother taught me that things had to be perfect. To clean a room the “right” way you had to completely empty the room, wash the walls and floor, and clean each item as you put it back. You had to spend an entire day to do the windows. There was just no way that I could get my home under control, I couldn’t even get out of bed some days.
I felt so defeated thinking that if I couldn’t do it all, I couldn’t do anything. I knew that I would have to get myself to a better place before I could even begin. I started walking every morning instead of staying in bed all day. Then, I started looking on-line for information on recovering from depression. One day I was reading through a website and the writer mentioned baby steps and this FlyLady person and how she can help. I thought “FlyLady? Weird, but I’m desperate and I think I could do baby steps”, and clicked on the link…
Flash forward to my icky bathroom window. As I stood there I also remembered that my grandmother always demanded perfection when cleaning. Whoa! I thought. Why do I yell at my kids for not cleaning when I won’t let them do anything unless they can do it perfectly? Isn’t “not perfect” better than gross? Isn’t my DD asking for chores to do so she can earn some money? Do I have to do an entire job a one time? Do I really want to teach my kids that they’re not good enough to help? Wow!
But wait, there’s more!
Also this morning, while I was reading your emails, I realized that I am not alone. Now, I know that this is old news to you, but what a revelation! My grandmother’s house was always clean, my friends’ houses were always clean, my sister’s house is always clean, my neighbor’s house is always clean… I could go on and on. But I realized that no one let’s you in if their house is in CHAOS, so you’re left in isolation thinking everyone else’s houses are perfect and you’re the only one out of control. Even after reading the testimonials, I would think “well, it worked for them, but my house is different, it’s too small, my kids don’t help, my husband doesn’t help, the bathroom is a half finished construction project, blah, blah, blah…” LOL, yes, poor martyred me! It finally dawned on me. I am not the only one. There is hope. There are people out there who don’t judge, or yell, or make you feel bad. Not only is there the FlyLady, there are thousands of people cheering me on! I can do this! One baby step at a time.
So let me finish by taking you on a tour of my house. It’s not perfect, but the front porch is clean, my sink is shiny, the counters are clear, my kitchen table hot spot is gone, the windows are clean, the fridge door is cleaned off, the living room is neat, the lamp shades are dusted, you can see the floor in the kids’ room, the bathroom sink is shiny, the mirrors are sparkling, the toilet is swished, the windows mostly clean, my bed is made, the laundry is done, my window is clean, and the hot spot on my nightstand is gone. There is still a lot of work to do, but I actually let a friend come in and use the bathroom the other day! Gasp! Yay me!!
And yay you!
There are so many more changes in my life to tell you about. How much more laughter I’ve heard from my children, how peaceful my bedroom is, how much I enjoy a clean kitchen, how much more I enjoy life, and how much more I appreciate and love ME, but I’ll save those for another day.
Thanks to you and all your peeps, FlyLady!
Enjoying the view while FLYing in WA,
FlyLady here: I am so proud of you Cindy! Don’t feel bad toward your mother-in-law. Please forgive her. Those harsh words are never easy to take. Your MIL knows no other way to do things. Just like your Grandmother knew no other way.
Guess what Sweetie? We don’t have clean like our mothers, grandmothers or mothers-in-law! Babysteps will get us there!
My heart goes out to any of you who have suffered from this abuse and self-abuse that followed. Forgiveness is the cure for those bad feelings. Do you have someone in your life who has been critical of your home?
Leanne and I discussed forgiveness in our book Body Clutter!