It won’t happen overnight.
As the end of the year is drawing near, I find myself reflecting on the past year. Last Christmas, I was a newbie to the board (SHEs in Touch). My experience had been with the 3×5 card system that Pam & Peggy developed back in 1977. A year prior I had found the website by doing a search for Pam and Peggy. I stopped posting after a couple of days. Last year when I found the website again, I got hooked. My cards were filled out and I sat them on the counter and didn’t open the box. Then I decided to just change one little thing about my life. So I wrote out a goal of keeping my kitchen sink clean and shiny. That was all I wanted to accomplish. Much to my surprise, I got several extra benefits. Because of wanting to keep my sink clean, I unloaded my dishwasher so I could stash dirty dishes. With the sink clean, I wanted the counter to be clean, too. Then when I cooked, I cleaned as I prepared the food. This was all the first month of the year. How could I top that?
My next goal was to not pile my dirty clothes on a chair or on the bathroom floor. I watched my Dear Husband. When he got home, he hung up his clothes. When they were dirty, he would put them in a basket in the closet. He had a basket for colored and one for whites. He would sort as he discarded them. Then I watched him take off his socks; he would turn them right side out. I knew when I did laundry that his socks never needed to be turned. Mine always did. After a month of putting my dirty clothes where they belonged, I had quit piling my clothes on the chair, cedar chest, and the floor. Our bedroom looked great. Also, the laundry was being done when there was a basket full. I had extra benefits from this goal, too. Clean bathroom (no clothes on the floor), a clean bedroom (no clothes lying on the furniture), I was getting a system for doing the laundry, and my socks were right side out! What could be better?
The March goal was to do my before-bed routine. This was the best gift of all. Every night I would take 15 minutes and pick up and put away everything that was out of place. Even if it didn’t have a place, I would put it out of sight. With this simple task, our house would look nice all the time. You have to remember that I was not doing my cards. I had a list of things to check before I went to bed. This list did not include personal hygiene, only home-care chores. The extra benefits from this goal was a house that looked clean all the time, even though it was dirty underneath. I also could not go to bed without doing this routine. Another benefit was I started to see islands of clutter that I would clean, because my home was looking nice and I wanted it to look better.
In April, my goal was to do my daily home-care chores. Now you have to realize that I was not doing daily chores or weekly, but our home was beginning to take shape. I had a routine, and I was doing it everyday. So I developed a morning routine that addressed everything that I needed to do — personal grooming as well. I made my list in the order that I wanted to do them. As I proceeded down the list, I would check off everything that I had done. I also had a check list of all the chores that I wanted to make sure got done. I did this every morning. The extra benefit was my house was getting cleaner and I was only doing 15 minutes at night and 30 minutes in the morning. I was dressing every morning and putting on my shoes. Our home was so clean that I didn’t see the need to do weekly chores. But I felt bad that I was not vacuuming until I could not stand it anymore. I still had those small areas that were bothering me, but I was clearing them out one at a time.
May’s goal was to do my weekly chores. To do this I needed a cleaning day, so I set up my weekly plan. Monday was cleaning day, Tuesday was my free day, Wednesday more cleaning, Thursday was errand day, Friday was office day and a special day to be romantic toward my Sweet Husband. I divided the cards into cleaning, errands, and other things that needed to be done each week. I did my weekly cleaning chores every Monday, and I followed my weekly plan. The extra benefit was I set up my zones and started to do them, too. With the zones set up, I started to clean with a purpose, one area at a time. The house was becoming a home; I was working the plan, and the plan was working for me. I was proud of our home. DH was loving it, too. In the meantime, my friends on the board were helping me to stay on track. When I shared with them what I was doing, that I had set up routines, weekly plans, and zones, I offered downloadable copies to anyone that would e-mail me. I sent out over 100 copies. It was helping me to help them.
During June, my routines were set in stone. All I had to do was tweak them just a little. I added personal hygiene to my before-bed routine along with laying out my clothes. My morning routine only needed minor adjustments, such as checkbook balancing (subtracting the checks from the balance) and a morning meditation. I had come a long way in six months. I was feeling very proud.
The first six months of the year was tough for my family. My mother had another stroke, and I had to go to court to get permission to handle her affairs. In July, the judge granted that petition, and I moved Mother to North Carolina to be near me. I had been keeping my home clean as well as doing my new job of county commissioner, working 30 to 40 hours a week, and I was still keeping my head way above water. I had even surprised myself. It was easy.
July and August were crazy. I made several trips to Tennessee to clean out Mother’s home so we could sell it. And, I flew to Portland to the first SHE Conference. It was wonderful getting to meet all of my old friends from the board. My routines were still working for me. Our home was clean even without me being home. Does that tell you something about who was messy in my house? Not my DH. During August I offered to help find mentors for newbies on the board. Last count there were 50 pairs of mentors and newbies. This helped many people learn about the system.
During September and October, my routines were the glue that held my life together. My home was spotless, all the clutter was gone, except for the garage. I had systematically removed all the clutter without killing myself. How had it happened? It was the zones that helped me to focus on that area. Toward the end of each month, I would make a list of everything that was bothering me in our house. Then I would divide it into my zones. Putting things to buy on my errand day and house chores on my cleaning day and appointments for household repairs to be made on my desk day. At the end of a month, my home was better because I had done the things on my to do list.
November was Thanksgiving, and I had all our family here. My house was perfect, so I didn’t have to kill myself cleaning to have people over. I did hire a friend to help organize my craft closet and sewing room. Now the cooking was all that needed to be done. I used the same system. I made a list of everything that I needed to have a great meal and the menu. Then I divided the list into errand/grocery day, home chores, things to cook ahead and other things to buy. I even made appointments for my oven so I would not be rushed. The whole day was wonderful. Best of all, I was relaxed. I wondered how that had happened. It was the system that Pam and Peggy had taught me, and for the last few months I had been doing what I was supposed to. The routines had become a part of my life, as important as brushing my teeth and taking a bath. I could not begin my day without doing the things on my list. I didn’t even have to look at my list anymore. I was on automatic pilot.
Since Thanksgiving, our home has stayed in great shape. I realized the key was putting things away when I finish with them. That was my goal for December. To pick up after myself. You would be so surprised at the effect it has had on the total time that I spend doing my morning and before-bed routines. It is almost like they do themselves.
This last year has been the beginning of my new life as a learned organized SHE. This doesn’t mean that I don’t get sidetracked anymore; it means that if I do, I have the time to take a side road and before you know it, I am back on my regular path without the guilt that used to accompany a trip into sidetracked land.
By telling this story, I hope that I can impress upon you that this is not an overnight fix. We have been sidetracked all of our lives. We have to take one habit at a time and build on what is working. What worked for me may have to be altered to fit your family, but there are a few things that will remain the same. You have to get up and get dressed every day and do your morning routine and your before-bed routine, all the while keeping your kitchen clean and your sink shiny. I want for you what Pam and Peggy’s system has given to me: peace of mind, pride in my home, and a passion for living.
The last three weeks have started you on your new path to learned organization. Some of you have found that it is working, while others still need to jump in and do the simple things and quit making excuses. Next week we will start. 1999 is lost forever, 2000 is in our near future. We have to forget about the things we haven’t done and focus on what we can do today.
Here is to wishing you a productive New Year!