Friday, June 02, 2006

The Timer and The Smallest Part

As I have mentioned before, I am not a domestic goddess. I, on occasion, try, but usually fall back into bad habits. I blame my failures on having children late in my adult life. You know, I had already gotten set in my ways without the extra mess. We lived in the city so all my husband's pants and shirts were sent to the laundry. Since I worked outside the home many of my clothes went to the cleaners. I assure you two people who live and work in a city do not make the same quantity or type of mess that four people living and working in the country make.

When we moved back to Mississippi my mother noticed my failures and began giving me self help books in home management. I added to these with my own purchases. I have read them all, but reading and implementing are two different concepts. I hired someone to clean and do laundry, but it hasn't worked because I don't like people in my home, pilfering through my things. I also feel guilty having someone do something I don't want to do.

Since the housekeeper failure, I have been doing better. I don't mind washing the laundry, but I hate to fold. I don't mind loading the dishwasher, but hate unloading. And sweeping just isn't my thing. So, I have begun to set a timer to jump start my least favorite tasks. I can talk myself into five minutes of just about anything. The timer is set along with some snappy music and off I go. It works - even for me!! Amazingly, none of the tasks I dread is anywhere as bad as I make it out to be before I actually begin.

Another help I have begun using again is "the smallest part rule." This came from a book about overcoming procrastination, which my mother loaned me, which I loaned to another procrastinator and never got back. It is probably sitting in her to do pile even after all these years. Anyway, the best thing in the nameless book was to break the task into smaller pieces and start on the smallest segment you think you can manage. Today, I will take a ladder to the living room, in which resides an entire wall of floor to ceiling(17 feet) bookshelves which hold a hodgepodge collection of books that I will attempt to organize and catalog. Looking at this disorganized mess is distracting and overwhelming, but if I make a start, even a small one like taking the ladder, the momentum usually carries me forward into the next smallest part. I relied on "the smallest part rule" in graduate school and again when I was teaching. Now I will use it for home management.

Anyway, with folded clothes, empty dishwasher, and a swept floor I am ready for the day. I will go extinguish fires at work and return home to start on "the next smallest part" by getting the ladder in the house.


Frankie said...

Wonderful advice.

I, too, hate unloading the dishwasher. I time myself to try to beat my time -- the little game helps. However, I recently assigned my son the job.

I also do the 9-pickup game. I tell myself I'm going to get up and pick up 9 things and put them away. When I've done 9, I am done. Well, that works so well that often I do 27 or 36. (It amazes me that there are 36 things to pick up and put away, but there are!)

I have also read so many books on organization and cleaning and I could recite them verbatim. My mom and grandmother were Martha Stewarts -- clean freaks, perfectionistics. I didn't get their gene so cleaning has been a fascination my whole life.

wisteria said...

My children help with the dishwasher, too. I need to make that a daily chore for them so I never have to do it.

I could do the pick up game. In fact, I think I will play right this minute.

griffin said...

So glad to hear I am not the only non-domestic goddess around. Though just recently I have been doing better.
The funny thing for me about reading your post is that I just recently completed (well, ok, one is never done) a massive house cleaning effort. I actuallt used part of my tax return to pay a professional organizer to help whip things into shape. I have never been a tidy person, and after X left the depression expressed itself in extreme messisnes, and then the job was too overwhelming huge to take on. I love the smallest piece idea! I also get my son to help with the parts I like doing least: I'll wash and he puts away/folds. For some things, deviding the space and having a race with my son to see who can pick up the most can be fun and productive, sort of a variation on the 9-pickup idea. This morning he took one side of the front porch, I took the other, and we saw who could get their side tidy first. Though, as the responsible member of the family, my 11 year old points out “I have to take my time to do it well” I hope to be that mature some day!

Mother Crone's Homeschool said...

I enjoy this persepctive, and can try to implement it as well. I, too, struggle with the incessant quest for a perfectly tidy home. Why would I give up so many fun moments with my kids, dogs, books, and friends to ensure the dust did not resettle on the electronics in the three hours since I was in there? My mother always said, "Only a strong woman realize the importance of her pleasure is more valuable than the stress of a perfectly kept home." I totally agree!

wisteria said...

I agree with your mother too! My problem is that I tend to concentrate too heavily on my pleasure and that of my children and then completely forget to clean the house. I am not seeking perfection, just comfortable living.