A wise man I know once said that there is balance between controlling your environment and relaxing or having fun in it, and it is a choice where on the spectrum you want to live.  I've spent the last week-plus leaning more toward the other end of the spectrum due to some unusual challenges.  I picked up a few shifts and discovered that I couldn't work, complete my FLYing lessons and post about it all at the same time.  Then my husband left for a week-long seminar and I found out that I couldn't work full-time, be a single mom and complete FLYing lessons.  (Now, I'm sure there are plenty of single moms out there who can do it.  But they've had more practice than me, and their kids aren't usually extra-needy from a major change in the routine.)

I actually made it through Day Thirteen before I had to trim my FLYing back to laying out clothes, shining my sink, cleaning the kitchen and doing a quiet time.  Then I took two more days catching up with my husband and working on some projects around the house.  So I figure I should just go back to the last blog post and resume at Step Ten to help me get back into the swing of things.

The new task for the day is fifteen minutes of decluttering (aka throwing stuff away).
This was actually from a week ago, when I first started the challenge.  Here's the before (from Day Nine):
And here's after throwing junk away for fifteen minutes: 
Today I decided to start on the living room, because it's gotten into a bad state over the last week. 
First, there was four minutes of Hot Spot putting-out: 
Then there was a Five-Minute Room Rescue.  I had to spend some time emptying out the "Put Away" box from last time.  I am ashamed to admit that I found in it the reason Rose's sneakers have been missing for a week.
But doesn't it look better?
Very tempting... (just kidding). 
And finally after ten minutes of decluttering: 
After ten minutes, I really couldn't find any actual trash around any more, so I spent the other five minutes in another room.
It feels good to be getting back on track.  I believe you make the most progress developing a habit when it's hardest to feel motivated, so after I've pushed myself I find that feel more satisfied than when I was actually looking forward to doing chores.
Happy endorphins! 
Day Nine: More Decluttering

Today's add-on is a five-minute Room Rescue in the morning.  I got as far as labeling three boxes to sort the clutter into before Rose woke up and demanded to feed for the last thirty minutes I had before leaving for work.
Meanwhile, Pippin came down and started insisting that "We have to throw that box away because it says so."  I'm not sure he was ever convinced that we only had to toss the things in the box.

I'm not sure whom he thought we should give the third box to either.

Anyway, decluttering had to wait until I got home.  There was significantly more debris in the living room than when I left this morning.
And after five minutes... 
I decluttered recently, so nearly everything ended up in the "Put Away" box.  Technically, I should put that all away now, but I had the sort of workday after which one can only stagger around muttering phrases like "Good Lord!" and  "Holy cow!"  Plus, most of it belongs to the kids.  So it'll be put away tomorrow.
 And since I didn't put out any Hot Spots in the morning, I put out my dresser for four minutes
And lookee what I found! 
Declutter your dresser and you too might uncover a Sonic milkshake!
(Or maybe it might be my wonderful husband, bringing me treats after an absolute train wreck of a final case.)

Day Eight: Starting a Control Journal

I didn't even look at the Fly Lady website until after dinner tonight.  Turns out that today's step is sorting tasks into morning and evening routines, with checking the website and putting out Hot Spots in the morning.

Technically, we're supposed to use a paper binder, but I thought I'd try out the routine-scheduling portion of FlyHelper, which was the biggest reason I downloaded the app.
(Sorry about the resolution.  It looks great on my tablet, but I'm not sure why it looks crummy here.  I'll see what I can do to fix it later.) 
More Hot-Spot putting-out happens in the evening, along with the other Baby Steps.  I guess I'll just put out a Hot Spot for four minutes tonight.
As an aside, wouldn't it be nice if there was a Harry Potter-style Put-Outer for Hot Spots?

Day Seven: Tomorrow's Outfit

It's been one week of FLYing!  Time to review:

  1. Shine the sink
  2. Get dressed / have quiet time
  3. Check out FlyLady.net
  4. Sticky note reminders
  5. Confronting inner doubts
  6. Put out hot spots for two minutes
  7. Lay out clothes for tomorrow

I'm working tomorrow afternoon, so I laid out both outfits I'll need.  I guess I'm an overachiever. :-)
So far I've been keeping up fairly well, though as I've mentioned I really don't know what to do with Step Three, and my "sticky" notes... well... don't.  I must say, I'm looking forward to bundling my notes in a more permanent location in the near future.

Day Six: Cleaning the Hot Spots


Here goes. I'm going to bare my soul and show you my housekeeping trouble spots. Some of them are slightly better than normal because of recent barbecue we hosted forced me to do a little extra tidying.

My hot spots are (drumroll, please):

The kitchen table.
The folding table.
The coffee table.
The side table. Are you sensing a theme yet?
I tend to practice the "first available surface" method of filing.
And my "soul-bearing" resolve broke when I got to my bedroom.  I'm just not ready to show anyone my dresser.
Two minutes on the kitchen table cleared off everything but the dishes that were ready to go into the dishwasher.  Those I did right afterwards, and then set the table for dinner.
Speaking of timing, I figured out what was wrong with the timer function on the FlyHelper app.  It's true that the visual counter will freeze when the screen powers off, but the timer does still keep counting down.  The problem is that the default app settings have the timer and alarm chimes set to "None."  Once I changed that, it worked just fine.  One thing to be aware of - and this could be good or bad depending on how you plan to use the app - is that the chime rings once and stops.  So it's good if you want to be able to finish up whatever last little task you were doing without interrupting your stride to shut off an alarm.  It's not so great if you're apt to be distracted and miss the sound.
The other new item for today is the weekly Zone change.  This week the focus is on the Kitchen.  Not that I've been paying a lot of attention to the Zones since Day Three.  It's just hard to know where to fit them in.  I'll have to work on that myself - I've scanned the 31 Baby Steps (Lisa Collington did a wonderful job of sorting them into a nice, neat pdf on her blog) and there is not a single mention of Zones.  I shall take thought on this.

Day Five: Listening to Your Inner Nag... Before Telling it to Shut Up

Today's step is a difficult one.  I have zero self-confidence, a perfectionist drive that constantly tells me things are not yet good enough, and my personal CHAOS ("Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome") is as much due to social anxiety disorder as it is to the clutter.  So when Fly Lady says to turn all those negative voices in my head around into something positive, my initial response is, "But... they're all true."

But here goes anyway...

I can't manage the organization of a whole house.

I got through eight years of intense post-secondary education.  I've managed three kids.  I've started meal-planning and grocery shopping on a regular routine.  I've even started managing cloth diapering and a compost pile.  I can do this if I take it in little bites and don't expect it to come all at once.  As Fly Lady is fond of saying, "It didn't get messy in a day, and it won't get clean in a day either."
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:13, NKJV)

I'm lazy.

I'm exhausted.  That's not the same as laziness.  It's also something I can fix by tweaking bedtimes and increasing my efficiency in other parts of my routine.  And that's really what the FLYing lessons are for - not to add more work but to increase the value of the work I already do.

I'm worthless.

But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:7 KJV)

I'm a disaster.

 So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord (Psalm 45:11 KJV)

Day Four: writing things down

I have never completed Baby Step Four before, so it was exciting to enter new territory today.  I continued with starting my morning promptly with a quiet time, and I cleaned up the kitchen fully in the evening after hosting a family Fourth of July barbecue, but I admit I didn't touch the weekly Zone cleaning nor the monthly Habit.  As I said, we hosted all my in-laws.
I don't know why writing stuff has been a sticking point.  Perhaps it's because Fly Lady specifically says to do sticky notes, and that's just not something I do.  Sticky notes, for me, are things you paste on files or write phone numbers on (though once I transcribed an entire impromptu ophthalmology lecture onto them, having nothing better to hand).  They are not supposed to be semi-permanent fixtures of daily living.  However, since I couldn't readily think of a suitable substitute, I decided to give them a try and wrote out half a dozen notes...
 ...and then I decided that one more was needed:
Not much else to report today.  Happy Fourth, everyone!

Day Three

This has been the baby step on which I start to falter.  The add-on task for the day is "exploring the website," and that seems like such a little thing that I don't do it because I've already seen the website.  Or I do check out the website, but I don't actually do anything with it, so it doesn't feel like I've accomplished anything.

So today I resolved to:
  1. Check out the FlyLady website
  2. Review the weekly and monthly foci
  3. Actually do something from the website
  4. Try out my FlyHelper app

Mini-step One was okay.  I'm comfortable with the Launch Pad and the monthly focus.  I still feel a little lost navigating around in it, though.

Mini-step Two: This week we focus on Zone One: Entrance, Front Porch and Dining Room.  And the monthly habit is a daily Swish and Swipe of the bathroom.  It actually sounds like a pretty good habit for me to start on, but not today.

Mini-step Three: "FlyBabies" (that's me!) are instructed to declutter the weekly Zone for fifteen minutes.  So I set the timer on the FlyHelper app, and set to work on my living room.
An indeterminate amount of time later (yes, I know I said I set the timer, but we'll get to that in the next mini-step), I achieved this:
 Yes, I know the blankets would have been easy to pick up, but my kids did that so I made them clean it up after I was done.
I also realize my living room is not the Entrance, Dining Room or Front Porch. However, I don't have a dining room, the living room is right off my entryway, we have family coming over for the Fourth tomorrow, and my entrance is only cluttered in a wall-mounted magazine rack, and fifteen minutes sorting that would make very little visual difference.  I did go out and sweep the front porch too, but that didn't take me fifteen minutes.
I did, however, find the baby monitor that I left out there yesterday and discovered a really thick spiderweb - the sort that horror movie characters always seem to walk into face-first when they enter the deserted house - that some industrious little spider had woven across my storm door since yesterday.  
Mini-step Four: The app is a quicker way to get to the relevant parts of the website, or seems to be.  However, the timer never went off for me.  I'm sure I set it, but it stopped at 14:00 when my screen darkened to save power.  But when I tried it again, it kept counting... until it crashed.   In fact, my tablet says the timer is still counting down and I have three minutes to go.  I'll continue to experiment, but so far the timer seems buggy.
Between that and a number of other housecleaning tasks that I did to get ready for tomorrow's backyard cookout, I got so exhausted I forgot it was Thursday.  I remembered about the time worship practice (the one I was supposed to be at) finished up.
Good thing my husband brought home three pounds of chocolate for me from his roadtrip.  One can assuage a lot of frustrations that way.

Day Two

So, today FlyLady baby step is "Dress up to the sink and shine your shoes."  No... wait... that doesn't sound right...
However, shine my shoes is what I did, because I forgot to change into my lawn-mowing shoes before doing some yardwork, and I had a professional appointment this morning.  Green shoes would have been bad.
The left shoe has been scrubbed with a toothbrush dipped in a combination of water, vinegar, and a squirt of dish soap.  (About two parts water to one of vinegar, but I didn't really measure it.)  It works pretty well.  They aren't perfect, but they no longer look like my yardwork shoes anymore.

My sink also got the FlyLady Shiny Sink bleach treatment today, courtesy of the package of chicken breasts I dropped on the floor.  Of course, it was the only carton of the three that was brimming with chicken juice.  As I suspected, it didn't make a big difference in my sink - I've been doing pretty well at keeping it clean lately.  It's slightly brighter, but I think you'd need a chromatometer to really tell.

Getting dressed to the shoes first thing in the morning is problematic because of baby Rose who still nurses first thing (best done in pajamas) and the older children who start demanding their own breakfast immediately thereafter (and often sooner).  But we all get dressed right after breakfast, and I think I'm satisfying the spirit of the Baby Step (e.g. starting the day right off as a responsible adult) by making time to do some Bible study first thing.

Another thing I have to make an excuse for is doing my hair.  That really didn't happen yesterday because Rose got into my spin pins and threw one behind the bed.  I didn't find it until today.  So instead of putting my hair up neatly, I had it clipped up in a messy, bird-nesty sort of updo. But as I spent the day mowing the lawn and cleaning the gutters, it didn't matter a bunch.

I'm also happy to say that I cleaned the clutter off my kitchen table (it's one of my Hot Spots), cut some flowers from my garden, and made Bourbon Brown Butter Banana Bread (with chocolate chips) in time for my husband to get home.
I'm still waiting for him to notice that I mowed the lawn, though... 
It's time to come back and work on another series.  So this month I'm going to blog about my progress taking "FLYing" lessons.

FLYing lessons

Full disclosure: I've tried FlyLady's Baby Steps twice before, and never managed to complete them.  Last time around, I actually kept up with the routine for a couple of weeks - only I got stuck on step 3 or so and never actually added anything new to my routine.  But hopefully the third time will be the charm.  So here goes...


Day One

There.  Isn't that pretty?  I can't get it a lot shinier than that (it's old and kind of beat up), but it at least looks clean and cared for.

And I'm throwing in "sweeping the floor" as a daily bonus.  With three kids feeding themselves now, I'm ashamed that I didn't have that ingrained as a habit yet.  I'm finding that it's really depressing how much I sweep up every day, but I've been doing it pretty consistently for a month now, and I've realized that a crumb-y floor has as much of a negative effect on my psyche as a dirty sink.

Another disclaimer: I'm not signing up for the emails.  I did that the first time, and I just got so many in my inbox that it was overwhelming.