My "trouble goal"... keeping my apartment neat and clean

Monday, April 12, 2010

First, I've made my weight goal!! It feels really awesome... I decided to go down to 125 after all, and I feel pretty darn skinny but also nicely toned and still rounded. :) Now I just need to buy some clothes that fit me... even the clothes that used to be too tight on me before are all saggy now!

But today I read the spark strategy article about posting about my "trouble goal," which is something that always seems to be an issue in our life, and I knew exactly what I'd talk about. For me, my weight has never really been an issue. Spark definitely helped me stop it from creeping up, get motivated to exercise more, and get more control over my portion sizes, but I never felt ashamed of my weight and I've always had a pretty healthy relationship with food. Still, I feel I understand exactly what people mean when they talk about crash dieting before vacations, being embarrassed to walk outside or see friends and family at their current weight, because I do these things in my own way... not with weight but with my home.

My house is not very clean. I'll come right out and say that. I'm pretty organized (most things have places, I don't have tons of clutter) and I'm even semi-obsessed with home decorating (I read the blogs, watch HGTV shows, and take on more projects than I probably should), but when it comes to keeping my house neat and clean... I can't seem to do it in a way that is healthy, relaxed, and balanced. I can crash clean before people come over, spending hours getting my house in shape, but like crash dieting, that's only a quick fix-- I still have grime in my cupboards, laundry shoved into the hamper (and possibly hidden by the bedspread), and oh, yeah, when was the last time I changed the sheets? I can get my house looking decent-- although I'm sure not as good as it would look if I was simply able to put a finishing polish on it before guests arrive. I also find myself engaging in all-or-nothing thinking when it comes to keeping my house in order and clean, even though I don't when it comes to my body... I'll keep everything REALLY orderly for a little while, and then a stressful period will hit and I'll let everything go. The state of my house is a pretty good barometer for my mood. If I feel good and in control, it will look decent. If I feel stressed... well... just watch where you step. And there might be something growing in the dishes.

I also feel a lot of guilt and shame about this. I feel guilty that my house isn't in better order, that I let dust bunnies accumulate in corners. That there are footprints in the bathroom. That there is a funny smell in the fridge that I can't identify. I work from home, and I KNOW I have the time to clean more (I waste plenty of time online), and I feel guilty if I ask for more help from my husband who has a 90-minute commute each way to work... especially because he's really consistent about doing his part of the bargain, which is laundry. My jobs are technically bigger than laundry-- cooking, dishes, changing sheets, cleaning out the litter boxes, sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, cleaning bathrooms, cleaning kitchen, dusting-- but considering that I only consistently get to the first two items on that list, can I really ask him to do more?

But even more than the guilt, I feel a lot of shame. I'm embarrassed to have people over when I haven't spent a lot of time cleaning first. I have friends and family with very clean houses, and I can't help but imagine that they look at my house and see finger prints, dust, maybe a ring of scum in the sink and think "I couldn't live like that." I love to cook but worry that people are grossed out to eat my food. I once essentially forgot that someone was coming over, and she caught me with a truly dirty house (and sweatpants and a sweatshirt), and I've been too embarrassed to invite her over for dinner since then because I worry she wouldn't want to eat here.

Ok, before I should go any further, I should probably say that some of this is probably exaggerated in my mind. I guess I'm also like someone with an unhealthy body image, who looks in a mirror and sees more fat than there is. Yes, I could stand to lose a few "pounds" of grime from my house, but at the same time, I'm nothing like a hoarder and my house is nowhere near to being condemned. The worst thing on my dishes is usually a few flecks of dry food that I didn't quite manage to scrub off. (Ew, I know.) I have no vermin infestations and general nothing moldy in my fridge. I should probably also keep in mind that two cats are GOING to generate cat hair, and I can't expect the apt to be cat hair free. But I see every little flaw and hate myself for it, and that overwhelms me from doing something about it-- or rather, I'm not really sure how to do something healthy about it other than exhaust myself in a binge of cleaning.

The one thing that has worked for me in the past was to use the Flylady system (www.Flylady.net). I went through all of the Flylady "babysteps" in the fall, and for once I started to feel like I actually knew how to keep my home in order, that I could have people over at a moment's notice and feel proud of how my home looks. I think I fell off Flylady for a few reasons. First, I got very very busy in November and felt like I had to drop everything that wasn't essential... and that included the Flylady cleaning routines. Second, I think I hit the barrier that I've also felt somewhat on Spark-- it's easy to stay motivated when you're in the earlier stages of a plan and you're seeing a lot of progress, but it's more challenging to stay motivated when you're in the "maintain" phase. Third, I think I overloaded myself. Flylady is all about simple cleaning routines, and I think I added so many items onto my morning, mid-day, and evening list that they became time-consuming rather than automatic.

Another reason I think I dropped Flylady is that I don't think I quite had the support I needed from my husband. I mean, I can't blame him-- he didn't sabotage me, and ultimately I have to do all of this for myself, not for anyone else. Saying I didn't succeed because he didn't support me is a cop-out. His particular brand of lack of "support" would probably be welcome to a lot of women, anyway-- he has never criticized the way the house looked or made me feel bad about myself for anything to do with housecleaning. But what discouraged me when I was doing the Flylady routines was that he didn't really want to hear me talk about Flylady, and he kept telling me things like "the house looked fine to me before, I don't really see a difference." He didn't like it when I would be running around doing my "bedtime routine" in the evening. I felt like I was seeing results, but he kind of made me feel like I was wasting my time... this sounds kind of needy to say, but I really wanted to hear compliments and encouragement on how the house was shaping up, and I really wanted to celebrate the little triumphs I'd had that day and have him help me feel like they mattered.

Now, actually, I think things would be different in this respect. My husband has been on Spark with me since day one, and in many ways I did Spark to support him-- he's always been overweight (although soon to be in the "normal range" now). He has been very encouraging to me on all my small victories on Spark, and I think he has appreciated the ways I've helped him with Spark. I think he gets now that for me, house cleaning is a kind of similar issue, and that I need to be able to celebrate the loss of grime around the base of the toilet just as he celebrates running three miles in under 30 minutes. In many ways, I need Flylady like he needs Spark. I need it to give me the discipline and motivation to develop a healthy relationship with my house so that it stays clean but isn't something I beat myself up over. When I told him recently that I planned to pick back up Flylady after we moved (on Thursday!), he was encouraging, and I think he's been trying to notice the little things I do to clean. (And, er, I could probably stand to be more gracious in accepting compliments, especially when they have to do with the state of my house. I probably tend to respond to a compliment about my house with a criticism.) Some Flylady habits have stuck with me-- I use my "control journal" all the time, and I still follow the weekly "home blessing" cleaning plan.

Anyway, I'm going to pick back up Flylady, and I think I'll work my way through the babysteps once again, skipping over ones that I already do regularly (like the ones that have to do with setting up my control journal.). I'll also set up doing these babysteps as a mini-break goal on Spark.

So there it is... my trouble goal, which is going to stop pestering me from now on. I've probably never collected my thoughts about all of this before, and I've definitely never been this honest about it, and it feels good. No more shame! Clean, healthy, balanced!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I just replied your post in Flybabies. I hope it helps! It worked for me!
    3882 days ago
    Great and honest blog! Housework is not very gratifying is it because nobody exclaim when the house clean but mostly grumble when it's not! I've tried FlyLady as well and loved it but like you a busy life made me give it up but I'm ready again to pick up the challenge... on baby step at the time! Good luck in your endeavor! emoticon
    3887 days ago
  • no profile photo JEANNETTE59
    When someone has a problem and they recognize it and accept that it is real, they have taken the first and hardest step in conquering it. You my friend are a conqueror in the making.
    3887 days ago
  • no profile photo CD5555002
    Great blog. We all have areas in our lives we want to change. We are works in progress. Best wishes reaching your goals! emoticon
    3887 days ago
    I can totally relate to this. Thanks for posting.
    3887 days ago
  • LINDA!
    I can really relate to your blog. I am also one of those that have an unhealthy body image. When I see myself, I see an overweight person with bulges everywhere...although I wear a size 10 now. I am the same way about my house...it always looks cluttered but since I do the Flylady method...I know it isn't in bad shape.

    Your last paragraph is what really hit me. Learning to forgive ourselves. You are right, anyone who really loves us will overlook the mess.

    Thanks for a great blog. I hit the I LIKED THIS BUTTON. Others should read it. Many will relate to it.

    3887 days ago
    You have really put some thought into this.

    I probably did in my mind, too, but never put it into such good words as you have done.

    emoticon emoticon AND emoticon back
    3888 days ago
    Welcome back to FlyLady. Her sysrtem helps. So does letting go of perfectionism and not doing crash and burn style cleaning. Set your timer and do something. That usually gets you moving in a positive direction. I have resisted having a control journal but am now finding out how much it helps. If you can reach your weight loss goals, you can reach your house cleaning goals also.
    3888 days ago
    Oooh, this was a wonderful blog-- and I felt like in many ways I could have written it myself... like mom, like daughter, I guess :-). I've known all these feelings and struggles-- and am still challenged in keeping up with many aspects of keeping up our home (as you know!). You've definitely re-invigorated me here-- many home upkeep routines are just that for me now... routines (like making my bed daily, doing all the dishes pretty promptly, putting food away, wiping off the counters, tossing the junk mail immediately, keeping up with the laundry...). But I too have many areas that I just don't get to on a regular basis-- sweeping, quick mopping (did the dog shaggy her muddy wet fur again on the floor and woodwork!!!), and as you know very well, I still have some challenges with clutter. And so does your dad :-). And I too once had a time when some friend who was ALWAYS very neat in her home, just 'dropped in' totally unexpected, and I was 'caught' with a *really* filthy home.... all exposed and out there. Not fun! And I've also had those times when I just forgot about an appointment, and had to do some very quick 'scrambling' to be presentable and ready... And would I *ever* invite some of my friends from our synagogue to our farm??? Got to be kidding :-).

    AND I just checked, and there are about 4 Flylady-related SparkTeams! Could be a good idea...

    I love the connections you were able to make between how people tend to react when they are embarrassed by their weight and how we can tend to react when embarrassed by our homes.... SO similar, in so many ways-- never saw it in quite the same way before... Maybe it's why I've always had a special interest or sense of *empathy* for folks going through the weight-loss thing, even though it wasn't such a terrible problem for me either. Maybe I could always feel that 'twin empathy', knowing the housework side of it (and the fact that my parents were both very overweight, and at a time when this was NOT at all as common as today, makes me feel keenly interested in that struggle-- and I remember too the embarrassment I felt as a *child* over my parents' weight ....).

    SO, thanks for writing this.... was very meaningful to me.... and I'd love to hear about any 'small daily triumphs' in this area for you-- and would love to have someone to share my own little successes too :-). And now I think I'll neaten up my desk a bit before heading down to lunch :-). THANK YOU for making the time to write this today! I loved it :-) emoticon
    3888 days ago
    I am not a devoted house cleaner, either....but here are a few ideas which might help:

    take 30-45 minutes and write down the things that you think really NEED to be done--like dust, vaccuum, bathroom, etc.

    Divide them up into manageable sections. For example, "dust the living room", "scrub the tub," etc.

    Make up an easy-on-yourself schedule, where you take 15 minutes every morning and do one of these "quickie" things.

    Now--set up your tools over the next week. There are really great ready-to-use dusting rags, sanitizing wipes, etc. on the market. Put them near where they will be used. I have dust rags tucked into drawers in bedrooms, or behind the couch. Under the bathroom sink, under the kitchen sink. This means duplicating some cleaning items, which can cost a little bit more, but they should last longer, too. When you hate to clean, just like when you hate to exercise, making it as easy as possible on yourself is KEY.

    P.S. My house is still messy...but I am learning to forgive myself just a little for that. Anyone who really loves you will overlook some of these things. It sounds to me like you need to forgive yourself first!
    3888 days ago
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