7 Crazy Things I Do to Cope with Homekeeping Perfectionism

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I like the word “homekeeping, even though my auto-spell-corrector wants me to hyphenate it. It’s akin to housekeeping (incidentally not hyphenated), but more personal.

If you don’t have a housekeeper, whom we generally think of as hired help, then someone or several someones have to “keep” things running in your home. In the organizing world, we know it’s all about the systems and processes.

Those of us who struggle with perfectionism–which ironically almost always results in an inversely-proportionate level of actual “perfection” in the home (i.e., the greater the perfectionism, the messier the house)–often grapple with the implementation of said systems and processes essential to keeping a tidy, functional home.

So to encourage you to get creative to overcome your own perfectionism–or just to give you some amusement at my expense if that’s not your struggle–I  am sharing with you 7 crazy things I do to overcome homekeeping perfectionism. I almost guarantee you’ll feel better about yourself after reading this, for one reason or another.

 

#1                          I dust in the dark.

Okay, dusting is not technically a part of organizing but is usually the first thing you do when a room is tidy. When I am cleaning in a hurry (hahahahahaha!!…as if there has ever been a time when I was just leisurely dusting along…) I sometimes dust in the dark.

No, not by candlelight (hmmm, although…), but I sometimes intentionally don’t turn on every light in the room or even pull up the shades to properly illuminate my work–which is normally a MUST for me.

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But I purposefully “dust in the dark” to avoid fussing over every stray speck of dirt.

It takes me about half the time as I blissfully swipe a dust rag or feather duster over the furniture, knowing I’ve at least “visited every surface,” but don’t find myself hours later prying the dust out of all the groves of the piano with an old toothbrush.

(Some of you are laughing your heads off right now at the idea of stressing out over dusting, but the struggle is real, people!!)

 

#2        I use a timer for anything and everything.

Procrastination is a close cousin to disorganization, and nothing fuels the fires of procrastinators as much as the internal argument, “it’ll take forever!” The timer proves to me over and over that cleaning the bathroom or going through the mail or putting away the laundry indeed does not take forever.

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I’m repeatedly amazed at how much less time most tasks require than what I imagine. Furthermore, the timer sets a limit on tasks that I just can’t get excited about. I can see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

Even for lengthy, ongoing tasks, I can chip away at them with bearable snatches of time, all thanks to my handy-dandy timer. It often tricks perfectionists like me into thinking I’m not doing a chore that I dread, but instead playing a delightful little game that involves a race against the clock.

(Some of you are shaking your heads now, going, “I knew she was crazy!”)

 

#3           I start with the smallest/easiest room.

If things have gotten a little bit out of hand in my home, and I don’t know where to start (i.e., my house looks like a bomb went off in it) I start with the smallest room.

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In my house that happens to be a small guest bath/powder room. No matter what’s happened in there, (What could possibly happen in a guest bath/powder room, you ask?  Well, I could go into detail about the time our new kitten had to be quarantined in there and had explosive diarrhea, but I’ll just let you use your imagination…) it only takes a matter of minutes to do a complete reset of the room:  everything in place, tidy and clean.

It’s kind of the concept of grabbing the low-hanging fruit first to overcome the “I-don’t-know-where-to-start” syndrome. From there I move on to the next smallest room in the house and repeat.

By the time I get to the larger, more difficult rooms to maintain, I have confidence and momentum from having conquered several rooms quickly and easily, and I usually don’t hesitate to go on and finish “resetting” each room to a semblance of its optimum condition. If I start getting bogged down, I layer on method #2.

 

#4            I do tidying separately from cleaning.

Cleaning seems to be what I procrastinate doing in my mind, but I find when things are tidy, I don’t want to leave them dirty.

As an organizer, I don’t do serious “cleaning” for clients (best leave that to the cleaning experts!), but I always have a dust-rag handy in my toolkit, because as you organize and tidy, you almost can’t resist cleaning a little as you go. Once everything is sorted out and straightened up, it seems a shame to not knock the dust off.

So for me, tidying or resetting everything into its place is not a job I dislike. In truth, what I dislike and avoid are tasks that seem impossible. And cleaning a room that is a hot mess does seem impossible, until you tidy it. Then the actual cleaning is not hard at all.

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So I often begin by tidying all rooms before I ever clean a thing. Do I love it? Well, let’s not go crazy here.  (By the way, if things have really gone South here at Kelly Cottage, I combine methods 4, 3 and 2.)

 

#5           I use toilet paper to clean my toilets.

Maybe TMI, but I clean my toilets with toilet paper. (The outer portion–no, not the bowl). And different pieces for different parts.

I use a homemade spray made of rubbing alcohol, water, and sometimes some essential oils. I spritz, then wipe with toilet paper.  And then flush it.

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I’m actually by far not the worst germaphobe in my house, but my perfectionism worries me to death about cross-contamination and overrides my need to be green, pretty much convincing me I’ll never get the toilet bacteria out of reusable rags or sponges.

I know, I know, there’s probably even more bacteria on the kitchen sink (don’t get me started)–still don’t wanna wash those rags in the same washer with my dish towels or keep using the same sponge all over.

So I keep a bottle of spray near every toilet and can freshen them up any time with the t.p. that hangs conveniently nearby. That’s my “system” and I’m stickin’ to it.

 

#6            I Have company over occasionally.

This one only seems crazy if your house looks like mine does sometimes often. No I don’t regularly use my company as an impetus to get my act together, but I’m just sayin’… having an external deadline to get things moving along is sometimes just what the doctor ordered.

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If hosting a gathering finally motivates you to pick up that underwear out of the floor, it’s sort of a win-win, no?

Much like the timer phenomenon, where previously there was a conundrum of where to start, next steps suddenly become amazingly obvious.

The idea of someone else coming into your home often gives you fresh perspective–(or panic)–as if you’re viewing each room through the eyes of your prospective guests.

 

#7    I use fun, gimmicky apps on my phone and   tablet.

Again, this one may not seem crazy to many of you, unless you’re as un-tech-savvy as I am. But seriously, embrace 21st century technology to make things fun.

Any time I can take the focus off of my never-ending, albeit delusional quest for perfection, and have a little fun, I’m already on my way to overcoming the perfectionism.

Several months back, while surfing other organizing sites (yes, I do that for kicks…) I ran across an app that I now use all the time to keep up with daily home tasks that tend to slip through the cracks.

There are dozens  out there, but this one is as simple as it gets, so it’s right for me. There are bright colors, cute icons, and customizable alarm sounds.

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Fun. Again, it makes mundane tasks seem more like a game, helping me focus, while at the same time keeping me from forgetting to do important items that I don’t want to write down day after day, but which haven’t yet become ingrained as a habit. Who knew those new-fangled things could be so useful?

 


In reviewing my list, I realize that I have literally done all seven crazy things at once, usually starting with #6 (I also realize that I apparently love ellipses… and parenthetical editorializing). I’ve heard it said that “necessity is the mother of invention.” I think in my case, it’s more like “hospitality is the mother of desperation.” Now you know all my dirty little secrets… then again no, not all…

Are you feeling better about yourself, yet? Feel free to share your own crazy homekeeping antics in the comments.  Unless I’m the only one…

Blessings,

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Your Goal Shouldn’t Be to “Get Organized”

“Wait…what? But I thought this was an organizing website! And you call yourself an organizer?” (That’s me imagining what you must be thinking.)

That’s right. I said it. Your goal should not be to “get organized.”

The other day I was going through some old papers* and ran across some goals I had written down, one of which was to “get organized.” Yes, I’m one of those nerdy, write-down-your-goals types. And it struck me that getting organized is not really goal material.

Pardon me while I digress a wee bit (I’ve been enjoying a Scottish TV show of late, and I love how they are always using the term “wee bit.” It’s like reverse hyperbole–is that a thing??**–and I’m sure this usage will be no exception. That’s not the main digression, by the way…) But stick with me: there is a point in here somewhere.

In our culture I think we have a few things backwards. Well, actually, a lot of things, but we don’t have all day, so I’ll just mention a few.

For starters, we eat for entertainment and pleasure. Then we exercise in order to be able to indulge in more eating. No, not you or me personally, but other people, heh heh…

Untitled designA healthier mindset, and one I think would turn the health status quo in this country upside down, would be if we ate in order to fuel ourselves for the pleasure of more physical activity instead of exercising in order to eat. Nutshell version: Eat for fuel, exercise for pleasure—not that the eating part can’t be pleasurable, but that’s not the primary goal. I may have lost some of you right there… just keep reading.

 

A second example of backwards thinking, at least to my mind, is how we work in order to  afford ourselves leisure time. As Loverboy (they were an 80’s band for either you young whipper-snappers or, ahem, those of you who were past your prime in the eighties) put it, “Everybody’s workin’ for the weekend…”

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Maybe the real goal shouldn’t be working in order to procure time and resources to pursue leisure and recreation, but instead we rest, relax and recharge in order to have the energy to pursue our passions through work, or even to find joy in necessary work we’re not particularly passionate about.

Are you following me here? I’m definitely no workaholic, or exercise-aholic for that matter. And I’m not necessarily saying we should work or exercise more. I just think maybe we (I) have been looking at things from a flawed perspective.  The wrong mindset.

So… if you’re still reading—I told you I’d get around to the main point after just a wee bit (It sounds like this when the natives say it:  “Jost a wee bet”) of waxin’ philosophical! The backwards thinking which pertains to ORGANIZATION–this is an organizing blog after all– that surely others besides just little ole me have gotten backwards is detailed below:

First and foremost, getting/being organized should not be a primary goal, but a means to an end.

I’m not saying don’t get organizedI’m just saying maybe a change of mindset is in order for you as it was for me. More specifically, the focus should not be spending all of our time and talents getting supercalifragilistically organized so we can feel great about ourselves or post stuff on Pinterest or Facebook*** to show how awesome we are. Instead we should become organized to the extent necessary in order to put our time and talents to their proper and rightful uses.

Untitled design-3Here’s another, more related digression:  (Feel free to skip past the indented text.)

Seriously, I think somewhere in my twisted little mind I have always thought that if I get completely organized (similar concept to getting to the end of the internet…) that “House Beautiful” will show up and want to interview me about my charmed life, and all my wildest dreams will come true. What wildest dreams, you ask? I have no idea.

I have often found myself through the years, striving to get my mundane, everyday tasks out of the way so that I could get down to some much-needed organizing, as if that were the important thing. In fact, much of the disorganization in my life has stemmed from blessings, like marriage, motherhood, and homeschooling, and all the changes and surprises that accompanied my ever-evolving roles.

How much better would it have been for me to simply see organization as a means to somehow better enjoy the gifts that each day brings, even in the mundane?

The real reason I need to be organized is not simply for the sake of feeling fabulous and inflating my ego. The real reason I need to be organized is that NOT being organized holds me back from doing things that I want to do.

Being disorganized uses up time, and since we all have the same twenty-four hours in a day, if I spend a good portion of mine looking for things that are lost or doing essential chores in an inefficient way due to disorganization, I lose valuable time that I could be using in a way I want to be using it.

 

Organization is not a sprint, and after it’s all done you can mop your brow and say, “I’m glad that’s all taken care of…” It is a marathon, my friends. Okay, maybe an ultra-marathon. Or maybe like when Forrest Gump started running and didn’t stop for a really long time, except even longer than that.

We’re all faced with an ongoing task, which will have to be tweaked and sometimes just outright overhauled when circumstances in your life change. And we all know change happens. Period. Like it or not.

So instead of looking at organization as your ultimate goal or even as one of several life aspirations, I want to encourage you, while I encourage myself, to set real goals which align with our God-given passions and values and callings. I’m talking big stuff and small stuff. Maybe it’s pursuing an entirely different career or spiritual calling. Or perhaps it’s a project for which you are uniquely gifted. Or maybe it’s just having your act together enough to regularly have friends over for dinner and fellowship. These are “goal-worthy” aspirations.

Do some soul-searching and definitely praying and maybe even putting pen to paper (I didn’t mean all people who write down goals are nerds!) to cement a few goals. And if you have no idea where to start, do an internet search on goal-setting. There are lots of different approaches—just pick one that works for you (don’t overthink the actual process like I would).

And if less-than-stellar organization is interfering with the accomplishment of those goals, then take steps to remedy the problem, always keeping in mind your main goal:

  • Focus in on your worst pain points–the areas that cause you the most grief
  • Visualize what you want the end result to look like for each area
  • Determine what task is necessary to remedy the disorganization (possibly decluttering, and/or setting up more workable systems)
  • Break the task into small, manageable steps
  • OR Hire a professional organizer (shameless plug)

If you’re not ready to bring in a pro, for whatever reason, you can probably still benefit from a fresh perspective or change of mindset. You may need to do some digging to find inspiration, and feel like you’re not alone in the journey (you’re not!). There are tons of great organizing blogs that appeal to a wide variety of personalities. I’ve found ones with inspirational stories, before and afters, and even tips and tools which I’ve used to help me along the way, not to mention encouragement!

Here’s the takeaway:  Don’t get organized just to be organized. Spend time organizing your schedule, your thoughts, your systems and processes, and your possessions as a means to moving closer to accomplishing your goals.

Blessings,

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*Yes, I have bins and boxes of old papers that I’m still working on.  Don’t judge.

**Turns out, reverse hyperbole is a thing:  it’s called litotes (pronounced like “lie-toe-tease”).  But it usually involves a negative, like, “He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed.” I think my usage of “wee bit” is just sarcasm, pure and simple. No extra charge for that little tidbit, folks.

***I really don’t sit around judging the motives of everyone who does gorgeous posts on FB and Pinterest. I’m mostly just jealous. But, in truth, if I post something gorgeous there, I’ll probably be thinkin’ I’m pretty awesome. Maybe one day…

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On Becoming a Professional Organizer

6/28/2017

I’ve been easing into the profession for over a year now (don’t want to get ahead of myself, here–I’m still a homeschool mom for a few more years, after all). I’m finally making my first blog post after a little reflection on what in the world I’m doing:

Iʼm doing something a bit unconventional here. (Are yʼall ready for this??) Iʼm working as a professional organizer. Okay, I know, I know, the profession has been around for dozens of years now–thereʼs even a national organization for organizers (us insiders know it as NAPO)…

But in my neck of the woods, the whole concept is still a little bit out of the box, and organizers are still fairly scarce. When I attended the NAPO conference for the first time this year, I felt even more convinced of the strange newness of the profession to our part of the country.

Most of the organizers, at least the ones I met (and I met a LOT!), were from the East and West Coasts, and definitely from more urban areas. I met relatively few from the interior of the country and even fewer from “Small Town, USA.”

I donʼt think that means that those of us from the suburbs and towns are inherently more organized (but then again…?). I just think itʼs like anything else, weʼre just a little behind the latest trends, good and bad.

 

I think the fact that organizing is a service profession (we trade in service hours–not tangible goods) is a large part of the unconventionality Iʼm talking about. My husband is an attorney, so this is not an entirely new concept in our home. We’ve often discussed people’s hesitancy to pay for service versus “stuff.”

But I come from a long line of “do-it-yourself-ers.” Or maybe just a long line of “people-not-capable-of-imagining-paying-other-people-for-services.” I grew up in a household in which we rarely, if ever, hired people for services of any kind.

We werenʼt destitute or anything. In fact, we were rich in things that mattered, but we truly never went without material things that mattered either. Except… we mowed our own yard, did ALL our own laundry (No dry-cleaning. Thatʼs what Woolite was for…), changed our own oil, and right or wrong, definitely did any home or car repairs that came along.

If it was time for a new roof, all my uncles would be coming over to do the job. In all my years growing up, my parents never hired an attorney, plumber, accountant, personal trainer, housepainter…anything of the sort!

Aside: There was that one time that my mom called a cab (from in town out to the country where we lived) to take us to the church Easter-egg hunt, but thatʼs related to the above-mentioned do-it-yourself car repair…

I even worked my way through college at a hardware store, and when I wasnʼt doing computer data input or manning a cash register, I was learning everything I could from the resident experts on plumbing, electrical, hardware, and lumber, so I could continue the tradition in my own home–and my first apartment gave me plenty of practice!

 

I’m not at all being critical of my parents for not hiring these services out. They saved money (usually…) in many ways that allowed my mom to stay home and give us a wonderful childhood as well as keep us in art supplies, piano lessons, braces (lucky me), football gear (no, not me), and so on.

However, I suspect even if the goal were not to save money everywhere that we could, my parents still wouldnʼt have dreamed of hiring out many services. I think we just thought shelling out hard-earned cash to pay people to do things you could do yourself (skill level notwithstanding), was only for the rich and famous.

 

So, getting back to organizing, when I told my parents I was beginning to work professionally as an organizer, they said, “Huh?” and then once I explained a little, they said, “Really??”

So much has changed from them growing up on small farms (complete with outhouses) with relatively few possessions to now living in a day and age when people are overrun with “stuff” and are often seemingly powerless to do anything about it.

What seemed like a ludicrous proposition just a few decades ago suddenly makes a world of sense: if bringing in a professional can bring about freedom from ever-growing piles of stuff and failed household systems that keep a family from optimum day-to-day function, parting with a few bucks to achieve that freedom is a no-brainer.

 

How did I get here, you may ask? Before having my children, I worked as a teacher in the public schools. I was dual-certified for both art and English, and I ended up getting hired at a small, community school where, in order to work at the high school level, which I preferred, I had to do both.

So on the one hand, I was buried in grammar and writing assignments in my English classroom, but on the other, I was the entire Art Department, managing the art classroom (in another part of the building ) with all the supplies and materials that I had acquired on a shoestring budget, as well as sponsoring the Art Club and putting on 2-3 shows per year.

I spent a GREAT DEAL of time organizing materials and supplies, and actually often enjoyed that aspect of the job more than I did all the prep-work and grading associated with the actual teaching. Staying organized was essential in surviving such a demanding pace.

Fast forward a few years: I stayed at home after having my daughters, we moved a couple of times, and my husband worked many long hours while I began to homeschool our girls. Again, organization was key to keeping my head above water, and I can say truthfully, the lack thereof was sometimes the thing that made me feel like I was drowning.

 

I have natural organizing tendencies: I crave order and organization, and am constantly organizing in my head. I love all kinds of puzzles, but especially anything involving spatial challenges. I love having the spaces surrounding me arranged in functional, yet aesthetically pleasing configurations.

I also struggle with organization from time to time: life happens, and health ups and downs, family crises, and overwhelm resulting from overload happens to the best of us, and sometimes order in our home takes a back seat to seemingly greater needs.

I think over time, as Iʼve seen myself struggle with these issues, Iʼve come to realize that Iʼm not alone.

I have known people who truly do keep an immaculate house and never seem to fall behind on organization and management of the things in their home (and I donʼt hate them for it….much…).

Somehow, when things fall apart, the stress doesnʼt manifest itself in a mess for these people. They seem to be hard-wired such that they are unable to forfeit a constant state of order.

But I think there are many others, who are equally intelligent, hard-working people who find ourselves *ahem* I mean themselves, sometimes after crisis upon crisis, stuck in a place of overwhelm, unable to find even a place to start, often unbeknownst to the world outside of their immediate family.

Instead of clinging to order to keep a grip on sanity, itʼs the first thing out the window when the going gets tough. Iʼve seen this on a small scale in my own life, sometimes made worse by perfectionistic tendencies, and Iʼve definitely witnessed it up close with friends and family members.

I think this experience has grown in me a great deal of compassion as well as a longing for a chance to help those people who find themselves in a similar spot.

And then I find out that there are people who make an entire career out of just that!  (Major epiphany moment!!)

So I want to —

  • be a non-judgmental, sympathetic, helping hand that can help push the “reset” button on overwhelmed spaces
  • bring a fresh perspective and positive, can-do attitude into seemingly dark and hopeless areas of the home
  • help clients get back to a place of freedom and functionality….maybe even if theyʼve never hired an professional organizer–or professional ANYTHING–before!

 

For those discouraged souls, ready to make a change, I want to be their Professional Organizer.