I have a confession to make. I subscribe to the FlyLady mailing list. Here’s how it happened…
Two months ago I started reading about Getting Things Done. I hadn’t intentionally gone in search of methods of increasing my productivity – I just came across it while reading some Mac blogs. At the time I was completely disorganised. The house was a mess, the washing was lying unsorted in various laundry baskets, my “things to read for work” pile was huge and the desk was so covered in who-knows-what that I could barely find the mouse. The task of sorting it all out was so overwhelming that I continually put it off and spent most of my time on the computer instead of being productive. The whole concept of GTD and being able to get myself organised really excited me. So I started looking for more productivity hacks – I discovered 43 Folders, which indirectly led me to the FlyLady website.
Nine years ago Marla Cilley was as disorganised as I was. She decided to do something about it and devised a scheme to get her house sorted out. She gradually developed cleaning and tidying routines and over a period of nine months her house was transformed. She set up a website with how she did it and all the routines she uses. The basic idea is that you gradually build up simple routines that then become habits.
I’ll explain how it works. There is a 31 day plan that gradually builds up the daily habits. The first habit to develop is keeping your kitchen sink clean. The theory is that if your sink is always clean and shiny you’ll be more inspired to start keeping the rest of the kitchen clean. You gradually build up a before bed routine of cleaning the sink, planning your clothes for the following day (to avoid panic the next morning when you find you’ve nothing ironed!) and clearing your hotspots. Hotspots are a brilliant idea – they are areas that are prone to getting cluttered. The areas where things get dumped. If your hotspots are cleared each day the clutter doesn’t build up. My hotspots are an area of the kitchen worktop, the dining room table, the coffee table in the sitting room and the bookcase in the hall.
Once the evening habits are becoming ingrained you start a morning routine of unloading the dishwasher and wiping down the bathroom sinks and toilets. At the same time as developing these habits you spend 15 minutes each day decluttering a room. Then once the decluttering is done (which will probably take weeks) you can begin the weekly cleaning routines. Each week you concentrate on a different room (or more than one room, depending on the size of your house) and have a list of jobs which need done within the week. This is on a rolling five week rota so these cleaning jobs get done monthly. You are encouraged to write down the routines and cleaning lists in a journal to keep track of it all. This week I have to do our bedroom and ensuite bathroom. Yesterday I cleaned the windows and hoovered under the bed. I used to go months sometimes without doing that. Now I’m doing it every 5 weeks.
So you get the gist. Daily quick routines/habits and a monthly rota for the bigger jobs. The initial 31 day plan, all the cleaning routines and weekly plans are detailed on the FlyLady website. And you don’t have to pay for any of it which is a bonus.
If you’re needing a bit of encouragement you can sign up to the FlyLady Yahoo mailing list. You are then sent emails with reminders of what jobs you are meant to be doing throughout the day. Reminders such as “have you got the laundry out the washing machine yet?” and “have you cleared your hotspots?”. I actually find these quite useful. There are also testamonial emails describing how the FlyLady has changed people’s lives. These are a bit cheesy for me and I almost always delete them without reading them. (Actually the whole website is really cheesy but I ignore that to get to the useful stuff.) There can be over 10 emails sent a day. I can see for some this would be way too intrusive but you can just follow the plans from the website without subscribing to the emails if you want.
So how have I implemented it? I started on 22nd November 2007. All I did on that first day was “shine my sink”. I then followed the 31 day plan pretty rigidly. (I’m an absolute sucker for plans and rules!) I found by the end, keeping the sink clean and clearing the hotspots was pretty ingrained. I’m still gradually decluttering the house (usually only 15 minutes per day) but it is going to take a long time. I have now drawn up my cleaning lists (in a Pages document rather than a journal). My weekly plan is quite different to the sample list on the website – I’ve tailored it to fit around the days I’m at work. I’ve followed the website more closely for my detailed cleaning plans. It doesn’t take up too much of my time. Little and often is the key.
My house has been utterly transformed. The bathroom sinks are no longer covered in toothpaste, I’m on top of the ironing, the kitchen looks nice and I can actually see my bedroom carpet. It’s even beginning to wear off on my children. My 6 year old little boy’s room has been spotless for a month. (I can’t say the same about his sisters’ yet, unfortunately!) Although the style of the website may be rather offputting for some, for me it has been life changing.