Project Clean House

Book #2

The Messies Manual, by Sandra Felton

First things first: Are you a Messy? If you score from 1 to 3 -- with 0 as disaster and 10 as perfection -- on Felton's opening quiz, sadly the answer is a resounding yes. "Cleanies" are on the opposite end of the spectrum, earning anywhere from 7 to 10. Personally, I fall somewhere between 4 and 6, which means that I qualify, in Felton's terms, as an average housekeeper. Score! I can live with that. But then I realized that even if I have my act together individually, as a family we are collectively Messies. The kids are ruining my average.

Day 1 Felton says, "People do what you inspect, not what you expect." And she especially means your kids. Following her advice, I put everything that I wanted them to do in writing and created an inspection time. It was such a small shift in my MO, but it made a huge difference. It hardly took me any time at all to actually do it. (I kept my list small and manageable. At the top was Make Your Bed, as Felton recommended.) The kids, in turn, seemed excited to point out all the little extra touches they had done. Kids like having their work noticed.

Day 2 Felton suggests writing thank-you cards to your clutter before getting rid of it to help you let go. I decide to pass on this because, well, let's just be honest: It's weird. I'm not that attached to my old junky stuff. But I do take two bags of old clothes to the thrift store. Ahhhh.

Day 3 Felton has a great idea for home file storage called the Master Files List. You keep a list of where you've stored your paper files on your computer. This is a great because computer documents are searchable! You can organize or disorganize your files however you like. I decide to organize all my files and create a Master Files List. When I put everyone's birth certificate in a special box I won't feel anxious that I had put my valuables away someplace safe -- and not remember where.

Day 4 I decide to procrastinate making a Master Files List until my youngest starts first grade. I'll have more time to really focus. In the meanwhile, I go on a hunt for important papers.

Day 5 Felton explains that the way they clean George Washington's beautiful estate is to start at the front door and slowly work around the perimeter of every single room until the whole place is clean. Felton calls this the "Mount Vernon Method" and instructs us to clean and organize our entire house this way. Note: It took her three months to clean and organize her whole house. It is not a quick fix. I decide to try it.

Day 6 I give up on the Mount Vernon Method. It's too overwhelming. And I highly doubt that there were kids messing everything up before even one room is finished -- like mine are.

Day 7 One big shift in my thinking is Felton's concept that if a task requires 30 seconds or less, do it right away. Those blocks of time add up! And stuff isn't so crusty if you do it right away. Spending 30 seconds wiping the tub immediately after I take my 2-year-old out instead of leaving it for the morning saves me, according to my back-of-the-napkin calculations, at least five minutes. Hey, you do the math!

Bottom Line

This book is about the hard work of work. No shortcuts, folks. You just kind of have to do it. Boo! Felton focuses on changing your behavior, setting goals, creating habits, and avoiding procrastination. All good, but quite effortful. It is essentially the opposite of The House That Cleans Itself.

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