How To Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind Book Review
This is the picture my husband texted me today. He sent it to me because he can easily be considered OCD. If you watch him walk through a space (our home, his office) it is not unusual to witness him bending over to pick up a tiny speck of lint/shred of paper/leaf particle that happens to be resting idle on the floor. He will adjust a picture frame on the wall. He logs every credit card purchase on a master list and will verify every purchase for legitimacy at the end of every month. He knows his bank account balance to the penny. His car looks and smells brand new almost every day of the week, for as long as he owns it. His closet is a study in neatness and his desk looks almost unused. Have I painted the picture clearly enough? He’s what some would call a “neat freak.”
Enter me. I come from a long line of messies. When I say long line, I mean that when I think of all the people I am related to by blood, I can’t think of a single one that could be accused of being a “neat freak.” When we were newly married, I had this chair in the corner of our master bedroom that was my “worn clothes chair.” You know what this is, right? You’ve worn those clothes, so they technically aren’t clean, but they aren’t really dirty, so you want the option to wear them again before doing laundry. And you don’t want to put them back with the clean stuff because you won’t remember to wash them when you finally do the laundry, so you need them out as a reminder. It makes sense, right? It’s not laziness, it’s logic. This chair drove my husband bananas.
When I would bring mail into the house, I would drop it on the dining room table and leave it there for days and days, walking by it totally unbothered by the accumulating mess it made. And don’t get me started on laundry. It got contentious around our home when that hamper started filling even halfway. From my perspective, laundry was not worth doing unless one had a full load, and a half-filled hamper will not be a full load once sorted. To keep the peace we had to have separate hampers and he would run a load of his own stuff when he reached his laundry accumulation threshold.
The kitchen was always a problem. I was the only one that cooked, and he couldn’t stand the mess that would inevitably result and it was sometimes days before the kitchen was thoroughly cleaned. Our closets were always filled with more stuff than we needed or used. Stuff we needed and used wasn’t always easy to find since I was not prompt at returning all of our possessions to their supposed “homes.” The longer we were married the more clutter we accumulated, meanwhile the neat freak I had married was not going to sit silently by while I continued to ignore the consistent re-cluttering. I had no choice but to figure out how to improve the domestic front.
This was difficult to accept. I had always, ALWAYS loathed household chores. I was so happy to move out when I went to college so I could live however I wanted and not be accountable to anyone else to scrub toilets or vacuum, dust or do all the dishes for a large family. I never, ever dreamed of being a housewife. In fact when a friend of mine said, “She’s a housewife” as the response to my question about what a mutual friend from college was up to, I physically shuddered and audibly said, “Ew!” I laugh at that now, but I seriously, seriously had NO desire to be stuck in a house all day wiping snotty noses in between loads of laundry and sinks full of dishes. I was a modern woman! That’s an outdated way to spend one’s precious time and mental capacities. I was an intellectual. I had a college degree. I was going to do something with my life and have an important career and bring home a nice looking paycheck! Besides, it’s the 21st century. Surely all domestic duties will be equally divided with whomever I marry. Right? Right…
Needless to say, that’s not what happened. I married a man that worked 12-14 hour days five days a week. Laboring domestically was not on his weekly agenda no matter how much I expected, or wanted, it to be. After years of trial and error, I ended up developing various housekeeping methods that helped me stay on top of our household, keeping our stuff under control and getting all the necessary stuff done on a regular basis as efficiently as possible. My house is so pleasant to be in. I take pride in it now. I appreciate the fruits of my efforts, and no longer despise the work and effort that go into it. After getting rid of a lot of stuff, organizing what we do have and doing regular, quick maintenance tasks, it has actually become easy to return to an uncluttered state. Sure, it drives me crazy every now and then, doing yet another load of laundry or washing up a sink full of dishes. I don’t enjoy these mundane, mindless tasks, but I do enjoy having a sparkling, uncluttered kitchen. I enjoy not tripping over stuff wherever I walk. I enjoy being able to find the stuff I need when I need it (usually! My kids like to thwart these efforts on a daily basis...). And I especially enjoy being able to have people over without any warning, knowing I won’t be embarrassed by the state of my house.
“Wait,” you’re thinking. “I thought this was a book review?” It is. Everything that came before now was context. I came across A Slob Comes Clean the podcast, and, intrigued by the title, I started listening. If you struggle at all, in any way, to maintain your home, she’s your gal. I recommend her podcast to anyone I think might benefit from what she has to say. She’s funny, realistic and absolutely someone I can relate to. I bought her book and read it in four days. I nodded and laughed, and laughed and nodded. Then sent one to my sister. And will hand off my copy to a friend.
Here's the thing. Housework has to be done. There is simply no way around it. Trying to avoid it only makes it worse (been there, done that!). Not only will the work be harder the more you avoid it, it will also take so much longer to get any of it done. She explains this very well in what she refers to as "Dishes Math." Basically, a days worth of dishes takes about 15 minutes. Two days worth will take an hour. Three days worth will take hours.
Over the years I personally have made a clean kitchen my main hotspot to focus on in my house. I have three kids, two dogs and a husband. Stuff ends up everywhere by the end of the day, every day. We don't get to putting it all back every single night of every single week. What I WILL focus on getting done by the end of the day almost every single day is the dishes. And preferably sparkling counters and kitchen table. Nothing makes me more irritated in the morning (besides bickering children and babies up before the sun!) than walking into a messy kitchen. I cannot stand it. I can walk by piles of clutter all day long, but a messy kitchen? Drives me bananas. Dana is on the same wavelength in pinpointing that doing the dishes is the first and foremost area to focus on when working toward maintaining control of your home.
Her Visibility Rule and concept of gaining traction are absolutely essential in successfully overcoming an overwhelming domestic situation. Briefly, when you focus on what is visible, you will notice a difference in your efforts and it will inspire you to continue on improving other spaces and decluttering, decluttering, decluttering. This is so, so true. When I have visibly conquered a space in my home that has been driving me nuts, it brings me joy to see the change and inspires me to continue on in other areas. She discusses the paralysis we sometimes feel in getting rid of things, discusses donating versus selling, and offers the absolute best and simplest list of questions (two questions only!) to ask yourself when considering whether or not to keep an item in your home.
Getting control of your home, and maintaining control of your home, is exactly the advice you will find in this book. You won't find tips and tricks for how to perfectly fold everyone's laundry, how to color coordinate storage boxes, or where the optimum spot is for all of your possessions. You won't even find advice on how to organize. This is truly a book for those overwhelmed with the unending, constant cycle of domestic chores that most of us would rather be doing anything else but working on.
Pick it up and let me know what you think!