The 4,658-Pound Elephant in the Driveway*

Not only do I currently drive a behemoth of a vehicle we’ve nicknamed “The Beast” that I still can’t successfully park under three tries, I just discovered it costs extra to register passenger vehicles weighing 4,001 pounds or more.

My hatred of mini-vans and roof top cargo boxes had me push for a vehicle whose size is only needed once a year. The brilliance! It’s blinding.

*We don’t have a driveway. Poetic license.

FlyLady Experiment: Days 24-31

Boom. I’ve finally written up the last days of my attempt at FlyLady’s BabySteps. Confession: It took me more like 60 days to get through the steps.

Day 24: Add “Swish and Swipe” to your morning routine

Wipe down your bathroom sink and mirror, and wipe down the toilet and swish the bowl with a toilet brush EVERY DAY. That way, your bathroom is never disgusting.

I’ll be honest. I ignored FlyLady’s directive at the beginning of this whole process, jumped ahead and started doing this right away.

You see, I really dislike bathrooms. Even seemingly clean ones. I get intrusive thoughts about what’s lurking under the toilet seat. And I find hair not attached to the human body disgusting. Honestly, most of the hair attached to the body is gross too. But if hair is stuck to the bathroom floor in a puddle of water or on the side of the toilet, the odds of me having a psychotic break rise. Shudder.

I’ve avoided cleaning the bathroom at all costs throughout my life, although I was much better about it when I lived alone. My filth < Your filth. Plus, I never let it get too gross, which is the key.

Once I moved in with Andy though, it became one of Andy's chores once he saw me gagging while I was cleaning the toilet one day.

Unfortunately, Andy has a much higher tolerance for yuck than I do. Stereotype time: Hair and various splatters (I can barely type that without wanting to hurl) are invisible to men. It's a fact. Except when it's not. Damn outliers.

The point is, Andy didn't see the same disgustingness I saw, so he didn't clean on my timeline. So the bathroom would descend into grossness until I'd lose my shit and nag him about it.

Yes, I can hear the choir of "Hey lazy ass, why didn't you suck it up and do it yourself!" To which I whine "Buuuuuuuuuuuuut iiiiiit's groooooooooooooooooooos. Waaaaaaaaaaaah."

No more! Well, the whining continues. At least in my head. But I am now wearing my big girl underwear and tidying up the bathroom regularly. It sometimes involves stiffening my spine and holding my breath, but I get it done. How lame is it that this is an accomplishment for me?

Day 25: Remind yourself nobody is perfect and read FlyLady’s personal testimony

Oh look, another day to keep doing what your doing. At least FlyLady is proud of you for sticking to your new routines for 25 days. Except it’s been more like 48 days and you haven’t been sticking to the routines. Oops.

Day 26: Read the first sentence at the bottom of any FlyLady email and incorporate it into FLYing

I *think* she means this: “You are not behind! I don’t want you to try to catch up; I just want you to jump in where we are. O.K.?”

So if you skip a day or 7, whatever, all is not lost. Don’t give up and waste all your time reading crazy, slightly right of Attila the Hun bloggers for entertainment instead of folding laundry. Not that this has happened to me.

FlyLady also says something about it taking a month to form a habit and because she doesn’t want her FlyBabies overwhelmed, she only focuses on one habit per month. Wtf? Why am I trying to learn to do all these multi-step routines in a month then? Or are routines not habits? I might have been less surly if I was only trying to Swish and Swipe for a month, or drink more water. Ok, probably not.

Day 27: Today, think about what you’re fixing for dinner before 6 p.m.

Ok. At 5:59 pm, I will text Andy and tell him to pick up McDonald’s.

Just kidding. This was true a few months ago while I was bat shit crazy. Now I’m cooking again. As a lazy ass trying to avoid cleaning as many dishes as possible, I’m a big fan of the crockpot.

Day 28: Remind yourself to eat right, drink water, and get your rest as part of your routines.

Self-explanatory. Nothing to put the effort in to snark on really.

Day 29: Find the Weekly Pamper Mission on the FlyLady website and think about when you’re going to do it. Put it on the calendar if necessary.

Ooh, it’s the ole “lotion up your feet, cover them in plastic wrap, and sleep in your socks” bullshit to soften up your soles. This does not appeal to me. At all. Hot, sweaty, goopy feet just sounds like a recipe for Athlete’s Foot.

Does the pampering come in the form of the break you get when you leave your toddler with a sitter while you visit the dermatologist to get mushroom-fighting-grade Tinactin?

Ok, ok. I get it. Take time for yourself.

Day 30: Look at your calendar and see if anyone has a birthday coming up and put getting a card or gift on your errands list so you don’t forget.

But what if you lose your list or realize you left it at home just as you pull into the parking lot of the store? Or you have the card or gift all ready to go but fail to mail it for a month? Anyone?

Day 31: Don’t get hung up on learning everything about the FlyLady system. Just keep decluttering away and you’ll eventually get to detailed zone cleaning lists and the weekly home cleaning hour, etc.

So yeah. Keep on keeping on.

The Takeaway

We no longer have a cleaning lady. Sniffle. I could no longer justify it since I regained my status as a semi-functioning human being.

Sometimes I follow the FlyLady zones. Sometimes I don’t. Things do pile up but I beat them back into submission. I swish and swipe pretty regularly. And vaccuum. And dust. I’m not going to be a candidate for Hoarders anytime soon.

But laundry folding continues to be my Kryptonite. Routine bed-making needs improvement. And the piles of paper records in the basement that need to be sorted, put away, tossed or shredded haunt me. Some days I care more than others. But I plan to keep on plugging away in my usual fits and starts.

I’ll never be Donna Reed, but the same can be said for Peggy Bundy.

Brain Rot

Being a stay at home mom has an unfortunate side effect that stems from watching my toddler empty out drawers for fun, regularly redirecting her away from whatever thing she shouldn’t be playing with, and singing If You’re Happy and You Know It ad nauseum.

While gumming a plastic ring and putting it in and taking it out of a Tupperware container fires her neurons, I sometimes think I can feel my brain cells shriveling away as I watch this spectacle day after day. Yes, I’m a terrible mother and/or human. The terms seem pretty interchangeable.

Don’t get me wrong. She’s very cute and watching her work things out on her own is pretty darn awesome. Letting her crawl all over me while she giggles warms my secretly sentimental but publicly stone heart.

But in the meantime, my brain is entertaining itself running around maniacally in circles. It can’t sit still. Think about this! No, wait. Ponder that! But before you do that, remember to throw in a load of laundry and DON’T FORGET TO PUT IT IN THE DRYER, you forgetful asshole!

So. I’m going to take a class. A graphic design class twice a week in the evenings. And I’m afraid. You see, I’m not the greatest multi-tasker. I’m more successful when I can focus on one thing at a time, which just doesn’t seem to be a desirable trait. This was hard enough to deal with before I had a toddler running around.

I’m afraid that when I’m inevitably unable to give an assignment the hyper-focus I’ll want to give it, I won’t be happy with the results — what I come up with won’t be good enough.

I’m afraid I won’t like graphic design as much as I want to like it. I want to like something, damn it.

Enough that I won’t burn out from it inside a year and might want to translate it into a career. Enough that I don’t look at my student loans for a degree I don’t use — and don’t want to use ever again — and hear that nasty Gollum voice in the back of my head whispering “what a waste, what a failure.”

Leave it to me to put the weight of the world on a community college class. I think I’ll go let Maybe crawl on me to cheer myself up.

One

We celebrated Maybe’s first birthday earlier this summer. I think we’re still in a state of disbelief that a year has passed since she was born.

Aw, she's growing a beard like Daddy's.

Aw, she’s growing a beard like Daddy’s.

I admit I pinned some stuff, but I didn’t want to go all over the top twee with her birthday. She wasn’t going to remember it and express admiration and appreciation for my attention to detail. She and her baby friends weren’t going to compare their parties and judge the terrible lack of striped paper straws and drinks in Mason jars. They were going to crawl around and put everything in their mouths like any other day. I wanted them to have fun doing that while making it more festive than a regular playdate.

However, I didn’t want to have a party at home because we are still lacking in the furniture department, and because Lennie. So I reserved a pavilion in the park for a few hours. (More on that in a bit).

We read Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? to May a lot, so I perused Etsy to see what I could find in that department in terms of a party theme. I found these invitations from SonnyandJack. Julie was very responsive and easy to work with.

Leftover card stock from our wedding Save the Dates came in handy for these, and I just bought some Kraft paper envelopes at Staples to send them in.

I was all set to get these cupcake toppers and hanging decorations, but I dialed it back. All of it was going to wind up in the garbage after all, and I’d already bought the makings for NINE tissue paper pom poms to hang around the pavilion (One for every color animal in the book). Add table cloths, napkins, cups, and utensils in the colors from the book, and I was already contributing a lot to the landfill. At least the white drink bucket and serveware can be reused.

Brown bear inspired party

I looked around for picnic blankets that weren’t just cute, but would protect people’s butts from getting wet if the ground was damp. Unfortunately, five outdoor blankets weren’t in the budget. I ended buying a bunch of poly-backed burlap tarps from Home Depot for people to spread out on the grass if they wanted. Andy, whose days as a Boy Scout made him an expert in knots, rolled them and tied them up with twine in some complicated looking pattern.

I kept the refreshments simple: soda(pop damn it!), bottled water, pizza, veggies and dip, fruit kabobs and cupcakes from one of the many cupcake bakeries in the area.

image

The morning of the party, I realized I should have booked the pavilion an extra hour to account for set up. The pavilions are first come, first serve unless you have a permit. I had booked the pavilion for only the party time because my brain no longer functions correctly the same way since pregnancy.

When we arrived at the park an hour before the party, a group was having a full-on barbecue. The food looked really good but that’s beside the point. We couldn’t ask them to leave because 1) It was first come, first serve until the time listed on my permit, and 2) We’re not assholes.

Gearing up for an ugly confrontation with permit in hand, we apologetically told the group we had the pavilion reserved in an hour, so, uh, clear out by then. And you know what happened?They said ok.

We feared it’d be like throwing out The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia. It’s really anti-climatic when people pleasantly surprise you.

We proceeded to try setting up in 10 minutes before guests started arriving. Yeah, that didn’t happen. But our friends are nice and didn’t care. They just pitched in and watched the kids while we finished.

Ultimately, everyone seemed to have a good time, which is the important thing. But I think I’ll skip pavilion in the park parties from now on. Even with a permit, throwing out a party of 35 isn’t my idea of a good time.

Celebrating because set up is over? Or because I'm surrounded by garbage?

Celebrating because set up is over? Or because I’m surrounded by garbage?

FlyLady Experiment: Days 21-23

Day 21: Check your laundry, I guess

That new habit is emphasized, and we’re told about the daily Ask FlyLady Question. I don’t care.

Day 22: If you’ve been procrastinating about building your Control Journal, stop.

If you just can’t get your shit together and build one, FlyLady has one for sale. Of course.

Day 23: Add an afternoon routine to your Control Journal.

I view this list as a reminder to keep plugging away through out the day. Fold the laundry you put in the dryer this morning Liz, and PUT IT AWAY. You have some lovely Pottery Barn dressers you spent a fortune on for this purpose.

Pick through the mail that has piled up on the dining room table AGAIN.

Go lay in bed with the iPad while May is napping. Wait, what?

FlyLady Experiment: Days 18-20

The train that derailed on this? Yeah, part of it flipped over and there was an explosion. I’m pretty sure I saw Dr. Richard Kimble running from the scene.

Day 18: Read FlyLady’s Eleven Commandments

No.

Day 19: ???

I think I was supposed to be inspired by a testimonial from a FlyBaby talking about a wonderful Bed and Breakfast she’d stayed at with her husband, praising the fresh white towels and sheets, scented candles, and waffles served with blackberries. Spoiler alert: It was the woman’s home, all thanks to FlyLady.

Ugh.

Day 20: Include laundry in your daily routines

This means sorting, washing, drying, folding, and putting away. I was rather disappointed to see procrastinating wasn’t in that list.

Laundry is our nemesis. Well, Andy’s nemesis as he does most of it. I don’t know how or why this happened.

We live out of baskets of clumped up piles of clothing. Or piles on top of the dryer. Or stuff hanging off the drying rack. It’s our not so secret shame. It annoys me. But sadly there are few things that annoy me enough to get off my ass, unless I’m on some anger fueled rampage of motivation where I knock out a bunch of things annoying me and announce that “We will no longer be disgusting!” This lasts maybe a day.

We’ve folded and put away more laundry recently than we have in years. All thanks to FlyLady!

But that’s not saying much. It’s a work in progress. I will say we’ve been far better with May’s clothes than our own, so we’re not complete laundry failures. Small victories people.

I desperately want to abandon this FlyLady crap. Mostly because of the seemingly useless days where nothing new is added, but I’m directed to read some motivational garbage on her website or an advertisement for her cleaning supplies. I admit, her rubber brushes intrigue me. It seems they’d get less nasty than nylon ones. But I have a tendency to buy cleaning and organizing products and then never use them, so they wind up sitting next to the piles of clutter, judging me.

But there’s *only* 11 more days of FlyLady Baby Steps left, so I guess I’ll grimly push through and drag all one of you with me. It’s gonna be a blast!

FlyLady Experiment: Days 15-17

Ok. I completely derailed on this. I was distracted by Maybe’s first birthday and a visit from my parents. And frankly, I find a lot of these steps boring and tedious.

Day 15: Add making the bed to your morning routine

Finally, something tangible. Not just a reminder to look at reminder post-it notes. Here’s the thing. I’m a terrible bed-maker. Why make it when I’m just going to get back in it?

My laziness regarding bed-making stems from 1) my laziness and 2) a childhood experience. One day I made my bed. I knew it looked nothing like what it looked like after my mom made it. For one thing, I somehow managed to get my bedspread laying at a diagonal. I wish I had a photo. The image is clear in my mind and honestly, it’s hilarious.

I proudly showed off this monstrosity to my mother, who praised my effort. But then she re-made the bed. So there began my long, dysfunctional relationship with “I can’t do it right, so I’m not going to do it at all.” It’s all Mommy’s fault,of course.

FlyLady claims there is no right way to make a bed — that imperfect housekeeping still blesses your family. As much as this cheesy statement skeeves me out, what she’s saying makes sense. But I’d put it differently: Sometimes doing something wrong is better than doing nothing.

I think there is a right way to make a bed. But honestly, straightening the sheets and blanket in the morning in lieu of hospital corners looks better than my usual method of doing nothing.

Day 16: Read a FlyLady email

And here’s a step that makes me WTF. I get that it’s to let the other parts of the routine settle in, but I wish FlyLady just say that instead of giving me this filler step. Moving on.

Day 17: Set a specific bedtime and stick to it

I know I need to go to sleep earlier. But when May and Andy go to sleep, I consider those few hours me time where I get to lurk away on Internet forums or read a book. It’s glorious. It’s also leaving me with less sleep than I need.

I’ve chosen 11 p.m. as my bedtime. Last night, I noted that it was 11, and that it was my bedtime. I then continued to read until midnight.

The FlyLady Experiment: Days 8-14

I think I’m going to post FlyLady updates covering a fewer number of days from now on. Too. Much. Text. Until then, you’ve been warned. All zero of you.

Day 8: Get a 3-ring binder, some paper, and write down your morning routine and before bed routine on 2 separate pages

I have a household binder. Surprise! This isn’t my first organizational rodeo. This is a snap for me. Just a couple more pages for me to ignore.

Day 9: Learn how to declutter a few minutes at a time and do a 5-minute room rescue

I always thought decluttering just meant getting rid of all the useless crap purchased during retail therapy sessions, which I never seem to do because I want everything decluttered yesterday and if that isn’t possible then why bother starting? Logically I know that it’s actually a good idea to do things a little bit at a time so I dont crash and burn. Trouble is I tend to fizzle and burn too because doing the same sucky thing consistently bores away my motivation.

FlyLady suggests getting 3 boxes, label them “throw away,” “put away,” and “give away,” and setting a timer for a set amount of time and go to town in the room of your choice. When the timer goes off, you put the throw away outside in the trash can, the give away box in your car to drop off at a thrift shop, and you put away the put away stuff.

Ok. I’ve learned about decluttering.

A 5-minute room rescue is just a cutesy term for setting a timer and spending 5 minutes clearing a path in the most cluttered room in the house. Is it just me, or does it sound like FlyLady followers are all a bunch of hoarders?

Confession. I don’t think I did a 5-minute room rescue. I put out a hot spot (a hot spot is in a room FlyLady) because while I was sick, this happened:

My dining room table threw up.

My dining room table threw up.

I didn’t use a timer. The horror, the horror. But I beat back the hot spot in about 5 minutes. Oh look, it’s back. Out damn spot!

Day 10: Learn the power of 15 minutes

The timer again. Ugh. I decluttered the kitchen for a bit. I used the timer on the oven. But I only used two boxes, and the give away box is still in the house awaiting more crap I want to give away. And I guess I need put away the put away box. I just dumped the trash in the kitchen trash can as I went. Such a rebel.

Day 11: Add an “Inspirational Page” to your 3-ring binder/household binder/control journal/whatever the hell you call it

This is supposed to be a page of inspirational phrases. Hear the sound of a record screeching here? I sure did.

I couldn’t contain the eye roll as I immediately pictured those lame motivational office posters about teamwork and shit. Oh God, I forgot they called them successories. Vomit.

I somehow managed to stop giving this step the side eye for a few seconds so I could remember I have a Pinterest board of quotes I like, and a notebook I started for May that I’m also filling with quotes from people far smarter and funnier than I am. That’s going to have to do because I’m not making anything called an “Inspirational Page” unless I suddenly become an avid collector of Precious Moments and Anne Geddes.

Day 12: Keep the sticky notes up as a reminder to look at your control journal, and delete all your FlyLady emails

The sticky notes keep falling down. I tossed most of them in a 5-minute room rescue. Bwahahaha. Emails deleted. I also switched to FlyLady Lite emails because I was tired of the barrage of testimonials about FlyLady’s line of cleaning supplies.

Day 13: Find and complete a mission on the FlyLady website launch pad

I wiped down the sides of the toilet. Ew. I wish I could explain my irrational fear of toilets. I mean, nobody likes cleaning a toilet, but I doubt they have bad dreams about crappers. Yes, it’s true. I often have nightmares about toilets — usually of the clogged, public variety. Gah.

Day 14: Read the essay about using a calendar

A calendar keeps you organized. IF you remember to look at it.

Sigh

There are times that I wish that I could have the planet to myself for a single day. Times when I have a cold, and my baby, who has the same cold, (I gave it to her because as a mother I give and I give and I give) isn’t interested in eating but still feels just fine and dandy enough to pull my hair, do the crocodile death roll when being changed, and just be EVERYWHERE while I desperately want to curl up in a corner and bang my head against the wall.

I actually reached a point where I just gave up trying to finish snapping her back up after a change and let her crawl around with her onesie and PJs all asunder. I then used my frustration over this stupid cold and stupid lingering sore throat as fuel to put her clean laundry away and clean out the linen closet. That’s, uh, kind of a lot of frustration. And a total violation of the FlyLady BabySteps. Gasp.

The FlyLady Experiment: Days 1-7

FlyLady’s Beginner BabySteps add a step to a routine everyday with the aim of these routines becoming habit. Supposedly it takes at least 28 days to form a habit. I have firsthand knowledge that it only takes one day to break one.

Day 1: Shine Your Sink
Empty your sink of dirty dishes, fill it to the brim with hot water, add a cup of bleach, and let sit for an hour.

I saw an immediate problem here. My sink has no stopper. So off I went to Bed Bath & Beyond to get one. I weighed my options and went for the $10 Oxo one because it looks big enough.

I got home and attempted to fill my sink with hot water with the stopper in place. It made it half-way because guess what? The stopper didn’t fit perfectly, so water kept slowly draining. I stuffed a paper towel under the stopper, and that seemed to work. The water reached the brim. I added the bleach and walked away.

When I came back, I discovered that the water had drained completely so there was no need for me to pull the plug with tongs or use rubber gloves as directed. Annoyed at my sink, I moved on to rinsing it, scrubbing it with Ajax, and rinsing it again.

By this time, my hetero life partner, who I hadn’t seen in more than a year, arrived for a much awaited visit. Inside jokes and jackassery commenced. So I didn’t clean around the rim of the sink with a butter knife, clean the faucet with dental floss and a tooth brush, or shine it with Windex. Honestly, my sink didn’t look that grody anyway. But I didn’t completely shine my sink.

I’m trying to care.

Day 2: Get Dressed to Lace Up Shoes When You First Get Up
Yeah, I’ve done this once in the past weeK. I usually shower and get dressed during May’s first nap, which is a few hours after we first get up. And I own a single pair of lace-up shoes — my running shoes that I wear when I’m running or doing a ton of walking. Oh, wait. I have tennis shoes too that get worn maybe once a year when I actually play tennis.

Day 3: Explore the FlyLady Website
Information overload. When exactly does the FlyLady do all this? Where does sitting on my ass playing Candy Crush Saga fit in? My eyes glazed over after a while.

I did discover why FlyLady recommends getting dressed to lace up shoes, and I understand the premise. You don’t feel like as much of a schlub when you’re dressed and have shoes on.

But I feel like a schlub if I’m wearing running shoes and not running. Apparently I’m supposed to go get a pair of lace up shoes that don’t make me feel like a schlub. But it’s summertime FlyLady. It’s sandal season. And I never wore lace up shoes to work. I was a ballet flats broad.

I might be overthinking this.

Day 4: Post Sticky Note Reminders
I stuck reminders to get dressed to shoes, shine the sink, and read FlyLady emails above my bathroom and kitchen sinks as directed. Andy was all, “what the hell does dress to shoes mean?” The notes keep falling down behind the toilet. Shudder.

Day 5: Write Down Negative Thoughts and Say Something Positive to Negate Them
Oh FlyLady, there isn’t enough paper in the world to write down what’s been percolating in my head. Besides, therapy has got this covered.

Day 6: Put Out Hot Spot for 2 Minutes
Hot Spots are areas that are clutter magnets. Like our dining room table, kitchen table, the top of Andy’s dresser, the top of Lennie’s crate, and pretty much any horizontal surface in the place.

I’ve kept the dining room table and kitchen tables at bay, but they are still home to bills to pay and extraneous pieces of paper I can’t face filing because my filing system is a whole other hot spot.

Day 7: Pick and Lay Out Tomorrow’s Clothes
I would totally do this except it would mean digging through the dryer, the top of the dryer, or various laundry baskets full of clean, unfolded clothes. I prefer to do this in a sleepy haze in the morning so I’m not fully aware that I’ve been living out of laundry baskets for approximately a decade. If you’re wondering what we use our dressers for, it’s to put clutter on.

Looking back, it took me approximately an hour before I started deviating from the steps. So predictable.

I’m having a serious case of the mehs about it though. I woke up yesterday with a horrendous sore throat that continues to linger, and it’s just hard to care about a shining sink at such a time.

But I plan to keep on truckin’ if only to see what kind of Frankenstein FlyLady system I come up with.