Baby steps. I'm not talking about literal baby steps this time - P is only two months old! However, I know that will be here before we know it...
Just a word of warning, this ended up getting way longer than I thought it would. However, I think the length helps to prove my point. Plus, I don't really feel like going back to edit it right now, so it's going to stay! I hope you stick it out to the end, because the things I share have changed my life.
Even before I had a baby, I had to break things down into small chunks. When you look at the whole scope of a project, whether it is financial, crafty, cleaning, or work-related, it can get overwhelming. Even if I had three hours to devote to a task, I struggled to complete it. Here's what would happen: I would decide what I wanted to do. For example, clean the kitchen. Three hours is more than enough time to clean even my fairly large kitchen, even when it's messier than usual. So I go stand in the middle of my kitchen and I look around at what needs to be done. Usually I decide to start with the dishes. I hate doing dishes, so I prefer to get this task out of the way. First I have to put away the clean dishes that are in the dishwasher and drainer. While I'm doing that, I realize that I don't have enough room in my cupboards for everything. This is ridiculous. I have a ton of cupboard space, so there is no reason I should run out. So I decide to start moving things around and cleaning them out. I don't possibly need all of this stuff, so I start a pile on the island or kitchen table to donate. I spend the next 20 minutes moving stuff around.
By now I have several piles scattered about the various surfaces of my kitchen, and none of my dishes have been put away. I realize that this just isn't working, so I start putting things back. I start with the things that already have places that seem to work. That helps. The piles are a little more sparse. Then I start looking through cupboards looking for any open space, where I shove the rest of the stuff. Now I'm right back where I started, except that my cupboards are a little more full and chaotic and my drainer and dishwasher are empty. So whether or not I've actually made any progress is debatable.
I still have to keep going, so I run myself some hot water and work on the dishes. Have I mentioned that I hate doing dishes? So even though it only takes me about 15 minutes, I feel like I've been scrubbing for at least 45. And, since the first 30 minutes were spent moving things around, I have spent what feels like an hour and a quarter doing 15 minutes of actual work. Of course I'm getting tired by now, but I still need to keep going.
I decide that maybe I should tackle the pantry. I can never find what I need in there. As a result, I end up with three opened boxes of the same kind of cracker, two of which are completely stale, and the third of which is just a little softer than normal. I start pulling things out and am soon surrounded by piles of canned foods, boxes of crackers and cookies, pasta of all shapes and sizes, and more bottles of barbecue sauce than any normal family would use over a five year span. These, at least, I know we will use up. To say that my husband enjoys barbecue sauce would be quite an understatement.
I start on the bottom shelf, and start stacking cans or jars of soup, veggies, fruit, and whatever else was on sale/I had a coupon for/I needed for a recipe I was going to try but never got around to. I make a mental note of what I have so I won't buy it next time it goes on sale/I have a coupon for it/etc etc etc. Of course I never actually remember the "mental notes" that I make, so I fall back into the same pattern. Even after I finish the bottom shelf, I still have three more to go. I get about half way through the second shelf before I get so sick of trying to create some semblance of order that I want to throw my tuna out the window. Usually I quickly shove the rest of the food items back on the shelves. They look nice-ish. I'll put things in height order so I can supposedly see everything and at least there aren't piles anymore, but there is still no organizational system that makes any sense. Now I've worked for a little over an hour, it's felt like three, and I've done a load of dishes and oraganized one shelf in my pantry. Does this sound familiar to anybody? I sure hope I'm not the only one!
Is this post getting absurdly long? That's kind of the point. I used go into something with no plan of attack, so I never made any progress. Then I felt like a failure because I'd spent an hour and had almost nothing to show for it.
I have a pretty good handle on my finances. Meaning I understand how much money we don't have and where our money needs to go each month, not that I'm comfortable with our financial situation. But that will come eventually, as well. Several years ago, my parents discovered, and then shared with me, the wisdom of Dave Ramsey. His baby step program helped my husband and I pay off several thousand dollars in debt and pay for a trip to Tanzania last year. That's pretty impressive considering I worked as a barista for most of the year, then a secretary for the last part, and he was a full time student with a part time retail job. We've still got a long way to go, but we have a plan of attack and we know where we stand.
This summer, as I was wasting time on facebook when I knew I should be cleaning (the horrors!), I came across a post that someone I didn't know made on a friend's wall. The post was about something called FlyLady and had to do with cleaning and organizing your home. I figured that, if I wasn't acutally cleaning, I might as well read about cleaning. That could be considered a little productive, right? I don't want to give too much away, but her system really was life-changing for someone like me - someone who lived with CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome). I put off shining my sink, but dove right into 15 minute hot spot clean ups, setting out my clothes, and even managed to do the occasional daily mission.
While Dave Ramsey provided me with baby steps to get my finances in order, FlyLady did the same with my home. It's still far from perfect, but I've come to accept the fact that it will never be perfect, and that's okay. I discovered FlyLady in my first trimester, when I didn't have the energy to work on anything for more than 15-20 minutes at a time. By the time I got to my second, I was so amazed at what I had been able to accomplish that I used my rediscovered energy to nest like crazy and do as much cleaning and decluttering as I could whle still getting enough rest to appease my husband. The third trimester brought a return of the exhaustion, paired with limited mobility. However, by this time I had gotten pretty good at my routines. I was still able to keep up on the laundry, my bathroom was almost always presentable thanks to the Swish and Swipe, and the rest of my apartment, while far from spotless, was presentable enough. People are pretty understanding when you're growing a human being!
Now that P is here, I love the 15 minute rule, because sometimes that's all the time she'll allow me to get anything accomplished! Before FlyLady I wouldn't have bothered trying to get anything done if I knew all I had was 15 minutes. Now I clean my home 15 minutes at a time. Even before she was born, P started raising a mommy who is much more productive with her time!