...I have decided to alternate my "Clean Travel Tips" with other non-travel-related entries. Thus, in every other post I'll be sharing excerpts from a recent interview I had with blogger Kristina Seleshanko, who has been implementing the HTCI system in her home and blogging about it online at Proverbs 31 Woman.
The interview is a lengthy one, which you can view it in its entirety at Kristina's blog. Here, I'll be sharing it one question & answer at a time. Enjoy!
Kristina: The House That Cleans Itself method is much different from any other homekeeping or organization book I've ever read. The idea of changing our homes to make cleaning easier is pretty revolutionary - especially for messies. Can you tell us how you came up with this idea?
Mindy: First, it helps to understand that I am absolutely horrible at housekeeping. I don’t like it and I don’t do it well. Much of my life, I felt like a failure because I couldn’t get a handle on this particular set of skills.
The cleanliness of my house went from bad to worse when I sold my first novel and became a full time author, leaving even less time for cleaning. Once I had several books published, I was making enough to be able to hire a housekeeper to come in and clean once a week, thank goodness, but even that was not enough. She would turn our disaster into pristine perfection every Wednesday morning—but by Thursday night, you wouldn’t know she had ever even been here. Even when things were clean, they were just waiting to explode into mess again!
Then came The Trouble with Tulip, my sixth novel and the first one in the Smart Chick Mystery series. The series focused on Jo Tulip, a cleaning expert who uses her knowledge of household hints to solve crime. (Think Martha Stewart crossed with Nancy Drew.) As I wrote this series, I had to do an enormous amount of research into Jo’s field, and as the second novel, Blind Dates Can Be Murder, came out, I realized that I had already managed to make my way through 42 different books about household cleaning and organization.
I decided it was pretty pathetic that after having read 42 books on the topic I still couldn’t get a handle on my own mess. But then I had a major epiphany: Every single one of those books had been written by someone who loved housekeeping and was naturally good at it. No wonder their advice didn’t work for me! No wonder the many little sayings and rules of thumb that the experts threw out there had been useless around my house! All the experts in the world were never going to be able to help me because they didn’t think the way I did. They didn’t live the way my family lived. They wanted me to change, but I was never going to change. I was born this way! At 43 years old, despite a lifetime of struggle, I still couldn’t “fix” the behaviors that were supposedly creating my mess.
When I finally wrapped my head around all of that, I realized that housekeeping is a talent, one that simply hadn’t made its way into my gene pool. Given that fact, I decided that instead of trying to change myself, as I had for years to no avail, maybe I should change my house instead. Rather than continuing to beat myself up for all of my household shortcomings, maybe I should throw away the guilt and shame entirely and focus on using my strengths to tackle this problem in a whole new way. Maybe the solution was to ignore all of the “expert” advice in the world and try to come up with my own way of doing things.
Armed with this new outlook, I began to study my surroundings almost like a detective. Instead of looking at a big pile of papers and thinking, “I’ve got to be better with my filing,” I thought, “Okay, obviously filing doesn’t really work for me. What could work instead?” Instead of looking at a mountain of clean clothes waiting to be folded and put away and thinking, “I’ve got to do better keeping up with the clothes,” I thought, “What’s wrong with the way we have set up the laundry processing in this house that there’s always a backlog?” For every messy dresser top, every cluttered floor, every disaster of a closet, I forced myself to be studious and analytical and devoid of all “emotion.” It was a problem to solve not a personal character issue. Once I removed the emotion from the process, I could see things much more clearly and I began to have some great ideas about what was wrong—and how to make it right. As a creative, out-of-the-box person, I found that I was a natural at thinking up fresh new ways to handle our mess, ways that would work in our house for our family, not in some perfect home whose inhabitants are gifted at housekeeping.
Here’s the shocker: As I slowly went through our home and made changes that made sense for us, the house started staying cleaner. The more changes we made, the cleaner it stayed. Finally, one day my husband remarked that the house was so consistently clean that it was almost like it was cleaning itself.
Voila, the concept was born. Within months, I had begun documenting my process, testing my theories on others, and assembling a proposal for a book about it. That book became The House That Cleans Itself.
Once it was published, I’ve been gratified to find that though there are some people who just don’t “get” it (those who are naturally gifted at cleaning), the ones who do get it find that it can change their messes and thus their lives. It has been incredibly gratifying to see big disasters turned into Houses That Clean Themselves all around the world.