Creative Solutions to Household Problems

In my last post, I said that a house that cleans itself is a house that is set up so logically and so efficiently that it practically cleans itself. So how does this translate to the down-and-dirty world in your home? I have a number of answers to that question, but we'll begin here by taking a look at our first option, a common technique known as Creative Problem Solving.

Creative problem solving involves isolating a problem then thinking outside of the box to find solutions to that problem. It takes a bit of experimenting and tweaking, but eventually you can solve most of the biggest messes in your house by simply circumventing those messes and preventing them from happening in the first place.

Before I walk you through an example of creative problem solving and how it works, I'm going to give you an assignment: Right now, take a look around your home and think of some area that tends to get messy or stay messy more often than others. In a comment to this blog or in an email to MindyStarnsClark@aol.com, tell us WHERE: the room or area, WHAT: the nature of what constitutes the mess, and WHY: why you think it's happening. For example, you might say

WHERE: The kitchen table
WHAT: My kids do their homework there, then they leave behind scraps of paper, glue sticks, crayons, and other related detritus.
WHY: Because they think that once the homework is done and put away in their backpacks, the mess they leave behind is going to magically clean itself.

WHERE: The master bathroom
WHAT: My husband uses a towel then tosses it on the floor where it sits, damp and stinky, until I pick it up and carry it to the laundry room.
WHY: Because he's lazy and doesn’t do his share!

WHERE: The car
WHAT: I tend to treat it like a roving junk-mobile, and it's always full of papers, clothes, tennis gear, fast food wrappers, and stuff like that.
WHY: Because it's a lot of trouble to clean out a car and I just never seem to have the time.

Get the idea? Tell us about one of your problem areas. Then we can talk about how to approach such problems for good—the House That Cleans Itself way!


Are You Ready? Here is where this blog "officially" begins

In an earlier post, I said that you don't have to read the book The House that Cleans Itself to find this blog useful. Well, now I'm about to make good on that promise. It's time to introduce you to the theory behind creating a house that cleans itself then lead you through the steps to make that happen in your home. It'll take a number of posts to lay all of this out, so please come back as often as you can!

It is my opinion that housekeeping is primarily a talent, much like singing or dancing or drawing. Don't believe me? Think about the people you know whose houses are always neat, whose possessions are always organized. The truth is, they have a gift, the gift of cleanliness. Like a singer with an amazing voice, following their talent comes easily to them. They may need to learn and develop and grow, but the tendency toward neatness was inborn, and they will always find it very natural to use that gift. Just like those amazing folks bopping around on So You Think You Can Dance, they make something that's incredibly difficult look quite easy.

Then there's the rest of us. Like tone deaf singers trying to sing solos, we just don't have what it takes. But while singing and dancing and drawing are optional as we go through life, housekeeping is not. Thus, whether we possess any talent for it or not, we still have to do it!

Unfortunately, this housekeeping ineptitude tends to run in families, so not only do we start with no natural ability, we are also never taught how by someone who does it well, nor do we see these skills consistently modeled in our homes.

To make matters worse, most books about housekeeping are written by people who are naturally gifted at housekeeping. They tell us over and over how to change our behaviors, but the problem is that we are never really going to change—at least not permanently. What they want to teach us (how to do things their way) is never going to work for us! Our brains are different. Our behaviors are different. We have no natural talent for it.

I finally realized this several years ago, when I was doing research for my Smart Chick Mystery series, which is about a young woman who writes a helpful hints column. I read so many books about cleaning and organizing, but most of those books made me confused, then irritated, then downright fed up, rolling my eyes in disgust. When it comes to keeping a home clean, so much advice has been repeated so many times that we all take it as gospel. In truth, there's a lot of bad advice out there, advice that might work for someone naturally neat but will never work for the rest of us.

So what are we to do? Isn't bad advice better than no advice at all? No way! Putting away all of those books and their illogical, unworkable solutions to the cleaning problems in my house was the first step toward finally getting my house clean. I knew I had to find a new approach, one that worked with my natural inclinations, not against them.

I am naturally inclined to clutter.
I am naturally inclined to procrastinate.
I am naturally inclined to avoid purging unneeded items.
I am naturally inclined to ignore mess and grime until "cleaning day".
I am naturally inclined to let things go until I am utterly overwhelmed.

Sound familiar? Is this you, too? Then embrace those inclinations! They may not be pretty, but they're a part of who you are, and God designed you just the way you are. Once you can admit the truth about yourself, then you can begin to approach the housekeeping problems in your home with regard to those inclinations and learn to work around them, not against them.

So here's the bottom line: A house that cleans itself is a house that is set up so logically (logically for the way your brain works, not some "expert's" brain) and so efficiently (efficiently for the way your family lives and functions, not some ideal, naturally neat dream family) that it practically cleans itself.

Interested? Then check back soon! There's much more to come.



Tag. . .I'm "it!"

There's a game going around cyberspace and my friend, Roxanne Henke, has tagged me to play.

It's called: meme (as in "me-me"). Here are the rules: Each blogger should list 7 random facts/habits about themselves. People who are tagged need to report on their own blog 7 random facts about themselves as well as these rules. They then need to tag 7 others and list their names on their blog. They are also asked to leave a comment for each of the tagged, letting them know they have been tagged and to read the blog.

So. . .it's my turn to play. . .here goes:

Seven Random Things about Mindy:

1. I once broke an arm and a leg—while playing tennis!

2. I hate shopping, unless it's for office supplies or toys. I can waste hours in a toy store or an office supply store.

3. I created a "treadmill desk" so I can walk as I write (though I only go about .5 mph.)

4. If it wouldn't make me look like a crazy lady, I'd love to trade in my car for a golf cart and a moped (except for long trips, when I'd drive an RV.)

5. I met my huband on the first day of college, when my car rolled down a hill, between a Lincoln and a BMW, out into a field, and up a tree.

6. I once came face to face with an alligator while floating on an inner tube in a Louisiana river.

7. I've been to 46 states in the US (still need to get to North and South Dakota, Montana, and Idaho—and then I'll have seen them all.)

You don't have to get tagged to play. Go ahead, think of seven random facts about you. Tell someone. It's fun!


Passing the Time

If you call Harvest House Publishers and get put on hold, you hear what's known as their latest "Info on Hold" message, which is basically a pre-recorded loop featuring some of their authors giving brief, interesting "pitches" for their latest book. It creates a nice diversion as you wait. (But if you enjoy that sort of thing, then you're going to be disappointed, because at Harvest House no one ever keeps you waiting on hold for long!)

Anyway, from time to time I have been invited to record a message for their system about one of my novels. Though I appreciate the marketing opportunity, I have never enjoyed hearing my voice on tape, so I've always found the process rather painful. The pain deepens if I happen to call for my editor and get stuck on hold just as my own voice rolls around and starts talking to me. Ouch!

That's why I was quite amazed to find that when they invited me to record a little clip for my new book, I actually had fun with it. What was the difference? I'm not sure, but something about pitching nonfiction was a whole different experience. And as much as I hate the sound of my voice, I'm actually kind of proud of the finished product! Harvest House was kind enough to give me the clip to use on my website and in this blog, so if you want to hear my little 50-second commercial, click here. (If for some reason the link doesn't work, you can access it through my website at www.mindystarnsclark.com/house_audio.mp3.)

If you prefer simply to read about it, here's the script I used:

"Hi, this is Mindy Starns Clark, author of The House That Cleans Itself.

"Are you tired of constantly fighting messiness and clutter? If you're like me, you've tried to change your ways, adopt new behaviors, and become a neater person. But if that doesn't come naturally, that just doesn't work, at least not for very long.

"After a lifetime of failure at the usual methods of cleaning and organizing, I finally came to understand that for those of us who struggle in this area, there is a solution. In The House That Cleans Itself, I show you how to change not your behavior but your house, setting it up so efficiently and logically that it practically cleans itself. If you've ever found yourself thinking 'There must be an easier way,' stop wishing and start believing, because there is.

"Get your copy of The House That Cleans Itself today."

I'll never be a disc jockey or radio personality, but as far as telephone on-hold messages go, I'm in!



Greetings from the Shore

I'm posting this entry from a library at the Jersey Shore. A very generous family member owns a vacation house here and often lets me use it when it's empty. I come here to get away from the distractions of home, dig in, and write. But being just a block from the bay and three blocks from the ocean, I take a lot of lovely walks, too!

It helps that the house has no internet or telephone, because I'm forced to focus on my work. Mid-week, however, I always pay a visit to this cute little library to get online, handle any book orders or other business matters, and touch base with the world. As long as I'm here today, I could resist posting to my blog.

My new website is finally up and running, and it's awesome if I do say so myself! My webmaster and designer is Maddee James of xuni.com, and she's one in a million. I think she did an amazing job. Check it out at www.mindystarnsclark.com.

As soon as I get back home (and back to life as usual), I'll be sending out an announcement to my email mailing list. I wish I could give out cigars as well, because it really feels like my new baby has come into the world (and yes, there was a lot of labor involved, LOL.)

I am one of those people who is "time challenged", as in I always bite off more than I can chew, I never estimate correctly how long something is going to take, and when I get lost in a project I lose all track of time. Most days, I am overwhelmed with all that there is to get done. But I've been learning a big lesson these days, that sometimes a little time investment in the present will save a lot time in the future. I started realizing that a while back, when my church had a big volunteer drive and I ended up with some new workers for the church library (where I'm the Director). As thrilled as I was to expand the library staff, I didn't have time to train them! I knew each worker would need several hours of hands-on help, and those were hours I didn't have.

Anyway, I somehow found the time, and once they were trained, the most miraculous thing happened: The time I spent in the library taking care of business significantly decreased! For most folks, this would have been a big "duh", like, "What did you expect? You've got more people helping you now." But I'm one who cannot see the trees for the forest, and it hadn't occurred to me that spending the extra time training new volunteers would have a big impact on my own workload down the line.

That was my hope as I worked on my website as well. Now that I have put so much information up on the web, from book club resources to frequently asked questions to speaking engagement info and much more, my hope is that I will save time in the long run by not having to handle so many individual requests for this info. (Not that I ever mind responding to requests like that, just that I knew there had to be a more efficient way!) A little time investment in the present will save a lot of time in the future.

Creating a House That Cleans Itself is all about this principle. Yes, it takes time to make changes to your house that will keep it clean. But a little time now will pay off tenfold in the future. More on that later, as soon as I get back from the shore and my little writing vacation. In the meantime, take a look around and see if there's something you could do today that takes time but that will end up saving you much more time in the long run.

For me, it's time to get offline and get back to the book I came here to write--after I take a quick walk along the ocean first, of course!



A Sticky Solution

Well, I’m happy to say that I made up some nifty stickers for fixing the error on page 65 of The House That Cleans Itself. So if you'd like one, just send an email to MindyStarnsClark@aol.com with the subject line "Sticker" and your mailing address in the body of the email. (Please don't post your mailing address as a comment to this blog.) I feel a lot better now that I can offer a solution. Thanks for all of your sweet comments and reassurances.

I've been slow to get rolling on this blog, posting only infrequently, because I'm in the final stages of creating my new website. To my mind, the website and the blog will sort of make their big debut together. Kudos to those of you who happened upon this blog already, especially because I haven't yet announced it anywhere. That's cool.

In the next week, I'll also be sending out a newsletter, so if you'd like to get that and you're not on my mailing list, be sure to hop over to my current website at www.mindystarnsclark.com and sign up. I promise, I don't bother you with a newsletter very often, usually only about 5-6 times per year.

For now, I've got to get back to my webmaster with some missing files. But I wanted to post the info about the sticker and let you know that I'll be blogging more regularly soon.



A Big Oops!

The books have arrived! It's so exciting to hold my first nonfiction book in my hand (well, if you don't count all the work-for-hire I did years ago, writing computer software manuals and promotional books). This looks great, with lots of graphics and nifty headings and a really fun and easy-to-use layout. Yay! I'm thrilled beyond description.

The first thing I always do when a new book comes out is drop whatever I'm doing and read it cover to cover. I'm not sure why, because it's torment if I discover a typo or a sentence I wish I could go back and change (writers are never really finished, you know). Still, I'll skim through my book in a few hours--and that's fast for me, because I'm a slow reader--then I'll close it and sigh and enjoy the moment. Then I'll give the whole thing over to God and say a prayer for all of my readers.

This time is different, however. This time, I'm happily reading along, pleased with the look and feel of the book and how it flows…until I get to page 65. Hmmm. Huh? What? Page 65 makes no sense.

Heart pounding, I race to my "galley", which is the book in its final proofreading form just before it goes to the press. Sure enough, the galley confirms what I know to be true: Somewhere between my final proofread and the book's printing, a mistake was made: The paragraphs that were supposed to go on page 65 are nowhere to be found—and in their place is a chunk of text from further in the book!

Long story short, my dear publisher, whom I adore, has taken a look at the situation and decided they will not be able to correct the problem until the next printing. So very soon my brand new book will start showing up on the shelves with the error in place. Ooooooh, that's so tough for a writer to swallow.

They have issued the following statement on my behalf, which I really appreciate, and the error will definitely be corrected as soon as the book goes into a second printing. But for now, I can only hope that people who read the book either don't notice the error (not very likely!) or take a moment to visit this blog or my website or send me an email to find out what's wrong with page 65.

So, for what it's worth, here's the correction:


In The House That Cleans Itself, an error was made during the publishing process. In Step 8, page 65, the first paragraph is incorrect. Please cross it out and insert the following paragraph instead:

Before you begin to put all of your steps into action, it's important to grasp certain essential truths about yourself, the way your brain works, and the problems those cause with regard to cleaning. Only when you understand the reasons behind your actions can you figure out ways to compensate for and work around those actions. If you happen to be married to a person who is more naturally neat than you are, he or she needs to read this chapter as well. After you’ve both read it, discuss the characteristics described here that apply to you. Sometimes simply understanding the cause of a behavior can ease much hurt, smoothing the way toward cooperation, teamwork, and lasting change. Consider the following statements about some common characteristics of the housekeeping impaired.

Harvest House Publishers regrets the error and will make the necessary corrections when the book is reprinted.


I think I'll create a sticker with the correct text on it, one that can be placed directly over the problem. If you'd like one, send me an email with your mailing address at MindyStarnsClark@aol.com and I'll be sure to get it out to you as soon as it's ready.

In the meantime, enjoy the book.

Uh, except for page 65.




Welcome to the first entry of my brand new blog! My hope is that you'll enjoy reading it as much as I know I'll enjoy writing it.

It's so appropriate that my blog starts today, because even as I write this I am watching out the window for the FedEx man, knowing he will be here soon to drop off a box containing copies of my new book, The House That Cleans Itself. You'd think after nine books that the thrill of that moment when I first hold a new one in my hand would have dimmed somewhat, but nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, every time one of these big days arrives, as soon as I see the white truck with the orange and blue lettering turn into my driveway, my heart starts pounding, my hands get sweaty, and it's all I can do not to jump up and down hollering—or at the very least, do a little happy dance.

I try to play it cool when I meet the delivery man at the door, of course. But as soon as he's gone, I know I'll tear open that box, pull out a copy of the book, and let loose. Once I have managed to calm down, I will run my hands over the cover, flip through the pages, read the back cover and maybe the first page—and marvel at the miracle of how God has once again blessed me by making my biggest dreams come true. Then I'll count the hours until my kids get home from school and my husband gets home from work so that they can enjoy the thrill of the new book with me!

This time will especially exciting. As my very first nonfiction trade paperback, The House That Cleans Itself is decidedly different from anything I have ever written before. The idea for this book came out of my novel-writing, (more on that in future blog entries) but in fact it is a nonfiction book, a how-to guide written for people like me, people who have trouble keeping their house neat and clean. After a lifetime of struggling in this area, I finally figured out a way to conquer the problem of a messy house once and for all. By tossing out the conventional housekeeping advice and starting from scratch with my own unique approach, I was able to design a system that worked for me and my family and the way that we think and live. As I spread the word about my system, others who implemented my ideas found great success with them as well—so much so that sometimes it seemed as if our houses were practically cleaning themselves.

And thus The House That Cleans Itself was born. Eager to share this approach with even more people, I finally put my ideas, experience, and research into a book. Once the book begins to hit the shelves (which should be very soon), I cannot wait to see the ways my radical new approach to housekeeping will begin to transform even more homes, more lives.

Of course, you don't need to get the book to enjoy this blog, and you don't need to read this blog to complete the book. (Though they do make a nice compliment to each other!) My hope is that this blog will become a forum for all of us to explore a new way of thinking about housekeeping, a new method of home care so that the burden is not nearly so heavy. How can that be? Keep coming back for subsequent entries and you'll see. Ever heard of "creative problem solving"? My friend, we are about to take that concept to a whole new level!

In future blog entries, I'll tell you more about this new book, the innovative concepts that it presents, and how I came up with the idea in the first place. I also hope to learn about your housekeeping experiences as well. Care to answer the question of the day? What I'd like to know this time is: When it comes to cleaning your house, what step do you dislike the most (Cleaning the toilets? Vacuuming? Mopping? Something else?) and which (if any) do you actually enjoy? To leave your response, use the comment function below. (Though I won't be able to send you a personal reply, I will definitely read every response—and I may discuss some of them on future blog entries.)

I think this blog is going to be an enormous amount of fun. Until next time, I probably won't be doing much cleaning (these days, I don't really need to!), but I will be busy at work on my next novel.

When I'm not watching out the window for the FedEx man, that is.