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!