Ready for Another One?

Here goes:

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!

Sorry to pick on husbands, but they do seem to make their share of messes.

The solution to this problem might be easier than you think. It begins by asking your husband—without accusation or anger—why you think he has this habit. The answer may surprise you. Perhaps there's not a convenient towel rack nearby. Or maybe there is a rack but it's usually full of dry towels and he doesn't want to get them wet by placing his on top. Maybe he's gotten yelled at in the past for putting a towel back on the rack crooked, and he figures it's easier to throw it on the floor than to risk getting yelled at again.

Obviously, don't ask this question unless you're prepared to hear the answer! But once the two of you have worked together to find the cause, you need to work together to find the solution. Ask him what you can do to help him keep the damp towels off of the floor from now on. Maybe he wants an over-the-door hook. Maybe he needs a towel rack that's reserved for him only—and free from criticism no matter how messily he uses it.

If that thought bothers you, just take care to place the rack out of the room's "sight zone". (A sight zone is the area of a room that you can see from the doorway as you look in.) A towel rack that's always going to be a little messy should be hung on the wall right next to the door, so that it isn't even noticeable until you have stepped into the room and turned around. The mess has far less impact that way!

Whatever solution the two of you find, just remember that there's a difference between an act that's thoughtless (leaving a mess for you to clean) and one that's without thought (dropping a damp towel on the floor because he's so focused on getting ready for work that he doesn't even realize what he's doing.) Thoughtless acts needs some emotional exploration, but acts without thought simply need creative problem solving.

Check back again soon for another problem and solution.

Creative Solutions for Household Problems, Part 2

It's time to do some creative problem solving for the issues that plague us most. As you review my suggestions, notice how most of the changes that I suggest are primarily made to the house, not to someone's behavior. This is the bottom line for a house that cleans itself: You set things up so that the house does the work instead of you!

Let's start with a simple one:

Where: the kitchen floor

What: hubby's shoes and dirty socks

Why: Because that's where he puts 'em when he gets home from a hard day of work. Every day.

Mindy's suggestion: Get an attractive container, such as a basket, that's just big enough to hold his shoes, and a small lidded trash can (which will serve as a laundry bin for his socks). Put these two items side by side exactly where he usually leaves his shoes and socks, and tell him that you need him to make one small change to the routine: His shoes go into the basket and his socks go into the can. Even if you have to put these things in the middle of the kitchen, do it: The key is to put them exactly where he always kicks off his socks and shoes anyway.

After several weeks, once he has formed the habit of putting his shoes and socks into these containers rather than on the floor, move them slightly in the direction where you wish they would go (closer to the wall or around a corner or whatever.) Keep an eye on how well he continues with the habit of using the containers rather than the floor. (If he starts using the floor again, you moved them too far, too fast.)

Eventually, you should be able to relocate the containers to a more suitable place without ever asking him to form a completely new habit. In the meantime, though I'm sure you don't want a basket and trash can in the middle of the kitchen floor, at least you are making steps toward fixing an irritating problem. You'll also see that shoes in a basket and socks out of sight in a can are preferable to what you have now. Just don't forget to grab those socks on laundry day!

One final note: If it sounds like I recommend training a husband the way you might train a dog, please know that this is also how you train yourself. If you have a bad habit of putting something where it doesn't belong, you should follow the same procedure I've described above. The whole reason things like shoes end up in the middle of the floor is because it's a mind-less process, something you do without even realizing it. In your more coherent moments, however, you can containerize and relocate any misplaced mess. The key is to do it gradually, not all at once.

Check back next time for another out-of-the-box solution to a household problem.


On the Air

I just had a delightful interview with Peter Benson on KNKT radio in Albequerque, NM, about The House That Cleans Itself. During the show, we referred folks to my website and this blog...and as I hung up the phone I had to admit that this poor blog has been pushed to the back burner for far too long! Fortunately, I have finally made my way through a series of writing deadlines that were keeping me too time-challenged to have the fun of blogging. Now with the release of my newest mystery, Whispers of the Bayou, I'm able to return to this forum and share more of my thoughts on how to have a clean house. Check back for updates once a week or so.

If you heard the radio interview and have just found this blog for the first time, welcome! This blog is the place where I can give practical suggestions for the ongoing process of turning homes that tend to be messy into homes that tend to stay neat. Sounds good? Then stay tuned! I'll be back with more on here soon.