Encouraging Words.

Hi friends,
I had a fun interview this week on 95.5 The Fish radio, with Len and Brooke of "Fish Mornings". They were great interviewers and really seemed to "get" the whole House That Cleans Itself concept. The interview was pre-recorded and I'm not sure when it will air, but if I find out I'll post that info here.

I love doing radio, probably because it feels so personal, like I can talk directly to people out there who are just like I used to be: naturally messy, overwhelmed, and incredibly frustrated. I'm still naturally messy, but once I turned my house into a House that Cleans Itself, those feelings of overwhelm and frustration began to fade away for good. These days, I still have to work hard to manage my time, not over-commit to activities, and stop procrastinating, but at least the house is one less burden for me to carry.

Why am I saying this? Because I want to offer a little glimmer of hope to those of you who are feeling like it isn't possible to be delivered from your mess. It is possible! If I could do it, you can too!!! The key isn't to get your house clean--you probably know how to do that and have done it plenty of times before. The key is to make changes to your house that will cause it to STAY clean much of the time, with far less effort from you. To make a lasting difference, remember: It's not about changing yourself or your behaviors (which can only last so long), it's about changing the house itself.

Be sure to come back next week when I move along to a different area of your home and show how you can apply the House That Cleans Itself principles there.


The Final Word on Laundry

I have a naturally-neat friend who keeps griping about my latest blog entries, saying that many of my laundry problems would be solved if only I would fold the clothes straight out of the dryer, carry them up, and put them away. Yeah, duh. I know that! But I am housekeeping impaired, and I am only being honest and realistic when I say that ain't gonna happen around here. Not very often anyway.

However, I have pondered the situation a lot lately, asking myself why I don't do this more often. (Almost always, it's because I don't have time right then. But when I DO have time, why don't I do this?) My honest answer? I can't even get started on that process because it's so boring in there by the dryer! My laundry room doesn't even have a window, so when I try to stand there and just fold I go nuts. Better to drag the pile into the living room where there are family members to talk to. At that point, however, all sorts of other things divert my attention and, well, you know how it goes. The laundry gets stuck in the fold-this-when-you-have-time basket.

Then it hit me: I find cooking a real bore as well, that's why there's a TV in my kitchen. I flip it on every time I cook. If I installed a television in my laundry room, would I (and my family members) be more likely to stand there longer and do what needs to be done with the clothes that are coming straight out of the dryer? I'm not sure, but I think it's an option worth exploring. Just last night, I moved an old portable TV of ours to the top of the dryer. It looks dumb in there, but I'm still in the "testing" phase right now.

I love my little kitchen TV so much, that if this works, I'll get the same model for the laundry room for a more permanent solution. (I got my under-cabinet mounting TV/DVD/Radio at Target for only $99 on sale, though the non-sale prices for these things can get a lot higher than that.) Anyway, I'll be sure to let you know if installing a TV over the dryer helps us solve the fold-now-not-later problem in our house. With two teens who procrastinate their own folding, I have a feeling this might be a nice solution for at least one of us, and maybe all.

That's it for now about laundry. Next time, a new housekeeping topic. Stay tuned!

Oh, Those Clean-Dirty Clothes

Here was another great question, from dana&ryan: "I was wondering what suggestions you had for the bedroom in regards to clothes that are used but are still clean. I don't really want to rehang them but they always end up on the floor. Any suggestions?"

Man, did your question strike a nerve with me! If you blog readers are nodding your heads over this one, you know what I mean. In my experience, the only people who ever ask this question are the housekeeping-impaired. Don't believe me? Go ahead, ask the Martha Stewart in your life. She or he will look at you, perfectly perplexed, and say that you hang them up and return them to the closet, of course.

Not of course. That may work for Martha-types, but not for me and obviously not for you. We poor impaired folks simply cannot, will not, hang up worn-but-still-clean clothes in our closet among the clean-but-not-yet-worn stuff. It may have to do with our perfectionism, our need to categorize or whatever, but just the thought of it gives me the shivers. Besides not wanting the clean and dirty clothes to co-mingle, there's also something about the act of hanging or folding a worn item that just feels distasteful. (I suspect that feeling stems from my general forgetfulness; if the item LOOKS newly clean, I'm likely to forget that I already wore it once.)

So what are you to do if your only choices are the floor or the closet? Create another choice—an intermediate station, if you will—for all of those clean-dirty clothes. I happened upon this solution when staying at a hotel a few years ago. I had a roommate who just happened to be a neatnick, so I didn't want to clutter the room with piles of my pre-worn clothes. I realized that there was a really deep drawer in the dresser, so out of desperation I put the clothes in there that I had worn but could wear again. I didn't fold them, just sort of draped them across the wide space. My only caveat at the time was that when I wanted to get dressed I had to look there first. Guess what? It worked! My clean-dirty clothes were stored out of sight, kept fairly wrinkle-free, and I was able to remember to wear them again.

Back home, I changed things around to create a similar spot in my bedroom, where the system has worked ever since. If you don't have any deep dresser drawers, consider these similar options:

• Install some hooks or pegs in an out-of-sight place, like inside a closet or behind a door. Only allow yourself as many clean-dirty items as there are pegs.

• Buy a free-standing coat rack and place it inside a closet or in an unobtrusive place nearby. This option has more potential for abuse, as you could continue to stack item upon item, so resist that urge. Again, limit yourself to as many clean-dirty clothes as there are spots to hang them.

I know, wall pegs and coat racks covered in worn clothing aren't the most beautiful sights in the world. But they're still better than draping things on chairs or plopping them on the floor. Best of all, this approach will allow you to keep those clothes relatively wrinkle free until you have the chance to wear them again—without having to go through the strangely distasteful task of hanging or folding worn items.

Yep, we're all nuts in our own way. Check back next time for one more laundry tip, then we'll move on to a different area in your home.

Your Laundry Comments

Thanks for your input on the whole topic of laundry! Before we move on to a different room, I'd like to answer your questions and add one final tip of my own.

First was Beth, who said: "The problem I tend to have is that when the clothes are clean they are sorted into piles and placed on the respective person's bed. If that person comes home late or doesn't have time to put their washing away the pile gets moved to somewhere else so that they can jump into bed."

Beth, I have had that problem in the past as well. For me, the solution was to use the "container limit" technique (described in my Feb. 8th blog entry) in my bedroom.

I bought a lovely fabric-lined wicker basket and put it on the floor next to my closet. Now, when I carry my clean laundry into my room, if I don't have time to put everything away right then, I put the laundry into that basket instead. (Doesn't look great, but it's better than piling the clothes on a chair or the floor.) I can continue to pile my clean clothes there UNTIL THE BASKET IS FULL. At that point, I must put away those clothes before I can do another load of wash.

This is just one of those tricks for flexible-but-enforced limits. It's flexible in that I can choose when to put my clothes away, but the time limit is the size of the basket. As long as I stick to my own rule about not letting the basket overflow, the plan works.

It may sound gross, but for many years I frequently found myself washing things at least twice between wearings, because I'd stack them on the floor while waiting to be put away—and invariably the pile would fall over and the clothes would get stepped on and dirty again! How sad is that? At least with the container limit method, the items are staying clean while they're waiting to be put away. And hey, it works for me!

Check back next time for my answer to dana & ryan's question.