I have always struggled with self-imposed routines. In the past I have tried (and failed) to establish them and basically ended up deciding I was better off without them. However, my forays into the world of autism this last year have taught me that routines can be life-altering for families dealing with kids on the spectrum. Coincidentally (or not) I have also noticed over these last few weeks that I am living in a constant state of mild stress because I have so many things to do and feel like I’m never catching up and never getting it all done. I wait until something is in crisis mode then jump in and ignore everything else to fix it.
It really hit home this past month when the homelearning year began. I was determined to set more of a routine and, importantly, sit down and do homeschool work with the kids. One month into it and I hadn’t done so at all. I kept telling myself that I’d catch up this week and start the next, but that never happened. I knew I had to get this under control if I was to have any hope of getting my kids and myself into a routine.
My cousin recently posted on Facebook that she had discovered Flylady [warning: her website is very cluttered and not very well organized, the irony of which is not lost on her followers: read this post for a quicker explanation of the system]. I learned about her ten years ago when I joined an online parenting forum, but I’d never really believed I needed that kind of help and I’d sort of forgotten all about her until I saw the post. It made me realize that I do, in fact, need help. If I can’t keep this little home clean and tidy and find time to homeschool my kids, how am I going to cope when we have our new (much bigger) home? I felt I owed it to my family – and especially my husband, who has worked so hard to get us here – to get things under control.
I read through her site and realized that this was more than just how to have a tidy house. Flylady is all about establishing routines. And that is what I needed: for my home, for work, for homeschooling, and for the kids.
Her system works by introducing one task at a time and allowing time for them to get established as habits. This part of the program is called “Babysteps” and there are 31 days of them (I’ll discuss what happens after completing the Babysteps when I get there). I’m currently on Day 3 and I’d like to discuss the two steps that have been introduced so far.
The foundation of this method is the Shiny Sink. Each night before I go to bed my task is to shine my sink. It starts with a big clean on the first day, and the last step is to use Window Cleaner to shine the sink. I’ve never heard of that nor thought about it (I tend to avoid cleansers other than baking soda and vinegar, but I did have some Earth Friendly window cleaner around) but it really works. The sink shines! After that first big clean all you need to do is wipe it dry after using and give it a shine at night (later in the program there will be times set aside each month to do a big clean again). And I’ll tell you, that is a really nice thing to wake up to. When all the rest of your home screams “piles of work need to be done!” you can take comfort in that one little shining beacon of cleanliness.
But I’ve discovered another benefit to the Shiny Sink – it forces me to do the dishes at night. I am currently about 50/50 on whether they get done. Often I’m so exhausted at the end of the day I simply don’t have the energy. But I have come to appreciate how much better my day goes when I wake up to a clean kitchen, so I try. But now that I am shining my sink, I can’t stand to have dirty dishes around it so I have been good about doing them each night. Bonus!
The second Baby Step I’ve begun is Getting Dressed to Lace Up Shoes. When I first read this I thought okay, I understand the mental benefits of getting dressed at the start of the day. I think all stay-home mums know what it’s like to discover it is after noon and you’re still in your jammies. Or the FedEx guy arrives unexpectedly and you have to answer the door in a bathrobe (with our old trailer home and crowded run-down porch, it all just adds to the overall fashion theme we have going here….). But I balked at the shoes. I thought to myself how much I like wearing my lovely, cozy Padraig slippers. How wearing shoes in the house was a Bad Thing (according to my mother and most people I know). How uncomfortable I would be wearing shoes all day. I thought “I can skip that part”.
But then I read her reasons behind wearing the shoes and two of them really hit home to me. First, if you have shoes on you are more likely to go outside to, say, take out the garbage, or take the grocery bins to the car, etc. And I know from experience this is true. Sometimes I just don’t feel like taking off my slippers and so the thing gets dumped somewhere. Now that I am always wearing shoes, it is no trouble to take a bag of garbage to the bin.
The second reason was one of those “A-ha” moments that make you wonder why you never put two-and-two together before. I often suffer from sore feet and sometimes felt that I hadn’t even really done enough work to merit them. But guess what? Flat slippers don’t provide much support. So I have been wearing my runners and there is a bounce in my step and no more sore feet!
I sorta skipped ahead with my reading to see where I’d end up when done. And I’ve already planned out all my routines, cleaning days, etc. But I’m still going to follow the Babysteps and only add one when I’m supposed to. I know if I try to make too many changes too fast I will fail. It’s a process, and I intend to enjoy it.
An added bonus of all this is while I am gradually introducing things to my own routine, I have covertly begun getting my kids into routines too. I am now getting dressed to shoes each morning: the Little Dude likes to be naked, which was okay when he was 2 but not so much now that he is 8. So we’ve started with him getting dressed before he begins any activity. The Big Girl’s task is to wash her face first and then get dressed before starting on any activity. I’d already gotten them used to bringing their plates and cups into the kitchen when done with a meal (in our house that means literally walking about four steps, but it was the principle!). Now their equivalent of the Shiny Sink is that instead of just putting the stuff on the counter, they put them in the dishwasher.
As I go along adding things to my own routines, I’ll add to theirs. I’m hoping for big things at the end of this 31 days! I will keep you all posted as to how it goes…