Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Teach Your Kids to FLY!

Thinking back to my childhood, I seemed to have been born with an organizational system in my head. My room was kept beautifully. All my collections were kept together in a way that made sense. If Mom asked me to organize the pantry, or Dad needed help sorting screws in the garage, I was all too happy to dive into the project and see it to completion.

An only child for 11 years, I was the definition of a perfectionist. This quality was of a great advantage in academics, and would have been the key to success in a worldly career. But in family life, where the tending of primary relationships is key, it is a hindrance.

Weaning myself away from perfectionism was a process that took several years, and many major life changes. Marriage was a first step, birth an important second. However, I was still cleaning my floors every day when my first child was a newborn. It took a second child to make me tired enough not to care so much. Spic-and-span changed to clean-enough.

I first heard about FLY LADY when I started homeschooling. A quite vibrant young mother with several children told about how Fly Lady’s system had gotten her in control of her house and her life. I was skeptical, thinking everyone needs to come up with her own system of organization.

Hearing about setting timers was a real turn-off to me. After constantly wearing a watch through my twenty-fifth year, I found that the ability to go without one was like taking off one’s fetters. I could appreciate the minutes and all the lovely baby things that could be encompassed within them.

In hindsight, if I had followed Fly Lady’s tips during my homeschooling years, I would never have gotten into the spot I am now in. While my main living areas are in good order, my drawers and closets are filled with unsorted collections of things (“clutter”).

My most organized friend congratulated me on all the strategies I have been following to keep clutter at a minimum in the common living areas. I blushed reading her e-mail, wondering what she would think of my garage. In my post, I was focusing on my successes so I could push forward with the improvements needed.

My biggest problem is with my children’s rooms. I barely have the time to check if they have made their beds, and they get out of control really quickly. Fly Lady has a section just for kids, to make cleaning fun and doable. I just loved her Student Control Journal. I printed out three copies, put them into binders, and presented them to the children. They pored through them, set the kitchen timer for fifteen minutes, and went through the zone of the day. I could not believe what a difference such a short time span could make.

My friend thought I must have been processing something mental, and I denied it. But really, this all came on immediately after hearing the election results. I watched a show called “Neat” (on The Fitness Channel), in which a book lover had to narrow her beloved books from four shelves to one. I immediately went to my bookshelves and filled a box with books to donate.

A week later, I am still in de-cluttering mode, fully aware that I am trying to process the enormous implications of the election results for our country. I had been so anxious about it – and was managing my mental let-down through cleaning and sorting.

I can see how constant cleaning could be a coping mechanism for those with obsessive-compulsive disorder. And that is why I am begging people to take this system with a grain of salt. If your home is in total disarray, you need a system. If just certain areas are in disorder, hit those areas – but do not let it take over your life. If everything is in relatively good order, please do not start wrapping up your sheets with ribbons Martha Stewart style. Take your kids for a walk and enjoy the wildly divine order of nature.

FLY stands for Finally Love Yourself. If you want to teach your kids how to FLY, you need to teach them balance. They need to respect their home and environment, but also feel free to be messy and creative and unfettered by time restraints. For everything there is a time.

And for everything there is a season. For me, the pendulum had to take me further center. It had to swing a little farther to the left for me to get there. Life is a constant ebb of change requiring us to focus on our ultimate goals and constantly adjust our schedules, habits, and expectations to follow God’s will for our paths.

Painting above: Renoir's "Charpentier and Her Children"


ClutterControlFreak said...

Nice post! Sounds like we have a lot in common. I've had the same have-to-learn-not-to-care-so-much homeschooling experience. I wish I would have known about Fly Lady then. :)
I sympathize with the need to organize as an anti-stress mechanism, too. I just posted on that today:

Thanks for sharing this.

Loren Christie said...

Thank you for that post, I needed to hear it.