I recently decided I to embark on a gradual but serious mission to declutter my quirky, storage-challenged one bedroom apartment. The main culprit was a large bookshelf that had become the “I’ll put it there for now” spot and a magnet for all things random and homeless.
When I mentioned my declutter mission to a friend he told me about a site called FlyLady.net. At first glance I didn’t think the site was for me. I could never get that saccharine about cleaning. Personal satisfaction from keeping house? What is this, the 1950’s? I am far too liberated for that nonsense. I don’t have any kids to worry about, so I clearly don’t need help running a household. And all this talk of overwhelming clutter…isn’t that what hoarders have? I am not a hoarder.
I decided to give her system a try anyway and took the first step as per FlyLady’s instructions. I cleaned and polished my kitchen sink.
Oh My Goodness Gracious Me.
The trick is that once your sink is shiny it’s difficult to settle for a counter full of dirty dishes. Then once the sink is shiny AND the counter is clear, those washed dishes in the rack suddenly seem like an eyesore. So the desire to clean spreads slowly through the house, little by little over time. You end up cleaning because you are inspired by your own accomplishments, not because you feel a duty or obligation to.
The FlyLady philosophy is based on encouragement and praise for making small efforts rather than shame and guilt for not doing everything perfectly. With FlyLady’s help, cleaning and tidying actually become…and I can’t believe I’m saying this…FUN.
Suddenly finding myself in the throes of domesticity – and liking it – has challenged some of my personal/political hang-ups surrounding unpaid labour. I have always thought it unfair that we live in a world where women struggle for equal pay, equal respect and equal treatment. I have found it all the more infuriating that we are also (still) the ones charged with keeping that same world clean, fed, dressed and organized.
I don’t mean to discount or devalue the wonderful men who are taking on more responsibility at home these days, or fail to credit the families where traditional gender roles don’t play as big a part in the division of labour. There has been progress and it’s great to see. But statistics show that women still do the vast majority of unpaid work. Women still run most households, still provide most of the childcare, and are most often the ones who care for elderly parents – their own AND often their spouse’s.
I have found it difficult to understand why so many women agree to such an unequal burden even when their partners are capable of helping out. Do we not have enough to deal with? How are things ever going to change if families keep sticking to the status quo?
While FlyLady is clearly aimed at its mainly female readers, it’s open to everyone. And it is not lost on me that it was a male friend who recommended I check out the site in the first place. So maybe as I turn over a new leaf and find joy in something new and unexpected – housework – I can also start to let go of some of my long-standing resentment over “women’s work.”
In reality, the choices that other women make in their lives don’t give me a free ticket to martyrdom. Surely my feminist values can’t be offended by a welcoming and well-maintained living space, or the fact that what I’ve learned from the site makes feel even more capable and empowered to manage my own life.
Besides, Martha Stewart is richer and more powerful than a lot of her male counterparts in the business world, and it was the fine art of keeping house that got her there. The FlyLady herself is doing what she loves, runs a successful home business through her website and helps people improve their lives every day. If that isn’t empowerment I don’t know what is.