Recently, I created storage space by clearing a cabinet of things we no longer use.
As I moved a box, I uncovered a printed piece of paper and had a sudden memory of this post from my first year of blogging. The post was about running across a cleaning schedule that was a handout at a moms’ group I attended when my boys were babies.
I found that cleaning schedule shoved in the bottom of a drawer.
Now, eight years later, I found the same cleaning schedule again. Shoved in the bottom of a cabinet.
Anyway, I took a moment to look at the schedule. It has daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly tasks on it.
Since I have now fully embraced the power and impact of daily tasks, I paid attention to that section to see how it compared to the four basic tasks that I’ve found to be the most important.
And I laughed.
Here are the tasks listed on this printable:
- Pick up clutter.
- Make beds.
- Do laundry.
- Sweep kitchen and high-traffic areas.
- Unload dishwasher.
I wasn’t laughing at the list. It’s a great list. I was laughing at myself.
In my blog post eight years ago, I was fascinated by how short her list was. I was in the very beginning of my own deslobification process and was adding a new daily non-negotiable task (almost) every week. Doing daily stuff every single day was new to me and I assumed I’d be adding new tasks each week until I died.
Now, I’ve boiled my own list down to the most essential tasks. When I don’t do these tasks, my home grinds to a halt or the stuff-explosion-fuse gets lit. (Sorry, bed, but even though I like it when you’re made, being unmade doesn’t cause bad things to happen . . . )
But I laughed because of what wasn’t on this printable list.
“Unload the dishwasher” assumes that at some point, I loaded it. That dishes are already done.
And the absence of “do the dishes” on this list confirms what I have suspected: people whose homes stay under control don’t consider it an option to not do the dishes.
Do the dishes was too obvious for this list. I mean, who doesn’t know you have to do the dishes???
Obviously, no one could need something that obvious on a list.
Except that I didn’t know.
Until I started doing the dishes. Until I stopped trying to find a better way to keep my kitchen clean than just doing the dishes. Every single day. No matter how many there were to do.
And seeing a daily checklist that was missing the thing I needed most made me think of a recent note from one of you thanking me for being willing to explain the things most people don’t think need to be explained.
I looked for the letter (or was it an IG message or a book review or a comment somewhere?) but couldn’t find it. The point was that there’s missing information in a lot of well-intentioned and valuable home management advice out there.
Some of us truly don’t know the things we’re supposed to already know. And skipping over those things is the reason why the other stuff doesn’t work.
So yay for finally understanding the actual basics, and yay for finding my people.
I may not love suffering from TPAD and overthinking EVERYTHING and all that, but I DO love being one of your people!!!! 💜😘💜
Thank you so much for this. I am nearly 47 years old, and I still feel like a child when it comes to learning so many of the basics of things like cooking and home maintenance. My parents were alcoholics and my mom was a hoarder. I don’t have any basic routines at all aside from brushing my teeth daily. I only began making my bed at age 38 (which was transformative!) I appreciate the obvious being stated SO much. Thanks.
Ditto! I’ve just started following you and it does make me feel better just knowing I’m not the only one.
I listened to Podcasts 1 through 5 yesterday, WHILE dealing with “stuff,” and felt like I had some momentum, yet today I feel like I’m regressing into disgust with myself that I let it get to the point at which it is. I know this is counterproductive, but nevertheless, it’s how I’m feeling right now.
At any rate, thank you for helping me feel less alone!!
Jillian Guilford says
I’m older and due to a type of memory problem, I’m relearning how to do this home care because I had regressed. This happens at odd intervals for me so no clue as to when it will happen. I’ve learned to do something odd: Forgive myself for being me and accept that forgiveness and just do whatever I need to restart. I read elsewhere that tidiness, doing housework is morally a non-issue. I’m paraphrasing here. This helps me to drop the mean judgements I tend to make.
I just recently found you site and have been so surprised that there are actually so many people out there who have the exact cleaning/clutter/organizing issues I do! Every time I have a “I’m going to organize the house” day my brain shuts down! Where to start? How to start? Then nothing gets done, or I make the PILES to take to another room, and then they sit there. I laughed when I read this post, the lack of detail in that list is too funny. I am definitely one of those people who needs a DETAILED list! Doing dishes is one of THE hardest things to stay on top of for me. With 7 of us in the house I can’t miss one day of dishes or suddenly the kitchen looks like it exploded, and it is so hard to get back on top of it if there is a missed day!
After every meal, even the little sandwich meal Do the dishes, when it’s time for the next meal you don’t want to look at a messy kitchen!
This post took me back to a conversation I had years ago with my cousin (I was 23, married nigh on 4 years):
Me: My kitchen stinks!
My cousin: Have you cleaned out the drawer under the refrigerator?
Me (after a brief pause): WHAT drawer under the refrigerator?
Just sayin . . .
Lisa Smallridge says
Thanks for these reminders – I only discovered you, Dana, in the past year, so I’ve got a lot of catch-up reading to do, of your blog posts and Podcasts. So it’s great to receive a “daily dose of Dana” to keep me on track!
Martha Vanderpool says
There’s a drawer under the fridge?!
Dana, you are just —- so awesome!!!
THANK YOU! If it doesn’t make it to the list, it doesn’t get done (and most times, still doesn’t get done). But you’ve given me a start!
I read your book 6 months ago. And I’m still just on “do the dishes”. And that’s been enough for me. For now. I cook almost everyday and don’t have a dishwasher so having an empty sink every night has been a game changer. Cooking is so much easier and more enjoyable. And that just makes life better. Even if my floors and bathrooms are still dirty. Decluttering is happening slowly. And that’s all I need. Thank you.
I have never commented here before but I want you all to know I’m out here! I try to explain to my “normal” friends that these steps confuse me and they can’t understand why. I love that you see the house like I do, that you leave cupboard doors open like I do, that you acknowledge slob vision as being a real thing! Thanks for this post, it was a good reminder. I’ve always thought that people who keep a clean house naturally shouldn’t be writing books on how to do it :). They don’t understand where the breakdown is happening. But since you are overcoming it, I have hope that I can too!!
If I didn’t remind myself I wouldn’t remember to sign my checks! 1,000 blessings to you!
Donna Torrado says
Thank you for this. Yes, some of us need details – and I for one am one!
As a trainer I know that some find things to be obvious and others do not – so you state the obvious and those that don’t need it say “duh” but those that do need it go “aha”.
Yes! Thank you!
So many lists and books I’ve read don’t have those little things that ”everyone does anyway”.
I got so frustrated until I found these people. My people!
That is so true! Doing the dishes is my most hated chore. Full disclosure I have no dishwasher and about a trickle of hot water so take the time it takes a regular person to do dishes and multiply by 4. I dream of dishwashers LOL.
Maureen, my water heater can be depleted pretty quickly at times and I don’t have a dishwasher either so I feel your pain. I bought an electric kettle for those times when I need hot water and I need it NOW. Works really well to heat up up a sink of water. They are fairly inexpensive. I think I bought mine for $20 and it has been totally worth the price!
I loved this post the first time I read it. And I thought of it again the other day when a Facebook group I’m in posting a “30 days of decluttering” challenge. It had items like “Go through your linen closet and discard the linens you no longer use,” which assumes my bedding is in the closet and not permanently heaped up around my washer and dryer.
Definitely yay for finding my people, too!
My biggest tip for anyone who is trying to declutter: Pay to move yourself 2500 miles from a 4-BR house with basement and a garage to a 2-BR apartment (with 2 kids and a spouse). You’ll be surprised how much you really, actually don’t need!
In all seriousness, this site and these people are awesome! I finally feel like I’m reading advice and tips from someone who *gets* it – who understands what it’s like to walk into a room and truly not see the clutter until it’s at disaster levels.
I am glad you posted this, even as a joke-not-really. I am going to declutter my books today with this question in mind: “Would I take this if I were moving to Colorado?”
Actually came across this on Facebook instead of the emails from you in my Email Inbox …….. and laughed happily ………… per your rules …….. I’ve already wiped down the counters, loaded the dishwasher and it is running now …… yep, empty sink, load the dishwasher NEED to be on our to do lists !
You really are awesome Dana
I too needed to have things explained in your inimitable way. Your explanations about why the way you used to think doesn’t work and your encouragement and humour have helped me get on top of things in my life at last. Thank you so much.
Now I need to find your counterpart a Dana, guru of weight loss.
Your books and videos make so much sense to me. My Mom was very territorial about cooking & cleaning and I have struggled for years to figure things out on my own. Most books want you to pull everything out, sort, purge, etc. That just makes a bigger mess! Your tip on cleaning the floor added the bit about getting stuff off the floor first – why was this a revelation to me? Thank you for your common sense & humor.
Full disclosure: I have been reading your blog for years, often talking about it to friends and quoting maxims to my husband and kids. Yet, every time I tried to declutter my bedroom or closet, I fell into the same routine of making piles on my bed, getting called away, and shoving all the piles together back in the closet or on the floor at night so I could go to sleep. Why? I was having a disconnect between what I knew in my head and what I was actually doing.
Three months ago, I’d had enough. I took out your Organizing For the Rest of Us book, reminded myself that my bedroom is not a project, refused to shift stuff, and with book in hand, started following – actually doing – your decluttering process step by step. And it worked! I mean, I knew it would, but it worked FOR ME! Because I actually did it (duh!). The space inside the door on the floor was clean, as in I could see the carpet and everything! And then I reminded myself AGAIN that this wasn’t a project and I need to put things away (or get rid of them) every single day. And that space is STILL CLEAN – after 3 months! It’s wonderful!
So some of us even need to be told the super obvious: reading and learning the steps is great, but you have to actually DO the steps for it to work.
Rhonda Bagwell says
I read your books (and then posts) more than a year ago and made the committment to always do my dishes. (I was 69 years old and had probably committed to thids task
many times, but always lost the momentum.) There was something different about your “suggestion”. It wasn’t something I “should” do. It made sense! I have honestly not skipped the dishes, even once, since I read your fantastic arguments. It is true that there are days I do them perfectly and some days that the kitchen still needs work, but I DO them, and I am blessed over and over. Thank you, Dana.
Carolyn Newsome says
It’s amazing to me how many of the dishes that don’t go in the dishwasher can be washed while a meal is still being prepared. If a casserole goes in the oven, there is stuff that could be washed and not left until later. I’m 82 and still trying to realize that doing is important and not waiting until company is coming to see the mess. Dana, I’m a recent convert and am learning, even now! Start in the obvious spaces by the front door and declutter your way toward the kitchen every evening. It’s often the little things multiplied.