phases of cleaning…hitting the wall.

No I’m not running a marathon.  My knees would protest quite loudly, long before I finished tying my shoes.  I’m talking about hitting the cleaning wall.  I didn’t even really identify what was happening until yesterday when I made the running connection.

I know it’s happened to me often enough that it’s probably happened to you. 

Phase ONE:You have somehow miraculously overcome inertia and have started cleaning.  Maybe you set a deadline for yourself on when to start and now that it is 5 minutes past that deadline you really need to get off your duff.  Maybe you calculated exactly how long you would HAVE to clean before the in-laws came and it is time and you have NO CHOICE. Maybe it’s a habit!  Whatever it is, it got you up and started.  This first phase is characterized by shock, that you are really up and a scattered mind.  I don’t get much done here…just slowly building up and moving things around randomly. 

Phase TWO: You hit your stride.  Now you’re really moving.  You’re in the zone.  You wonder why you didn’t start earlier, this isn’t so bad and you’re getting a TON done.  None of it is taking nearly as long as you think it will and you can see the progress. 

Phase THREE:the wall.  It starts with niggling thoughts about the book you’re reading, or maybe you get a sudden desire to take off your shoes just for comfort’s sake, or perhaps it started when you noticed just how well you were doing and you think “I deserve a break”.  So you sit down.  YOU.  You who HAS to get this cleaning done and this is really your chance because no one is bothering you currently and there is only 45 minutes until you have to go pick up child number 2 from that thing.  You know you don’t really have time to take a break because you carefully procrastinated starting until you had no choice.  You know all this but you sit down even though it’d only take 5 minutes to finish what you are doing.

Phase FOUR:Did you fight through phase to phase four? Have you hit your second wind?  It’s there, I know it.  You can hit your stride and get more done that you had planned and feel really accomplished about your cleaning. Or at the end of the day you can look back and start rationalizing the benefits of facebook. 😉

So how can you fight the wall?  Have you ever hit it? 

1-Begin with the end in mind.  This may scare you off starting completely.  You may use this as an excuse (I haven’t planned my cleaning yet).  But it does help to have a specific goal in mind. I know you’re hoping that you can psych yourself up by lying to yourself and say you’ll just clean for 15 minutes, while you’re really hoping that you’ll get in the zone and clean that one mess in that other place too.  A goal really helps a feeling of finishing. 

2-Don’t set the timer until you reach the wall.  In my experience, the timer can sometimes bring wall thoughts in the midst of a perfectly good batch of phase 2 cleaning.  So sometimes I wait until I start feeling those weird, interrupting thoughts…THEN I set the timer.  I get the added benefit of not even needing 15 minutes by then.  Sometimes I can even set it for 10 or 5 and finish the last little bits. 

3-knowing is half the battle.  Recognize the wall for what it is: a ridiculous attempt by your lazy bones to stop before you should.  This is not a marathon. This is not some crazy impossible task.  Look realistically at what you are doing.  It’s not like doing 5 more minutes of dishes is more than you can handle. 

4-MUSIC-it really is best to start with music on, or delegate it to a child…it can happen that if you pause and put the music on midclean you will find yourself sitting down in front of your CDs reading lyrics .  Your lazy bones are pretty ingenious and will do anything to sit down.

5-be a real finisher . Frequently the wall comes for me just before the end…I have sorted and folded the laundry and there are just the dregs (that funny mitten that somehow made it into the laundry thought it’s June, that weird piece of cloth you don’t know what to do with, the unmatched sock…you know.  You don’t know where they really go without… THINKING.  The shock of having to think is NOT too much to overcome.  You are a college graduate.  People used to pay you money for using your brain, surely YOU can figure out what to do with the one mitten…

6-KNOW that there is a second wind coming.  It will be great.  You can muscle through this and really get things done. As my older brother’s shirt says “That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved.” My older brother’s shirt is quoting Emerson.

I hope. 

7- Don’t let anticipation of tomorrow’s needs battle with today’s energy.  Yes there will be more dishes, laundry, messes tomorrow.  BUT you can’t do them ahead anyway, so don’t let that overwhelm you today. 

8- remember why you clean.  It is not for others.  Those thoughts “the people who really love me won’t care how my house looks” are true but unhelpful.  YOU deserve the peace and beauty of a clean house.  YOU want to spend your energy on enjoying and serving your guests and your family, not on embarrassment or fear that they will open that door to that room.  You will REALLY enjoy that book , or whatever you do for down time, if you have taken care of your responsibilities first.  It won’t be a guilty slinking away and avoidance, it will be a reward.  You know YOU will enjoy your home clean. 

I hope some of these help you…I realize that there are some days I never reach the wall…or that it find me already having been sat down by a cutie (at which point inertia + wall=almost insurmountable obstacle). 

Some of these techniques may or may not be adjusted from how I cope with labor-but they really do help me. 

Some of this may or may not be tongue in cheek observation, as I laugh at myself at just how silly I was to want to stop with just 3 dishes left in the sink yesterday.  Three. pitiful.  I finished all three.

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3 Responses to phases of cleaning…hitting the wall.

  1. FlyBaby Cyndi says:

    LOVE this. I am a reformed (OK, really reforming) bender to the wall. This is me, exactly. I think that is why Flylady has worked so well for me. I realize I WANT a clean, orderly house more that I want to have all the “me” lazy time in the world. 😉 Thanks Britt!

  2. dangermom says:

    I think that works long-term too; those phases could be hour increments or weeks. I guess you could say I’ve hit a wall, albeit a soft and comfy one–I’m pretty much skipping the cleaning this week and making an emergency quilt instead. With luck the top will be done tomorrow afternoon, and I’m sending it out to be quilted. But after that, watch out clutter!

    • I agree there are longer term phases. Part of my goal is to change my no matter what basics that happen every day, whether I’m in the middle of a project or not. I think times of more or less decluttering are normal and healthy!

      I hope you post a picture of the quilt!

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