Monday, March 27, 2006

For all you women out there living with CHAOS: A photo essay

Warning: this post is LONG. And if you have dialup, I am sorry, b/c it will probably take forever for you to load it!

This is your formal invitation. You are hereby invited to be an uninvited guest in my home. What you are about to see is real. The characters are not actors. This is the real me, and this is my real house - the house you would see if you dropped by... uninvited.

My house is a mess. But, one thing that I have learned about myself in the past few years, is that I care about relationships more than I care what people think of my housekeeping skills. I don't LIKE it that my house is a mess. But if you came by unannounced, I would certainly invite you in... and then clear a space for you on the couch.

I have slowly learned to let go of the insecurities I have about my poor housekeeping skills, and the worry that I let myself feel over what people might think of me. This is not to say that my mentality is "I am a slob... deal with it." On the contrary, I am taking steps to change that. Baby steps. But steps.

Sometime in January, I was taking a serious look at the routines presented by the Fly Lady over on her website. While I do not adhere to every part of her program, I have learned a few basic concepts that I becoming very comfortable with. I will discuss some of those throughout this post. But I started doing some of the things she suggests, and I was enjoying a cleaner house and, more importantly, a more peaceful home. We actually invited people over to our house... SPONTANEOUSLY! It was so nice. (The CHAOS that I refer to in the title is what the Fly Lady calls "Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome.")

But, I hit a little bump in the road. Part of it has to do with the depression that I am experiencing (though less and less as time goes on.) But the bigger part of it has to do with some spiritual housecleaning I have been doing also. I will get into more details about those two things later. But the point is, I let things go around the house and we returned to CHAOS.

My goal in writing this post is to encourage three different types of people:
1. those who stink at housekeeping and are too embarrassed to invite anyone over
2. those struggling with depression, and
3. those who want more of Christ but are dissatisfied with what life currently has to offer.

All of those things have come into play for me. I don't mind sharing them with people because I know someone who reads this will be able to relate. And hopefully they will also be encouraged - because I believe there is a way out of all three of those things.

So I will begin.

Chapter 1: The problem

I had been conscious of what was going on for a while, realizing how much my computer has become an idol in my life. I already knew that I was using the computer to try to fill my longing for relationships (see previous post) and that it was NOT satisfying me. I knew I needed to make God my priority rather than my computer. Yet, I kept turning to my computer. I was letting it steal time away from me. In the process, it was stealing me away from my family and my responsibilites. So, not much was getting done around the house, and when it did, I was crabby about it.

Being a stay at home mom is hard in different ways. Being needed all the time is draining. Constantly having to fend for four people (with no one around to fend for you) is draining. Every moment seems to bring a new decision. Should I give them a snack now or wait until after nap? Should I go do errands in the morning and risk them falling asleep in the car and messing up their nap? Or should I do it after nap and not have enough time to make dinner? What is the best way to deal with them coloring on the wall? or clogging the toilet?

Maybe I think too much. But there is something to be said for having to constantly deal with stuff that comes up for which there is no prescribed plan of action. The mental energy that it requires exhausts me. And when you have depression dancing around in the background, it brings anxiety and loneliness along with it. Hang out with exhaustion, anxiety, and loneliness long enough, and things get pretty desperate.

In my case, I convinced myself that the solution to this desperate situation was to make more time for ME! And, while it IS true that we need time for ourselves (and my husband and I have worked out ways for me to have "me time,") it is not true that the entire day needs to be about me. But, without realizing it, that is what I'd come to expect.... everybody leave me alone and let me be... (write a post)... (check e-mail) did anyone comment?... (read some blogs)... (escape reality)

But this past week of the Breaking Free study (by Beth Moore) encouraged me and reminded me of something that I already knew and have experienced in the past: Christ satisfies me. Regardless of the situation I am in, there is satisfaction that comes from inviting him into my day. My laundry-washing, kid-disciplining, snack-fetching day.

And what I was doing was not working. Relying on an object for satisfaction never does.

So, on Wednesday, I left the computer off. And every time I got the urge to go check e-mail, I just read some Scripture (I love Isaiah 55,) prayed, or worked on my Bible study lesson. I just let God fill me up.

And instead of "computing," I played with the kids. I sat with them during lunch. I held Bethany whenever she wanted to be held. There was time to get some housework done. I wasn't as impatient with the kids as I might otherwise have been. Amazing what one little change can do.

And I think this was the little push that I needed. God blessed in so many ways as if he was saying to me personally, "Why spend money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your sould will delight in the richest of fare." (Isaiah 55:2)

God was fulfilling my need for relationship. And not having to search for it elsewhere certainly freed me up to be who I need to be for my family.

And now, my uninvited guests, welcome to my home:

Chapter 2: Refocusing on God

THIS, is what I saw on Friday morning. No, the sink isn't just full. It is OVERFLOWING!

In my FLYdays, I was doing well at keeping the sink empty. But my FLYing lapse caused me to crash land - right back into my old habits. Dishes. Not my favorite.

But, seeing this gave me an idea. I had just posted about how I wanted my blog to be one that glorifies God. So, I had the idea to let you come with me as I tackled some of my chaos. I figured that letting this secret out would free me from the demon that tells me I have to make myself "look good" on my blog. And, having read a few other blogs, I know that I am not the only woman who suffers with CHAOS. So I hoped that letting my guard down would encourage someone else to do the same. I think both of these goals would fit the criteria of glorifying God.

It took a while to get this job done. But I wasn't rushing. I had to start by unloading the dishwasher. This is my least favorite part of doing dishes. And it's how the sink got this way... because I just didn't want to unload that thing again! But I got the next load going, as shown in this next picture, then walked away until it was done.

I watched a show with the kids. And I dusted the tops of the door frames! HAH! That is SO, not something I would do. But, one thing I learned from the Fly Lady is to do one small piece of detail cleaning each day. The dust was "spilling" over the frames, so I figured this was a good one to do. Easy. And before I knew it, my dishes were ready to unload.

So I unloaded the dishwasher and got it running again. All but a few dishes were left, so I decided I needed to return to the clean sink of my FLY days. Fly Lady insists on a shiney sink. I am satisfied with CLEAN. But clean meant that I had to get rid of the slime that you see pictured here. This, fair reader, is my A-number-one MOST HATED and DESPISED task. I HATE cleaning out the drain "thingies." And if the food has been sitting there a few days (as was the case here) and become slimey, I find this absolutely LOATHESOME.

I am not complaining. I am simply stating a fact. Because my honest-to-goodness thought at the time was, I will do anything for my sink to be clean again. All the while I am hoping that my readers will be looking at the picture of my sink and thinking I can't even believe she is letting us see this... and hopefully realizing that there is no shame in letting people see our weaknesses. There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

Laughing to myself, I start scouring the sink and I tell God I can't believe he found a way to make this fun for me. Already I am seeing how much he does care about the smallest details - like my nasty sink. And, enjoying the fellowship he offered during this endeavor, I start looking for another task that we could tackle together.

And it comes to me almost immediately. It was the one thing that I NEVER want anyone to see. EVER. This is the spot I ALWAYS think to cover when someone comes over. But my only thought is Oh, Lord... that's PERFECT. I finish up my first task, snap this picture...

And I run to the bathroom, throw open the shower curtain and snap a picture of this. At that moment I remember what the Fly Lady says about how we should feel good when we are in our homes. People, this tub does not make me feel good. I cringe every time I see it. So, I chuckle to myself because I realize that, while God is busy picking tasks that will encourage you, he is also making sure that completing them will make me feel good too. I love it!

Having snapped my picture, I turn around and I see my SPARKLING CLEAN sink, mirror, and toilet. Clean, thanks to a Fly Lady routine that I'd already been doing. So, I snap a picture of it too, lest you think I am only here to make myself look bad. There ARE a few things I am keeping up with. Why not celebrate the success? (The toilet is not pictured here, but you'll have to take my word that it is clean.)

I got out the Tilex, and sprayed down the tub. The first application did little to get the mildew off of the caulking. So I re-applied the Tilex and let it sit for a long time. In that time, I hung out with the kids, did a little laundry, put Bethany down for a nap.

When I return to the bathroom, I start scrubbing the caulking and chipping away at the soap scum that had caked up under the soap dish. It occurred to me that maybe I could actually salvage all those soap chips and reconstitute it into a brand new bar of soap. I decided I'd just stick with the cleaning for now, because MAN was it ever difficult.

And I suppose that's one reason why I never do it. Also, I don't like using harsh chemicals like Tilex... But I especially dislike the Tilex when it doesn't work... because I was having to use some serious elbow grease. I decided to get an X-acto knife so I could remove some of the uneven portions of caulking that were making it difficult to clean. But it didn't help much. So I tried my old standby, Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda. I was pretty sure it wasn't going to do the trick, but I tried anyway... and it just made more of a mess for me to clean. So, I tried the toothbrush with bleach approach. (Bleach, another chemical I'd rather not be using.) But it just ended up that I needed to go back to my scouring sponge and scrub HARDER. The whole thing probably took about a half hour. I will admit to ignoring some "screaming" coming from the living room. I really wanted to get this one done. Eventually, I did. TA DAAAA!

Chapter 3: The REAL reason why I never scrub the bathtub

When I walked out of the bathroom, I was reminded of another reason I never clean the tub... too much time away from the young'uns.

Here is what I found on the kitchen floor. It wasn't just any laundry. It was the laundry that I had in two OVERFLOWING baskets, all of which had already been folded. But don't panic. Because this is exactly what I thought: You know what? This is not a big deal. Are you with me here, people? God had me so calm that I simply told the perpetrator to pick up the clothes and put them back in the baskets. I even took it as an opportunity to put some of that laundry away. To commemorate the fact that I was able to remain calm, I thought I would take a picture of the perp as the reloading took place.

But then I walked into the living room to find these scattered (and some broken) on the floor:

And, upon returning from the living room, I found this on the kitchen table:

Yes, that's cheese. (And yes, I wrapped it up and put it back in the refrigerator.) What you can't see in the picture is the evidence of it being rubbed all over the table.

All of this happened while I was cleaning the tub.

At this point I am about to revert to my old way of thinking: One step forward, three steps back, right? But as I write this, I am wondering if maybe God was just trying to show me that there is joy to be found with him through every little thing. It isn't about getting ahead. (That is never going to happen anyway, right?) Maybe it's just about taking care of the things I need to and feeling good about not neglecting them. With the unexpected bonus of developing my relationship with God a little more.

Who ever would have thought THAT would happen from housecleaning?

Chapter 4: I'm kind of getting into this

I enjoyed getting my first two tasks done, and wanted to do some more. Mind you, I was not frantically running around the house trying to figure out what else I coiuld do. I just worked when I could and enjoyed the kids the rest of the time. It was a very peaceful day.

I washed the window dressings from two different windows that were covered in dust and cobwebs. (Sorry, no picture of that.) Back in January when I started FLYing, Bethany's high chair quickly became a part of my daily routine. But when your sink fills up like mine did, that makes it difficult to clean up the high chair's tray. So, it was nasty (I took a picture, but I am going to spare you...) It had old food dried and caked on it. Now that my sink was clear, I thought I would quickly clean Bethany's tray and sweep out the seat... both of which had been neglected far too long. Once again, Bethany can enjoy a clean place to sit and eat... something her big brother and sister rarely got to experience!

Chapter 5: The next few jobs

This is one of my "hot spots." A hot spot is the Fly Lady's term for any flat surface where stuff just tends to migrate. The ironing board is right next to the laundry area. Whenever I come across something the kids have outgrown, I fold it up and put it in a pile on the closest flat surface... which happens to be the ironing board. (Paul irons his clothes every morning... it has become a permanent fixture right by that window.)

Here is a picture of another one of my hotspots. It is the counter area right near the kitchen door. It seems like something gets thrown there every time someone walks into the kitchen. But as part of the evening routines the Fly Lady has helped me develop, I spend two minutes cleaning hot spots every night. Two minutes is more than enough time to get this hotspot cleared. And that is exactly how it looked on Friday, because I'd worked on it the night before. (Now that little organizer might be considered a hot spot all its own. This is one area that I USED to clean when company was coming over. Not any more. The Fly Lady is BIG on getting over perfectionism. And the truth is, I don't care that that thing is a mess. It doesn't bother me. So I leave it.) And here is my clean ironing board too.

This was everything I got done by the time 4 o'clock rolled around. Not much. But not nothing either. I had to get ready for a "ladies night out" at church. I made a salad to bring, which is SO MUCH EASIER when the counters are cleared and the dirty dishes can go straight into the dishwasher!

I came home from church pretty pumped about my day with the Lord and about the things I'd heard that night that confirmed a lot of what I have been processing. Somewhere along the way, I am starting to wonder if there is anything to the old adage cleanliness in next to godliness.

So, after putting Bethany down to bed, and realizing I was alone in the house... can you guess what I did? I tackled the floor in front of my closet. Take a little looksie.

I laugh when I see this. Partly because this really isn't all that bad. I had just removed a big pile of dirty laundry from that mountain a few days earlier. But what is REALLY funny is that suitcase. Think, astute reader, what that suitcase might be a remnant of. If you said "your trip to China," YOU WIN THE PRIZE. That suitcase is full of gifts that we bought for Bethany while we were in China. But I can't GIVE them to her, because they are meant to be for birthdays as she gets older. So, what do I do? I park the suitcase in front of my closet. And I leave it there.

For five months.

There are too many things in that suitcase for me to find a "place for." And since we bought this suitcase while we were IN China (to carry home all the stuff we bought,) it doesn't have a "home" in our home, if you know what I mean. Finding a home for a big old suitcase is no small task. If I try to store it in the garage, for example, I would have to reorganize the entire garage just to get it to fit. The task has just seemed too daunting. So, the suitcase just sits there. Did I mention it's been FIVE MONTHS?

Anyway, I decided to time this one, since there wasn't much chance of being interrupted. In less than fifteen minutes, I had this. I also had a pile of stuff set aside to give away. Clutter reduction is my new mantra... oh, wait, can Christians have mantras? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, good question. (Sorry, I had to do that.)

Anyway, please note the new home I have found for my suitcase. Works for me.

Chapter 6: Spilling over into Saturday

I went out on Saturday morning to purchase an item that I have been wanting for a while. I found it at Bed Bath 'n' Beyond. I also found dryer balls. Has anyone ever heard of these? I thought I'd give them a try... but I digress.

I came home and noticed the kitchen table. It often looks like this. Why? I thought. That could be cleaned in no time. But, I know what you are thinking... Hey, Lori, what's with the ironing board? I thought you just cleared that yesterday! Well, I TOLD you it was a HOT SPOT, right? But those are the clothes I have to hang, and I don't want them getting wrinkled in the laundry basket... if you MUST know. However, the fact that I need to leave those clothes on the ironing board, brings to mind another little yucky spot that hasn't been making me feel so great. The top of the dryer. This is probably a hotspot too. So, I get to work. While I am working, a little sweetie pie decides to "help" with the socks that have to be sorted. It's only appropriate she would do this while I am cleaning the dryer. You see, Bethany thinks I moved that basket of socks to the floor so that she could have easier access to it. But no, I moved it to the floor because it is *supposed* to be (can you guess where?) ON TOP OF THE DRYER! But, of course, it didn't fit there anymore!

So, thank you, Bethany, for all your help. And, by the way, you are very cute.

Anyway, the dryer didn't take long to clear. And please notice the new contraption for hanging stuff. THAT was what I'd purchased earlier in the day. By the way, I LOVE that thing! (Yes, those are barbecue tongs. I don't have any good place to put those. But you know what? If you came over and saw those on my dryer, I wouldn't really care. I can live with barbecue tongs on the dryer.)

And, of course, we cannot forget the table. I laugh, because as I write this, it looks almost exactly like the "before" picture again. (Same diaper bag is on it, another stack of newspapers... that's worth a good chuckle, I think.) BUT, it WAS clean on Saturday... and this is what it looked like.

Now you are probably thinking, Uhhh, Lori, the laundry in those baskets looks suspiciously like the laundry that was in those baskets YESTERDAY. And, are those JEANS on the ironing board?

Man, you people don't let up! I'll get to it! I guess you have figured out that putting the clothes away is my least favorite part of doing laundry... And the jeans are only there until they finish drying.

Here - take a look at this picture (Yes, it was dark outside by the time I was able to take it... but I did it, so PIPE DOWN out there!)

That's it folks. That ended my Saturday. But I know you still have questions...

Chapter 7: What's next?

Well. My focus over these next few weeks and months will be enjoying God's presence and finding satisfaction in him. Part of that will mean joyfully living up to my responsibilities even when you guys aren't "watching" me. Additionally, I cannot let my computer take precedence over my family, my sleep, or my housekeeping. And I cannot allow myself to look to it for something that only God can provide. What does that mean for blogging? I don't know. I have to determine what my limits will be with my computer. I will be discussing this with God over the next few weeks.

Perhaps in a month or two, I can try to take a few more pictures and give you an update on how things are going. Is the house reasonably clean? Did those dryer balls work? Did anyone die from eating that manhandled cheese?

Until the next time I post... and I don't know when that will be... I will leave you with a verse that has been of great encouragement and motivation to me over these last few days:

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. -Hosea 10:12

Anybody got a hoe?

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Blogger Leslie said...

Okay, I know exactly how you feel. Sometimes the housework gets so overwhelming. I used to have a stuff everything room, but now I have Elise.

Anyway, in preparing for our move, I have moved a garbage can on wheels into my bedroom and I am using the pack-n-play for garage sale stuff. I'm just going to go through the house and get everything classified (I've given myself two days for this) then I'm going to repair and paint whatever needs to be covered. Well, anyway, I'll pray for you as I clean . . . as long as you say one for me. Just kidding :) I'll pray regardless!

You know it's never as bad as it seems when you get started.

Mon Mar 27, 04:03:00 PM  
Blogger C. H. Green said...

I'm going to tell you something. Reading this blog was the absolute highlight of my day--and it's 9 pm. I am soooo happy to see those pictures. Not happy because you had a dirty house, but happy to see that I am not alone. I, too, suffer from depression. I have had about 6 months of being unemployed. You would think my house would be sparkling. Guess what? I have days when there is slime in the drain. And I feel exactly the same way. I too, was a fly lady. Every time I get really down, I shine my sink. That little bit of effort makes me want to do better. And makes me feel like I have accomplished something.
I'm so glad I found you. Stop by and see me.--Cindy

Mon Mar 27, 10:05:00 PM  
Blogger Praying for your Prodigal said...

What a great post! And wow--have you made progress! I HATE housework! There is very little value to's's's frustrating. It needs repeating often! I'd much rather be blogging...but I, too, am practicing self-control relating to computer time. Who knows...someday soon we'll have support groups for those of us who have found our lives unmanageable because of blogging! Teasing!

Better go do some laundry--before I could even take a digital of the room! Can't find my washer lid!


Tue Mar 28, 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger Robin said...

This is one of my most favorite posts I have ever read. Thank you for sharing.

Tue Mar 28, 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

As always, you are an inspiration. Isn't it funny how shining your sink can inspire you to do more! I've been on and off with Flylady since the 1st of the year. When I'm good I'm really good, and when I'm bad...well, you get the picture.

I TOO have been trying to control my computer time, in fact, it's naptime for the little munchkin and I actually took a shower before I did anything else. As soon as I submit this comment I'm going to put away laundry.

Thanks for your constant inspiration. I appreciate you and will continue praying for you!

I agree with what you said about finding joy in the Lord in EVERY little thing! I find myself thanking HIM when I come home and realize my house is straightened and not a wreck. When I hear the coffee maker go on in the AM and I realize that I set it up the night before to make my morning easier! I think if we do everything to HIS glory and not for ourselves or others our relationship with HIM grows deeper and we are focused on the right things.

I am finding this new mission of mine a struggle but I have seen progress.

Sorry for the long-winded comment!
Thanks Lori!

Tue Mar 28, 04:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Beth said...

Hi, I found your site through Stephanie I think, and I love your thought processes and writing style. My blog has a different style - I have yet to dig very deep, I think I'm trying to feel my way in this oh-so-public forum. After being away all day I think your post has given me the mental energy to go tackle a few hot spots in my own home! Sometimes I think I shouldn't have put in that extra counter - it just collects stuff like every other flat surface within my arm's reach.

Tue Mar 28, 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger Addie said...

Lori - This is such an awesome post! I'm so impressed with you!!! Take your time, and figure out what the best balance is for you and your family. I've been trying to tone down my computer addiction also. I truly love and get so much out of reading about all that God is doing in your life, wether you post frequently or not!

Tue Mar 28, 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger Kili @ Live Each Moment said...

I loved your post. I recently started using flylady too. My problem is I wanted everything perfect, so if I do/did fall behind on even ONE task I didn't want to do ANYTHING anymore. Flylady reminds me "you are not behind, start wehre you are now..." that is important to me and has helped me so much!

Wed Mar 29, 12:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Becky T. said...

Hey Lori - Well...this post was very interesting. I really enjoyed reading it (as I have MOST of your blogs). You do have a way with words. I will continue to pray for you and all your struggles. It seems to me that through all of theses ups and mostly down moments, you have gotten closer to God and knowing that He is your source of power and strenghth. "When I am weak, He is strong" is my mainstay. Thank goodnes we have HIM.

Wed Mar 29, 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger aggiejenn said...

Thank you for sharing. While I was reading, I realized I could have written every word of what you wrote. I love your idea of turning off the computer and reading Scripture when you felt tempted to turn it back on. I, too, need a fast from the computer. So, now I'm going to go shower while my little one is napping and read some in the Word. Thanks for the encouragement. You're a blessing.

Wed Mar 29, 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger owlhaven said...

Great post!!

Mary, mom to many

Thu Mar 30, 12:58:00 AM  
Anonymous mom a said...

What a doofus I am! I posted a comment for this sght but it's on the previous entry. SORRY!

Thu Mar 30, 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Nicki said...

Wonderful post! Thank you for being so honest and sharing your journey with us.

Sun Apr 02, 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger Janice (5 Minutes for Mom) said...

GREAT POST!!! Love your honesty!

First of all I HATE housework. HATE IT!!

I started blogging in March and my house quickly fell to ruins. While I kept up the laundry, dishes, bathrooms etc, and my house was "clean" I had "hot spots" or catchalls that were taking over the entire house. I lived in total chaos and didn't let anyone it.

So after about three moths of that, i was lying in bed one night feeling overwhelmed and defeated by my house and (I believe God put this in my head) the idea of TAckle IT Tuesday cmae in. I was so excited I could barely get to sleep. THe next day was Tuesday adn so I wrote up my idea and let the blogosphere know that I was goind to tackle my house old projects WHILE blogging.

It has changed my life! I do one project each week, and after two months my house is under control. Yes there are tons of projects still to do, but I can have people over and I can live without the bondage of my cluttered crazy house. (I still have choas in one part of my basement as I stopped halfway through a major organizing of my storage room.)

I am loving Tackle It Tuesday because it give me accountability, structure and fun. And I get a post out of it! As I like to say we are "making housework blog-able."

IT is so neat that you did the same thing here. I am so gald that you got things under control.

It is so nice to meet you and read your story.

(by the way, I suffer from depression too and was off my meds when things got crazy in my house. i believe it had everything to do with it. When i am depressed doing housework is so overwhelming. It just can cope and it is so much easier to retreat to the computer. thanks for the honesty - i really appreciate it :))

Fri Jul 28, 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger Luisa Perkins said...

Lori, God is working through you to answer my prayers. This post felt like a direct response to things I've been mulling over in my own life! I, too, have had serious struggles with depression. Recently, though, through the grace of Jesus, I have been healed of that. (I am still walking around thinking, Is it really gone? I pray in faith that it will remain far from me.)

Anyway, I had made a list of several yucky chores that I wanted to get through today, but when I woke up this morning, I felt like putting it all off AGAIN. But now I feel the strength, joy, and energy I need to get through those things.

Thanks again, and God bless you for sharing so humbly and selflessly.

Sat Mar 17, 10:56:00 AM  

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