A while ago, a friend of mine made a goal to be a "maintainer". I didn't really like the way that sounded-- so status quo, just "maintaining" something, rather than shooting for the stars, you know?-- until she explained a little more.
She said that most people either fall into the "maintainer" category or the "cleaner" category. Maintainers just work steadily at keeping things-- their house, their car, their figure-- in order; while cleaners wait until they've reached the "enough is enough" stage before taking action.
When it comes to house keeping, I definitely fall into the latter category, usually waiting until the yellow caution tape has sectioned my apartment off, quarantining it from the rest of civilization.
Okay, it's not that bad, but I will admit that I remind myself a little of Sarah Sylvia Cynthia Stout, who simply would not take the garbage out. I confess that we usually have overflowing "recycle" bags lined up across the kitchen before actually taking them out to be recycled, and that I have to clean up the stacks of dishes leftover from the previous meal(s) before I can eat/make most of the food I consume. I will also admit that we love inviting people over to our house because it forces us to clean up... but that if you peeked into our closet during one of those visits, you might not be able to find to floor.
It's not that I'm a total slob or that I love living in squalor. I really believe that part of it is having such a tiny apartment. In most places, you could come home from a bike ride, set down your bag or your groceries, take off your jacket, and not fill the entire living room/dining room/kitchen in one fell swoop. But not here. That one little activity can tarnish our whole apartment... and you know how it is: one little pebble can start an avalanche. As soon as a few things are out of order, the battle is lost.
Well, I share all of this to say "Rejoice with me, my friends-- I have reformed!". I have turned a new leaf, and I am working hard to... take baby steps towards... becoming a maintainer. I figure that things like that have to come in baby steps, in order to tackle something so against one's own nature.
So here's my plan (and it's working pretty well, if I do say so myself). Every night, before we go to bed, we set the timer for 5 minutes, and spend that time cleaning up the mess around us. No, all the dishes don't get washed, and the whole apartment doesn't glisten when we're done, but it seems to hold the chaos at bay for a little bit longer. And the nice thing is that 5 minutes is always doable-- it's just 5 minutes.
It's been about a week, and we've done a pretty good job of staying consistent. We actually came home today, looked around, and said with shock "It's not too bad in here!". What a wonderful feeling. I love waking up in the morning and actually seeing the counter top (again, this sounds horrible, but a few dishes completely overwhelm the poor little thing). I love going to bed and not having to fight a pile of clothes to get under the covers.
Its tough, as a woman, to admit these weaknesses-- like it would decrease my dowry, or something-- but I'm being vulnerable here. I thought I would share my victory & breakthrough just in case there are other non-super-human women out there who could use a little help "maintaining". ;)