Monday, February 02, 2009

Recap

All in all January was a fantastic month for getting stuff done. I have scared my husband, who is not used to so much productivity, activity. But he is enjoying the food and the house.


My new bill-paying system is this: When I come home from work, I immediately check the mail. I go through it, recycle the junk, shred the junk with personal information, and then immediately pay any bill. Go to the computer, pay the bill through online banking. If there's not enough money, then put it on a credit card, because staying current on bills trumps the no-debt policy. My problem is that almost all of our bills are paid automatically: the mortgage, electricity, cable, cell phone, Netflix, etc, are all automatically drafted; all I have to do is keep enough money in the bank accounts to cover them. But medical bills keep messing me up. First the hospital sends an "insurance billed" notice, then the insurance sends a "hospital paid" notice, then FINALLY I'll get a bill for whatever is left from the hospital. When your bill-paying system involves throwing all the mail in a big pile and vowing to look at it later, certain things escape... like that last important letter.


I brought my lunch to work almost every day in January, saving about $100.00. Saved a lot of money by meal-planning, making a shopping list, and only buying groceries once a month. It's not that there were NO impulsive purchases, but it's a lot less than when I'm at the store every other day. Also, a lot less of that food is wasted, because I have a plan for any leftovers. Saved some by cutting way back on trips to Starbucks and Barnes & Noble: I still get my morning walk-the-dog mocha but that's it for the day.


This next part will only make sense to fellow messy people: neat folks just won't understand.


I have spent what feels like 1,000 hours cleaning and organizing the house. Have I ever mentioned that it's only 850 square feet or so, and that I've barely touched the living room or spare room? Crazy. I didn't really have a strategy to start with, just jumped in and started scouring the kitchen. But I have a plan now, sort of. First, I'm trying to get rid of more stuff. Like probably everybody, we have too much stuff. Two huge boxes of clothing and a Mr. Coffee have gone to Goodwill, with a lot more to follow. I plan on unloading our VHS player (still works, haven't used it in over two years), getting rid of all of our VHS tapes, and my Agatha Christie collection. (I have almost everything she wrote, and they're not "re-reads".) Second, I'm trying to create a home for every practical thing that we use. Our house is not great with storage, and in trying to clean, I realize that we have no set "place" for a lot of things: light bulbs, batteries, important paperwork, hats and gloves, clean towels, extra toilet paper... The list goes on. I want to get to the point where, no matter what I pick up, it has a place where it belongs: a drawer, a cabinet, a file, a hook, something. I think that the combination of these two concepts will do more in the long run to keep the place clean and clean-able, than all scrubbing and vacuuming. The last bit of my strategy is kind of weird and redundant, but it's working for me so far. Before I start cleaning in a new area, I re-do what is already (mostly) clean. I started this whole project in the kitchen, naturally, so before I clean in the bathroom or bedroom, I go back to the kitchen and do whatever little thing needs to be done to keep it nice-- clean the stove, empty the dish drainer, sweep the floor. That way, what has been cleaned stays pretty, which bolsters my feeling of making progress. When I walk back into the kitchen, everything there is finished. Also, it is starting to get me in the habit of cleaning a little bit every day, which (believe it or not) I've never done. I've been more of a let-it-go-completely-for-three-months-then-do-a-marathon-scrub-and-vacuum-session cleaner. I'm starting to realize how much easier it is to keep a clean space clean, then to start from scratch every time. For example, the first time I cleaned the stove this month, it was hard scrubbing. The second time was also hard, but only because I went deeper, cleaning the black spider-thingies and under the hood where the pilot lights are. But the past few times, I just spray-and-wipe, and it's clean again, just like that. Same thing with everything else. When I tackled the Laundry Monster, it took a full week plus a weekend to get everything washed, dried, folded or hung up, and the stuff we don't wear anymore either donated or thrown away. Since then, the laundry has been ridiculously easy, and the Monster has shrunk to a single basket of hand-wash/dry-clean-onlies. Maintenance. Who knew?


This time, I'm not falling into the trap of what's happened before, of moving from room to room over time, and having the first rooms get trashed again. As of now, my kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, and bedroom are clean, and I will do what needs to be done to keep them that way before moving forward. This is probably why I haven't made a whole lot of progress on the last two rooms, (plus this weekend NOTHING got done due to being bed-ridden with an awful headache all day Saturday, and going to IKEA Sunday) but I know that when I finally get them done, it won't be at the expense of what should already be nice: the whole house can stay clean.

8 comments:

Rachel said...

Can I just say I'm exhausted reading both your bill paying system and your cleaning philosophy, and offer to send you some damn truffles? LOL!

Bex said...

The cleaning system is a good one. That's what I've been using. I've only just started to move beyond the "already cleaned" areas. :)

Mara said...

No Rachel, it's a good thing! My whole life I've been super-messy, everything chaotic and disorganized... even when things would be neat for a little while, it would never last, and it would really be a veneer, with closets and drawers stuffed with messy junk. This is a ton of work right now, but it will be so liberating when (a) the house is really, truly clean for the first time and (b) keeping up with it has become a habit! Same goes for the bills-- nothing is more annoying than being late on a payment that you CAN afford to pay but just lost track of.

I'll take the truffles, though... haha.

songbird45 said...

My only other suggestion is to revisit and revise whatever system you have in place about once a year. As your life moves on, baby grows, etc. you'll find that stuff that used to work well doesn't anymore and you'll want to tweak the system to fit. Remember, if it's not getting done, it's the fault of the system!

Oh, and I highly recommend the filing system in Getting Things Done. The gist is that it should take you less than 20 seconds to create a file folder and stick something in your file, and you review/purge your reference files periodically (I do it once a year) to make sure that you're only keeping stuff you want to keep. This way paper you want to keep gets organized and filed immediately without the barrier of "do I REALLY want to keep this?" or the barrier of a "to file" pile.

ayla said...

LOL, you're going to have that baby and all your systems are going to go to hell, and I will laugh, but it will be a laughing-with-you instead of laughing-at-you. Just keep in mind that whatever you get set up while you're DINK is going to be useless when there's a squalling infant and only one income. However, having a system to revise is better than having no system at all, so bravo to you! Me, I'm just glad my MIL bought me a cleaning lady every other week. Otherwise, I'd be screwed.

Mara said...

Ayla: You hit it with that last bit, it's better to have a system to revise, than no system at all! After all, I'm doing this mostly *because* we have a baby coming, not in spite of that. Habits like doing the dishes after dinner (instead of when it's time to make dinner the next night!) or paying bills ASAP rather than risking them going to collections, *have* to be better even to a new parent, right?

You know when your house or something goes to crap, and you have to say, "gosh X hasn't been done since ____" whether X is the toilet getting swabbed or the laundry being totally done or all of the bills being paid? I want "___" to be, at worst, "since the baby was born!" and not, "... ever, actually." If the place falls apart again when the little passenger gets here, so be it, but let it fall apart from being finished first!

Some of the other systems, there is just no choice in the matter. Don and I are jumping from eating out 2-3 times a week to twice a month (at most), because we will HAVE to once the baby comes. There just won't be the money for otherwise, once I'm not working and we're paying the extra health insurance and etc. We're just starting it now to get used to the idea and to save a little money ahead of time...

ayla said...

Mara, you're doing a fantastic job, srsly. Way more organized and motivated than I will ever, ever be. Hell, I had to hire my cleaning lady for an extra two hours to help me unpack one of my rooms in my house. You know, the house I moved into in April of 2007. I'm a horrible procrastinator. I don't want to change, really, I just want more staff. Too bad I can't afford it. LOL.

Mara said...

Ayla-- I want staff, too! HAVING a cleaning person beats BEING the cleaning person any day, I think!