May’s Experiment: FlyLady

I had so much fun experimenting with the Pomodoro Technique last month that I decided to try another new thing during the month of May. This month’s new thing is FlyLady. FlyLady is actually something I have dabbled into in the past, but really want to take more seriously. Like I mentioned in my wrap-up post for my pomodoro experiment, my house was getting cleaner that month. However, there is still definitely room for improvement here, especially when it comes to consistency.

I’ve known about FlyLady since I was a kid, because my mom does it. I remember seeing the e-mails in her inbox and asking her about it. FlyLady in its earlier conception has been around since late 1999. Nearly two decades later, it’s still going strong! The basic concept behind FlyLady is making small changes and doing little things every day to help improve your home’s cleanliness and get rid of clutter. What I like about it is that it teaches you how to be consistent with cleaning and decluttering, not just power cleaning for a week and then letting everything go to pot again.

Because FlyLady has a lot of little things and can feel overwhelming, I thought I would spend this first post talking specifically about what it is and how it works. You can start FlyLady through one of two ways: by going through their thirty-one Baby Steps, or by just jumping in wherever the community is at. The heart behind FlyLady is to never think that you are behind with keeping up with housework. You start from where you’re at and work on improving little by little from there.

If you are completely overwhelmed with the idea of starting a cleaning system like FlyLady, I recommend starting with the Baby Steps. The Baby Steps are a really simple way to ease yourself into creating good habits and building a positive routine. They build on each other every day. The first day, you focus on cleaning and shining your kitchen sink (the FlyLady has an explanation for the shiny sink concept here). For me, this means making sure all my dishes go straight into the dishwasher and drying the sink so it doesn’t have puddles for hours. On day two of the Baby Steps, you shine your sink and “get dressed to shoes” (basically dressing all the way to your shoes as if you’re ready to walk out the door at any moment, including hair and makeup if you use it). Day three is shiny sink, dressed to shoes, and start getting to know the FlyLady system a little more. And so on. Marla (the original FlyLady) is actually doing daily videos during the month of May to guide and encourage FlyBabies through the Baby Steps. They’re worth watching! A former FlyLady staffer, Diane in Denmark, did a series on the Baby Steps as well. Her videos are fun and I love her accent!

The other option is to jump in with both feet and sign up for the e-mails. Be prepared for an onslaught. One of the great ironies of the FlyLady system is they encourage you to limit your internet time (as it is the Great Time Waster™), but they send seven e-mails per day. Yup, you heard me, seven e-mails a day. I’m going to be completely honest here: when I first started getting the e-mails, the onslaught almost made me quit altogether. I have a hard enough time keeping up with my inbox (read: I don’t) and adding seven more e-mails a day, about a third of them not applicable to me, was too much. As of right now, they don’t have a system for you to be selective about the e-mails you receive. However, I currently combat the onslaught by relegating the e-mails to a separate folder. In Gmail, this meant creating a separate inbox just for FlyLady e-mails.

You really do not need to read every single e-mail. The important ones have the words “Flight Plan” and “Sneak Peek” in the subject line. The “Flight Plan” e-mails are sent every evening, to tell you what you should be focusing on the next day with cleaning. This e-mail also always includes the habit of the month (May’s is “get moving!”) and the daily checklist. This daily checklist is just a list of reminders of things you should be doing every day like shining your sink, getting dressed to shoes, spending 15 minutes decluttering, and so on. The “Sneak Peek” e-mails are sent every Saturday. They provide a preview of the coming week so you know what the “mission” for each day is and can plan accordingly. These e-mails also include your “pampering mission,” which is essentially the self-care “task.” This week’s pampering mission is to take the time to have a friend date, whether that’s talking on the phone or going out to lunch or something else.

If you really do not want to deal with the e-mails, each day’s flight plan and a preview of the coming week can be found on the launch pad on the FlyLady website. Whether you do the e-mails or choose to just check the website once a day or once a week is entirely up to you. I like getting the e-mails because it keeps things in the forefront of my mind, and I can relegate them to a separate inbox. If I had to check the website every day, I simply would not remember. I know myself well enough. However, I check my e-mail every day and typically have my inbox open in a tab on my browser, so continuing to subscribe to the e-mails (as cumbersome as they feel sometimes) works best for me.

The last major thing about FlyLady that you should know is that your house is divided into five zones, and you work through each zone each week during the course of an entire month. At the beginning of every month, you start in Zone 1. For example, here are the zones for the month of May:

Two things to notice about these zones: first, they are separated by how the average home is laid out. If you don’t have certain rooms or have more rooms, you can adjust these zones to fit your home’s needs. For example, my home only has one bathroom. So, I could choose to focus on that bathroom either during Zone 3 or Zone 4. I keep it in Zone 3 because our bedroom and closet and plenty for one week! Our house is also less than 1,000 square feet, so we only have a living room. This makes Zone 5 pretty easy, but also allows for me to spend extra time in other rooms in case I didn’t do as well with those in the previous weeks. The second thing is that kids’ rooms are not included in these zones. This is because FlyLady has separate missions for kids. In each “flight plan” e-mail and on the launch pad, the FlyLady includes a mission for the kids. This typically includes keeping their own rooms picked up and helping out around the house. I love this because it helps teach kids to be responsible for their own spaces, and takes the pressure off mom to keep every inch of the house clean.

So, that’s it! The FlyLady basics. I thought it important to provide this introductory post so in the coming weeks, when I described what I was doing, it wouldn’t be as confusing. I will do a post on each zone so you can see how I handle them, so this series will go into June. After my FlyLady series, I have plans to finish June with a short series on meal planning and preparation. I am enjoying these monthly “themes,” so if there is anything else you would like me to do or try, leave a comment and I just may try it!

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