(This article was originally published on SimpleProductivityBlog.com. It has been updated.)
Flylady is one of the biggest systems for managing your home cleaning out there. It works for many people. But if you’re one of the unlucky few that it doesn’t work for, Flybabies (adherents to Flylady’s system) will tell you that you didn’t try hard enough.
One of the biggest search terms that brings people to my blogs is “when Flylady doesn’t work.” So I know that it isn’t just me that it doesn’t work for. I did try. I worked that system for well over five years before I finally threw in the towel.
Sometimes the best results are about simplifying, rather than following exactly.
March to the Drum
Flylady’s system is very regimented. This is not a bad thing…for those who need structure, those emails are something to grab onto and do. No questions, no thinking.
Dozens of reminder emails are sent out with a militant bent. You MUST shine your sink every night. You MUST do 15 minutes of cleaning every day. You MUST clean by zones. Everything has its time, rotating around, and if you fall behind you are admonished to pick up the rhythm again, marching back in line.
There is Some Good
Flylady does have some great qualities. It was instrumental in getting me past my perfectionism which led me to do nothing. Her 15 minutes is a great example of what Mark Forster calls the “little-and-often” principle. And she lays out, in a very structured way, how to clean your house.
And honestly, I don’t want to have to think about how and when to clean the house. It’s not something I want to spend my brain cycles on. So in that regard, Flylady is great.
For so many people, myself included, Flylady isn’t a sustainable system. It can be rigid, too complicated, and overwhelming. So here are some ways to simplify Flylady’s system:
Set Your Own Daily List
Flylady has a list of tasks that need to be done every day. These include getting dressed to the shoes, swish and swipe (bathroom maintenance), laundry, hot spot patrol and shining your sink. These tasks are to give you a place to start and keep you on track.
I have a confession: I clean my sink once a week, not every night. I wipe down my kitchen counters every night to keep ants away. I also swiffer my floors downstairs every day – partly to keep up with the fur from 4 animals, but also because I go barefoot in the house (GASP! No SHOES!!!!!)
One of the secrets of making this daily routine work is to make it your own. You know what is important.
Pick Your Own Zones and Chores
At the time I originally wrote this article, I had stretched my household deep cleaning (also known as zones) into 13 areas and did everything quarterly. That just gave me a reason to procrastinate, so I went back to monthly rotations.
One of the principles of Flylady are the Zones. Breaking your house up into five areas, you clean each area for 15 minutes a day, focusing on one of the Zones per week in the calendar. The problem is that rarely do we have five full weeks in a month, so Zone 1 and Zone 5 are shorted.
Zone one includes your Entrance, Front Porch and Dining Room. Zone two is the kitchen. Zone three is the bathroom and one other room. Zone four is the bedroom. Zone five is the living room.
Anyone else see a problem here? This zone system works great if you have a one bath, one bedroom house. Me? I have four bedrooms, two and a half baths, a formal living and dining room, a great room, a game room, a writing studio, two pantries and a partially finished attic. Cramming all those into the proscribed zones leaves me crazy, since we use all the rooms regularly.
And those aren’t going into the regular five zones.
Flylady’s chores don’t fit my house either, and I needed to customize them.
I’ve developed a spreadsheet to help me do just that, and I talked about it here: Avoid Spring Cleaning
One of the underlying principles of Flylady is that if you clean something before it looks dirty, it won’t be as much work to clean it.
I can see that. However, in the Fly system, that means you clean all the time.
A closed cabinet with knickknacks? Clean it once a month. Windows? Clean them once a month. Sink? Clean it daily.
Nope. Not for me.
I have figured out where that magic line is between extra effort for cleaning and needless cleaning for most things. True, I err on the side of extra effort, and make sure I note if there is a lot of extra work involved.
That’s figured into the spreadsheet above.
My Family Is Involved
One of the things I heard over and over again in the Flylady emails were that families weren’t helping out. The response? “Tough! Do it yourself.” (I’m paraphrasing. Flylady would never be that tactless.)
Hold the horses right there.
I live in a house with two other humans. None of us are home full time. Therefore, all of us do housework.
I had to work at this. At first I consistently asked my husband to do certain chores. They are now “his”. This includes laundry, changing linens and towels, and mowing the grass. My daughter has chores assigned to her every week, and she can earn money by doing extra chores, like mowing the grass, weeding, emptying trash. These have changed as she grows older; but she has been making her bed and picking up since she was three. She started doing laundry as soon as she could reach the bottom of the washer with a stepstool. And now she maintains her own bathroom, empties the dishwasher, and keeps the great room shipshape. Since she is home this summer, she is also helping me out with cooking.
True, the majority of the housework is on me. But I work less than my husband, and I don’t mind doing the chores. And if someone complains that I haven’t been doing something around the house, they immediately find it is now theirs.
They’re Suggestions, Not Commands
In spite of Flylady’s best efforts to exhort her followers to not play catch-up (“Jump in where you are”), many people feel guilty if they don’t get to what they are supposed to.
Remembering that the 15 minutes of cleaning, shining your sink and zones are all suggestions, not commands.
If you are one of the people for whom Flylady doesn’t work, take heart. You don’t have to feel guilty.
You don’t have to discard all of it; just make it flexible to fit your life.