I was severely disorganized. I had a house stuffed full of things that I couldn't find if my life depended on it. I was blessed in that I wore a uniform for work because trying to find clean clothes that matched everyday would have been impossible. At the time, I was living in a 5 room basement apartment with a hallway that runs the length of the apartment. I kept my dirty clothing in the hallway so that it was right next to the washer. My dirty clothes pile ran the entire length of the hallway at all times, and most times got so large that I had to walk over a large pile of clothes just to get out of my apartment. My car looked like I was living out of it. I would go shopping and leave bags in the trunk for months (sometimes years).
I was a shopaholic. I was convinced that my problem was that I didn't have something to help me organize. I would buy bins, and schedule books, and sorters in an effort to get my life together. I bought every magazine in the store that mentioned "Organize" on the cover. I would buy clothes that I had already bought the EXACT same item, because I hadn't realized that I already owned it. When I went grocery shopping, impulse purchases filled at least 50% of my cart. Make your own fondue kits and gourmet Irish butter were more frequent purchases than milk and bread.
I was exhausted. I filled all of my free time with parties and friends. I was almost never alone. My phone bill showed that I consistently used about 3,000 minutes a month. I would help anyone with anything, regardless of how close we were. I couldn't say no to anyone. It got so bad that I was on a date at one point when the phone rang, and I answered it! Then I took another call and answered an email. On a FIRST DATE! Then when he pulled the phone away, I thought he was being insensitive!I actually felt tense and anxious around the phone all of the time. It was weird. I knew that the phone caused me stress. But I felt like I couldn't live without it. I almost never got 8 hours of sleep because I would be up all night with friends.
I was unhealthy. My meals consisted of expensive dinners out every night at work. Hamburgers, cheese steaks, Chipotle burritos, and Tex-Mex egg rolls with southwest dipping sauce made up about 75% of my meals. I was spending over $1,400 a month to feed one person. I hadn't eaten breakfast in years. I gained weight, then I gained more weight. I only went to the gym when I went with a friend, and found that I concentrated on the social aspect more than the weight loss aspect.
I was unhappy. To the outside world, and even often to myself, I looked happy. I had friends, money, stuff to do, and an awesome family. Looking back, I was drowning in it all. I never sat down and relaxed. I had a complete lack of life skills and always felt like I was failing. In actuality, I was failing. I thought that I was made to be this way. I looked at organized people as rigid and boring. I thought I was creative and fun. I thought that there was some genetic reason that I couldn't get my life in order.
Enter Flylady. My mom told me about Flylady, I find my mother gets a lot of credit towards the good things in my life. Flylady.net is a website that was created for people exactly like me. If you were born organized, look elsewhere. Flylady takes people like me and gives us small schedule adjustments to slowly get our life in order. She also establishes routines in our lives. You give her your email address and she sends you about 20 emails a day (no joke!).
In the beginning, she convinces you to do two things. She asks that you do one load of laundry every day, and one load of dishes every day (never more than one!). Together, it takes about 25 minutes. She also convinces you that you can't organize clutter. She asks that you spend another 15 minutes per day (using a timer) to go through your home and throw things out. The laundry and dishes came easier to me than the clutter. I was a hoarder in training. I was absolutely convinced that one day I would desperately need a pair of neon green jeans that were two sizes to small. Where would I be if I threw them out? Jon came over and systematically went through my apartment and threw things out for me. I let him, even though we weren’t dating at the time. I cried and lied about how often I used things so he would let me keep them, but about 30% of the things that I owned went straight into the trash. (Note- you can donate instead, but often at this stage you’re still too disorganized to actually get that done, it’s better to just trash it and start fresh.) Out of everything that was thrown out, I can only remember a pair of roller blades. I bought them 14 years ago, and had used them about 10 times right after I bought them. Then I carted them down to Virginia and through 8 different moves without ever using them. I had no plans on rollerblading, but I never thought of throwing them out.
If you are anything like the version of me that I described above, then I ask that you go to Flylady.net and sign up. I won’t explain her process step by step because she’ll do a much better job of it than I can. I will promise you that if you are ready to change (and if you’ve read this far then you are), she will change you. It’s been three years since I’ve discovered Flylady and here’s what my life is like now:
I have routines and schedules that allow me to schedule everything that needs to be done into my life. When I make an appointment or make a plan, I think ahead to what I'll need for that event or appointment (forms filled out? extra money budgeted? a gift?) and I'll schedule not only the event but a time to do everything required up to the event. After about a month for each of Flylady's routines, they became integrated into my life so that it's second nature to do them. I can not only easily keep my schedule, but I can keep Jon's as well. There are no real "emergencies" anymore (although true emergencies certainly do exist, we've just been blessed in that area), even the few times that we've gotten last minute calls that someone needs a place to stay... the house was clean, the fridge was stocked and it was easy to accommodate guests.
I am finally organized. I believe that organization is an ever growing process. Meaning, next year I will be more organized than I am this year. Organization doesn't mean that your closets are color coordinated and ready to be photographed for Pinterest. Organization means that each aspect of my life is working in such a way to support other aspects of my life. The dishes are done every night, allowing me to pack lunches and cook at home. The laundry is done nightly, allowing me to always have the clothing that I need and encouraging me to go to the gym. My supply closet is stocked, allowing me more time at home for crafts and fun stuff instead of running last minute errands. I can find anything I need in the house. Life is stress free.
I'm now a master budgeter. Quite possibly to a fault. I can tell you how much of any staple product we use in a week, month and year. I can tell you the best prices for each product. Last month alone, we were under our "bare bones budget" by $594.00, which I'm incredibly proud of. I use my schedule to plan ahead, and to ensure that money needed for events are budgeted in to avoid surprises.
I'm still exhausted, but only because I'm eight months pregnant! I've learned to say no (although always politely and I'm still working on feeling guilty). I realized that my phone habits were an unhealthy addiction. I also realized that you can spend too much time with friends and not leave yourself enough time to reset. I limit my time talking on the phone, and no longer obsessively check messages. I spend time with fewer friends, but have a more meaningful relationship with them.
I'm much healthier, though this is another ever growing process. The biggest health change in my life has been my sleep schedule. I sleep 8 hours a day, every day (with the exception of pregnancy pains keeping me up), and go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. From this alone, I have seen a huge improvement in my attitude and in my level of patience. I eat healthier now then I did then, and am looking forward to continue improving my eating habits. While pregnancy hinders my ability to work out, I've used prenatal pilates and walking to stay in shape and can't wait until I can hit a regular routine at the gym.
I'm happy. I'm proud of who I've become. I'm proud of the accomplishments that I've made. I love the man that I married and who he inspires me to be. When I wake up in the morning, I feel calm and in control. Now, there's an excellent chance that the arrival of the baby next month will make "calm" and "in control" seem like pipe dreams, but somehow I feel confident that we're going to rock it. Because no matter how bad it gets, I'll always have Flylady.