When one of my friends saw me reading this book, she asked, “Does it just say ‘Get a housekeeper’?'” No, it doesn’t. But I understood the question. I’ve read every major housekeeping and organizational book published in the last 15 years and with a few exceptions, I’ve been disappointed.
The House that Cleans Itself by Mindy Starns Clark is hands down the best book on the subject I have ever read! Why the glowing praise you ask? Because Ms. Clark suggests you stop trying to fight nature–yours that is. All my adult life I have been trying to be organized the way naturally organized people are. I have a huge list of “shoulds” that I perpetually fail in. It’s very depressing feeling like a constant failure. Don’t get me wrong, with God’s, FlyLady’s, and Don Aslett’s help, I am probably a B student in the housekeeping and organization category. If you’ve read my book, you know that’s a far cry from the failing grade I received in graduate school.
I still long to be an A student. I don’t expect to be a virtuoso, just an A student. That’s why I bought this book that a friend recommended. I scored well on the housekeeping quiz, putting me into the category of “Use this book for tips.” I would eventually like to use her system as specified throughout my house, but I was too excited not to start immediately.
What’s So Different About A House That Cleans Itself?
So what’s so different about this approach? Before THTCI I felt like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. Yes, I’ve shaved off some of my sharp edges over the years. I do have routines and put many things away right away. But I still have boxes of filing to do, for example. I “should” file at least once a week, right? Nope. It’s more like once a year. For half an hour. Thus my problem. Anyway, Ms. Clark suggests that while some shaving of our square edges is appropriate, we should start by creating square holes. Eureka! Now what on earth does that mean?
It means stop trying to force yourself to do things the way the naturally organized do them. Work with your natural habits. That includes dealing with husbands and children.
How THTCI Changed My Entryway
I have a coat rack next to the front door. I expected my children to behave like naturally organized children and hang their coats up on the hooks. Instead, they stuffed them into the small, unsightly laundry basket my husband put under the rack. The basket couldn’t contain all the gloves, hats, and coats so they usually ended up spread all over the floor until someone (that would be me) picked them up. I tried labeling the coat rack to no avail. There were too many coats for the rack (at least one winter coat and one light jacket per child plus adult coats).
After reading THTCI I really thought about how to solve the problem. I cleaned out my entry closet, purging it, and putting all adult coats there. I don’t mind hanging up my coat. I took Ms. Clark’s excellent advice and added a clear shoe holder to the inside of my entry door to hold gloves. Why didn’t I think of that?? I put all hats and scarves in another basket that is stored on the top shelf of the closet. The only time my children wear these is for sledding and serious outside time in the winter. There is no need for continuous access. I left the spring jackets hanging on hooks. Since the basket was removed that left two options for the coats: hooks or the floor.
Yes, I’m hopeful the kids will use the hooks now, but how can I further combat the floor throwing? I thought “a chest!” If I put a chest in my entry way they could just throw their coats in there as they came in. They’re not visible and not cluttering up the coat rack. I looked on Craigslist for a chest, but dh and I realized we had a barely-used toy box that would serve the same purpose. I couldn’t be more thrilled with our neat entryway.
How THTCI Changed My Filing System
Now what about filing? What I hate about filing is creating all the new folders and labels and deciding in what category and sub-category each thing should go in. Meanwhile all my stuff is in two boxes that I dig through when I need to find something. Could there be a solution that was somewhere in the middle?
Yep! I found expanding hanging file folders in different colors. They hang wide open (and have sides) in your file box or cabinet, making sorting quick and simple. Rather than put papers into detailed files and categories, they go in major categories which are assigned a different color: to do, homeschool, writing/speaking, records, etc. As these fill up (and they hold a LOT), I will just put a new file in front of it. This approach utilizes the advantage of a lever file system (most recent papers are filed in front or to the left if using binders). I won’t have detailed files, but if I need a receipt for an appliance bought recently I’ll go to the green records hanging file in front. I’m still digging, but not nearly as deeply or as long!
This system would drive naturally organized people completely nuts. But it will work for me. I’m already completely excited about filing! I’ll be sharing other changes I make as a result of my new philosophy.
Why You Should Read The House That Cleans Itself
If you’re not naturally organized, I highly recommend THTCI. It will make you think, make you laugh, and will even help you see housekeeping from a spiritual perspective. If you are not Christian, you may have trouble relating to some of the content. I found the faith-based approach helpful and very refreshing. If you make any changes as a result of reading the book (or this blog post), please let me know!
You may also enjoy my organization and productivity board on Pinterest.