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Yes. I said it. Black Mold.

June 22nd, 2011 · 73 Comments · Daily, Will it make me sick?

Every time we go on vacation (which isn’t often) or away for a weekend (again, not often), I absolutely hate the thought of returning home. Last year, two days before we even LEFT for Jackson Hole, I said, “I’m so bummed out. A week from today we’ll be back home.”

Yesterday afternoon, I picked Harper up from her friend’s house. Even after spending less than two minutes in that beautiful (and clean and fresh-smelling) home, I found that I didn’t want to return to my own house.

I don’t know if you remember this, but we used to pay for a cleaning lady to come into our house every two weeks. It was WONDERFUL. Budgeting for her started getting a bit tricky, so we started having her over every four weeks. That lasted for several months, and then suddenly the money just wasn’t there any longer.

Every month or so, I go through this THING. Some people would call it a FUNK. I have a hard time saying that word without it sound like The F Word, so I’ll stick with THING. (By the way, last week Meredith said, “Is there a bad word that starts with F U? Does it end in C K?” I grabbed her baby book and noticed that there is no space to commemorate the spelling of baby’s first bad word.) Anyway, my THING. It usually begins with me seeing someone else’s home and then returning to my own home. I look around at all of the accumulated crap and wonder what to DO with it. What do people DO with weird reusable water bottles and half-used lip glosses and old cookbooks and toy guitars? Is it really okay to throw these things away? (We donate a TON of stuff every few months. Where is all of this piled up stuff coming from?)

Inevitably, I go to bed crabby when The Thing is brewing. And then? The next morning I step into my disgusting bathroom with the black mold (!!!) in the shower that I can’t seem to get rid of and I reach for my shampoo but end up knocking over fourteen or more OTHER bottles of shampoo that came from hotels or something that I’ve never stayed in, and suddenly the suction cup on my razor gives out and it crashes to the floor and breaks and I’m drying off with a wash cloth because the towels have to go through three dryer cycles to actually DRY and I had time for only two cycles yesterday, and the bracelet that I asked Meredith to put away THREE times yesterday is still sitting in the same place, and the dirty dishes are piled up because the dishwasher has never worked very well, and seriously! How do you keep your house tidy?! How do you hide your wires and stack pans that don’t really seem stackable? Where do you keep your charger thingies when you’re not charging something? Why is that bag of handknit socks still sitting on the printer waiting to be washed?

There are so many little things that need to be done around here. When I think about it, it becomes completely overwhelming, and all I really want to do is sit on the couch and stare out into the distance. And then we get to the HUGE things—hole in the roof, disgusting stained pink carpeting, the back bathroom that stinks and is moldy, poison ivy on the slope in the yard that needs to be dealt with professionally…

I’ve read this entry by The Trephine at least ten times now. I would love to be able to reach the point where it becomes time to part with everything but the very few things that actually MEAN something to me. These candles and bamboo stinky things on our mantle mean NOTHING. These tiny tea cups that are too tiny for tea mean NOTHING. (But they’re Fiesta! And we got them when we got married! But STILL! THEY’RE TOO TINY!) This basket of CDs that has been sitting on our kitchen divider for as long as I can remember means NOTHING. I always find myself thinking about the people who have lost everything, and my heart breaks. With that said, my heart would be so much better off if I could simply make the CHOICE to lose 80% of my things.

The Fly Lady does not work for me. Setting a timer for twenty minutes and cleaning like a mad woman until I hear the buzzer doesn’t work. Our original plan was to live in this (tiny—like the tea cups) house until 2012, and then try to find something where the kids can each have their own bedroom. 2012 is less than six months away, and our house is in the worst shape it has EVER been in, and we have no PLAN.

I’m the first to admit that I’m Very Lazy. With that said, I’m not doing my kids any favors by allowing them to be lazy, too. When I go nuts on them about not cleaning their room, I pray that they haven’t yet learned the word Hypocrite.

What do you do? How do you do it? Is anyone else as frustrated/frustrating as me?

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73 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Emily // Jun 22, 2011 at 10:18 am

    I throw things away all the time. And yet, there is always MORE stuff. AH, the STUFF. It drives me crazy. And I don’t even have kids and all THEIR STUFF which I imagine is a lot.

    What about a yard sale? We just had one and it was a good motivation to go through things and get rid of stuff. Or maybe a trip to Goodwill? I don’t know. None of this is very revolutionary or helpful but I definitely feel the same way. I always want to make our apt nicer, sometimes it feels like a losing battle.

  • 2 evilsciencechick // Jun 22, 2011 at 10:20 am

    If you find the secret, please let me know. We have no kids and it’s just the two of us in a two bedroom condo, which SHOULD be plenty of room but it is NOT. And every day I come home and think “where did all this stuff come from, and why is it covered in dog hair???”

    Then I go lie on the couch for a while until I feel better.

  • 3 Nichole // Jun 22, 2011 at 10:21 am

    I have a series of to-do cleaning-type lists. One for each room in the house. In an ideal world, I’d get through one list every day, flip it over and do the next room the next day. Sometimes that actually works. When I’m overcome with A Funk, though, it doesn’t happen. I stare despondently at “Today’s Special” while I get the kids their breakfast, and then I don’t do anything on it. It’s been on “kid bathroom” for about two weeks now.

  • 4 Kizz // Jun 22, 2011 at 10:41 am

    I have the same problem and my mother is a hoarder so I have some issues with having the problem, too. Flylady works for me to some extent but never until my home is sparkling clean. What do you find about that doesn’t work for you? I’m just interested, not trying to change your mind. And I echo anyone who said, If you find the secret, please share.

  • 5 cindy // Jun 22, 2011 at 10:51 am

    I even started a “What’s in that box” entry for the blog. I did one entry and the things I decided to get rid of from that box are still waiting to be posted on EBay. We have some major things happening that I can’t quite blog about yet, plus we are still without power and internet.

    I have found it helpful to tackle one chore a night. Monday is scrub the bathroom. You get the picture. Of course, I’m only cleaning up for meandering Chris and Hooper. You have kids. I say put them to work. Make believe Cinderella or something.

  • 6 Christy // Jun 22, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Boy can I relate to too much stuff. My oldest daughter (who recently purged and painted her room) says I’m a border-hoarder. I envy her room now that is painted this ultra serene shade of blue and contains just the right amount of stuff. It’s like looking into a magazine cover. However, a little of me lurks in her because the closet, while neat, is cram packed with STUFF. Here’s a funny link on stuff. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvgN5gCuLac

  • 7 joaaanna // Jun 22, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Get knocked up. That has done the trick for me! We’ve been in our house for almost seven years now and with one month to go before my due date, we are in a mad dash to paint rooms! assemble furniture! get rid of crap! get new carpet! clean air ducts! get new curtains and blinds! Our house is currently is such a state of chaos right now, if anyone saw its condition, we might be locked up. BUT! It is encouraging me to live more simple and get rid of the JUNK. Of course – I say this now since I don’t have a kid running around and mucking the place up. So. Anyway – have a new little Pudding Cup! ? ! ?

  • 8 Andrea // Jun 22, 2011 at 11:03 am

    I have so much stuff! I throw things out all the time and yet I still seem to have even more stuff. And, I get the THING, as well. Like, right now. If you find something that works, please share.

  • 9 javajennifer // Jun 22, 2011 at 11:13 am

    I throw stuff away all the time. I love it. I hate clutter and junk. It is a lot easier to keep the house clean if it isn’t full of junk. A lot of it I give away, but a lot of it just gets tossed, too, because who really needs most of this junk? If you are unsure about whether or not to get rid of something (wedding gifts, etc.), invest in rubbermaid tubs, put all that junk in it, and stack somewhere out of the way (attic, garage, basement). In a few years you’ll remember the tubs, pull them out, and get rid of all that stuff, too.
    Just walk through the house with a huge garbage bag, and start filling it up. You’ll feel better.

  • 10 Laura Flatau Dankel // Jun 22, 2011 at 11:14 am

    YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

  • 11 beth // Jun 22, 2011 at 11:18 am

    I also have The Thing. I have a friend whose house is so aggressively neat and clean, it kind of feels sterile. But my friend is constantly cleaning and I. . . .am not.

    I think the smartest advice that Flylady gives is to declutter before starting the detailed cleaning routines. This is pure speculation on my part, however, because I’ve never been able to follow her plan for very long. Too lazy.

  • 12 Charisa // Jun 22, 2011 at 11:19 am

    It’s a constant battle. It just takes doing. Cleaning up right after the mess is made. Limiting the “junk” the kids want to keep.

    Our house is on the market and has to be ready to show in an hours notice. It’s tiring but once you have the major cleaning done it’s easy to upkeep. I actually have come to like living like this. I can’t concentrate if the sink is dirty or if there’s junk mail on the counter. My husband thinks I’m nuts and he’s probably right!

  • 13 Amy in KC // Jun 22, 2011 at 11:21 am

    I throw things out all the time. The kids bring more stuff in every day. I fill boxes for Good Will that then sit in my living room for two months. I think I’m going to just start throwing everything away. I would be mortified if someone stopped by unannounced and saw the state of our kitchen table/master bedroom/hall bathroom.

    One tip I do have – when I was pregnant with #3 we ripped out all the carpet and installed wood laminate flooring. Stains wipe right up! Dog hair easily sucked up with vacuum! That is my contribution.

    Can someone please give me tips for how to make a bathroom with no ventilation used by two five year old boys NOT smell like urine? Thank you.

  • 14 Mary K. in Rockport // Jun 22, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Amen to Laura Dankel’s comment! I get so attached to the stuff the kids made/gave me, and it accummulates. Some things I can sort of “put away” for a while then, later, I find I have disattached enough to take it to the swap shop at the dump. (We have one of those, and it’s great.) But the greatest advice I ever got was from a neighboring mom — she said, “I wait until the day comes that the urge to clean up arrives, and I just do it in one day, and in the meantime, I give myself permission to not feel guilty. That urge comes, sooner or later.”

  • 15 The Coffee Lady // Jun 22, 2011 at 11:36 am

    I could have written this post. I could have. In fact, maybe one day I did in my head, but couldn’t reach the keyboard because the desk had a plate of toast crusts and an upside-down bottle of PVA glue on it.

  • 16 Carroll // Jun 22, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    I’m so much older than you — yet, none the wiser. We’ve lived in the same house for over 30 years. Periodically I say “We cannot leave this for our kids to deal with. We HAVE to get rid of all the crap!” Sadly, that urge? It passes. (sigh) Maybe this summer?

    One thing I will plug, however is Freecycle. I’m sure your community has a Freecycle group (google will tell you) It’s great for keeping stuff out of the landfill. I make piles for Goodwill, and piles of pure rubbish. But the middle pile is for stuff like, say, 12 ceramic tiles leftover from re-flooring the laundry room. Goodwill can’t use ‘em, but they are still usable, y’know? Someone on Freecycle will bless you for providing a craft material. The other day, someone on Freecycle asked for “The husks from any walnuts you might be harvesting soon”. I tell ya…entertainment at it’s finest, great for the environment and it’s free!

  • 17 Karen // Jun 22, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Okay, the mold thing — I might have a solution. We had this nasty black/grey stuff running around the edge of our tub, where it meets the title. I ASSUME it was mold. We dipped papertowels in Clorox, laid them around the black parts for the better part of a day, and when we took them off…POOF! Blackness was gone! Okay, that was a year ago and it’s starting to creep back, but I’ll be ready with some bleach on hand (I’m trying to avoid the chemically stuff, so I have “non-cholorine” bleach now…we’ll see how well it works!).

  • 18 Meg T. // Jun 22, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Are you me? Stop that.
    Ugh. It’s miserable. Add to the children, a husband who is generally a mess and all of a sudden moving out of a 3 bedroom house to a 2 bedroom apartment is the only way to keep a living space sort of clean.
    Yep, did that. Got rid of 70% of my things because I had no room for them anymore. It is terrifying and liberating.
    And yet, I have not vaccuumed in over a week.
    sigh.

  • 19 whirled_peas // Jun 22, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    I live by the old adage “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”. Meaning, any big project I plan, I do a little at a time – like now, with the painting of the living room…….ugh……..

  • 20 Lisa M // Jun 22, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    This is a killer piece of writing. The 5th paragraph about the shower, falling bottles and the domino effect that leads to feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed was so real. I think everyone can identify to an extent. Especially with the number of items that average Americans have in their houses these days.

    Like you, I make frequent donations. But sometimes I find it overwhelming just to schedule, box and execute donations to all of the organizations who handle the varying types of items I need to get rid of. So when I get twitchy, crabby and tired, I usually call 800 Got Junk. They claim to be environmentally responsible and donate to Salvation Army and other organizations. They give old books new homes. Their men move things and collect the junk from your house as you point to it, and their reps are nice. I can give everything that I’m not throwing in the garbage to them in one shot, instead of to 50 other orgs.

    I feel your pain on everything you wrote. I think on top of an already busy life, battling normal household problems and processes (like mold and dirty carpets), keeping a home in good repair and relatively clutter free can sometimes be a daunting task for everyone. And don’t get me started on how many times I’ve visited someone else’s house and wanted to move in (or on how obnoxiously long this comment turned out to be).

  • 21 Cindy // Jun 22, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Meandering Chris? This is why I shouldn’t comment through the phone.

  • 22 beyond // Jun 22, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    oh yes, me too.
    and we have been getting rid of stuff to make room for baby, bags and bags of stuff, trashed or brought to the salvation army, and IT STILL LOOKS BAD.
    and we also have black mold in the bathroom. (bleach / clorox etc doesn’t work on mine. what should we doooooo?

  • 23 Patti // Jun 22, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    You are so not alone. Two things have started to turn things around for me:

    1. I never leave a room empty-handed or without picking something up. If I’m watching television and want to get a snack, on my way I grab the newspaper and toss it in the recycling bin. If I’m going from the kitchen to the bathroom, I grab a pair of shoes from the floor (where they ALWAYS are) and drop them in the bedroom as I pass by. It changes nothing about my routine (which is good because ultimately I’m lazy) but it helps with the clutter.

    2. I decided to choose just one thing to focus on doing better because I felt like I was sucking at everything, so one thing would be an improvement. For me it was the clutter in my kitchen that drove me the most nuts, so I spent a Saturday going through the endless piles of mail and assorted junk that accumulates, clearing and cleaning the counters and floors, etc. And no matter what else happened, I made sure that the kitchen counters stay clean. (Open the pots/pans cupboard at your own risk, though) After a few weeks, I decided to focus instead on floors – I was sick of looking at crap on the carpet and laminate. And what I’m finding is that because for so many weeks the kitchen was my focus, that has become just a habit for me and I don’t even think about keeping it clean..and now the floors are looking better, too. So my hope is that if I keep adding one task at a time to focus on, maybe in 20 years I will have one of those houses that always looks clean.

    But seriously, how do we keep the pots/pans cupboard from being a pit of despair?!

  • 24 Elizabeth // Jun 22, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    I’ve been in a FUNK for several months now. Hubby calls it depression and says I need to ask my doctor for happy pills. He may not be wrong.

    It is an endless cycle isn’t it? Like the mobius strip you learn about in school, never ending. My trick is to call my BFF and have her come over to help me. She is ruthless in making sure I get a project completed. It only happens every couple of months but hey, I’ll take what I can get!

  • 25 Angeline // Jun 22, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    http://www.amazon.com/Clear-Your-Clutter-Feng-Shui/dp/0767903595

    This book did wonderful, amazing things for a friend of mine. I am borderline OCD so I humbly apologize for, er, not really needing it so much, but it’s not terribly woo-woo and it does have really good advice.

  • 26 Amy in StL // Jun 22, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    I definitely get to this point. Here’s my latest strategy for dealing with it. I clean a room by getting rid of everything on one shelf/surface at a time. Each item goes into a bag to give away, throw away or go into another room. If it stays in the room it’s in it gets put away. I’ve been pretty ruthless lately with stuff that’s staying. I’ve had two jeep cherokee loads go to goodwill just from my stuff in the last month. I don’t keep shampoo that I’m currently not using unless it’s for something special like dandruff or right after I color. (I was inspired by Karen’s story on the art of doing stuff dot com) She got rid of everything in a month and to be honest, I’m not that attached to most of my stuff so it’s going out. I do find that cleaning is easier when there’s not crap lying about. I take one weekend day and do this – unless I’m too busy that weekend – but at least one day a month for this kind of purge. It’s working… slowly, but it is.

  • 27 Mary // Jun 22, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    I feel like I spend 1/2 of my day taking things out to the recycling bin in our garage. I can’t for the life of me figure out how all of this SHIT got into my house. I abhor clutter and I’m swimming in it. My favorite thing is the lather rinse repeat aspect of taking car of a house. I am bloody sick of of rising off plates and putting them in the dishwasher because no one else seems able to figure out what the next step is. (rant over). My friend said HER daughter just asked her “Mom – what starts with F and ends with UCK?” and as she’s thinking about having a heart attack/washing her mouth out with soap her daughter says FIRETRUCK and starts laughing hysterically. tell that one to Meredith. Or don’t. : )

  • 28 Mary // Jun 22, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    excuse all of the spelling errors above. typing too fast in my stay-at-home mom angst.

  • 29 Kim // Jun 22, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    It’s just me in a 2.5 bedroom apartment. Sometimes the amount of crud scares me. I think the secret is to have a hoarders room/closet. Company’s coming? Throw your dirty laundry and phone chargers in the hoarders room. Parents coming for dinner? Throw your crap (plus any crap they procure for you from their own basement ie: worksheets that you did in elementary school) in the hoarders room. Then hit the gin. Job well done!

  • 30 Sarah // Jun 22, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    You are NOT supposed to set the timer and clean like mad til it dings. You set the timer and clean one thing or one section during that time. Just that.

    I’ve been using FlyLady for over five years and I still only have incorporated a few things but the ones I have have been HUGE help.

    Mostly: doing dishes immediately after eating. HUGE.
    Laying out clothes and everything i need for the next day the night before: HUGE.

    also the 27 fling boogie is good.

    hang in there

  • 31 Lisa B. // Jun 22, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    I recently performed a MAJOR purge. After 27 years of marriage and multiple moves, I decided that if I hadn’t used it in a year it was gone. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it. There were many things that had memories attached to them, but in the end I let them go. If it didn’t sell in the garage sale, I gave it away, and there was a lot of stuff I just threw away. The thing I kept telling myself is “LET. IT. GO.” You can do it… just let it go. One step leads to another.

  • 32 jennamom2boys // Jun 22, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    I’m so with ya. I go through that every few months too. And Flylady got on my nerves, but I knew I needed something similar. So the other day I googled “Flylady alternative”, and found this. http://www.habithacker.com/start-here/
    I’ve been doing it almost a week and it’s made a huge difference! Just start by picking one spot in your house (it does not have to be your sink) that you love to see sparkling clean. (For me it’s my kitchen island.) It kind of goes viral from there, and right now my house looks pretty great. Good luck!

  • 33 Melissa // Jun 22, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    First off- I so understand. I went through the Thing today. It always hits the day before I have my cycle. You know, I feel like I have NO focus, I’m NEVER going to amount to ANYthing and why the HECK does this house always look like a tornado hit it? So here’s a few things I do:

    1. I start tidying up. I pick one place on the main floor (usually the dining room table, because I need a BIG place) and start piling up all the clutter and crap and things that need to be put away. I put it all there and get the other rooms in order. Then I can go through the pile and do the following: recycle, put away/store and toss. We recycle nearly everything, so I rarely feel guilty for tossing. To that degree, we even have a trash bin in the garage for the semi annual appliance/computer recycle event.

    2. I have what I call a Buy Back Bin. Kids leave stuff laying around? Shoes? Toys? ANYTHING of theirs? I give them fair warning that I’m cleaning up and if they don’t pick up after themselves, it goes in the Buy Back Bin. They can either buy it back -a quarter an item- or it can get donated to Good Will. Mama Ain’t Playin.

    3. If all else fails, I throw crap in the fireplace and torch it. What can I say? A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

    Hugs, Fluid Pudding (well, not really because I know you’re not a hugger. How about a high five?). Hope some of these ideas work!

  • 34 Sandy // Jun 22, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    I guess what I do is sort of like Flylady, but I don’t do any sort of vigorous cleaning that would get me confused with anyone insane. I just… do 15 minutes. What gets done gets done. I don’t race around, trying to get shit tossed/put away/cleaned, I just do 15 minutes of normal-people cleaning. OR, when I lived in a small apartment where I could hear the TV from every corner of the place and didn’t have a DVR, I did what I called CDC, Cleaning During Commercials.

  • 35 Judi // Jun 22, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    I have thought for a long time (since Meredith was a baby-that’s how long i’ve been reading you) that if I lived next door to you, you and I would have been best of friends. I once read that “cluttered closets” are a sign of a “cluttered mind.” Sometimes I purge my closets just to gain more piece of mind. (bud a bum) I actually have no answers or advice, but I get ya. I loved the post to the link you sent. However, as someone who collects no clutter and could easily give all I have away, I wonder if I would still find myself. Maybe it is too much work. I am lazy too…

  • 36 Alli // Jun 22, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    I feel your pain! We moved into our 2 bedroom one bathroom house in 99. It was supposed to be a 5 year deal…. I have a 3 year old sleeping in my armpit (which I love) and a husband who usually knees me in the back 3x a night (which is painful). We put stuff in storage when our house was on the market but it never sold. We had to keep the storage unit because there is no room! No matter how much I clean there is always clutter. I feel bad because my oldest dtr can’t really have friends over without everyone being on top of each other. Everyone I talk to says that having a bigger house is helpful – places to put things, blah, blah, blah. Unfortunately, no one wants to buy my super small house. I hope when you are ready you can sell your home and buy one with enough closets for all your things! This has been one of my own wishes for 12 years! Come to NJ and have a drink with me, at least the beach is not too far from here!

  • 37 Sandy // Jun 22, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    I am serious when I say I named my cleaning “system.”

  • 38 Karenth // Jun 22, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    Doesn’t it just SHOCK you how many people posted on this one??? The SAMENESS???

    See Amy 23 and Melissa 33.

    Now, realize I’m right here with you, in the house we bought in 1976. Since 1996 I have been strongly suggesting that we move because THIS house is dirty.

  • 39 Polli // Jun 22, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Oh, honey! Yes, yes, and YES! I’ve been gripped with a mad desire to figure out how to buy a much larger house so I don’t have to purge all the time. But I think the fever is subsiding and I think I do take some perverse pride in growing a family of 5 in a 1500sq ft home. I pretend we’re rich Europeans… look at all the space we have!

    What I do when I need to get out of my funk is read Design Sponge or blogs like it and then get inspired and start tossing/donating until I run out of steam. Repeat as needed. After reading this, I’m inspired again. I’ll be off to toss and clean a soon as I hit submit. If you are in the mood, go with it. Toss, toss, toss. You won’t regret it.

  • 40 Peggy // Jun 22, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    You’ve just described my life. I can’t get ahead of the clutter and can’t understand how others do it. Even worse, everyone who hasn’t seen my house thinks I’m super-organized, so I feel like a fraud most of the time. It’s all very overwhelming. So, unfortunately, I don’t have any good tips for you other than to let you know that you are not alone.

  • 41 orooni on ravelry // Jun 22, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    Yeah. I secretly find it hard to believe that there are actual people out there who spend money on things like “decorating.” Where do they put these decorations where they don’t end up under a pile of junk? I am dubious.

  • 42 marianne // Jun 22, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    Get a friend to help you declutter (their job is to hold the bag/box and repeat “do you really need that?” and then take the bag/box away with them to get rid of in a certain amount of time if you don’t ask for something from it back) and then figure out how often you could afford cleaning help. It might just be 2x/year, but at least you’d have those times to look ahead towards. I’m an awesome organizer, especially for other people’s stuff–its easier when it’s not your own. I’m not super tidy and I don’t love to clean either, but I do like the feeling when everything’s in its place and the house smells faintly bleachy.

    Also, loud 80s music or my favorite bribe, a book on cd/iPod.

    And if all those shampoo bottles fell over in the shower today, just get a bag and chuck everything except the one you really use. Toss the rest and tell yourself Good Job! Just take care of the one thing that really irritates you right then, the satisfaction is better than the self-loathing.

  • 43 Leslie // Jun 22, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    These things make a big difference for me.

    We have a paper drawer. An astonishing amount of paper makes it into our house. Every two or three days I go through all the piles of paper. Most of it goes into the trash. Anything I think we might need in the next couple of weeks goes in the paper drawer. When the paper drawer is full (every 2-3 months, I go through it. Most of it ends up in the trash, some of it gets filed and a few things go back in the paper drawer.

    We also have a cord drawer for chargers, earphones, USB cables, etc.

    I have a nice-ish set of computer speakers on the counter in the kitchen. When I’m cooking or cleaning, I listen to podcasts. That is the only time I let myself listen to them. It makes a huge difference for me. I find myself hanging around, looking for something else to clean because I want to finish the podcast I’m listening to.

    Beyond paper and cords and podcasts, I’m as lost as everyone else.

  • 44 Polli // Jun 23, 2011 at 12:00 am

    Oh, Marianne, I like that and it reminds me… I was so focused on commiserating I forgot I just did this cool thing I am trying to institute among friends: We have a group of friends who converge on someone who needs a project/cleaning done. Spend a day and conquer it. Next month, it’s another in the groups turn, and so on. It can be anything. Cleaning, decluttering, finally putting phots in baby books, tile the floor, revamp the yard. Whatever the friend in need needs.

  • 45 Alana // Jun 23, 2011 at 12:43 am

    I’m not surprised you got so many responses to this post. On a whim, I started watching “Hoarders” on Netflix…I couldn’t watch after two episodes because while I’m certainly not there or even close to there, it was a little disturbing. Everything just creeps up on you.

    We moved into our current house about a year and a half ago. It is our first house (and it is what my husband calls our ‘finisher’ house because he doesn’t plan on ever buying another one). There are some stupid plastic storage boxes that we haven’t opened in over three years! Yet, all I can seem to manage is to move them from one storage area to another. We have way too much space (first world complaint, I know), which makes it easy to hide things.

    I am also very lazy (not that I know if you’re really lazy or not, but I’ll go ahead and lump you into my category of laziness) and this post really struck a chord/nerve/whatever with me. It sometimes feels like it would just be easier if some force of nature would just plow through and take care of everything for us.

    I live with it and every once in a while I just go berserk. Not crazy enough to clean, just crazy enough to take it out on my loved ones. Hooray!

  • 46 Alana // Jun 23, 2011 at 1:00 am

    p.s. Can’t really follow anyone’s advice about de-cluttering one’s life when their website looks like someone upchucked code all over the place: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/design_hell
    Yes, I’m referring to the Fly Lady site.

    Also, loved post by The Trephine, but remember that she’s certainly young and unencumbered by children!

  • 47 Donkeyrunner // Jun 23, 2011 at 1:05 am

    Which makes you feel better? Being lazy? Or starting to clean?

    If you can begin to weigh those feelings, it might help you get started (don’t worry about finishing).

    Another technique: start on something for ten minutes. If after the ten minutes are up, you’re not feeling it, just quit. But chances are, you’ll have started something that you’ll want to continue.

  • 48 Julie G. // Jun 23, 2011 at 4:59 am

    I find that watching episodes of Clean House makes me feel very virtuous and superior in comparison. I can’t watch Hoarders though, too depressing.

    My husband recently made the observation that maybe, if we cleaned the kitchen floor more often, it wouldn’t be quite the pain it is to keep clean. Eureka! Recently we bought a Shark floor steamer and I love that thing…no more getting down on hands and knees to clean cheap worn our vinyl flooring.

  • 49 Kelly // Jun 23, 2011 at 7:42 am

    Yes.

  • 50 Elizabeth // Jun 23, 2011 at 8:26 am

    I have been there! And now, things are different! The thing that changed me, believe it or not, was this crazy book by Peter Walsh called It’s All Too Much. The book basically says, look at your room. Now imagine this room being exactly what you want it to be. Keep in mind that sometimes you’re using a room for the wrong purpose, ie living room becomes an office or a play room or whatever. And once you know what you want a room to be, and what a room needs to be, you throw/give everything away that keeps it from being what you want it to be. He says it all much better than I did, and guides you through the difficult process of giving up your beloved stuff. It changed my life! I reread it every once in a while when I need to declutter again. Good luck with the THING, your blog is a delight as always.

  • 51 effie // Jun 23, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Once you find out what works, let me know. My husband hates clutter, but also can’t pass up a sale. He is his own enemy. It drives me crazy–but I do love some of his finds. I am a bit of a clutter-er (read: really bad clutter-bug). I have about 3 bags of clothes for the Sally Ann hiding in a closet and I’m *sure* I could find about 10 more bags in a few hours. The combined result of my husband’s fantastic finds and my clutterability = FULL HOUSE.

    I feel swamped….

  • 52 NovelTeaMommy // Jun 23, 2011 at 10:08 am

    Like almost everyone (51) who has already commented, I share your pain. Perhaps times two, as both my husband and I are slobs. I too can’t seem to hop onboard with The FlyLady. Good system, just not for me. BUT, I recently found a new (to me) blog. I find this person to be so real, and honest, and most of all…HELPFUL. Check her out. She isn’t trying to sell you on her system, just inform you of her journey and share the things that have worked IRL for her.
    http://www.aslobcomesclean.com/

  • 53 Venita Michelle // Jun 23, 2011 at 10:42 am

    My husband and I thought a bigger house would help, so we bought a huge home. Now it’s full of nearly empty moving boxes that I can’t throw away because they contain something totally useless like the heating coil from a lost hot plate and 3 lightly used paint brushes. I have no place to put the THINGS because I spent all of our furniture money buying this humongous house, but I also can’t just throw them away….can I? Anyway, I suggest you take it one room at a time.

  • 54 Lisa // Jun 23, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    I don’t usually have a hard time with the everyday tasks around the house–dishes, laundry, tidying, etc. However, the BIG task always fill me with dread and get put off time and time again. A few months ago my sister (who conveniently lives 2 streets over) was complaining about having to organize her closets while I was complaining about doing the same to kitchen cabinets. Our solution? I don’t mind closets so much, she does not mind cabinets–we traded tasks. I cleaned her closets in exhange for her cleaning my kitchen cabinets. A more efficient job was done by both of us because we had no attachment to items. It has worked well for me, so I thought I would toss it out there.
    Also, about the bad word…when my now 10 year old was younger he asked my father a similar questions. Grandpa’s answer? Why, yes there is a word that begins with FU and ends with CK…Firetruck! We shout firetruck a lot in my house :)

  • 55 Jane // Jun 23, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    @Peggy, you just described mine!
    FP, You are not alone.
    p.s. I knew before I was halfway through reading this post, it would garner many comments. I was right.

  • 56 ell.uu // Jun 23, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    I’m drowning in a never-ending sea of junk, barely clinging to my life raft made out of dust bunnies. I feel like I’m constantly purging, sorting, donating, and trashing, yet still can’t seem to tame the mess.

  • 57 yama ernastine // Jun 23, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    1.Topic totally worthy of 56 comments. Make that 57.
    2.I thought I was the only one that came home and silently screamed, “Junk mail, 7 shoes, toilet paper roll, crunched goldfish cracker, tangled earbuds, uuuuuuggghhhhh”

  • 58 ccr in MA // Jun 23, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    “There are so many little things that need to be done around here. When I think about it, it becomes completely overwhelming”.

    Yes. YES! I practically have a panic attack sometimes because everywhere I look is something I need to do. Agh. And I have no one to blame but myself.

    Well, the cats produce the tumbleweeds. But everything else is on me, drat it.

  • 59 joan // Jun 23, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    House cleaning and losing weight are very similiar. Both are difficult, there are many solutions etc, however you just have to do it. Make up your mind and do it. You are bigger than the problem, so instead of letting the housework take over, just start in. Same as losing weight. My only little tip is to have a friend or relative get you started. Another person will help you get rid of the stuff. Good luck and just get going. You will feel a lot better.

  • 60 Gina // Jun 23, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Wow! Let’s start a club. Or a support group! It does get a little better when your kids get older. I no longer have baskets of Legos in the living room. Now they are stashed under the bed!

  • 61 Rhi // Jun 24, 2011 at 7:56 am

    I need the secret. Because my method of hiding crap in drawers is not working. Also: I am married to Pig Pen.

  • 62 Nancy R // Jun 24, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Would it help to tell yourself that you’re decluttering for that future move?

    I too find my mental clarity is tied to the clutter in my home.

  • 63 Christy @ cat fur to make kitten britches // Jun 24, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Oh, FP, I know exactly how you feel! I could have written those same words myself! And overwhelmed? That’s exactly how I feel when I think about my to-do list, every single day, and it sounds like a lot of other people do too. Sometimes I’ve thought, maybe if I gave up blogging, and reading blogs, I’d have so many more hours in my day that could be put to a more “productive” purpose, and my chaos would be more managed. But then, I would just be organized, with a streak of miserable and cranky. I think I much prefer my chaos, with a side of commiseration.

  • 64 AccidentalPoet // Jun 24, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Wait, you have an entire BAG of handknit socks?

    Colour me envious.

  • 65 Christie // Jun 24, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Ok, how did you get inside my brain and steal my thoughts and write about them?? Cuz seriously? I relate so well I’m pretty sure I just read my inner monologue on your blog. I keep blaming the state of our home on the fact we have kids, then I go to someone else’s house who has kids AND nice things, and I get all depressed and overwhelmed and I just don’t know where to start making it better. Now I’m going to go read the comments in search of good advice…

  • 66 Sarah // Jun 25, 2011 at 6:55 am

    I keep my house super tidy, I have place for all of those phone/kindle/battery chargers, and the place generally smells nice-ish. But it still gets overwhelming from time to time. And chances are those house you go into have bad moments, you just won’t ever know because the mom is going to meet you on the front porch with your kid. If I lived closer to you, I’d come help you organize and clean out, but I don’t. It sounds like you need a major, major clean-out before the 20 minute timer will work. Put the CD’s on your computer and get rid of them. Any article of clothing that doesn’t make you look and feel awesome(!) gets donated. Get rid of anything that you describe as “stinky.” Tell the taller of the girls that one of her daily chores is to restart the dryer every once in a while. (Mine takes two cycles and I abhor it.) I think once you let go of all of the bs, you’ll find a lot of peace in your home. Maybe you could do the 20 minute timer to fill up a garbage bag of stuff to donate to goodwill?

  • 67 Sarah // Jun 25, 2011 at 6:57 am

    Oh! And buy a bottle of clorox clean-up and keep it in the shower, and use it every day.

  • 68 blackbird // Jun 25, 2011 at 7:28 am

    Somewhere between you and The Trephine is the answer.
    Certainly you cannot get rid of everything – you are in charge of making a home for your family (right?).
    It would appear that you are overwhelmed.
    Get past that and make a list of what is important to you.
    Having things clean is sort of vital.
    Having candles on the mantle? Not so much.

  • 69 Heather // Jun 25, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Just another comment saying I could have written this. I woke up with The Thing just this morning, and so did my husband. Currently we are grumpily working on it. (Though actually, currently I’m taking a blog reader/bagel break. And therein lies the problem.)

  • 70 Kristin // Jun 25, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Last week Alexa @ Flotsam linked to this post (http://swistle.blogspot.com/2010/07/in-bucket-in.html) from Swistle. I have a LOT of trouble motivating myself to even get started on tackling the overwhelming house stuff that always needs to get done, but if I can feel good about picking up that one thing and putting where it belongs, it’s a start, right???

  • 71 Leslie // Jun 26, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    I am so with you on this.

  • 72 Anne // Jun 26, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    I am brilliant at getting rid of stuff. I get a greater thrill from giving stuff away than from buying it. Apparently my grandmother was the same. My parents NEVER throw anything out. Action/reaction My reputation is such that when I visit my parents, I am no sooner in the door than they say, “Anne did you throw such-and-such out?”

    Also I am slightly OCD on tidying up. I can’t sit down, if there is something on the floor. This drives my loving family insane. For what it’s worth, I start in one corner and make my way in lines like a lawn mower or that cleaning robot on WALL-E. You could try it. It probably only works because of my OCD though.

    On the minus side, that’s tidying, not cleaning. Our bathroom smells odd. Alas.

    Also on the minus side, our house is tiny. Even by Irish standards. By American standards it is an infinitesimal speck. We have one room downstairs. If I didn’t spend my time surreptitiously throwing out plastic we would be swimming in it. We want to move. But my husband is self-employed and although house prices are falling, I am a bit nervous in the current delightful economic climate. Also, alas, the value of our own house is now about 1/3 less than we paid for it 9 years ago. Never good news. So we are probably doomed to stay here forever. And I am useless at design stuff, so it is not beautiful. Tidy but not beautiful.

    One of your commenters said about managing five people in a house that is 1,500 square feet – this is what we can’t afford to trade up to with our 5 people – how depressed am I?

    So, it’s good that I’ve got the thrill of giving away/throwing out to fall back on, isn’t it? I’ve just put two buggies up on freecycle.

    Oh yeah, finally, years ago I read somewhere that if something small is annoying you every day – like tupperware falling out every time you open a certain cupboard – deal with it and your life will improve immeasurably. I have found this to be true.

    Gosh, this post is playing to all my weirdnesses and obsessions – thank you for sharing.

  • 73 schmutzie // Jul 1, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    Yes, I AM just as frustrated. I could spend all kinds of time working at keeping my apartment together, but it just seems like such a waste of time, and then it’s too overwhelming to conquer.