I can see my 10-year-old self painstakingly organizing my desk in my bedroom, taking everything out, putting my stories in folders, organizing my pens, markers, stickers, and notebooks meticulously, and then announcing I was done cleaning. Nothing else was organized. The other play things were still strewn about the room. There were what my scientist father called “particles” still all over the floor — dust balls, tiny pieces of paper, scraps of whatever. But I didn’t really even notice these things. What was important to me was clean, and the rest was “clean enough.” As you can imagine, this caused quite a bit of strife for my parents and me.
According to the Myers-Briggs personality test, I am an INFP, often called the “dreamer.” This means that I possess a deep inner world concerned with emotions and concepts of “right and wrong,” that I have an often paralyzing sense of perfectionism, and a damn fine set of blinders. As this relates to chores, if I have no idea where to put one thing in the pile of clutter in the bedroom, I won’t touch the rest of the pile either. As for the blinders, certain things must be maintained (like a project, or perhaps my journal) according to my standards, but the rest of the house might be complete disarray. And there are times when I don’t even notice the chaos.
I always just thought I was weird, but then when I started reading about my Myers-Briggs personality type, things started to make sense to me.
I had to overcome these two obstacles, the perfectionism and the blinders, if I was ever going to hope for a clean(ish) house. Easier said than done, of course, but there are a few tools that I use to keep things somewhat orderly.
Set the timer
The first tool is the timer. I set it and just start going. At first this seemed silly to me, because there was NO WAY that I was going to get the room clean in 15 minutes, so why bother? To some other personality types, this type of thinking is RIDICULOUS. Once I sat down and thought about my own processes, it was RIDICULOUS to me, too. But I had to train myself to think that way consistently. So now, if I have an hour to spare (har har), I can spend 10 minutes in 6 different rooms, or 15 minutes in 4 different rooms, whatever. And things get “clean enough for now.”
Follow the schedule
I also set a schedule for cleaning, where each day there’s an area of the house that I’m (supposed) to clean. My list is written on a scrap piece of paper with blue crayon. Mondays are reserved for what we call the “blue room,” Tuesdays are for the dining room, Wednesdays are for the living room, Thursday is for the bedrooms, and Friday is for the bathrooms. The rest of the house is in my blinders! And instead of feeling overwhelmed by the inevitable disaster left behind the tornado that is my toddler, I am able to step outside the old thought processes and start over.
This system doesn’t work perfectly, but it’s a big improvement for me! It has been freeing, learning that my old thought patterns don’t have to continue and that I can change them. This is helping with my house-cleaning habits AND other parts of my life. For instance, being all-consumed with what’s in my head doesn’t actually build relationships with others, and learning to deal with others’ senses of right and wrong is healthy for my own sense of ethics. Does everything get done exactly how I want? No. But it gets done enough for now.