Four Steps to Clean: Step One--The Rules


Four Steps to Clean 

Step One: The Rules

Many years ago, I realized that in order to keep my ADHD brain in line when it came to keeping my house safe and clean(er), I had to create "rules" for myself and my household to follow, or else we'd all just run around willy-nilly and nothing would ever change.  It started with "No Clothes On The Floor--Anywhere!"  And once I mastered that rule, I moved onto the next.  Rules can be used for organization, maintaining a clean and orderly house, safety, and so much more.  My brain craves structure and when it doesn't get it, it goes batty and everything devolves into chaos.  

Now, I hate, hate, hate structure that someone else creates for me.  Yes, I am that type of person.  Always have been, always will be.  But I hated creating structure for myself, because I could never keep to it.  But that was because I didn't create the kind of structure my brain craved.  Which was simplistic, easy to do, and most all, created by me.  

Now, if my hubby or my kids came to me and wanted to create a rule?  I'd abide by it.  It's not them that that's the issue.  I hate when controlling people try to control me, just for the sake of controlling me.  Growing up, my mother created "rules" which made zero sense.  More so, she created rules to hurt people, because it made her feel good about herself.  So because of that, I rebel against any sort of person trying to control me for absolutely no reason.  It's physically pains me to have to deal with that.  So I became a rebel against all structure in life, because I saw no point to it.  To me, structure meant "control", and it meant I was becoming my mother.  And wanted that??  Not me!  

But now I realize that structure and control are two very different things.  And when you have ADHD/ASD (autism spectrum disorder--which I have), you actually crave structure.  This is something I never knew about myself because I so forcefully rebelled against it.  It's also what I assume all rebels are rebelling against: control, not structure.  But to them, as I once saw it, it's the same thing.  But structure is something that helps you be better at being a human.  It makes everything easier, but also it makes daily life simpler and in actuality, more fun (even though it doesn't sound like fun).  Whereas control is someone telling you what to do just to tell you what to do.  Structure keeps you safe, keeps your family safe, keeps everyone on track, and provides stability in a chaotic world.  And when you have ADHD, that chaos extends to your brain.  So structure especially helps those brains out to be more productive.  

And rules create structure.  But only rules that a) have a good reason to be there and b) are easy to follow and maintain.  If they are complicated, convoluted, or crazy?  They will not be followed by anyone, but much less by your ADHD brain.  Rules create change, in your home and in your mind.  And changing from chaos to calm is where you want to go, right?  So create some rules for your home and yourself that will help achieve that.  

Here are some examples I've come up with that may help you that I use as well: 

Sample Rules:

  1. Keys in purse, keys in pocket, or keys in basket in bedroom.  Do not leave keys on the table (or else SOAD will come ask you why--if you don't know what I am referring to, then you aren't 90's enough) or anywhere else.  And for the love of hot dogs, do not leave them in the car!  Ever!  I used to do this all the time.  So I created a rule: as soon as the car is off, the keys go directly in my purse or in my coat pocket.  If you're a dude, put them in your jeans pocket.  At least until you get the in the house and put them in a basket by your bed.  Key racks are for crazy people who want to get their keys lost or stolen.  Rule:  Keys has a designated space and they will always go in there when not in use.

  2. Open mail over the recycling bin (or burn all junk mail like I do).  Do not bring that junk into your house to deal with later.  If you have enough time to get your mail?  You have enough time to walk to the recycling bin and throw it in (or, like I do, I bring it and it goes straight into my burn bag).  Rule: Deal with junk mail before it comes into the house.

  3. Have a box, or a wall bin for important mail/paper you need to keep. Not a large one! Only keep the ultimate necessary mail/paper. All super important stuff needs to be filed.  This bin is only for the mail that needs to be dealt with later or needs to be kept (but not important enough to be filed).  Rule: All high profile mail in a single bin.  

  4. Which brings us to the files.  Only have a single file box for files. One that is portable in case of a fire (mine is plastic). One it's full, purge what's in there.  No massive amounts of paper in your house unless it's for your job (lawyer, teacher, etc.), then feel free to use a large filing cabinet.  Normal people do not need that much space to shove paper into.  I don't care how intricately it's organized, either.  It's too much!  Rule:  All important mail goes into the single filing box.  When it's full, I will purge it and never buy a bigger box/cabinet. 

  5. If you live in the country, buy a metal barrel (you can get them on FB Marketplace) and burn all your paper items.  This creates less pollution than having it recycled.  The best cardboard to burn is the type on cereal boxes, etc. That type doesn't fly cinders around in the air. If you have to burn the corrugated type, put it at the bottom. I use a reusable large Aldi bag to store the boxes/paper. When it's full, I burn it all. I also keep a bucket in my closet for junk mail to burn that I cannot put in the recycling bin (due to my mother with dementia getting catalogs to buy random ripoff stuff).  So the rule here is "burn all paper".  I have to remind my kids of this regularly, as they will throw packaging right in the garbage.  I am annoying about it, too.  But mostly they listen and shove their burnable paper items in my burn bag.  I do this with paper plates too, though I scrape the messy parts into the garbage first (though you don't have to, if shove them into a box before putting them in the bag).  This creates less waste for your and the environment.  And no, the smoke from burning a little paper doesn't hurt anything.  It's the stuff big companies produce that's the issue.  Rule: Burn all paper items.  

  6. Keep several hooks on your bedroom walls for sweaters, hoodies, etc. and your purse. If you can't, then screw one into the top side of your dresser and store your purse there. It's safer, and you will always know where your purse and keys are.  Rule: Store purse in your room on a hook to keep it safe and to always know where it is. 

  7. Only buy a big enough purse to store your keys, your wallet, and your phone. THAT IS ALL YOU NEED TO TAKE WITH YOU! If you're a mommy of littles, you can get a bigger one to store your kids' stuff, and bandages and whatever, but if you're not, you do NOT need a bigger purse to stuff full of crap. Once you get used to a smaller one, you will feel strange if something else is taking up space in your purse. My purse is vertical and cross body. I do not put in my purse in a cart, I leave it on my body at all times when shopping (and it's not too heavy to do so). I can leave my cart for a moment to look at something without fearing someone will steal my purse. Also, it's vinyl, for easy cleaning. I also have a vertical wallet that takes up the entire space of my purse, with two other zippers on the front of the purse: one for my phone, and one for my keys (I also have a couple pens in there, and nail clippers and tweezers). Nothing else fits in there, so I cannot stuff it full of crap and receipts. If I need to keep a receipt, I put it in my wallet. If not, I throw it into my burn bag when I get home.  Rule: I will only ever own a purse big enough for exactly what I need, nothing more.  I will never allow more stuff in my purse than needs to bet there.

  8. I have five people in my house. There are five dinner plates, five small plates, five dinner bowls, and five salad bowls. There are about six glass cups and around eight plastic that stack together that match. And there are five coffee cups (everyone gets to pick one—my mother used to have about twenty out at any given time, with more in storage—she is ONE person, so I only allow one coffee cup per person—not to mention, she is the only person who drinks coffee in the house). But you can do the same. Only allow as many as there are people in your house. And please, for  the love of Pop Tarts, do not have a thousand plastic plates and cups in your cabinets.  Because the more you have, the more you have to wash. Does that sound like fun to you? Yeah, I didn't think so.  It used to take us sometimes more than an hours to wash dishes!  Ugh!  So pare down to the essentials. Now, you need more than one set of silverware per person (we found that out the hard way), but everything else you really only need one of. Also, I have two sauce pans, one large pot, and two fry pans. THAT IS IT. It's really all you need, unless you're cooking gigantic meals for people. Granted, you do you, boo. See what is the smallest amount you can get away with using, and either store or get rid of the rest. (We have some storage for extras in the garage).    Rule:  We will only have one item for each person (with a few exceptions) in the kitchen.  I do not need 100 plates or pots or plastic cups.  

  9. I only have one body towel per person in my house.  I have a single "hair" towel, for anyone who washes their hair outside of taking a shower.  And I have a floor towel.  That's it.  Once a week, I wash towels, which includes my hand towels in the bathroom and the kitchen.  That's all anyone needs.  Know that I buy "bath sheets", which are the biggest towels you can get, so that way everyone is always completely covered up (also so there's more towel to use).  The hair towel is a normal sized towel, though.  As is the floor towel.  If you have little kids, you may need more floor towels and smaller towels for them, but in reality, you only need one per person.  If you have any extra that you want to keep, I suggest storing them somewhere else for use when those towels get worn and broken.  Also, you can assign a color to each person, no nobody uses anyone else's towel. Rule: We only need one towel per person so I can do less laundry and we have more room in our bathroom cabinets.

  10. Rule: No Sex in the Champagne Room.  It's a basic rule of common decency.  And if you don't know what I am talking about, you aren't 90's enough.  

Okay, that last one I threw in there to see if you're paying attention.  I know I blather on about stuff, so sometimes I have to throw something in to wake you up.  Did it work?  Did you google it?  I hope so.   Anyways, unlike some rules, these aren't meant to be broken.  Bent sometimes, yes, but not broken.  If you do break them, go back, and start again.  It's simple as that.  You start with your first rule, and master it as best you can, and then move on to the next.  Not too many at once, because that will cause an overload and nobody will be able to follow through.  

So, look around your house, and see what is the biggest thing that bugs you.  And them make a rule for it.  I started with "No clothes on the floor".  But you can start with less dishes, less towels, less clothes, or whatever your biggest obstacle is.  Now don't go making rules for other people only to follow without easing them into it first.  Like making your kids get rid of half their toys or something.  You have to ease into that sort of thing.  But you can make one for yourself.  Start there.  Then branch out to the rest of the house.  

Once the rule is in place and working, then make a new rule.  But maybe a month later you find that that first rule needs to be tweaked.  So tweak it!  Find what works for you and your family, and adjust as needed.  Remember, the rules aren't meant to be something you impose on others.  It's meant as a way to keep people on track and gives your home (and life) more structure so we can all be better at "humaning".  Being a better human may be being more orderly, more environmentally conscious, more on time to things, more organized, etc.  Whatever it means to you and your family is the reason for creating that structure to begin with.  It's not meant to control, coerce. or hurt anyone (even if your kids whine like they are being torturing having to put their toys in a bin each night).  It's meant to be completed with a smile on your face because it's helping you and your family be better at life.  Rather than yelling and screaming something isn't getting done right.  Rules aren't hard and fast, they are bendable and flexible and can be changed when they need to be.  Think of living life like a running stream.  It goes with the flow, man.  Rules are the guidelines that help that water keep flowing evenly and nicely, rather than stopping it up like a beaver dam.  If your rules are getting to stringent and too tough, rethink what you're trying to accomplish here.  Are you trying to create little rebels who will want to fight against the current?  Because that's what will happen with your S/O, your kids, and that little you inside of yourself who hates being controlled (which maybe why you were so messy in the first place).  So makes those rules flow with your life, rather than trying to control it.  

So figure out what chores you hate, what bugs you the most, or that's the most important things you need to tackle and make your list, then pick one and start!  Then move onto step number two, which will help you figure out how to make your rules flow with you, rather than against you.

Step Two:  Find What Works and Make It Easy (link will be clickable when the next step is available)


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