16 May 2008

Book Review: Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley

I have been focusing on the greening of cleaning over at my family blog this week; indeed, cleaning house has very much been a prominent topic in my mind for some time now.

I think in some ways it was the emergence of Spring and the change in attitude that comes with that; the quickening of the spirit, the surge in energy, the need to throw open the windows and see sheer white curtains billow, to let the sunshine in.

Of course, that sunshine then illuminates the dirt, the clutter; and one is inspired to clean, to free up one's space, within and without; to begin anew.

However, if I am being honest about the true source of my newfound passion for keeping clean and tidy, I would be remiss if I did not credit Ellen at Everyday Crafty Goodness for introducing me to the phenomenon that is the Flylady.

The Flylady is, in her own words, part cheerleader and part drill sergeant, and she is on a mission to save us from our own clutter, a condition she calls CHAOS: Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome. This refers to the fly-off-the-handle crisis cleaning we do when visitors are unexpectedly on their way. I think we've all been there.

Her website is a treasure trove of inspiration and motivation, but for me, the most important service the Flylady supplies is an option to receive daily emails, reminding you to declutter, to plan out your meals, to do zone cleanings. It provides the little extra push I need to do all the little things I have been meaning to do.

And yay, Marla Cilley (aka Flylady) has written a book titled Sink Reflections, gathering all her optimism and advice in one brightly colored pink paperback. Let's start with the title.

The Flylady's first task for you is to shine your sink. Physically scrub the bejesus out of your kitchen sink and then buff it up to a high shine. Why? She wants it to be your beacon of clean and shiny hope, to start you off on your way.
"When you get up [in the] morning, your sink will greet you and a smile will come across your lovely face. I can't be there to give you a big hug,but I know how good it feels to see yourself reflected in your kitchen sink. So each morning this is my gift to you."


Yes, it is a little corny. She is like a very affectionate aunt. And at first the notion of shining your sink seems silly. But eventually I was worn down by her enthusiastic admonitions by email, and I went and shined my sink. And, yes, it felt darn good. And it made the whole kitchen look cleaner.

Here it is today:

Shiny!

Step two is to get dressed to lace-up shoes. Again, this seems nonsensical. I am an at-home mom, I bake a lot, I garden. I am a filthy mess at the end of the day. Why should I get dressed?

I'll tell you why. If the UPS man drops off a package, or if some guy runs out of gas and knocks on my door, I'm not embarrassed by what a sight I am. If I suddenly need to leave the house, I can leave right away. And most importantly, because getting dressed to shoes makes me feel better about myself, and ready for the day.

Step three is a before bed ritual: pick out your clothes for tomorrow, and get a good night's rest. The Flylady scores again: My tomorrow morning goes a lot more smoothly when I follow this step. (It helps that the Flylady reminds me to turn off the computer and go to bed each night. )

The Flylady program starts with the premise that we have become paralyzed by our need for perfection, that the knowledge that the mess in our houses is so immense that we don't know where to begin.


"This mess is so big
and so deep and so tall,
We can not pick it up.
There is no way at all!"

-Dr. Seuss
"The Cat in the Hat"

Well, she 's going to tell us where to begin. Enter the"Babysteps", a progression of daily habits that enable you to take control of your life. Steps one through three I have covered above. After you've internalized these, you are ordered to start digging your way out of your clutter, through a series of "27 item flings", "5 minute room rescues", and 15 minute decluttering sessions. (A chirpy reminder that "You can do anything for 15 minutes!" often greets me when I check my Inbox.)

After the clutter is under control, the Flylady has a system of zone cleaning that ensures that every part of your house will undergo a seriously thorough cleaning at least once a month, and a more general surface cleaning once a week. Everything is broken up into quick tasks that take fifteen minutes at most, so you are never overwhelmed.

It seems like voodoo magic, but it works. It just takes commitment, and time. The emails definitely help keep you going, as do mantras like:

  • "Your house did not get messy in a day, and it won't get clean in a day either."

  • "Stop whining cold turkey."

  • "Your dryer is not a laundry basket."

  • "You can't change anyone but you."

  • "Set the example in love and quit being a martyr."


When I started receiving the emails, I would open and read and delete them. I don't even know why I signed up, initially. Then one Monday morning, the Flylady asked me to wash out my bathroom trash can. I deleted the email. But then I felt bad. She's so nice, she's so positive, she has dedicated her life to trying to help people be comfortable in their own homes. How long could it really take to wash out my bathroom trash can? The thought rankled the back of my brain all day. Finally I heaved myself up and washed out the damn bathroom trash can. And man, it was dirty. It's funny how you don't notice those details because you see them every day, and it just becomes white noise. But just like the kitchen sink, it made the whole room look better. The Flylady is good for that.



Unless you are some sort of weird Martha Stewart drone, I am going to hazard a guess that you don't get everything done, all the time. Marla Cilley is like a very helpful neighbor. She is a little over the top, but I am willing to overlook that, because her program really does work. Don't believe me? Go shine your sink, and see how much better you feel.

1 comment:

ellen said...

Wow, that's one shiny sink! Thanks for linking to my blog. When I first started FlyLady, I was a little obessed about drying the sink after every use...I'm much better about that now. :P