a house being dusted, becoming sparkling clean

Keeping House with Cancer

Do you remember the 1960s television show Bewitched? Have you ever looked around a messy room and wished that you could imitate Samantha? She would wiggle her nose, and the room would automatically become clean and orderly.

Since we don't have Samantha's powers, we have to figure out our cleaning system while dealing with blood cancer. How do you manage when you aren't feeling well?

A few years ago, I heard author Marla Cilley speak at the Home and Garden Show in my hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. She said something that made me rethink how I felt about housework. "We often feel stressed to clean our homes, but we should feel blessed to have homes to clean."

Don't get daunted; get dressed!

In her book, The C. H. A. O. S.* Cure (*Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome) by Marla Cilley, she insists: Get dressed! Put on shoes. (Be like Mr. Rogers and put on a pair of clean tennis shoes to wear inside your house.) Your whole day will be more productive.

Marla also says: "Perfectionism is like quicksand. Don't set impossible standards for you or your home." Have you ever finished a chore and thought, That wasn't so bad! Why didn't I do that sooner? We often procrastinate because we want to do things perfectly. Done is good enough!

Marla's tips

Make your bed every morning. It should take only three minutes, and your bedroom will look better for the rest of the day.

Clean in 15: Use your timer - it reminds you that there's no need to spend more than 15 minutes on a task. It also helps me to break down jobs. I can dust my living room in the evening while watching television, then run the vacuum in the morning when I have more energy.

Clear the clutter! Marla said something else that made an impression on me: "Instead of facing our stuff, we are stuffing our faces!" Most Americans have too much stuff. Have you ever noticed that when you are decluttering, getting rid of things that you don't use or even like, most of them were gifts? I have started watching what comes into my home. If someone gives me a book, I give away one from my collection. And yes, if someone gives me something I don't care for, I have been known to donate or even sell the item. (I always write a thank-you note to the gifter because it is the thought that counts.) Someone else can enjoy it.

Have a drop zone where you always place your keys. I have been using my grandmother's 1950s ashtray. I can't believe something that pretty once held Grandma Virgie's nasty cigarette butts! It sure comes in handy these days, so I will always know where my keys are.

Plan, prioritize, and pace

Watch what your organized friends do. They pick up dirty coffee mugs and take them to the kitchen as they are going. Have you noticed how they take out their trash when they are going outside to put their car in the garage? Many use baskets to keep items they need to access quickly. They make lists of chores they want to get done, then cross off what they do.

Although I suggested watching how your organized friends do things, I need to warn you: Don't compare yourself to others. Don't should on yourself! Flip the script in your head. Instead of saying, "I should have remembered to do that." Try: "It would have been nice if I had done that already, but I will put that on my to-do list and take care of it as soon as possible."

Process your mail immediately. Don't you love to get real mail? The art of letter writing has all but disappeared. It is fun to get greeting cards, too. Toss out that junk mail into the recycle or shred if necessary. Mail has a way of stacking up on kitchen counters if we don't stay on top of it.

Plan your day. If you have a doctor's appointment in the afternoon, starting a cleaning project is not realistic. Maybe you could spend your morning catching up on correspondence or making phone calls.

Have you ever seen those vintage embroidered tea towels for the days of the week? They said things like Wash on Monday, Iron on Tuesday, etc. That is an excellent way to plan. There was no "Do it all on Saturday" tea towel. We can't do everything at once, but we can do something daily.

Lump tasks together. Are you sending out a birthday card? Go ahead and address another card to someone who has a birthday later in the month. Make a note of the birthdate on the envelope flap.

Jump in where you are!

There will never be a perfect time to clean or organize. As Marla Cilley says, "You are never behind. Jump in where you are." When we establish routines and set realistic goals, we are blessing our future selves.

What are some of your housekeeping tips?

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