Unfuck Your Habitat

You're better than your mess.

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How do I get motivated to actually START something. I have loads of dishes and clothes that need to be washed but i just think, why bother its all gonna get dirty again anyway.

One of the truly annoying things about being a human being is that we have all of these repetitive tasks that we have to do, even though they’re going to have to be done again anyway. We have to brush our teeth, even though we’re just going to eat again anyway. We have to eat, even though we’re going to be hungry again anyway. We have to shower, even though we’re going to get funky again anyway.

Your home is the same way. Even though, just by living life normally, things will get dirty again anyway doesn’t mean you don’t have to clean them. If all of your dishes are dirty, you have nothing to eat off of. Sure, you can buy paper plates or eat right out of containers, but that’s not really a sustainable ideal. If all of your clothes are dirty, you have nothing to wear, which makes your day more complicated and adds unnecessary stress to your life. So try striking this line of thinking, because it’s the time in between the “again anyway” that makes up the majority of your life. By keeping most things clean and only dealing with the few things that have become dirty in the meantime, the whole situation becomes a lot more manageable.

As for getting started, start small. Do one load of laundry. Wash ten dishes. And always remember that dishes and laundry have three steps: wash, dry, and put it away, goddammit! Don’t look at the big picture, that all of your clothes need to be washed or that all of your dishes are dirty. Just focus on one load, or ten dishes, and do them from beginning to end.

One of the things that’s most satisfying about running UfYH is seeing the support you guys have for each other. Seeing that total strangers celebrate your success and cheer you on and encourage you through the hard times is really heartening.

Which is why it really pisses me off when I see people being smug or shitty or judgmental about the progress that people are making, or the varying points everyone’s starting out from. I get it: this is the internet, people are largely awful — I’m not new at this — and I don’t usually like to draw attention to assholes, but I think it’s important to say: these people who are being shitty are not part of your path. They have their own issues, ones that make them need to be smug and crappy toward total strangers, but they aren’t your problem.

UfYH isn’t for people who have their shit completely together and have perfect homes and can’t wrap their heads around the fact that there are people out there who need a little help. Those people don’t need UfYH, and if they want to gawk and be fuckheads, let ‘em, because you guys kick ass every single day, and you do it even though it’s hard or new for you, so fuck those people. UfYH is for the rest of us, and dudes, there are so many more of us than there are of them. So they don’t matter. Not to me, not to you, not to your progress.

Every so often, I come across a mention of UfYH somewhere, in a forum or a comments section, and there will invariably be a comment regarding some of the before and after pictures, usually accompanied by a remark about how superior the commenter feels after looking at the site.

You guys, that’s bullshit. People who post before and afters are brave and awesome and productive and should be proud. The whole point of UfYH is that we aren’t all starting from the same place. So if your “after” looks like someone else’s “before,” who gives a shit? No one’s better than anyone else. Everyone’s here because they want to improve. And everyone is starting with a different baseline.

I get discouraged when I read those comments, but only for a minute, because I know those aren’t the people who make up Team UfYH. There are plenty of places where people can brag about their perfect houses, which are effortlessly kept up by people who are naturally domestic and good at cleaning. This is a place for everyone else.

So please know this: if you post a before and after, I have so much respect for you. Not just for having done the work, but for putting it out there. And those of you who aren’t at that stage or aren’t comfortable with posting those pictures? That’s great, too. You’re still doing a spectacular thing. And yeah, maybe there are people out there who just don’t get why everyone isn’t just born with the innate ability to be tidy, just because they themselves can do it without any trouble. But there are a lot of the rest of us, too; those of us who need a little extra motivation or instruction or encouragement. And one group is not inherently better than the other. Just, it seems, a little more judgmental.

So you cleared off your dining room table! Or possibly your bedroom floor, or that kitchen counter that seems to breed random crap. It’s nice, right? Gives you a sense of accomplishment to look at? And then, even though you try to stop it, that obnoxious little voice tells you to enjoy this moment, because it’s just going to be covered in crap again in a day or two. I know you know that voice.

Here’s the thing: the accumulating crap doesn’t happen on its own. It’s a passive phenomenon, in a way, but only in that you’re the one being passive. An unfucked area is not going to remain that way by itself. And that’s where the reset comes in.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Figure out your most problematic surface.
  2. 20/10 it into submission until it’s clean and cleared of everything that shouldn’t be there.
  3. Then take two to five minutes every day and reset it back to that perfect state.

Those messes don’t generally happen overnight. And they usually only get worse the longer you leave them. So by taking just a few minutes every day to reset the surface back to clear, you never give it the chance to accumulate the multiplying crap. And by sacrificing a handful of minutes (do it while the coffee’s brewing, or during a commercial break) each day, you can pretty much guarantee you won’t have to face a mountain of crap on that surface again.

And admit it, there’s something so satisfying about seeing your worst surface completely clear. You should be able to feel that satisfaction every damn day.

I think that they set you up for failure, and I’m not a fan of encouraging failure. Resolutions are generally sweeping, dramatic changes made on a day when there’s a social expectation to get your act together one way or another, and that’s not a recipe for success. That’s a recipe to marathon clean, and we all know that’s not sustainable in the long term.

So let’s not make resolutions. Let’s change habits. Habits take a while to change, so this is not a “do it for a few weeks and then stop because what a pain in the ass, right?” kind of thing. This is about trying to make tiny, incremental, easy changes, and to motivate ourselves to keep up with those changes past January, into the spring and summer and then have them be so ingrained that we can’t remember ever having done differently.

If you’re determined to have a New Year’s resolution, keep it reasonable. Start slow. One or two 20/10s a day. (Not sure what that is? Check out the welcome packet.) Follow the prompts to make your bed, unfuck tomorrow morning, and go to sleep. Don’t expect that by January 5th, your house will be immaculate and all of your problems will be solved. Be realistic. Know what’s sustainable for you. Know that it’ll take time. And know that you are not beyond help.

Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: for whatever reason, someone is coming to your house. And you’re in a complete panic, frantically cleaning whatever you can get to as quickly as you can, just so the house will be “company ready” for your guests.

Here’s a serious question, though: why do your guests deserve to have your house look nice more than you do? They’re only there for a small fraction of time; you’re there every day. Why don’t you deserve to have the place looking nice and neat and clean?

Maybe you think, “Oh, I’m just a messy person, so I don’t care about the mess, but my visitor will.” If you truly didn’t care, you wouldn’t be scrambling to clean up before someone crosses the threshold. You’re speed-cleaning because you do care, just not enough to make it nice for yourself. You need to cut that out.

Focus on making your house “you ready.” Bring it, gradually, up to your standards of cleanliness. Make it so that you’re comfortable, and so that you enjoy looking around your home. When you reach that point, your house will always be company ready. You’re the most important person who will step through your door. Try to make your living space reflect that.

even if you don’t post them.

Taking pictures of your spaces is a valuable tool for unfucking. When you’re in the same space every day, your eyes don’t always register everything that’s going on within that area. When you take a “before” picture, you remove yourself one step from the environment and can turn a more critical eye to it. You can see things that are out of place or problem areas that you didn’t notice before.

"After" pictures are just as useful, because now you have a baseline to compare that space to. When it starts to get messy again (and it will; unfucking is a continuous process), you can look back at the picture of it freshly unfucked and see what you need to do to get it back to that state. Also, it reminds you that it’s not hopeless or insurmountable; you did it once, and you can do it again.

Plus, comparing the “before” to the “after” feels awesome. If you can see how much progress you’ve made, you can really feel proud of the work you did.

  • Doing the dishes is generally not difficult. It’s often tedious, and sometimes overwhelming, but it’s not hard. Suck it up and do them.
  • If you’re facing a mountain of dishes, deal with it the UfYH way: 20 minutes at a time. Wash for 20 minutes, then take a 10-minute break to let things dry a little, come back, start your 20 minutes again by drying and putting away the clean dishes, and keep going.
  • If you have a sink full of dishes, try (if you can reach the drain) stoppering up the sink and filling it with hot soapy water and letting it sit for an hour or so before you get going to loosen up some of the crud.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have a dishwasher, do not let your clean dishes languish in it while your dirty dishes pile up in the sink. Run it overnight? Put it away while your morning coffee is being brewed or your toast is toasting. Just like with laundry, “put it away” is a crucial, yet often overlooked, step for dishes.
  • Before you start cooking, fill your sink with hot soapy water. As you go along, toss your prep dishes in there. When there’s some time (boiling time, or after stuff is in the oven), wash what you’ve used so far. Your goal is to have your prep dishes done by the time your food is finished cooking.
  • Once your dish situation is under control, try to make it a goal to never let dirty dishes touch the bottom of the sink (and I don’t mean because there’s so much else in there!). Breakfast dishes, coffee cups, snack dishes, whatever: take the five seconds to wash them or put them in the dishwasher RIGHT THEN rather than using your sink as a waystation.

(via unfuckyourhabitat)

Welcome aboard! If you’re new to UfYH, here’s the welcome packet:

  • I curse. A lot. If this is problematic for you, we may have to admire each other from afar. There will be many f-bombs, as well as some more creative stuff.
  • A 20/10 is 20 minutes of unfucking (cleaning, studying, what have you) followed by a 10-minute break. 45/15s are the same, only, you know, 45 and 15.
  • A drain volcano is baking soda and white vinegar poured down a drain. We call it a volcano because, well, you’ll see.
  • The UfYH Fundamentals list is a good place to start to see what we’re all about.
  • If you tag something with Team Unfuck Your Habitat or Unfuck Your Habitat or ufyh, I’ll see it. I love to reblog success stories.
  • I try to get to all of my asks, but sometimes Tumblr eats them, and sometimes they’re kind of rude, and sometimes I remember that I’m only one person, and so I may not answer right away.
  • Please take at least a cursory glance at the frequently used tags page and the last few pages of posts before submitting an ask. I get a lot of repeats.
  • I do not have a degree from stain college. If you have a specific stain question, Google is your best friend. Someone out there has found the perfect stain remover, and it’s probably on the very first page of Google results.
  • Before and after pictures are my favorites! I like to reward success with gifs.
  • This is very important: No matter how fucked your habitat is, you are not beyond help. You can make progress. It will take time. But it’s easier than you think.

Also, UfYH has an iPhone/iPad app. I think it’s pretty awesome. Yes, we’re working on an Android version. I’ll let you know the moment I have news about it.

(via unfuckyourhabitat)

I’ve seen a number of people on Tumblr and Twitter lately refer to UfYH as “FlyLady without the _____.” (With various things in that fill-in-the-blank.) So I feel like I should get my FlyLady opinions on record.

FlyLady is the primary reason I was able to even get a grasp on unfucking in the first place. I did FlyLady on and off for quite some time, and while the set-a-timer-take-a-break method isn’t exactly revolutionary (see: Pomodoro method), it works. The encouragement from the site itself kept me from drowning in my own filth. The issue I had (besides the site design, which has since been revamped and looks great) was the community. I felt like I didn’t belong because I wasn’t (at the time) married, I have no kids, I’m not religious, and (this was the big one) I work full time. It’s hard to modify that system when you’re out of your house for 10-12 hours a day, and it’s tough to relate when there’s so much talk of blessing your house and blessing your family when you aren’t religious.

Unfuck Your Habitat is born out of trying to find a system that works for the rest of us: students, single people, people with roommates, people with full-time jobs, people with two jobs, people with physical limitations or mental illness, people who are maybe a little younger and a lot more liberal, but still want to live somewhere we can enjoy and be proud of.

FlyLady started out in the early-ish days of the Internet. She used the tools available at the time: group emails, a fairly basic-looking website. And she did it really really well. How can I have anything but admiration for a woman who started out with a message board and an email list and grew it into a multi-million dollar empire? That’s entrepreneurship at its most elemental. From everything I know, Marla (FlyLady) is an incredible human being, and she’s built a system that works for a huge number of people. Most of those people fit into a fairly particular mold: stay-at-home moms who go to church regularly. I’m just looking for a different system for a different demographic. I have nothing but respect for FlyLady and what she’s done. So, while my system may work better for you, I get a little uneasy when people have unkind things to say about FlyLady. I don’t like spicy food. Doesn’t mean it’s not good. Just means it’s not for me. 

Marathoning is bad for a few reasons:

  • It’s all or nothing. So, “all” is great, but the vast majority of the time, it’s “nothing.”
  • It’s not sustainable. The good thing about cleaning in short, manageable chunks of time is that you can do it every day without it cutting into your life. You can’t do that with marathons.
  • A lot of members of Team UfYH have physical or mental limitations that make marathons impossible. With many mental illnesses, manic episodes often manifest as cleaning sprees. It’s a switch of mindset to realize that cleaning can be just a little at a time.
  • Marathons don’t build habits. Things get really bad and dirty, you marathon, then you wait for things to get really bad again. The time in between, you’re not sustaining a clean environment.
  • The whole point of UfYH is that doing something is better than doing nothing, and every little bit you do helps. Marathons sort of spit in the face of that logic.
Why is "marathoning" bad? (I've seen this mentioned a couple times but was unable to find the post explaining why, if it exists.)
unfuckyourhabitat unfuckyourhabitat Said:

Marathoning is bad for a few reasons:

  • It’s all or nothing. So, “all” is great, but the vast majority of the time, it’s “nothing.”
  • It’s not sustainable. The good thing about cleaning in short, manageable chunks of time is that you can do it every day without it cutting into your life. You can’t do that with marathons.
  • A lot of members of Team UfYH have physical or mental limitations that make marathons impossible. With many mental illnesses, manic episodes often manifest as cleaning sprees. It’s a switch of mindset to realize that cleaning can be just a little at a time.
  • Marathons don’t build habits. Things get really bad and dirty, you marathon, then you wait for things to get really bad again. The time in between, you’re not using to sustain a clean environment.
  • The whole point of UfYH is that doing something is better than doing nothing, and every little bit you do helps. Marathons sort of spit in the face of that logic.

(ETA: Made this rebloggable in another post.)

UfYH is gender-neutral. I don’t buy into traditional standards of who “should” be doing cleaning. If you live somewhere, you deserve for that place to be nice and clean and livable, and you should be the one who makes it that way. I don’t care who you are or what box or boxes you check or don’t. I think gender roles as they relate to cleaning (well, in most ways, but that one’s relevant) are bullshit and just offer a handy excuse for half the population to be lazy and the other half to feel guilty.

Fuck that. We’re unfucking traditional gender roles here. Everyone plays.

If you have specific questions about stains, know that my answer will always be some combination of baking soda, vinegar, hot water, Magic Eraser, and a scrub brush. If you have a specific stain question, Google is a much better, faster, and more accurate resource than I am.

I’m the motivational support. The technical stain stuff has all been handled, and handled better, by other people.

I don’t like to invade other Internet spaces to defend myself or UfYH when someone takes exception to the site, but I do like to address those criticisms. Following the links from referral tracking, I came across this comment:

There’s a weird sort of void in the “taking care of your physical surroundings” stuff, in the archaic “how to keep a home” and “how to be domestic” arenas. It tends to ignore single people, or people without kids, or students, or people with pets, or people with roommates, or people with full-time jobs, or classes, or other shit going on. [From UfYH About page]

Or people who are physically incapable of doing housework. (That is me.) Or people who are on their feet all day in their jobs and/or in the service industry and therefore too  exhausted both physically and emotionally to do anything when they come home. (That was me.) Or people who are depressed — and therefore also incapable of doing housework. Or people who work two jobs. Or…

If I did not live with my fiance, and if I for some reason had my own apartment anyway, it would be an utter and absolute disaster, and I would be able to do nothing about it. I’m not unique. If you see someone with a home you think is dirty and feel like judging them, stop and think for a minute. First, what are your standards for cleanliness? Maybe they’re really high. Maybe you’re using a metric to judge them that assumes they have a comfortable income and someone who can spare a couple hours a day for housework. Second, does anyone want to live in a mess? (If they do, they likely have an issue like hoarding which you shouldn’t be judging them for anyway.) Do you honestly think people who do so are just “lazy”? Do you know so much about this person that you can know for a fact they aren’t exhausted from work/kids/relationships/life, that they don’t have any mental, emotional, or physical obstacles (including allergies), that they do have plenty of time and money that can be expended on housework and cleaning supplies? And remember, the cheaper your cleaning supplies are, the more physical ability and time it takes to clean. 

If someone has physical or emotional or mental or time challenges AND lack of money for fancy appliances and plentiful, fancy cleaning aids — here’s an idea. Instead of judging and instructing a la a late-19th century upper middle class reformer, offer to help them clean, or to clean for them.

The whole point of UfYH is to NOT judge other people’s messes, or the reasons that they came about or haven’t been dealt with. It’s about working within your own abilities, whatever the limitations, to improve things, even a little.

Anyone who says I don’t deal with how to handle housework and depression hasn’t read the blog. I don’t know what else to say about that. Click the “depression” tag and see what the archives have. It’s a subject we deal with all the time. Also the two jobs thing. And the physical disability thing. And the exhaustion thing. UfYH is about working within the limitations of those situations to improve your environment.

I don’t assume anyone has “a comfortable income and a couple of hours a day for housework.” I assume the exact opposite. I assume people have no time and no money, and operate based on those assumptions.

I don’t know. Usually criticisms don’t bother me this much, but I think because the commenter is judging this blog from a place that makes assumptions that go directly against everything I’ve ever stood for. UfYH exists for people who are overworked, underpaid, tired, sick, depressed, overwhelmed, and, on occasion, lazy. I’m not upper middle class, and I am offering to help you clean, the only way I can. Over the Internet.