June 9, 2020
Many of us wouldn’t necessarily choose to organize, even with Marie Kondo; or to use the white-glove method to test our dusting skills. And, even during the pandemic, we will sheepishly admit that we’re not disinfecting all of our food purchases or our delivery boxes. In fact—dare we say it?—the less time spent cleaning, the better.
In fact, between January 2019 and January 2020, Pinterest searches for “fly lady cleaning schedule” have surged 40%, while queries for “Marie Kondo” have plummeted 80%.
Marla Cilley, a cleaning and organizing specialist from North Carolina, started the FlyLady mentoring group more than 20 years ago (the name FlyLady was inspired by her love of fly-fishing). Her aim was to offer a practical approach to organizing that prevents homeowners from feeling overwhelmed.
The FlyLady system breaks down household cleaning and organizing projects into focused 15-minute increments. The easiest way to follow the method is to sign up for Cilley’s emails, which you can do for free on the FlyLady website. You’ll receive daily messages—including a checklist for the day, suggested cleaning routines, projects to tackle for the week, and testimonials from other FlyLady users.
Otherwise, Better Homes and Gardens suggests, you can access FlyLady’s content via FlyLadyPlus, a free app for iOS devices that gives users access to her basic routines and cleaning tasks. Cilley also offers a subscription-based app called FlyLady Messenger, which sends her daily messages, testimonials, and “behavior modification reminders,” such as to drink water or start a load of laundry, as push notifications instead of emails and costs $29.95 per year (available only for iOS devices).
Based on Cilley’s observation that it takes 28 days to form a habit, the FlyLady cleaning schedule begins with four weeks of small, daily tasks that she calls BabySteps. (One example is to shine your sink, a simple cleaning task that Cilley says kicked off her own process of whipping her home into shape and later led her to create FlyLady.) For the remaining 27 days, subscribers receive daily emails to help them establish consistent routines for cleaning and organizing.
The next phase in the FlyLady schedule is decluttering. Dividing the home’s major living areas into five areas, Cilley focuses on one zone per week for 15 minutes a day, then rotates through all the areas each month:
- Zone 1: Front porch, entryway, dining room
- Zone 2: Kitchen
- Zone 3: Master bathroom, plus one other room (home office, kids’ playroom, guest bedroom, or craft area)
- Zone 4: Master bedroom, bathrooms, and closets
- Zone 5: Living room
Zone one always starts on the first of the month and you move on to another space every Sunday. (Depending on how the dates fall on the calendar, zones one and five might not always receive a full seven days’ worth of cleaning and organizing.) Every month, you repeat the schedule, which should become more manageable over time. “As one area gets cleaned, it will become easier to do, and you will have more time to face those areas that don’t seem to fit in any zone,” Cilley writes on her website.
Within those daily 15-minute periods, FlyLady recommends rapid-fire organizing projects such as the “27 Fling Boogie,” which involves gathering 27 household items to throw away as quickly as possible; and the “Hot Spot Fire Drill,” a strategy for tackling a specific area that attracts clutter, such as the dining room table. These short spurts are designed to divide an out-of-control mess into bite-sized tasks you can tackle over time.
And, at least according to her half-million-plus followers on Facebook, the FlyLady method works. One Facebook reviewer writes, “Flylady helped me get a handle on home maintenance and decluttering when I was overwhelmed with homeschooling and part-time work. She has great, supportive and wise counsel. She freed me from thinking I had to do things perfectly and taught me I can do anything for 15 minutes.”
That’s the idea: Making your impossibly long to-do list more manageable through short bursts of activity.
Research contact: @BHG