The Fly Lady and her cleaning schedules are often a hot topic on various parenting and lifestyle forums, and if you’re looking for a way to get to grips with the dust and dirt in your house (which I am) her book or website are good places to start. For those uninitiated in the ways of Mrs Fly (that’s not actually her name, it stands for Finally Loving Yourself by the way), essentially she sets down a detailed housekeeping system for her followers (who she calls Flybabies).

The Fly Lady herself

She’s got that love/hate quality like Marmite, Gina Ford or Fearne Cotton. There are plenty of people online who rave about her, although I wonder how many of those would freely admit that they consume her saccharine-sweet phraseology to their real-life friends. I have tried her approach a few times in the past and there are some really useful parts that I am definitely going to follow from now on.

  • “Shine your Sink”.  The Fly Lady encourages new members to start with Babysteps, one for each day of their first month following her schedule. It makes sense that you need to start small and slowly build a routine and learn new habits rather than get overwhelmed and give up. The Shine your Sink philosophy makes sense too – even if your kitchen is a health hazard, if your kitchen sink is left clean, empty and sparkly every night, it motivates you to keep the surrounding area clean too.
  • “Declutter”.  It is easier to keep a room tidy and clean when there is less stuff to tidy and clean. Simple.
  • “You can do anything for 15 minutes”.  Another sensible approach and one that suits my gnat-like attention span. The Fly Lady advocates setting a kitchen timer and tackling a job for only 15 minutes.  It means that you do that job with a bit of motivation, speed and avoid getting overwhelmed. It also fits well with having children about, you don’t feel too guilty leaving them to entertain themselves for such a short amount of time.

So if it’s so flipping great, why have I started and stopped following the Fly Lady approach many times before? Because for all the really sensible routines and suggestions, there are as many elements of the programme which are downright unbearable.

If you sign up to receiving email reminders, you get millions of them. I kid you not, you get about 10 a day. It makes no sense to me that someone would preach the benefits of decluttering by cluttering up someone’s inbox. Most of them are utter self-promoting nonsense too, flogging all manner of crap that will CLUTTER UP MY HOUSE!!!!

It’s one thing to be prescriptive when encouraging reluctant slatterns like me to pick up a duster, but she takes it to a whole other level.  The Fly Lady sees fit to tell you to drink more water, when to go to bed and (as someone who’s child regularly wakes at around 5.30am this last one really takes the biscuit) to get up 15 minutes earlier than the rest of the family so that you can get dressed and greet your loved ones with a smile. Uh no, no and NO!

But then there are 550,000 people on her mailing list who must think that Fly Lady holds the key to that tidy home that I want, so maybe it is me who is the unreasonable one.

I like the approach of some Mumsnet members that use their Good Housekeeping chat room. They have monthly posts so that they share the good parts of the Fly Lady system without subjecting themselves to all the bad bits. Very wise.

My next (baby)step is to take all those sensible elements and adapt them to form a system that suits me and my family, because in the end that is the only way new habits will stick.