Monday, June 20, 2011

The Fly Lady System, Lesson 1: Baby Steps

I discovered the Fly Lady probably at least 5 years ago, maybe more. Despite her ability to motivate thousands of followers to clean and organize their homes, she must have one of the most cluttered, disorganized, and difficult to follow websites in cyberspace. It's a classic case of wonderful women who have an incredible passion for what they do and a commitment to sharing it with the world for free, but lack serious web building skills (I see the same issue with SplitCoastStampers). I find this kind of digital-disorganization to be a huge deterrent for young, busy people who simply want an effective system broken down for them in an easy to follow way.

What's surprising to me is that with all of her faithful followers, apparently no one with amazing digital organizational and/or programming skills has stepped up to help her create a website that's more user friendly and visually appealing. Or, maybe she's just not interested. What do I know.

So, until miracle of miracles happens and becomes easier to understand than the periodic table of elements, let me see if I can't help break it down for you, using my 5+ years of poking around as a guide! Up first: Baby Steps!

When I first signed up as a Fly Lady member, I mistakenly believed that the answer to what I was supposed to be doing would be found in the daily digest emails. Not so. In fact, unless you could use a little extra motivation and think reading a testimonial or two might help, I would suggest not giving the emails much attention in the very beginning. They can overwhelm you and confuse you into thinking that you should be focusing on a zone, or completing Kelly's missions, or checking off a list of 15+ daily tasks. But as a beginning "Fly Baby" this is NOT the case! The ONLY thing you need to do in the beginning is complete your Baby Steps.

Baby Steps are daily tasks designed to ease you into this crazy cleaning bonanza by creating habits, one by one. For instance, the first Baby Step is to Shine Your Sink. And for every other day of the 31 step series (and for all of eternity), you're instructed to shine your sink. But, in addition to shining your sink, a new task gets added each day. She starts slow. Maybe it's making notes (the beginning of your Control Journal), maybe it's getting yourself ready to be seen by other human beings every morning. The goal is that by the end of the 31 days, she'll have you completing pretty much every task contained in the "Routine" portion of the Daily Flight Plan, all without being completely overwhelmed, like you would be if you tried to do it all from day one.

Let's pause for a moment here and talk about the Daily Flight Plan. This is one of those discombobulated things about the website that drives me nuts. The Daily Flight Plan is kind of a big deal. It's your reminder of what you need to do everyday. But I can't seem to find reference to the primary list anywhere on the website. Instead, it's part of the daily email. I understand that there are probably 2 reasons for this: 1. Because the zones/missions change regularly (more on those later), and 2. Because you should be creating your own routines as part of your Control Journal later on in the Baby Steps. However, I still find it irritating that the basic guideline list isn't a page on the website. But I digress.

For your reference (in case you're new to Fly Lady and haven't signed up for the emails yet), here's what the Routine portion of the Daily Flight Plan looks like:

Today's Reminders:

* Morning Routine:
-Get Dressed to Shoes including Hair/Face, Brush Teeth
- Make Bed
-Swish & Swipe (
-Empty Dishwasher
-Reboot Laundry (a Load a Day Keeps CHAOS Away)
-Check Your Calendar (
-Check Your Control Journal

* What's For Dinner?

* Drink Your Water

* Declutter for 15 Minutes

* 15 Minutes of Loving Movement

* Before Bed Routine:
-Lay out Your Clothes for tomorrow
-Check Your Calendar
-Put things needed for tomorrow at the Launch Pad
-Where are your Keys? (
-Spend Two Minutes Clearing off a Hot Spot
-Shine Your Sink
- Wash face/Brush Teeth
-Go to Bed at a Decent Hour

So, long story short: The end-goal of Baby Steps (as far as I can tell) is to get us to a point where most every task on this on list (or a personalized version we create for ourselves) is part of our daily routine. And because we eased into it over the course of a month, we're not even terribly overwhelmed by the awesome amount of work we've added to our days.

Want to see what's ahead for you throughout the course of the 31 days of Baby Steps without having to click on individually?? Yeah, me too. Thank goodness someone put together a pdf of the full list. You can find it here.


Jordan said...

This plan would clearly never work for me as there are tons of things on her list that I find to be a big fat giant waste of time. For example: making my bed, umm why? I'm just going to get back in it and I don't see it at all throughout the day. shining my sink daily, f that. How about once a month. Emptying the dishwasher in the morning. Who turns on the dishwasher everyday? What a waste of water and resources. I get what she's trying to do but seriously?

Also, maybe you should contact her via her website to let her know her site sucks. Sometimes they're not aware (have poor taste, or aren't computer literate) and it just needs to be brought to their attention. I read a post once by a very successful blogger who said she never realized how big of a deal spelling and grammar were to her readers until she got an irate comment about it. She's since hired an editor to proof her posts.

brooke said...

I hear ya, it's not for everybody. I could have cared less about these things once upon a time. Then, one day, things changed and I reached my breaking point. I was tired of the disorder, the clutter. Tired of always being the messy house. Ready to have a home where I don't cringe when my baby crawls across the kitchen floor (still do).

So, even if they aren't the most important tasks to me, it's a starting point. And I find that when my bed is made (I see it 200 times every day), even if that's the only thing done, it feels good. Like some part of my house is in order. Like I have some tiny bit of control. And waking up to a clean kitchen? My GOD, that feels amazing! Especially now that I spend a good 4+ hours a day there (at least 2 first thing in the morning).

I only empty the dishwasher when it's clean--every other day. But I do put the dishes from the strainer away every morning. I do a load of laundry every day. Sounds silly, but when you have kids, it's everyday or drown!

As for the letter writing, we'll see. Maybe if I get confused enough or clear enough, I will. But considering she has something like a half million registered members, I'm thinking it's probably not terribly high on her to do list! :)

Jordan said...

Why are you spending 4 hours in your kitchen?

Dwija {House Unseen} said...

I agree...with my whole world spiraling out of control, a made bed and an empty sink makes me feel a little more like a human. You do just get to that point where you need SOMETHING to be under your control. ANYTHING.

Her site does suck, but my life is better for she still gets the green light from me :)

brooke said...

@JDB: That's how I roll these days! What, with the kiddo eating 3+ solid meals of homemade goodness a day, all the damn dishes associated, feeding myself on occasion, and trying to earn my keep as a stay at home person by learning to cook. Ends up being a whole lotta time spent in one room!

lindsey said...

i'll try the system too...when i get back from vacation ;) keep on me, will ya?

Rafael said...

Will do, Linds! I'm going to need some extra motivation after vacation myself!

thecleaningladyblog said...

I certainly agree that her website seems old fashioned and really needs a tuneup. The forums also need revamping and remodeling a bit. I'm also experimenting with the system and trying to break it down on my blog to get a real personal perspective.

unorganized said...

I read the fly lady book probably about 15 years ago. It saved me from having a total mental meltdown. Now I am back 15 years later and I remember that having a sparkling clean kitchen sink or toilet and bedroom does wonders for the soul. It gives you more motivation and energy to do more. Right now I am in a rut and have pulled out my flylady book. she is great!