Blog by Beebe Cline

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How to Build Your Housekeeping Muscle

A few months ago I was listening to a story on the radio about the increase in private lending. The subject of the interview was a man who, over the years, has lent thousands and thousands of dollars in small amounts to family, friends and acquaintances. Some of the borrowers have availed themselves of his help repeatedly. The interviewer asked the lender if he looked down on the repeat borrowers, if he found himself wondering why these people couldn't get their act together.

"The way I look at it is, I'm just really good at saving money," the lender said, and I was astonished. In that moment I realized I judged the way a person handles money as a character issue rather than a skill, as this man was suggesting. This may seem to be a subtle distinction, but it's actually profound. When we define things in terms of character, it's not about what we can or cannot do, but who we are. It's not whether or not I'm any good with money but if I'm a good person, period. I don't think I'm the only one who does this, and I'd assert that we use this same standard to judge physical fitness and personal organization as well.

When we consider things in terms of natural ability and inclination, it's easier to be dispassionate. We don't get so tied up in our feelings of moral inferiority and are less likely to despair. This may sound like making excuses, but it's actually being ruthlessly honest. "Why can't I do this?" you may wonder. "What's wrong with me?" You're just not very good at it, is
the simple answer. The good news is, though, you can get better.
Full disclosure: My table is long and beautiful like this one but never this empty — for now.

5. Keep going. Once you have established a habit, decide what you want to do next. Again, keep it manageable. Slow and steady wins the race and makes positive changes permanent ones. In my house the kitchen routine is established and our living room is never more than a couple minutes from being tidy, so I'm working on keeping our bathrooms perpetually clean. Next up are the mudroom and the north end of my long harvest table.

6. Celebrate what is. It's important to recognize the progress you've made. Pay attention and notice when you're beginning to do things without thinking, when it's no big deal. Simply acknowledging change and growth will give you energy to continue in the habits you've made and to continue making new ones