FlyLady group seeks to bring order to household chaos

March 04, 2003

"Are YOU living in CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome) like Franny in the pink sweats?" asks the FlyLady Web site.

No mincing words here. Marla Cilley's site,, which offers housecleaning and life-altering tips for overstressed, disorganized Sidetracked Home Executives (SHEs), is nothing if not straightforward.

"Since starting this group, I have continually harped on putting your shoes on your feet each morning," reads a page titled "Getting Dressed to the Shoes" from the Transylvania County (N.C.) commissioner's site. She writes that "you act different when you have ... shoes on. You are more professional. ... Many rewards are waiting. Now put those shoes on."

Those who live in "CHAOS" may feel they are alone, but FlyLady groups are thriving all over the country. In Howard County, more than 45 women and two children attended Saturday's meeting celebrating National FLY Fest Day at Borders Books & Music at Columbia Crossing, said Patricia Fisher of Wilde Lake, who is e-mail list moderator for the local group.

"I'm telling you, we had a hoot of a time. It's like soul spirits. It was like we came together and it was as if we knew each other intimately," she said.

The children brought "control journals," which contain checklists for daily and weekly routines, or step-by-step directions for clearing a "zone" of the house. Current projects for adults include reducing collective credit card debt this month by $2.7 million: Members are asked to pay at least $16 more than the minimum payment on each of their cards.

Those who join the group get as many as 12 daily e-mails strongly "encouraging" them to complete tasks. Members can e-mail requests for guidance or validation of accomplishments.

"The thing that FlyLady says is, you're never behind; just jump in where you are. And the other thing is, [a] house worked on imperfectly still blesses your family. I just repeat it to myself," said Ann Hopson of Ellicott City, who attended the meeting. "The whole thing is a skill. Some people can sing on tune naturally and some people can't. Some people can be taught to sing on tune. This is what I find, that I'm learning to sing."

The system of organizational strategies is based on the book Sidetracked Home Executives: From Pigpen to Paradise by Pam Young and Peggy Jones. But the FlyLady Web site and local groups offer a blend of spiritual content, validation, toughness, humor and group support, members said.

"It's like that teen-age girl who was told to pick up your room, and there's some part of resistance that might linger there in many of us. We have to work through that piece, because FLYing is like `finally loving yourself.' So dealing with my rebel is like turning it around and saying, `Does this serve me to not make my home a joy?'" Fisher said.

Members also get together for coffee, lunch or tea.

"And everybody can talk about how they're doing and where it gets hard," she added.

"We think everyone else is born organized, because when we go to their house, we're not looking in the closet or their laundry baskets or where they stash stuff. ... But you know, ... when we have situations where we don't know where to go for help, we feel very alone. The reality is we aren't," she said.

Information: http://groups. Maryland-HowardCounty/.

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