Brick by Brick | Need help clearing up? Call the Fly Lady

Hello, my name is Stephanie and my house is really messy. There, I’ve said it, or rather written it – that’s got to be worth a round of applause and a hug. But I don’t think there is a 12-step program for people like me.

Perhaps I’m oversensitive because I just had a visit from my mother-in-law who has ganged up with my mother to ask questions like: “Is there a reason why this is here?” when pointing at baskets of laundry abandoned in the middle of the kitchen floor. I don’t think there’s a reason for anything in my house.

The feng shui experiment
A few years ago back in Scotland, I engaged the services of a feng shui master. He was far too expensive for us, but I got the session for free by agreeing to allow my house to be the exam assignment for students of a feng shui school who swarmed around with weird compasses.

Just as the grand master himself turned up, our elderly cat went into a fearsome fit of retching and I wound up mopping up regurgitated furballs while the master walked thoughtfully from room to room with his entourage of ladies.

Finally he finished his careful deliberations and looked me in the eye. I held my breath.

Would he tell me to move house, paint everything purple, install a water feature?

“You need to tidy up,” he said sagely.

Enter the Fly Lady
Five years have gone by since then and we have made some progress. Moving house helped (we must have thrown away two or three skips of stuff), but still, the order I crave eludes me. Where am I going wrong?

In my despair I turn, as usual, to Google, typing in “How to tidy your house”, and that’s when I am introduced to Fly Lady. Fly Lady is a self-taught cleaning expert who sends motivational emails to the domestically challenged. I sign up.

According to Fly Lady, it’s all about creating good habits. I begin with the baby steps program in which the first good habit is getting dressed. I’m already quite a success at that, I think smugly.

However Fly Lady insists you aren’t dressed until you have laced up your shoes and I don’t have any. A photo of Fly Lady confirms that she’s one of those nice American ladies who wear white trainers all the time.

I don’t wear trainers as I’ve heard they can lead to sporting activity. As for wearing shoes inside, they rather din that out of you in Denmark. Nevertheless, I try and believe that Fly Lady can help me.

Shining sinks
“It all starts with a shining sink,” she insists. I click on the helpful YouTube link that comes with this statement. What follows is a quite astonishing series of photos of people’s sinks before and after with an evangelical soundtrack about clinging to hope.

I can’t work out if they’re serious or not and I’m so mesmerised I forget I am supposed to be cleaning my sink.

In the days that followed, Fly Lady contacted me every few hours offering advice and trying to flog me cleaning stuff, and I did pick up a few useful tips from her.

Then one day when tidying the living room – our ‘zone of the week’ – I find an old letter in between some books.

It was written to me as a teenager more than 20 years ago by someone called Paul, who beseeches me to write back and say whether I’m serious about him, because if I am he will leave Baz.

I’m stunned. I have no idea who these people are. I go to my computer wondering if Fly Lady covers this.

As I type her web address I can’t help but notice the personalised content Google has selected for me – there in the side bar is a discreet advert for a private psychiatric hospital just outside Copenhagen.

I wonder if they have shiny sinks?