It was a hot summer day. I knew we needed to leave the house at exactly 3:30 pm if I wanted them to get the full benefit of their swim class, but my kids were still dead asleep taking their midday nap. With two kids in tow, being ten minutes late seemed like an acceptable time frame to get away with without the help of my husband. But now it was 3:40 and not only were my kids still sleeping, I still couldn’t find my swimsuit, the car keys, or their special sippy cups.
“Why is my house such a disaster?!” I kept asking myself while frantically looking for everything. “I am such a mess.” “If I was more organized I’d be able to find these things.” “What’s the point? Even if I do find these things we’ll be so late!” “Ugh, I’m such a crappy mom. I can’t even make it to swim class on time.”
The truth is I’ve always struggled with being clean even before kids. They only add to the problem now. Feelings of shame, guilt, and anxiety flooded my body the way embarrassment does when you get on a stage to speak.I needed, no, I wanted to change. So I wrote my plan . I even bought the famous “The Life changing art of tidying up” by Marie Kondo. I took out a post it and a sharpie to write the following words, “I’m working on becoming a cleaner person.” Proudly, I stuck it on the fridge so I’d be able to see it every day. I wanted to retrain my brain to think this thought instead of all the ones that led me to despair.
Room by room, I spent months deciding which things from the list no longer brought me joy. This went on for several months. My husband even helped me sort through some of the worst messes when I wanted to quit. I finally felt like I was making progress. But then one day, as I tried to get through my filthy garage with groceries in both hands I froze. I looked at the mess and thought “How is it possible that I’ve gotten rid of so much and yet can’t walk through!?” My heart sank. I wanted to scream and toss everything in the trash once and for all but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
What’s worse is that I was wasting time and energy doing this instead of the things I really wanted to work on. There were weekends we wasted as a family just cleaning. So one day, I reached out for help. I simply surrendered. I decided that enough was enough. She asked me this question after I’d confessed how much I’ve been suffering from having such a messy home.
“What does future Dee-Dee without a cluttered house tell you?” “ Ask her what she started on.” “What does she do?”
To which I replied, “An organized and clean deedee would tell me that she’s doing more fun things with her kids like learning how to garden, or going on more fun outdoor hikes. She would tell me she feels relaxed, proud, and thankful that she’s not letting messes pile up anymore. She feels in control of her home and knows where everything is. It gives her peace and clarity. Her husband trusts her when she says ‘It’s next to…under that thing.’ She would start with the place she’s been avoiding: the kitchen. She will clean up after herself no matter what.”
So that’s WHY I wanted to change. She told me that if I ever got discouraged that I simply re-read what I had just sent her. Since that day, I’ve been able to keep problem areas clean and clutter free. I no longer have just a reason but the why that propels me to take action each day to maintain it this way. It doesn’t require me to muster up enough courage to overhaul something I hate to do. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t enjoy cleaning. It’s not something I look forward to doing. This process didn’t help me discover some magically hidden motivation. Knowing my why has just helped me stay consistent no matter what life throws at me. Which means that my home stays relatively clean now even with two toddlers! In fact, I find that I have a better relationship with my 4 year old and my husband now because they both know where thing go and aren’t adding more to the mess.
The reason I’m telling you this story is to show you how powerful knowing your why can become. I know what my why is when it comes to feeding myself and my family healthy home cooked meals. Plus, it helps that I love it have become naturally good at it. Which is why initially it was difficult for me as a coach to understand how I could give someone all the right tools and instructions but not want to do it.
I now know that consistent behavior requires a compelling reason (your why) to not only start but to keep going.
Because saying “l want to lose 10 pounds” is easier to give up on than “ I want to avoid diabetic complications so I can see my kids get married.”