Meal preparation. Washing dishes. Sweeping the floor. Flushing. Vacuuming. Arrangement of toys. Sort documents. Organization of objects. Handling notes. Washing.
These are all daily activities that every person is expected to perform in order to maintain the home in reasonable condition. What is reasonable? One that is pleasant to live in. One in which if you managed to pass a rag soaked in cleaning and polishing material, and all the laundry is folded in cupboards - you feel on top of the world. And if you're like me, raising toddlers and teenagers in this space, plus a cat singing hair, this reasonable is the top.
Because it's not easy to manage a career, children and life – and also to tick the house with routine. Even our Wonder Woman said in one interview that after a prestigious ceremony in which she was wrapped in stardust, she returned home only to find that her daughter had spilled hummus on the carpet.
Most people want to live in a clean environment. For some, it becomes a life mission. A special breed of people who love the smell of bleach on the morning. The stove is scrubbed after every cooking, even when nothing has been spilled on it. who change bedding excessively, daily. People who, let's face it, are a bit enviable, as long as they don't throw the kids out of the house on Friday afternoons to keep it clean.
Some of us have a weekly cleaning day, where we brush the angles behind the bathroom and vacuum under the couch. Others settle for a managed mess: there's something to wear, there's something to eat, and the rest of the house is just that. Nothing more, nothing less. Organized chaos.
Just for those who might want a spotless house that smells of detergent, but are actually struggling with the mess, K.C. Davis' book "I'm OK, The House Is Okay," was born, translated this year into Hebrew (Modan Publishing). A book that can alleviate messes or those who have trouble maintaining even basic cleanliness. People who need to understand that even an "ok" home is just fine.
K.C. Davis in her living room in Houston. "My ambition is to teach people how to live with the house as it is, functionally, without indulging in tidying," Photo: Julie Soefer
"My secret is that I overlap everything," K.C. confesses to me. A pretty cute approach to life, which Oprah Winfrey called "revolutionary." And when there is a revolutionary approach, I am immediately called upon to adopt. But after reading the first few pages, I became anxious about cleanliness and started dusting, sweeping and scrubbing. I manage to brake myself just before I get to clean up corners and remote areas. If I've been given a reading assignment—dealing with the clutter of the overlapping approach—there's no point in cleaning panels now.
Later, when I share with K.C. the initial impact of reading the book, she laughs apologetically. "Oh, that really wasn't the intention. My ambition is to teach people how to live with the house as it is, functionally, without indulging in tidying up. My motto is that we don't exist to serve the home, but the home exists to serve us."
"I didn't expect so many reactions to my videos. People told me, 'It's great to finally see a messy house like ours.' They were used to Instagram, where everything seemed sweet and clean, and suddenly they saw someone buried under clothes after laundry waiting to be folded."
She doesn't try to normalize the mess, but wants us to feel fine when there's laundry in the basket, dishes in the sink, and toys on the floor.
If you are one of those who get goosebumps just from reading the last sentence, it might be better to keep browsing, there are other excellent articles in the issue. If you've stayed, know that thanks to K.C., I've learned to sleep fine even if the laundry basket is full (but I get up early to get rid of it). I learned to sit down for coffee even before tidying up the living room (lie. I tidy up first and then get to coffee, but that's because one of the principles is that we deserve to sit in a pleasant environment).
What's more, our nice, functional home has a corner or two that fits Instagram. Minus the pile of newspapers placed in the basket in the corner of the living room and never shrinks.
And the rest is fine. Just ok.
Book. "I was surprised he caught",
Can't in the usual way
A Zoom call with K.C. is an experience in itself. She runs it in the middle of the day in the United States, with her young daughter wandering around looking for stickers strewn on the table. She doesn't hide from me the pages scattered on the floor, or the full sink in her kitchen. Not Instagram here. This is a cool psychotherapist with tattoos on her arm and a pleasant smile, who became a TikTok star after sharing some of her own methods of managing a functionally tidy home.
She is 36 years old, lives in Houston, USA, is married to Michael, a corporate lawyer, and is raising two daughters - a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old daughter. On top of that, cats hang out in the house, and recently she even adopted a puppy. She gave birth to her second daughter in February 2020, and we all remember what happened one month later. The external aid system she provided herself, in the form of friends and mothers who came to lend a hand, was interrupted by the coronavirus lockdowns. The food deliveries on order stopped, and she became depressed after giving birth. The house, accordingly, was in chaos.
Kitchen. "My secret is that I overlap everything," Photo: Julie Soefer
When her sister suggested that she download the TikTok app on her mobile because laughter is healthy, she realized that she could shed light on the "disaster" in which she lived - her home. In the past three years, she has amassed about 1.6 million followers, uploaded thousands of home videos in reasonable minus-plus condition, gave TED talks, and also published the book about the clean house, which starred for weeks on the Amazon bestseller list, and is still a great success.
"I've always been messy," she says. "When I was a kid it was very fine, I could live with my mess. But suddenly, from a home where only animals and I lived, we became a family with a two-year-old toddler, a new baby, two cats and a large amount of tasks created to maintain a normal life. I always got outside help - friendship, family, welcome food. But suddenly, because of the lockdowns, I couldn't get help from anyone. The mess gets bigger, harder and non-functional. I became depressed after giving birth. There were no clean clothes, because I couldn't keep up with the laundry, and I couldn't walk around the house pleasantly because it was messy.
"I realized I had to do something. I started a TikTok page and started sharing how I'm starting to organize my life. I wasn't afraid to show the mess I have at home, and the fact that even after I tidy it up, it's messy, but functional.
"I didn't expect so many people to comment on my videos. I've gotten amazing responses from people saying, 'It's great to finally see a messy house like ours,' and that they've finally learned how to manage the mess and get advice on basic cleanliness. People were used to Instagram, where everything seemed sweet and clean, and suddenly on TikTok they saw that everyone was buried under clothes after washing waiting to be folded.
"The therapist inside me woke up and I started making motivational videos. I said I knew it was hard, but there was no shame and nothing wrong with a mess, and you could find ways to maintain functional order. I felt like I was motivating both myself and others."
In one of her TikTok videos. The closet system in rooms is unnecessary, photo: from TikTok
On TikTok, as on TikTok, not everyone has been praising. But K.C. was unfazed by commenters who called her lazy and scolded her for the Five Things method (which we'll get to later), which they claimed perpetuated the mess. "There were people who didn't understand why I couldn't do things the 'normal' way, but for each of them there were ten who thanked me. I knew that I couldn't be organized and organized, but could maintain functional order, and that I should love myself for that, because that's who I am – and there's a lot more like me."
For years, she laughs, she has tried different methods for tidying and cleaning the house, such as the Marie Kondo method (meticulously arranging and organizing things in the house) and the 10-minute method (in which you set a 10-minute clock every day and clean something in the house). But it wasn't until years later that she realized that she was just a messy person, and needed to treat herself as such.
"Those who post videos where everything is clean and organized are people who are generally organized and organized. I realized that I didn't need to change myself, but to find the way that suited me to maintain a functional home. I realized that if I tried a new routine, and after three days I didn't stick to it, I didn't have to be angry with myself but to understand that this was not the method for me.
"When a person looks at his messy home, he hates himself. But this does not give an incentive to do laundry. When there is acceptance and compassion, you understand that as long as there is something to wear it is fine, even if the basket is still full. After all, a lot of people are lagging behind. It's a bottomless pit."
"At the age of 16, I was a patient in a drug rehabilitation facility, and then I became a therapist. It was during this period that I realized that it was possible to shift guidelines from detox to cleaning. There is a certain shame in addiction, and people felt that because they were addicted they were 'bad'. Part of my job was to tell them that they are not failures, nor bad people, but suffer from a disorder that makes them addicted.
"When they let go of the guilt, they did better in the withdrawal process. I think that's where I took the lesson of letting go of guilt and self-criticism—and each time finding a method that works for you to move forward.
"After all, when a person looks at a messy house and wants it to be different, he hates himself. But hating yourself does not give an incentive to do laundry. When you have acceptance and compassion, you realize that as long as you have something to wear it's okay even if the laundry basket is still full and you're behind on laundry. After all, a lot of people end up lagging behind on laundry. It's a bottomless pit."
People have invented quite a few methods, for example cleaning a little each day, or a different small area every day. Doesn't that lead to an addiction to cleanliness?
"Methods like the 10-minute system are good for some people, but not for me. I always say you don't have to commit to big things, because the first day you don't do it, you'll feel wrong. It's okay to make habits, but maybe start with a small list that needs to be done every day, knowing that even if you haven't done all the things on the list, it's not too bad. If you haven't swept the house you can only do this thing in the kitchen, and it's functional because the kitchen will be usable. If you don't have 10 minutes today, arrange something for a minute, and that would be great."
Doesn't the realization that I'm a messy person conflict, in fact, with the need to clean all the time?
"I don't think so. When I say it's okay to be messy, the messy person understands that he's not a bad person. My goal is for the reader to be able to organize their stuff functionally, and understand that everyone deserves to have a pleasant time in their own home, in any way that works for them.
"So for some people it's appropriate, and for some it's not. Some people are so good at cleaning, and they clean all day, but then they don't rest and don't enjoy the house. So where's the functional part? Everyone loves a clean home, but there are chapters in our lives when we are only able to achieve basic cleanliness, when it should be sanitary and safe. The visibility of your home does not make you a better parent or citizen. It's not a reflection of the person you are.
From the book, about the items that accumulate in "donation bags" at home: "Imagine my eyes looking straight at you, take a deep breath and listen: It's okay, friends, throw it away. I'm not against donations, I'm just in favor of a realistic and accessible view. Our mission today is to return to functioning."
"My motto is that the house is there to allow you to live – even when not everything is ticked by the book. For me, you don't have to tick. There are clean dishes to eat in, there are clean clothes to wear, there is a clean area to play with the children or play sports, so the house is relatively organized, it feels good and everything is fine. And it will continue to be okay even when a new baby is born and there is no energy to do anything, or when the child is sick, or when you go through something at work and you don't always feel like ticking the house.
"The main question I always ask is: Does it work for you? If you like an insanely clean house and love cleaning and you have the time and energy for it - this is great. But if you don't have the strength and you don't enjoy the result, maybe it's not necessary to polish the house every day."
With laundry to fold. An entire chapter is devoted to the subject, photo: Julie Soefer
K.C. never thought the book would become a hit. The first edition, she says with a sheepish smile, was self-funded. "I didn't know it would catch on so hard, but the reactions are amazing. After all, I also wrote the book not as an exact guide, but gave in it ideas that everyone can find in it what works for him. And that's really what I believe in."
There will always be socks and a lanyard
"Cleaning is an ongoing task made up of hundreds of small skills that must be done every day at the right time and manner to get on with life," K.C. writes, and she's not wrong. A stranger will not realize how much thought is wasted on the timing of having to operate a washing machine, so that it finishes in time to transfer it to the dryer, or hang its part in the rack outside, on which hang more clothes from the previous wash, and even from the one before it.
כביסה, בגדול, היא חור שחור שבולע אליו משאבים אינסופיים. ללבוש, לכבס, לקפל, לתלות, וחוזר חלילה. זה טקס מייאש. אצלנו, למשל, הילדים זורקים לפעמים בגד לכביסה אחרי שהוא סתם נח על הרצפה ושכחו ללבוש אותו. סל הכביסה לעולם לא ריק, וגם כשהוא כמעט מתרוקן תמיד יהיו בו גרביים ושרוך של חלוק מגבת.
פרק שלם בספר מוקדש לכביסה. קיי־סי מעלה תהיות כמו האם באמת חייבים לקפל את כל הכביסה? והאם חייבים לסדר אותה בארונות? הפתרונות שהיא מציעה פשוטים מאוד: לכבס ביום קבוע ולא כשהסל מתמלא. כך לא מרגישים רע כשהסל מלא. הוא תמיד מלא, ותמיד יהיה יום בשבוע שהוא יום כביסה.
"כל אחד אוהב בית נקי, אבל יש פרקים בחיינו שבהם אנחנו מסוגלים להגיע רק לניקיון הבסיסי, כשזה צריך להיות סניטרי ובטוח. הנראות של הבית שלך לא עושה אותך הורה טוב יותר או אזרח טוב יותר. זו לא השתקפות של האדם שאתה"
הארונות בחדרים, לשיטתה, מיותרים. ארון גדול בחדר הכביסה, אם יש לכם כזה כמובן, יפתור את בעיית ההתרוצצות בין החדרים כדי להניח לכל אחד מבני הבית כביסה נקייה בארון שלו. כך גם צמצום מלתחה, כיבוס מספר פריטים שיספיק לשבוע (המון) והכנסת הבגדים שלא באמת מלוכלכים, אבל גם לא באמת נקיים, בחזרה לארון.
"There's no reason to change the solution of the chair if it works for you," K.C. says, referring to this chair in the bedroom, which many simply spread clothes on for ventilation. "But from a practical perspective, you can put them back in the closet. So clothes have two places – the closet or the laundry basket."
K.C. has two young daughters – we have four children, two of whom are early teens. The amounts of laundry they produce are endless. I see it in the fold, when the pile of me and my loved one is very small compared to that of the children. Someone once taught me that laundry is life, and since then I haven't complained about the amount of laundry in the house.
Nonsense. I complain a lot, but I know it's great that we have clothes, and it's great that there is someone to wear them, and we all deserve clean clothes and an unfilled basket. The main solution I adopted for myself is that recently those who wear the clothes at home, besides my beloved and myself, have also taken turns folding laundry. K.C. calls it outsourcing, I call it "you're part of the house." Either way, we managed to become more efficient.
In the matter of washing the dishes, there is still room for improvement. It might be a shock, but we don't have a dishwasher, so dishes in the sink are commonplace. It's a sign that you live here. Quite a few times I found myself washing all the dishes in the sink too early in the morning, so I could drink the coffee in the cup I love. By the way, usually the person in charge of the dishes is the one who is responsible for cooking. And in our house it's not me. But each of us grabs a scotch even without the other asking. It just seems logical to us that when there are dishes in the sink they need to be washed to make us all comfortable.
KC suggests that those who wash dishes by hand organize the dishes in the sink before washing, and wash them by type, so that each time we finish a certain type of dishes we can rest. For dishwasher owners, she also suggests placing a dish-drying rack where you can put the dirty dishes while the dishwasher is working, and then not depend on emptying the dishwasher.
In the absence of such a magic machine, the tools are a very central motif in the house. On K.C.'s advice, I go with a "generosity toward my future self." So lately in the evening I've been standing up to wash the dishes (or outsourcing one of the kids). It's not that I really have the energy to wash. It's not like the sink will stay tidy in the morning. After all, you have to cut, bind and prepare a lot of coffee with all the spoons in the drawer. But one sentence I memorize in my head: "We deserve to get up and see a clean sink."
This is also why I tidy up the room and living room before leaving the house. Because we deserve to return to a tidy house, and not one that needs to be sorted out as soon as we enter. It doesn't matter that a moment after the games will already be scattered in the living room.
Chaos on the floor
One of the main things that greatly affects the home is order. Place objects exactly in place, turn a moment after, don't move from task to task with the products scattered around the house. These rules work beautifully when it comes to the living room. But in the childhood room - less.
Into this messy space enters the Five Things method. The logic is simple: in every messy room there are five focal points: garbage, dirty dishes, laundry, objects that are not placed in place and objects that have no place. Five things that make the word mess such that it can be dismantled and rearranged.
On K.C.'s advice, I go for a "generosity to my future self" approach, and in the evenings I wash the dishes (or outsource one of the kids). It's not that I really have the energy to wash, but one sentence of hers ran through my head: "We deserve to get up and see a clean sink."
According to the K.C. method, you have to collect the trash and put it in a bag, but still don't go and throw the bag in the trash. In the second stage, you need to collect the dirty dishes, place them in the sink and not wash. That too will wait, because we are now focusing on tidying up the room.
The sequel can already be understood on its own. The dirty or doubtful clothes are thrown into the laundry basket, the pitchforks that have a place are organized in one corner, and in another corner the ones that have no room. "Now you have a pile of things that don't have a designated place. Now that space is free, it will be easier to deal with this category."
I look at the girls' room. A cute room with a light blue wall and a designer bunk bed, which the girls filled with stickers of fairies, cute cats and princesses. On the floor is a small chaos that requires massive treatment. Depending on the settings, the garbage goes to the bag, one spoonful left there goes back to the sink, and the clothes go to the laundry basket. I'm pretty sure there are clothes there that don't even exceed the little one anymore, but we'll deal with that later. The first three steps really categorize the mess, and the room begins to take shape.
But the main challenge is the objects. There are shoes here that some of them no longer wear, Playmobil parts that have been scattered from here to there, board games that have long had to be passed on. I place them all in the pile of "things that have no place," but neatly. In the corner, which is still busy and disorganized. Another day, hopefully, I'll get to sort it out, too.
The next step, and perhaps the most critical for me, is what to do with objects that we have nothing to do with. I search for the relevant chapter in the book, and I am magnetized.
"Listen carefully," begins the chapter on contributions in the book, perhaps the chapter that Ali has had the most impact on. "Imagine my palms cupping your face and my eyes looking straight at you. Take a deep breath, and listen to what I'm saying. "It's okay, friends, throw it away."
I read the sentence and look at a large bag with clothes my son took out of the closet. She's been here for two months, waiting for a donation. Next to her, after respect, lies the bag of the eldest from first grade. She's already in fourth grade. She wanted a new one at the last minute, on the very last day of August, when the associations that collected files were already in order. Also the little one, who began her first steps in studies. On the side is a large bag with "Happy Birthday" balloons that the air refuses to leave out. We inflated them for my 4-year-old. She celebrated at the end of July, and now September.
I look at the pile and actually imagine K.C. grabbing me and shaking my head—throw it away. "I'm not against donations, I'm just in favor of a realistic and accessible view. Our mission today is to return to functioning," she explains. It's important to be ecological, it's important to contribute to others, but it's also important to maintain our mental health, and right now these bags stuck in the room aren't contributing to anyone.
Then the words echo in my head: "Throw it away."
I text a therapist I know from a boarding school in town. I hand over clothes to her whenever someone in the house clears things out of the closet. "Thank you very much, but right now we already have enough clothes and bags," she replies pleasantly. My anxiety begins to grow, and I send a message to the neighborhood group with a smiley: "To be delivered to those who haven't organized for school yet, or are celebrating a birthday." In the comments - crickets.
I still have a big bag with clothes, very good, and a schoolbag, very good, that I really don't need at home, and balloons that no one needs. I read the words "throw it away" again. They are jarring and painful for me. I take a breath and transfer the equipment to the car.
It's very likely that this bag will sit there until I find someone to give it to. It is likely that after two months in the car I will place her at a donation center in the city. They used to have such a box, for leaving clothing. Today they ask to leave during opening hours, which makes the donation cumbersome.
"You can't save the rainforest when you're depressed," K.C. continues, but the desire to recycle and be green and good is stronger than we are. Just this week, when all summers were over, I threw away two huge bags of egg cartons that I had placed on the balcony to make creations with the girls (we did. Quite a bit. But also stayed. Quite a bit).
I have objects that really need to be thrown away, and I know my other half will take care of them. Thank goodness, I have a functional husband. Once I put an old, disassembled children's scooter on the balcony. The chassis is on one side, and on the other side is the wheel that has broken down and is in the park, and next to it are the screws that we found next to the wheel that flew. The kind of thing that if you don't fix it now, they'll wait weeks and sometimes months.
I asked him that if we didn't get to take care of the scooter within a week, let him make it disappear. Like in the mafia, no questions asked. A week passed, I bought a new one, and to this day I don't know what happened to the old one. Just know that on the balcony he is no longer there.
"Don't drop glass balls"
In all the mess of life, there are those whose lifestyle is dictated by cleanliness, and there are those who live – and clean up along the way. KC recommends identifying what our glass balls are. The ones that if they fall in the juggling of life they will shatter to pieces and cause us to drop the plastic balls as well.
"Nutrition, caring for children and pets, taking your medication and taking care of your mental health are all examples of glass balls. Dropping them can have devastating consequences, and will likely cause you to drop all the other bullets. Recycling, veganism and shopping are your plastic balls. These may be important things, but they won't crush your life if you drop it."
Everyone can choose for himself which are his plastic balls and which are the glass balls. Just remember that if a glass ball shatters, someone has to clean up the whole mess, and in order to sweep it you need a whole Torah.
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