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Home Rule

Fond Farewell: It Is Time to Make Changes

July 16, 1987|BONNIE McCULLOUGH | McCullough, based in Colorado, is the author of five books on home management.

At this time, circumstances dictate that I discontinue writing my weekly column. I have written 179 essays on organizing a personal life. This is my last.

One of the concepts I have discussed in the past is the goal-setting process. Since you can't do everything, you must select what you will neglect. As I have charted my professional career and analyzed my goals as wife and mother, it's time for me to make some changes.

I started out as a volunteer teacher in the adult education program. My subject: getting organized. My motive: To help make life easier for other people.

My students requested that I put my lectures into a workbook. As I explored printing costs, I decided it would be better to get someone else to pay for it. The process of getting a publisher was an education in itself. St. Martin's Press published my first book, "Bonnie's Household Organizer" in 1980. While I was waiting for the first book to come out, my publisher asked me to prepare a workbook on money management, "Bonnie's Household Budget Book."

A Collaboration Followed

Not too long after, a friend, Sue Monson, and I collaborated on "401 Ways to Get Your Kids to Work at Home." Sue was a kindergarten teacher and a graduate of educational psychology. Since we both needed help getting our children to do their chores, we studied everything we could find and pulled from our own experiences to present this thesis. Writing a book and giving lectures on this subject was probably the worst possible thing I could do to influence my own children to work at home. If your mother wrote a book on how to motivate you to work, would you work?

A year ago, my last book was released, "Totally Organized." It pulls together the best of all the material I have written, including some of the newspaper columns. I have dedicated a great deal of time to spreading my message; I hope it has helped.

The reason I spend so much time helping people organize their home life comes out in my theme: "People are more important than things, but the order of things affects people."

My message is still the same. It is possible to get organized, and it will make life easier. It's hard to live in clutter and chaos; it's like driving in heavy rush-hour traffic all the time. There are two parts to being totally organized: first, setting up a program; second, applying the program. Every facet of home life has a beginning phase of organization, and then there is a progression of refinement. There are tremendous rewards to be reaped even in the beginning phases.

You can change. It is possible to rise above clutter and confusion, to create new habits and change. I did it. I had very poor, self-defeating work habits when I began homemaking. Those poor habits started to get in the way of the things I wanted to do for myself and my family. I decided that if I were going to be in the mothering business for another 20 years and would be cleaning the bathroom until the year 2032, I might as well learn to do it quickly and well. And I did. I even got so organized that we took two more children into our family.

There has also been time for education classes, for a mini-career, for arts and crafts, and for church and community service because I was able to get a handle on the routine tasks.

As I made transitions from one season of life to another, I used the same principles of order to meet new challenges. It helped to be organized when I had five children less than 10 years of age. I was glad the routine was second nature when those little ones grew up and I discovered that teen-agers can take as much time as babies. These ideas helped when I went back to school and when I launched my career. Now I am a different person living a different life, but the laws of organization and problem solving have served me well.

My house is never perfect--it usually rates 7.5. That's clean enough to allow us to do and be what we want without the clutter getting in the way. I would like a 9.5 house, but I don't want to spend that much time cleaning. Things like a school carnival or helping a child with a term paper seem more important. But there is a minimum level of order, and when the house falls below that mark, the mess gets in the way of progress and affects moods. Everyone has to decide according to needs. May you conquer the mundane things so that you can concentrate on doing and being whatever you choose.

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