5 Reasons Why FlyLady Doesn’t Cut It For Me

When I first started writing about productivity — back when dinosaurs roamed the earth — someone sent me the link for FlyLady, tell me it was like the woman’s version of ‘Getting Things Done.’ I wouldn’t describe it as such, although it does seem to be the main approach to productivity geared towards women. And, before I really launch into my problems with the system, I should say that I’ve met several women over the years who have found FlyLady to be the solution to all their problems. I have no doubts that FlyLady is a good fit for many women — she’s just not right for me.

  1. More to Do: If you sign up for the FlyLady emails and read through her advice, you’ll quickly find that everything is geared towards getting you to do things the FlyLady way. I see the benefit — the system builds habits and generally helps you create a system to do things if you follow along. But it also requires you to do the work required by the system (such as ‘shining your sink’ each night) on top of what you already know you need to get done. If you’ve got other irons in the fire, you can get overwhelmed very quickly.
  2. Information Overload: On an average day, you get about ten emails from the FlyLady system. The site actually recommends that you don’t worry about reading all of them! Personally, I don’t want anything in my inbox that I don’t actually need to deal with. Even deleting these emails got to be far too much effort for me in just a few days. The emails are meant to be encouraging and help you stay on track, but often wind up feeling like the site is just trying to sell you stuff.
  3. The Right Gear: On the surface, the FlyLady system costs nothing. But every other email seems to be something along the lines of a testimonial for the FlyLady calendar, the Rubba Scrubba or other FlyLady products. There are even promotions for people and products that FlyLady endorses, such as a workout routine and a singer who has somehow become part of the FLyLady community. Plenty of other productivity gurus go the same route — have you taken a look at David Allen’s website? — but the constant emails take it up a notch.
  4. The Word Choices: I will admit to being a snob, especially when it comes to how things are written. My honest response to much of the writing on the FlyLady website is to want to re-write it. The style of how she addresses readers and frames concepts just doesn’t appeal to me. That may seem like a little thing, but I’ve found that I can get more out of books and websites that I can re-read.
  5. The Job Description: When you read through the materials on the FLyLady website, it rapidly becomes obvious that it’s geared towards a certain sort of woman: stay-at-home moms. Yes, there’s many mentions of how to handle housework in the context of having to go to work, but the most important step in the whole system boils down to one piece of advice — just get dressed in the morning, down to putting on your shoes. I don’t know about your employer, but most of the companies I know expect employees to have already managed that much. Too much of the site’s advice simply boils down to how to take care of the house while simultaneously keeping kids in line. That’s definitely an area that many people need help with, but I’m not just worried about housework — I run my own business out of the front room.

It’s been a while since I tried out the FlyLady system — and I actually tried to adopt it three times. What can I say? No other productivity guru actually offers a way to get through the laundry. I have found parts of it that work for me. My utter reliance on a timer grew out of my first attempt at FlyLady. But overall, it’s still not the right system for me.

Image by Flickr user Melissa Ann Barrett


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21 Responses to “ 5 Reasons Why FlyLady Doesn’t Cut It For Me ”

  1. May I politely suggest our program, The Clutter Diet®? We do charge for our service but we are providing unlimited personal access to Certified Professional Organizers® for about the price of a pizza per month. People can upload photos of cluttered spaces and we consult and support them in our message boards as much as they want. And our members control exactly how many reminder emails they get, because we have a reminder system they they set up for themselves. We have a weekly “menu” plan of projects that keep our members on track to organize the house over a year and help them lose the Clutter-Pounds from their homes. :)

    I hope it’s okay to write about the program here in your comments but I really want people to know we are here if the Flylady did not work for them.

    All my best,
    Lorie Marrero
    Creator of ClutterDiet.com
    Author of The Clutter Diet: The Skinny on Organizing Your Home and Taking Control of Your Life

  2. Nikki says:

    The FlyLady system is certainly not for everyone and she has never said that it is. It is the only system that has allowed me to work less and live/love more. It has taught me life is about progress, not perfection. I know what really matters is time spent with my family, and my routines and timer have helped me in so many areas of my life. I am truly at peace, and it is because of The FLyLady system. It’s not just my house. I’m so glad you found something that works for you. That is the goal of FlyLady, even if you don’t use her system, to find something that does work! To love yourself enough to realize you are valuable and to share the ways she has learned to get things done quicker and more efficiently. I never spend my entire weekend anymore cleaning! I just do it a little at a time every day. You can also chose to receive only one email a day. You don’t have to get every email she sends. The true beauty of FlyLady is that she is the most loving person in the world and it is for real. This is not a job for her. She doesn’t call herself a guru. She loves us and this is her mission in life. It’s a beautiful life when you find what works. I am so grateful to The FlyLady and her system.

  3. Dinah says:

    Hi Thursday,

    Yes, personal productivity and sense of well-being are all about what works for *you*. That’s something all of us writing on the topic can agree on, I think.

    So much of our success with transforming our lives is related to motivation and that is just something you can’t offer in one-size-fits-all. Finding that right voice and right tempo is critical when seeking sources of inspiration.

    Someone who wants a framework will likely gravitate more towards, for example, David Allen’s Getting Things Done or the holiday aspect of my Discardia. Another who is seeking specific, actionable steps may be drawn toward the specific to-do’s from someone like FlyLady or Julie Morgenstern or to my less philosophical tweetings. :)

    You called out some great specific aspects to consider when seeking an inspiring voice:
    - Do I want to be fed mostly tasks or concepts? (Actions vs. Framework)
    - How often do I want to be communicated with? (Signal vs. Noise)
    - How tolerant am I of marketing? (Something for the Toolbox vs. Sounding Like a Tool)
    - What writing style gets me into motion? (Sweet vs. Savory)
    - Does this advice match my lifestyle? (Home & Kids vs. Work & Web, usually)

    In general, my experience has been that everyone has something to teach you. Most often it’s a specific technique or philosophy – like your getting the timer habit under your skin – but sometimes it’s just a clearer understanding of your individual answer to the questions above. Either way, it’s useful.

    I use the four-times-a-year holiday of Discardia as a framework into which I can bring in the other useful approaches I discover according to my current goals and energy. Just as with all other aspects of my life – from what I own to who I see myself as – what works best for me, what makes me feel most like I’m living an awesome life, changes over time. Rolling with those changes – ever in the direction of better and more true to me – is what any system of productivity needs to accommodate.

    cheers,
    Dinah

  4. Dana says:

    You might be interested to know (if you didn’t already) that the FlyLady system is a cyber-version of the older Sidetracked Home Executives housekeeping system. I am not going to get into explicit detail here because I don’t want to get sued (not likely but you never know), but basically it’s a chores list made into a tickler file. I like that a LOT more than FlyLady’s thing because *I* get to choose what chores I will do in what order. I simply don’t have my house arranged the way she’s got her chores broken up by week and it makes my OCD crazy. (OK, I haven’t actually been diagnosed with that, but I have some of the traits. Weird, since I also have a messy house.)

    So you basically write down one chore on each 3×5 card, file them a certain way, then go through them one at a time. It’s flexible too because if you just can’t do a certain chore on one day you can move the card to the next day, or the next time the chore’s scheduled, and open up some room to do something else.

    And yeah, even an employed-outside-the-home mom can get something useful out of it. You can schedule anything with it, not just household chores. For a one-off task that you’ll never do again, for instance, they don’t mention this in the book but I figured it out myself, you could get an index card-sized piece of scrap paper and just write it on that and stick it in the file where it’s supposed to go. Get done with the job and bam, just throw the paper away.

    I found my copy of an old edition of the SHE book at a thrift shop. I bet bookstores are still selling them used, too–you could look at Amazon, if you just want to see what it’s about. My only real problem with it is not sticking with it but that’s me, not an issue with the system. For a while I was sticking to it almost religiously and it made a huge difference in my sanity level.

  5. Terry says:

    Marla Cilley has helped a LOT of people through the years out of pure human kindness. She is quick to give credit to those who inspire her (I’m thinking of Pam & Peggy, The ??Messy?? Sisters or something like that) or contribute to her program. Her writing may not always be palatable to those P.O.E.M.’s (Garrison Keillor’s Profession Organization of English Majors) of the world whose toes curl up when encountering grammatical errors and the like, but in the scheme of things–Marla is one h*ll of a woman who has done a great service to millions of women. We should all strive to live a life as meaningful as hers. BTW, if FL doesn’t work for you–try something else, for pity’s sake!! Reminder folks–it’s a free country (or at least it’s free from FLYLADY. We’re all here to live and learn. Take what you can use and keep searching if it’s not perfect for you. (While you’re poking around on the FL website, read some of the stuff about perfectionism. It might just be what has landed all of us in the situation where we’re looking for solutions to our disorganized lives.)

  6. MissKrin says:

    I also tried the FlyLady system for a while, and, like you, stopped. For very similar reasons. The volume of email was overwhelming, and in a very busy life I just couldn’t keep up with the rigidity of a different room each day, AND hot spots, AND shining my sink.

    Some thoughts:

    It was really useful when I was depressed and my homelife was a shambles and I just needed to control something, and start to feel that something was shiny in my life.

    Many of us are not taught about effective housecleaning, but want to be houseproud. FlyLady does provide a structure for this while you are learning what needs to be done, and then developing your own style.

    Then I think some of us move on to the next stage. Editing the system and taking what we need. The core idea of FlyLady is that you should do some things on a regular basis, and for a set time period and then allow yourself to not worry about it – reducing the overwhelm of an entire house. The two tools I took away from the system was the use of an egg-timer (especially when I was studying, it was a good balance of physical and mental work), and the concept of hotspots.

    Overall it’s a good starting place, it teaches good basic skills in an encouraging way, but then, as with all productivity systems, we should take the parts that work for us and not worry about the rest.

  7. Pauline says:

    I can agree with the comments made but feel I should make my own statment.

    FlyLady would be the very first to tell you that her program isn’t for everyone. She has never claimed that it was. The most important thing to remember is that FlyLady is just an approach to a problem. It is not necessarily the answer….well, at least not for everyone.

    From personal experience I can say that I have benefited from Marla’s approach. I had become too much of a perfectionist in my housework and in my life. FlyLady opened my eyes to my own self-defeating ways. By using her routines I was oddly encouraged by my seemingly minimal succuss. Her philosophy allowed me to step back and really see what I had become. The minor successes that I make through FlyLady’s gentle tutoring have shown me that perfection can wait and that I am a capable person. While it may seem simple to some, those of us who struggle with self-esteem issues need all the successes we can muster.

    FlyLady’s routines are just suggestions to help you get back on track. Most of us were on track at one time or another but Life got in the way and we faltered. Without FlyLady’s help some of us would have never thought we could actually catch up.

    As for the emails….well, one of FlyLady’s first instructions is that you don’t have to read them. She actually suggests that you don’t for the first few days just so you don’t feel overwhelmed. And you really don’t HAVE to read them. You don’t lose points or anything if you ignore them. She sends the emails to encourage you with testimonies and what she calls her ‘morning musing’. Some people need this, others don’t. I have discarded most of mine but I do keep a few that inspire me, speak to my heart or just plain make me laugh. Marla is simple and down-to-earth. She doesn’t put on any airs. She is your cheerleader, always in your corner…even when you fall. Her motto is: You are not behind! I don’t want you to try to catch up; I just want you to jump in where we are. O.K.? These are much needed words to the frazzled person who feels they will never get there.

    As for Rubba-Scrubba and other items…have you ever TRIED one? They are so totally awesome! She sells products that make my job easier and they help me ‘go green’.

    While FlyLady isn’t for everyone she is definitely a great source of help and inspiration. She is open and honest with you about her past, her struggles and her life. She has helped a lot of people and hasn’t expected anything in return.

    I imagine that one day I too will outgrow my need for FlyLady but until then she is a welcome addition to my email box and my life. And when I do move on, I know that I will miss her.

    While FlyLady may not meet everyone’s needs, or expectations, she is a blessing to those she does help.

  8. Jamie says:

    I am currently trying very hard to use the FL system. One of the real problems I have is hearing her say, House work done incorrectly is still blessing the home. I know that nothing will ever be perfect. But I will not teach my kids, oh just do it incorrectly it will be okay. If my husband did his job halfway, he wouldn’t have a job. I am not good at making my points in writing. I know what I want to say, but….

    I don’t think things have to be done to perfection, but I do believe they should be done well.

    I have heard her say that anyone can follow her system. I have read it on her site. So yes she does say it, and she is adamant about it.
    I also find her to be very blunt sometimes, recently to a poster about a straw, that I felt was way out of line.

    I don’t mind the emails, but I am so tired of her trying to sell her stuff. I have some of her cleaning items, and they are junk.

    Overall she has some really good ideas.
    I think there are some people who jump on the band wagon and can follow anyone, and there are others who leaders and think outside of the box, and cannot follow the FL’s system.

    • Dianne L says:

      In the busy days that each of us has, teaching perfectionism will, most likely, resutl in anger. There is room for “good enough” in some things. What is missed is going to be caught the next time round. Flylady does not encourage teaching things wrongly, or doing the right things wrongly. What she is trying to do is to get people to pay attention to the basics and fill in the details as they progress with the program.

      I noticed that it all seemed to take an enourmous amount of time, but it soon became apparent that getting used to the tasks and turning them into routines meant less stress and lost time for me because I grew used to doing what was there to be done.

      My mother taught me how to clean when I was a kid. I did not lose any of those skills. What I lacked is a model to use because my life was vastly different from my mother’s. With time, I was able to produce the Control Journal specificly for my home. It probably would not work in anyone else’s home.

      Flylady’s goal is to help you build your routines so that there is less stress. Less stress allows you to breeze through what needs to be done quicker because less time is spent stressing and more time is spent getti8ng things done so that they are no longer a concern for “tommorrow”. I don’t have to think about what to do or when to do it because I have developed the routines that work in my home. Adaptability goes a long way in her “program”.

      Adapting her system to your home and your life is the key to making the program work. Nothing is written in stone. There is enough flexibility in the system so that making changes does not disrupt all of the previous effort. I like that!

      It is not for everyone, but it can be individualized. Try reading her book, Sink Reflections. There is no email with the book. It just explains the entire concept and its development into something that works for many, but not everyone. Get it? Good!

  9. Amy says:

    I also tried the FlyLady system for a while, and, like you, stopped. For very similar reasons. The volume of email was overwhelming, and in a very busy life I just couldn’t keep up with the rigidity of a different room each day, AND hot spots, AND shining my sink.

    Some thoughts:

    It was really useful when I was depressed and my homelife was a shambles and I just needed to control something, and start to feel that something was shiny in my life.

    Many of us are not taught about effective housecleaning, but want to be houseproud. FlyLady does provide a structure for this while you are learning what needs to be done, and then developing your own style.

    Then I think some of us move on to the next stage. Editing the system and taking what we need. The core idea of FlyLady is that you should do some things on a regular basis, and for a set time period and then allow yourself to not worry about it – reducing the overwhelm of an entire house. The two tools I took away from the system was the use of an egg-timer (especially when I was studying, it was a good balance of physical and mental work), and the concept of hotspots.

    Overall it’s a good starting place, it teaches good basic skills in an encouraging way, but then, as with all productivity systems, we should take the parts that work for us and not worry about the rest.

  10. MCM says:

    My system’s a bit like the one Dana described.

    I started by listing every single thing that ever needs cleaning in my house (this was scary!) I didn’t include things like washing-up or laundry as they get done as needed – but things like wiping marks off light-switches in each room, thoroughly dusting bookshelves, going through kitchen cupboards, all went on the list. Every task broken down into small units, eg, one cupboard = one task. Not many will take more than 15 mins – that is one tip from Flylady that helps a lot.

    Then I divided them into “Often”, “Now & Again”, and “Once Or Twice a Year”. Each task has a card which is filed in the appropriate section. When the task’s been done, the card goes to the back. Each day I try and do maybe 4 often tasks, 2 now & again tasks, and once a week one of the others. Nothing is tied to days of the week, they just get rotated as I do them, and if I don’t do anything at all one day, I just continue where I left off.

    Best thing I ever did though was get a second vacuum cleaner. One lives upstairs, one downstairs. So much easier to get motivated when you don’t have to heave the vac all over the house.

  11. Tickles says:

    I recently purchased 2 timers from the Flylady site and one of them doesnt work. I have sent 2 emails to the ordering section over the last 3 weeks and have still not received a reply. I really hate having to start a Paypal claim but what else can i do? Am very disappointed.

  12. lenka says:

    Insightful discussion, you all have legitimate frustrations. However, reading them motivated me to get up, clean up my kitchen and shine my sink Flylady-way! I’ve been up and down with Flylady’s household routines for 10 years now. My moment of clarity came when I realized that although the housework was up and down, my CHANGED ATTITUDE had become solid and stable. Before Flylady, I only cleaned in anger and vicious perfectionism, using shame as my primary motivator for myself and family. Now, I choose to play with my kids on the weekend instead of focusing on the house, I walk through mistakes with my kids with learned grace and patience. I do housework in increments, and am comfortable using “executive function” (stopping when I decide it best, and not being driven out of balance by a project.)

  13. stacie says:

    The reason Flylady sells so much on her website is that the purchases of the item keeps the website and information free for everyone. Purchasing something is not required to be a member of her site, either. Just thought I’d throw that in.

  14. grownup says:

    was just wondering if anyone else had anything to say about the flylady chatroom being ridiculously overseen by ‘guards’, who are quick to lay down the law but invisible for encouragement, clarity, or structure

  15. Sherri says:

    “I also find her to be very blunt sometimes, recently to a poster about a straw, that I felt was way out of line.”

    Agreed. I just signed up this past week, and there was one email a couple of days ago where she ripped into a commenter for daring to suggest that her website is cluttered and disorganized—actually a sentiment I agree with.

    It was just a real turn-off, and I doubt I’ll be sticking with this system for long.

  16. Carol says:

    I was also uncomfortable with the flylady system. I am sure she’s a lovely woman but, to me, the tone felt condescending and the structure was too rigid. After trying it time after time (just because I needed *something*), I happened upon a website called habithacker.com. It is a similar system from a different perspective. The author suggests from the beginning that you do it your own way and the only emails are the equivalent of FL’s Beginner Babysteps (except they go on for 90 days).

  17. Lara says:

    I enjoyed reading the whiners comments rolling out their complaints.

    I like FlyLady because she is sincere and competent. She has developed a system that works for many people. I can imagine other people besides myself having to do the tasks needed to keep a home organized and clean. This is a national need! Flylady is flexible and encourages people to modify her system, journals etc. to fit the particular needs of the individual. I like her products — over the years I have bought so many tools from big brand companies that haven’t been helpful always looking for the right tool for the job. The difference with FlyLady is that she explains what the products do, demonstrates new products with videos, and encourages flybabies to send in their information as to how to use the tools. Some of the housekeeping/organizing questions I have are probably incredulous to some; however, sooner or later a Flybaby will email in her praise of a tool and then explain in detail how the Flybaby has used the tool. Now, I really know how to clean a tile floor with the right tool(s) by reading a testimonial, looking at a FlyLady video etc. — the FlyLady information has made the task easier.

    I like the way that FlyLady encourages young mother/mothers of young children and families with older children including college students that email in their experiences and thanking FlyLady. I pass this information on to my family members with children. FlyLady gives a sense of direction.

    I say to the whiners, lighten up! You may find some tips from FlyLady and her readers including their testimonials and explanations of how they use the tools. The disenchanted who wrote these complaints may just may find that their homes, their lives, and their families’ lives will be improved.

    Thanks go to FlyLady for her wisdom and encouragement.

  18. Stephanie says:

    While I like the concepts in Flylady, I absolutely cannot stand all the ‘encouragement’. I don’t need so many useless emails that mostly drum up business for her products. I’m in the process of transferring some of those ideas to my Iphone apps (reminder system) and chucking the Flylady out the door. I can’t see how she thinks 10 emails a day helps anybody. It’s must more email clutter.

  19. Eileen says:

    If her main purpose is to sell her stuff she should come out and say so. I sometimes wonder if the letters endorsing all of her products are really written by public.

    The hidden soft sell agenda becomes annoying when I am trying to divide the wheat from the shaft. I almost find it insulting.

    Not to say I haven’t gotten help from the site but let’s call it what it is.

    I work long hours, too.

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