success is messy blog post


Ah, success. That elusive, mysterious magic that blesses the lucky ones. It’s what we’re all after, in one way or another. 

I love success. I’m sure everyone does, I can’t imagine anyone would ever prefer failure – but I what I mean is, I love the topic of success; what works, what doesn’t, and why some things work for some but not others. Much of my writing so far has been devoted to discovering the path to success in the domestic realm (for those of us who were not born with that knowledge). 

But regardless of the specific topic, success seems to follow a pattern, and it’s a pattern of…. mess and failure.

You may have seen the little cartoon that shows success as an arrow, going from A to B,  with a tangled mess of chaos in the middle. This is a pretty accurate reflection of my successes and it seems to be the norm. I recently heard a successful businesswoman explaining that any successful enterprise is an ongoing project involving much failure/feedback. It doesn’t head straight for success in a linear fashion, and then stop. It’s a continual process, a never-ending cycle of: action – review – course correct. And along the way there is a lot (a lot!) of trial and error.

So how does this translate to the home? 

I know there are many of us who are missing that domestic gene where keeping a beautiful home comes naturally. We may even write ourselves off as ‘not domestic’, or ‘no good at this stuff’. (I am sheepishly raising my hand to this.)  It may even be true. But, it doesn’t need to be the last word. If we are not good at something – we can get good at it.

If we are struggling within the home, it’s not because we are – and will always be – hopeless failures. It’s just that our current setup isn’t very successful. But success is a process of trail and error, so if our current systems don’t work, we can use that information to move on in a more successful direction. It may feel like failure, but it’s just the pre-success phase. In other words, it can be done.  

If it matters enough, we can do the work required to become good at it. We can make the effort to keep trying new techniques and methods until we find the ones that lead to success. Assuming you do want to find a healthy and harmonious way to take care of home and family, without angst/fury/despair etc…, then what?

Well, let’s say, when it comes to keeping a home, the results we get come from the following mix: 

• Attitude

• Beliefs

• Habits

• Methods & techniques

• Training

• Time management

• Energy levels

• Support 

(Note: Ability is not on the list. Ability is not (for the vast majority) an issue.)

There are quite a few elements in there. Any or all of these could be tweaked or improved upon in any number of ways. Experiment. Try on new ideas for size, test them out in your life lab. This is how you will find your way. (And isn’t anything more fun when you get to do it your way…?)

To discover alternative techniques, do a bit of research. There is a saying that ‘success leaves clues’ and the Mighty Internet has made it easier than ever to access proven pathways.  Find out the habits of the natural domestics, google what works. Just keep in mind that we are all wired differently. We can learn much from others who have paved a way, but it may not always be a perfect fit. The methods or habits that appeal to some and work for them may be maddening or depressing to you or me.  

For example, some people find repetitive chores quite therapeutic. This will naturally lead them to more success with those types of chores. (We are so much more likely to do the tasks we actually enjoy.) However, this wouldn’t work for me. Repetition makes me tense. I forget to focus on the task at hand because I am so busy casting around for an escape route. So for me, following the ways of a successful homemaker who finds repetition relaxing is not going to work.

This is where the trial and error bit comes in. We may need to experiment, but that’s no big deal. (And what’s the alternative? Accept defeat? Would that help? If you throw your hands up and say, “Right, that’s it! I’m no good at this.” would the housework stop accumulating? In my dreams, yes it would. But, so far, not in reality.) 

So, we need to keep trying new things until we find what works for us. Keep learning from others but don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t work for you. Just keep looking. 

It’s the same with diet and exercise.  There are thousands of books and DVDs out there telling you ‘the best way’ to shape up and slim down. These undoubtedly work for some, but no regime works for everyone. There is no one absolute ‘best way’, there is just the best way for you. That’s what we’re looking for. And have faith! There will be a system that fits with your lifestyle, your circumstances, your values and your unique talents and strengths. Somehow, some way, there is a system that you can comfortably adopt that will lead you to the success you want. 

Yes, there will be discarded attempts and failures along the way. Ask any successful person and they’ll tell you that the road to any achievement is littered with failed attempts and unsuccessful systems. The ideas that were tried and then discarded. Looking back, we can see which ones were destined to failure – hindsight is a wonderful thing. But going forward (the way life works), we don’t know this. All we can do is keep trying different ways until we hit upon something that sticks. I suspect the secret to success is knowing that it’s messy/chaotic/haphazard route and carrying on regardless.

If we keep going for our ideal – the vision of our life where we cope effortlessly – we get that little bit closer with every failure. Until we find what works – for us. 

So don’t give yourself a hard time for any abandoned books or systems or habits that didn’t resonate or gel. They are the inevitable cast-offs on the path to achievement. Instead congratulate yourself on the intention behind them, the reasons you bought or tried them – because you are on a mission to succeed.  

The more new things you try, the more progress you make. So, keep going and don’t worry about what you discard along the way – they weren’t for you. They are just evidence of what doesn’t work, and if you take note, they will get you closer to what does. 

Then, one day, you will have a neat and tidy solution that fits you and your life perfectly.

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Try this….


1. Ponder any elements of your regime that you know will never work for you, the ones that make you tense/irate/despair. Look for an alternative more in sync with your style and preferences. 

Maybe you loathe having to get up early to get everything done before you leave the house. Perhaps you’d be more suited to giving yourself a head start with a spell of easy pottering in the calm and quiet before bedtime? 

Maybe you’re up against the clock all day and feel beaten by all those things left undone. Exploring the idea of simplifying could be just the trick for you. (I have just begun reading Simplify by Joshua Becker and I have to say, simplicity has a lot going for it!).

Maybe you’d just like more hours in the day – routines may be the answer, or a new time management book could hold the key. (I have this one on my wishlist.)

Identify the ways that just don’t fit you – then scout round for more suitable replacements. 


2. As you wise up to what’s not (and will never be) your style, give some attention to what is.

What appeals to you? What’s your ideal solution? Pursue that. If you dream of more support – brainstorm how that might happen. (Trading skills with a neighbour? Employing a teenager? Regular decluttering and selling your ‘treasures’ on eBay to finance a monthly cleaner?) You will be amazed at how solutions ‘appear’ once you know what you’re looking for.

In your home you get to call the shots, so try anything and everything that you think might help. Drop what doesn’t and keep what seems to fit.

Take action. Review. Course correct.

Rinse and repeat. 


Good luck and let me know how this works for you!



PS I am branching out! I am expanding on my success studies and creating a new project  – beyond housework… In an upcoming blog, I’ll be exploring success in the creative arena, in particular – writing and publishing. You might want to take a look if you’re a blogger, author or aspiring writer. I’d love to see you over there, too!


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