ADHD, illness

I Failed Flylady | What To Do If You Can’t Even Do Flylady

Once upon a time, this mom tried to follow Flylady.

If you’re not familiar with Flylady, it’s advertised as a program for even the most chaotic of people to get their homes and lives organized.

All my friends swore by it and promised that if I just tried, this would solve all my housekeeping problems.

I failed.


If they gave prizes for the worst failure, I’d surely have won.

Even the program made for super unorganized people was too much for me.

The problem was that Flylady did not address the actual issues in my life.

Issues like health, energy, focus, the ability to walk and not be dizzy, unexplained pain, etc.

15 years and more than 20 diagnoses later, I know what was inhibiting my ability to follow through.

At the time, I actually emailed Flylady and asked what they recommended I do if I was unable to follow their plan.

She replied saying that I probably had health problems that were keeping me from being able to follow through.

Since I had recently had a physical showing no problems I unwisely dismissed her explanation.

She was so right, but I wouldn’t learn how right for many years.

So, what do you do if you find yourself in a position where you can’t even do Flylady?

You’re not alone!

Here are some things you need to know:

1) If you have ADHD or some mental or physical health issues, be honest about it and how it affects your life and ability to maintain.

2) If you think you have something but don’t know why you can’t keep up, get help: get a diagnosis and treatment, and don’t give up advocating for yourself until you get answers –even if that means going through alternative medicine to get answers that “regular” doctors won’t consider like adrenal fatigue or autoimmune illness treatments. I had to do this, and it quite simply saved my life.

3) Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be honest with people about how you’re struggling –and if you can’t trust your friends with this, you need new friends. You need a support system. If the system of friends around you are anything but supportive, do yourself a favor and find a better support system.

4) Minimize. If you can’t control and manage your stuff, you need less stuff. Don’t let your desires get the better of you: be realistic. I know from experience that my house can quickly start looking like a hoarder (even though I’m not a hoarder) if I bring too many things into my house.

5) Be okay if it’s not perfect. A functioning cluttered house is better than a perfectly clean house where everyone is miserable or a hoarders house where your stuff is crushing you and causing shame. Find balance. I’ve known people with perfectly clean houses where everyone’s completely unhappy. People are more important than stuff, and your relationships are more important than the condition of your house.

6) Don’t buy into the American lie that the only “right way” to be is Type A and super organized. It takes all kinds, and there’s no shame in being who you are. Don’t waste your life trying to be something you’re not. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there’s more than one way to run a house. It doesn’t have to be the “right” way.

7) Do what works to make the house function even if it isn’t the “right” way. For instance, one friend of mine dumps all her silverware in a drawer without sorting because her kids mess it up anyway. I don’t fold clothes. We either take it straight out of the dryer or put it unfolded in the drawers. No shame in doing what works. Let go of what you were told was the right way and stop trying to be something you’re not. I have other posts about this.

8) Prioritize: if you have very limited energy like I did, do not waste time and energy on silly things like shining a sink. I cannot justify energy to make my bed and clean the sink when I could be using my limited energy on something important like cooking. In my case, I could hardly walk and yet I was trying to go into the kitchen every single day and stand over the sink and scrub it out when I hurt too much to even clean the dishes. But –by golly– I was going to keep that clean sink empty and that sink shiny because that’s what I was supposed to do to stay on the plan. Even if that meant I couldn’t walk the rest of the day.

I thought I could get better at being organized by sheer willpower. I have a blog post about that, too. Sheer determination is not the answer to success.

The only way I’ve kept my house clean was paying someone or asking for help.

Because I’m physically unable to do it.

My children are older now and decided to take the cleaning on themselves.

I wish I could alleviate the guilt from myself and other people that I felt for the last 15 plus years of not being able to keep up.

Eventually, I started accepting this about myself, acknowledging that I couldn’t do it all and trying to be okay with my imperfection.

One thing that has helped me is to pick 2 or 3 things I can get done. If I get those done, I try 2 or 3 more.

I hope this helps others.

I hate to think of other moms out there struggling with this guilt.

When you can’t even do the cleaning method that’s supposed to work for the worst of the slobs, you really start feeling like a loser.

But, we can only do what our minds and bodies are healthy enough to do.

We are not the sum of our health or mental health issues.

And neither are they our fault.

No guilt, mamas!

Get help.

Get answers.

Get free of the guilt!


Sarah Forbes


4 thoughts on “I Failed Flylady | What To Do If You Can’t Even Do Flylady”

  1. This is amazing, and thank you. Personally, I struggle with these same things, and I do have ADHD. It is hard enough being a student but when people make you feel bad for not doing things “the right way” it makes the problem worse, or adds to your self-doubt. Thank you.

  2. i tried fly lady years ago and was swamped with ads in my inbox. I’m sure you are not the only one who didn’t benefit.
    I personally think you should write an article on how to stay organized when you are facing physical challenges. You must know how…you are still here with us 🙂 thankyou for affirming those of us who don’t get much out of conventional organizational methods

  3. Great review, it’s all fairly spot on. Although numbers 7 & 8 are even more so. I semi fly, off & on over the years as needed and my schedule changed.

    The one thing I’ve always maintained when talking with friends & other flybabies. It is a mentoring program, nothing more. For best results take what works for you, and ditch the rest.

    I’m in a recovery stage after being sick for several years, and a friend shared The Spoon Theory years ago, I agree 100% that prioritizing is very important. I felt bad that I wasn’t able to tidy up & the house fell apart to a degree; but every day I was able to fix my hubby his dinner after work was a win. 🙂

    1. So true! I know a lot of people who have been helped by Flylady even if it’s just one part of her system. The Spoon Theory is so wonderful and really helps me visualize realistic expectations for myself. Thanks for your comment! ❤

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