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Contributed Photo / Marla Cilley of Brevard, North Carolina., is known as the FlyLady.

In another era, Marla Cilley, aka the FlyLady, might have been a high school home economics teacher.

But in 2020, the Brevard, North Carolina, grandmother and native Tennessean is a best-selling author and home-efficiency expert who has more than 1 million social media followers.

On a recent morning, before one of her popular Facebook Live broadcasts, the FlyLady sipped coffee on her front porch and reflected on the upheaval at hand.

Ms. Cilley is called the FlyLady because she enjoys teaching people how to fly fish. She has also been a county commissioner, a lumber yard worker, and a bookkeeper at a furniture store. So, she's seen a thing or two.

"I think the good Lord is trying to teach us a few things," she said of the coronavirus, as birds chirped in the background.

Cilley's legions of followers are accustomed to soaking up her homespun "commandments."

Things like:

"Keep your [kitchen] sink clean and shiny."


"Don't pull out more than you can put back in an hour."

These are words to live by during normal times, but we asked the FlyLady — an expert on household organization — to roll out the big guns and supply some survival tips for our season of social distancing.

With that, she let loose.

"Drink your water, eat properly and spend some time in the kitchen with your kids," she said. "It's a great time to teach them how to cook."

Then, she shared a tip from another online influencer who encourages families to make three meals out of one roasted chicken. Day 1, eat chicken slices. Day 2, make chicken tacos with some of the pulled meat. Day 3, make soup from the chicken carcass. It's the kind of stretching that people used to do during hard times, the FlyLady says. And it still works.

Cilley has inventoried her cupboard and freezer and believes she could stretch her provisions to make meals for six weeks for herself and her retired-judge husband, Robert. Taking stock of food is a good use of anyone's time, she said.

Otherwise, the FlyLady says people should try to vent their energy — not hibernate.

"Hit a lick at a snake," she said. "It's what the old mountain people say. [It means] just do something. It's springtime and you can get out in your yard. This pent-up energy has to be used some way.

"Don't just lay around in pajamas all day. You have to get up and have a routine to our days so we don't get lost in the news."


Some other FlyLady tips:

— Say the Lord's prayer as you wash your hands. In these times, it makes more sense than the Birthday song, and fulfills the requirement for 20-second hand-washing.

— Maintain a routine. Everyone in the house should get up at the same time and get dressed, right down to their shoes.

— Do something for yourself every day, maybe every morning and every night.

— Don't forget to laugh.

— Pick up after yourself. If you get it out, put it away.


Self-care is also important, she says. The FlyLady calls this an oxygen-mask moment.

"You have to take care of you," she said. "You know when you are on an airplane and they tell you when the oxygen masks drop down, put yours on first. Well, we are in an oxygen-mask moment.

"You've got to keep yourself centered on what's important for your family. If you are anxious, they'll be anxious, too."

Contact Mark Kennedy at