This is the third installment in our series, Homemaking Your Way, where we are discussing different ways to. Catch up on the first two here.
I admit it. I am that person who actually enjoys keeping my home organized and orderly. Even when I get tired of the process, I love the end product. My mom has always claimed that I was born this way. I guess that’s as good of an explanation as any because I don’t seem to be able to turn off this part of my brain. I vacuum my house two times a week and drop off bags at Goodwill like it’s going out of style. I scrub the toilet while my children are taking a bath and mentally organize shelves while shopping at Ross.
I do all of these things not because I am trying to prove something or impress anyone. I do these things because I cannot not do them. I am happiest in clean spaces, and “If Mama is happy, everyone [except for the teething one-year old] is happy.”
So do not read this post as a 10-step guide to a cleaner, happier home. These are just a few observations from my head and home:
:: Homemaker Guilt is lame. Before I had kids, I heard the just-wait-until-you-have-kids! line more times than I can count. It was usually in response to an innocent comment like, “Boy, am I tired today.”
Then with one child, it was, “One is easy! Wait until you have two.”
After number two arrived, “With two at least you are even. Just wait until you are outnumbered!” On and on.
I am seriously considering giving birth to ten children just to be at the top and able to say, “Oh, you think eight is tough?”
Why do we do this to each other? We should be saying, “Yes, that is tough! It is good but tough. I get it. I’m with you.” Instead we are too busy mentally comparing egg casseroles and newborn photo shoot locations to realize we are all bobbing around in the same boat.
I am good at a few things but mediocre at most. We are all nailing certain areas of our lives while failing at others. So the next time you bring Pillsbury cinnamon rolls to a brunch or have to shove laundry piles out of the way so your friends can sit down, don’t apologize like you did something wrong. Those just weren’t the balls you were juggling that day; they were the ones you quickly shoved out of sight under the couch. Relax. Attaining a clean home, like any other homemaking skill, doesn’t need to be a competition.
:: With the way I am wired, I am a better wife and mother in a clean, uncluttered environment. The other day a friend asked me, “How is your floor always clean?” I have no idea. Homemaking is not something I consciously will myself to do. If the floor is dirty, I clean it. If I don’t clean it, I step on Cheerios all day. If I step on Cheerios all day, I get frustrated. If I am frustrated, I am a lousy wife and mother.
You know when people say things to young moms like, “Oh, honey, leave those dishes in the sink. Your kids won’t be little forever.” These people have nothing but the best of intentions. They are trying to give us moms permission to ignore the house and focus in on our children. Nice, right?
However, for people like me all it does is make us feel like bad parents with clean homes. It induces guilt when we choose to throw in a load of laundry instead of throw a ball with our children or sort through a stack of mail instead of read that stack of board books. Here’s what I have come to realize, though: I can either read to my daughter for 30 minutes while being distracted by a job that needs to be done or I can take 15 minutes to finish one task so I can give my daughter 15 minutes of my undivided attention. This may sound like a big fat excuse, but I can guarantee that after struggling with this balance for years, I have felt incredible freedom in allowing myself to finish tasks so I can focus on my family.
:: Running a home is a whole lot of work. In fact, it is currently my full-time job (with lots of overtime). Two of my housemates are small and whiny and unreliable. It is my job to teach them how to work. This means taking the time to explain what I am doing. It involves modeling tasks like paying the bills and folding the laundry. It means giving them age-appropriate jobs and expecting them to be finished age-appropriately well. I often have that If-I-want-a-job-done-well-I’ll-do-it-myself mindset, but this does not serve my children well. So even if it takes twice as long and is done half as well, involving these little people in the process is important. I am still working on this. And the whining part.
:: Small houses are easier to keep clean. I can vacuum all the rugs in my home in under 10 minutes. This is not because I have tapped into some super secret housekeeping method. It is because we live in a one-level ranch home that is less than 1100 square feet. My kids have less space to destroy so I have less destruction to clean up. The bigger the home, the more work that is required.
:: There is clean. And there is crazy. An older woman in my mom’s group once told me that she used to sort out her young son’s Legos by shape and color. He would inevitably mess up her organizational system while playing (the nerve!). She would get frustrated with him. And the whole cycle would start over. She learned to resist the temptation to rain on his Lego parade in the name of order and organization. Because I lean toward clean, I have to constantly monitor myself in this area: Is this necessary or neurotic? Am I investing my time or wasting it?
:: While I enjoy a clean home, I do not obsess about it. My house is definitely not a museum nor a showpiece. I want my family to truly live in our home, not tiptoe through it. There are miniature fingerprints all over the windows and big feet up on the coffee table. I do not freak out about grass stains on knees or spilled milk on the table.
I love clean, organized spaces, but my ultimate goal for our home is that it be a warm, relaxed, welcoming place to live and visit. If I am providing this for my family, then clean is just the cherry on top.
Written by Emily Chesney, who lives with her husband and two small children just east of Portland. She is a homebody who loves to travel. Even if they are just mental vacations every time an REI catalog shows up in the mailbox.
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