House Beautiful

I used to be a bit of a neat freak. As a child, when it was time to clean my room, it always took 3 days because I started by reorganizing all the labeled boxes in my closet. I remember one weekend early in my marriage that my parents and siblings came to visit. In preparation for their arrival, I had carefully cleaned and tidied our small apartment. As they arrived, and removed their shoes, there was no good place for the shoes, other than at the doorway. Those shoes piled up and got under my skin, so much so that I could not fully enjoy the time with my family!

Three children later, I’ve probably swung a bit too far in the other direction. I often feel like I run from fire to fire in my housekeeping tasks. Do any of these sound familiar?

“What? No clean socks in the drawer? Check the drier. Umm, check the pile of clean clothes next to my bed.”

“What? Nothing to take in your backpack for a snack? No apples? No carrots? Not even Fiber One bars? Umm, no snack then, I’ll make sure I get to the grocery store today.”

“What?! You let the baby crawl around on the floor? Please don’t – it’s really gross and dirty right now. ”

“What?! It’s 5 o’clock already? Ummm, let me think of something for dinner.”

“What?! You can’t set the table because there are no clean dishes? Umm, let me wash some plates.”

These don’t all happen every day, but they have happened more often than I care to admit. I’ve tried Flylady (somewhat inconsistently), and I do like the timer idea. One of my tendencies is that I cannot pack to go on a trip if my house is not clean, and another is that I don’t like to come home to a messy house. I clean fairly well with a deadline.

This week, I tried something new to give myself a deadline. I pretended that this was not my home, but the home of my dear friend, Gen, who was vacationing and returning home soon. It worked pretty well the first 2 days! I got the whole front room clean and the entire kitchen. My bedroom and the bathrooms still need work. Luckily, Gen decided to extend her trip with a cruise, so I still have a little time. I made a meal plan for the next 5 days, went grocery shopping, and I feel great.

How do you motivate yourself to clean your house? Or to do anything that you don’t especially WANT to do, for that matter?

  • Ardis E. Parshall

    I break housework down into infinitely small tasks and hardly ever “clean house” — yet my home these days is tidier and cleaner than it has ever been. When I go to the sink for a drink of water, I also put away the cereal box or the spice cans that are on the table — I don’t clean the whole kitchen. When I walk through the bedroom toward the bathroom, I don’t clean the whole bedroom, I just hang up one piece of clothing. I don’t clean the bathroom before I leave it, but I do hang up the bath towel or run a sponge around the sink. On my way out of the bedroom I grab that book that belongs in the living room and put it on the right shelf. Then I go back to work at my desk or whatever I was doing before I needed that drink of water. Once I got in the habit of almost constantly doing tiny tasks — but never really working — I discovered that the house straightened itself up without my even noticing. Now most of the time the little tasks I do on my way to something else are not tidying up, but cleaning — scrubbing fingerprints off the light switch plate, or wiping down a dusty windowsill or even cleaning the crumb tray from the toaster oven, stuff that I hardly ever got around to doing when I tackled a whole room.

    Now if I could only turn writing into the same series of infinitely tiny steps! Somehow I haven’t figured out how to write one sentence at a time the same way I can get the laundry put away one or two pieces at a time!

  • Seth R.

    We have three young kids, and have kind of accepted that our house is never going to be as clean as “my mom’s house” until they are capable of doing normal activities without results of mass destruction.

    So we basically do a few things:

    1. Try to keep the dishes done
    2. Try to keep up on laundry
    3. Try to keep the three main family rooms clean enough to vacuum about every other day
    4. Keep the main bathroom from being uninhabitable

    For everything else, we basically said “screw it.”

  • Emily U

    I clean up much the way Ardis does. I live in 1000 sq ft with my family of 4, so any little amount of clutter is a visual offense because it takes up a significant percentage of our floor space. I pick up and put away things on a near constant basis, but it’s not too bad because each task is tiny. I’ve also become compulsive about getting rid of things we aren’t using – it’s the only way I can stay sane (if a person can be both sane and compulsive!).