Monday, May 2, 2016

My Three Personal Rules for Keeping House

I know housework is important.  I'm just not a big fan.  Is anyone, really?

I've read about the ways that other women keep their homes clean and organized, and I've attempted most of their strategies. But for whatever reason, the ability to keep up with a cleaning schedule or really any sort of maintainable system eludes me.  I find there are usually too many variables.  Each day looks completely different from the last, and the same goes for weeks and months.

I'm currently reading Little House in the Big Woods with my seven-year-old, and we just read about "the work that belonged to each day," as Ma would say.

"Wash on Monday,
  Iron on Tuesday,
  Mend on Wednesday,
  Churn on Thursday,
  Clean on Friday,
  Bake on Saturday,
  Rest on Sunday."

And, as lovely as it is, stuff like that makes me sigh.   

Why can't I just get it together?

On some level, I've managed to find peace with our home, and how clean (or dirty) it is at any given point in time.  You could say I've learned to "embrace" our mess.

"My house is clean enough to be healthy, and dirty enough to be happy."
"A great mom has sticky floors, a full sink, laundry piles, and happy kids."
"Excuse our mess, we're busy making memories."

You know...all those things.

That being said, let's all agree that having to wash dishes in order to cook a meal because all of our utensils are dirty can be a real peace-killer.

There has got to be a middle ground.

In my attempt to find this "peaceful middle ground," I've discovered a few rules that, when I actually follow them, make a huge difference to the state of our house.

You could say these are really the things that keep it somewhere between "look at my museum home, obviously no one is allowed to really live here" and "oh my word, I'm sticking to the kitchen floor and there's a weird smell coming from under the couch."  (We've been in both places.)

My three personal rules for keeping house.

Sometimes the best offense is a good defense.

This one helps me combat the stuff.  All the stuff.  So much stuff. 

But I play a pretty hard defensive game when it comes to things.  I don't quite understand the phenomenon, but it does exist that stuff is constantly coming in, isn't it?  School papers, projects, gifts, etc.

But everything that comes in has to make the cut in order to stay.  Cheap favor toys from birthday parties?  Gone.  Sixteen boxes of conversation hearts from a classroom Valentine's Day party?  Nope.  Forty-eight thousand bottles of hotel shampoo you had stashed away in your closet that you thought might help us not have to buy shampoo for a while?  No, thank you; we'll find a way.

The point is to eliminate the stuff before it has time to develop into clutter.  In our home, it happens the minute it comes through the door.

Always leave a space in better shape than it was before you passed through.

I've found most of my cleaning is done in the cracks of our everyday life.  Because gone are the days when I had one toddler, and could pick a single day of the week to wipe, sweep, launder, scrub, shine, and dust my way to a sparkling house.

I need to sort of grab moments when I can.  So I'll tidy up the bathroom while my daughter is in the tub and isn't quite ready to get out yet.  When I'm passing through a room, I'll scan for anything I can do on my way out, like grabbing a full basket of dirty laundry to take downstairs or a cup that was left on my kid's dresser.

It's not the quickest way to a clean house, but those tiny little things add up big time in the way of maintenance.  Usually after only a day of this, I can stop and look around and see not a spotless home, but one that looks pretty put together.

Which brings me to my next rule...   

Good enough.

Oh, my fellow perfectionist mamas, take heed.  This one is revolutionary, and I love it so, so much.  It's been the catalyst for freedom for me in lots of different ways.

When it comes to chores, I've found that I'll put something off for insane amounts of time because the sheer thought of doing it to my standards is daunting.  And if your personality is anything like mine, then you already know that when this type of thinking meets a family of five living within a space, you either figure something out or totally lose it.

I used to lose it.  A lot.  Then I figured this out:

There are things I'm doing which eat up time and energy that can be done in half the time and would be good enough.

Here's an example:  I rarely fold and match socks anymore.

As I'm folding a load of laundry, I take those pesky single socks and place them right on top of whoever's pile they belong to, and they take care of the rest.  Simple as that.  It cuts down my laundry-folding time and allows me to move on with my life faster.  Isn't that freeing?!  I've learned that providing my people with clean, wearable socks is good enough

It translates to almost any chore around the house.  Do I really need to scrub the backsplash/countertops/cabinets while I tidy the kitchen today, or can I just clear the counters, give them a good wipe, and call it good enough?  Do I really need the kids to organize all the books on the shelf according to size, shape, color, and genre, or can we just say the books making it onto the shelves is good enough?

Because guess what I'll end up doing if I decide I needed to go all out with a chore:  probably nothing.

The truth is, we're constantly in motion, aren't we?  Life, messes, seasons, kids.  So while sometimes I wish I had a regular housekeeping routine, it's just not practical for our family right now, and it may not be for yours either.

Don't stress it. 

Figure out what might bring you peace with your home, do what you can to follow it, and be okay with that.  I promise you're the only one who really cares that much about what your place looks like.  Everyone else really just wants to see you smile and be the best you. 
"Things were a little untidy, but what did that matter?  It was possible to become the slave of things; possible to miss life in preparation for living."  -Elizabeth von Arnim

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