At the beginning of my marriage (read-when I first had to clean my OWN house), I didn’t work for 3 months and we had no children. Our little 800-square-foot apartment was spotless. Always. Seriously, you could eat off the floor. I cooked dinner every night (what newlywed couple has the money to eat out? Well, at age 20 anyway.), and stuff just stayed clean. I was bored out of my mind because how many times can you vacuum the floor in one week, really?
Then, I got a job. And the days of perfect clean were over. I began a cycle of. . .cleaning for 9-12 hours on Saturday (and not every Saturday, just the ones when it was getting to me), walking around behind my husband picking up his sock fuzz for 2-3 days afterwards, then completely letting the place go. . . Until it piled up to maddening proportions, at which point I spent another 9-12 hours cleaning. It became a vicious cycle. Either my house was spotless, or it was a total disaster. . .and when I say disaster, I’m not exaggerating. We’re talking having to wash a dish out of the sink to have a plate to eat on, contemplating a package of new undies from Wal-mart because the laundry is so backed up. That kind of disaster.
Then I got pregnant, and very, very sick. “Morning” sickness was a joke. I puked morning, noon and night. Cleaning was not happening. Ever. And while I love my dear husband, cleaning is really not his thing either. He’s as messy and lazy as I am. So the disaster became somewhat perpetual. Until I asked a dear friend for help a few times toward the end of pregnancy so I wouldn’t be bringing my sweet new baby home to a lab culture situation. I eventually got back into my all or nothing rhythm of cleaning with the new little one. Sometimes horribly dirty and cluttered, sometimes almost spotless. . .but completely spotless was never to be seen again. Really.
After baby number 2, I realized that something had to give. No one can live this way, and the junk was starting to bug my husband, too, which is hard to do. I was able to become a stay-at-home mom and I was ecstatic. Finally, my house would be clean. . .all the time. (Okay, so I can actually hear you laughing out loud as I type this.) NOPE. As anyone who has ever been a stay-at-homer knows, your primary job is to care for the children, not clean the house. AND you’re at home all the time, making messes. Perfectly clean is a pipe dream. It’s not going to happen unless you ignore the children completely and clean like a fiend, and even then, I’m pretty sure those ignored little ones will manage to mess it up.
It was at this point that I read a book entitled, The House That Cleans Itself, by Mindy Starns Clark. I read a review of the book in a parenting magazine and it sounded like just what I needed. The points I was able to take away from the book and apply in my own home are:
-When you have kids, at some point you have to learn to be okay with “clean enough.”
-It’s important to organize your house in a way that helps you keep it clean, rather than works against you.
-Use little snippets of time to do mini-cleaning tasks, rather than setting aside whole days and hours to do it all at once.
There was a lot more to the book, but these are the things that really turned it around for me.
-I realized that our dining room had become sort of a “hub” in our house, but that it also had to be a dining room. I changed the type of furniture in the room to things that had a lot of storage/organizational space.
-I bought an inexpensive shoe rack to house all of our shoes. Instead of an unsightly pile in some rooms and digging around in the bottoms of closets, all the shoes are now in the same place and easy to find.
-I re-purposed a pencil box for my husband to use as a “go box.” A place to drop his glasses, keys, wedding ring, work badge, etc. at the end of the day that wasn’t my kitchen counter.
-I bought a photo bulletin board to keep all the pictures people give us displayed easily. This eliminated the crazy mess of pictures/magnets on the front of my refrigerator.
There were other changes (I used more containers to organize the closets, etc.) and my house still doesn’t stay perfectly clean. But I can say that it stays “clean enough” most days. AND, when it gets messy, it takes about half the time it did to return it to a manageable state.
So. . this post isn’t really meant to be an advertisement for the book, but rather an invitation to share your own cleaning style. Are you naturally a “clean enough” housekeeper or do you struggle with all or nothing? Leave a comment and let me know.