Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cleaning House

I warn you: This post is all about cleaning. Yawn, I know, but few things make me happier than tidying up my home. If my mom read that, she'd probably sputter and point. I mean, she knew me when I lived at her house, where a hamster cage, a penchant for pack-ratting, and the inability to put a soda can in the recycling bin, all conspired to make my room quarantine-worthy. I was no better in college. I was no better when Erik and I got married.

It wasn't until I had kids that I really started to think about a house as our home. I really started to pay attention to the details that make us, this particular circle of four, feel like this is the place we'd rather be than anywhere else in the world.

For My Boys (TM) it's usually about making sure they have their space. We have a small house, but because Tommy and Scotty share a room, we end up with a 'spare bedroom'. We gave it over to them, and their toys, and their books. It's a room that doesn't have to be 'picked up' or even 'organized' at all times. It's the place where they can leave their hideaways (built with blocks) in position and staffed by miniature Star Wars characters and Lego men, for days on end, without upsetting the flow of our daily lives. It's a Very Important Place, and I just walk by and shut the door when I've had enough.

Scotty loves to help me clean. When I'm polishing the furniture, he just comes unhinged until I hand off the towel and the polish. He rubs the cloth around and then uses his fingernail to scrape gunk off the furniture, just like I do! It cracks me up. He doesn't know I'm removing something sticky or stubborn; so he ends up just scraping away at nothing every few moments.

My 'furniture polish' is vinegar, olive oil, and some lemon juice. In a pinch, we can toss the polish with romaine lettuce and eat a salad.

I have two challenges when it comes to housework: procrastination, and bitterness.

I am a list-maker. And I often find myself moving a 'project' from list-to-list without ever actually doing the project, so I can cross it off a list. Cleaning out the refrigerator was one such item. Finally, this weekend, I had to ask myself....Who suffers when I put off cleaning the refrigerator? The only answer is, us. A messy, packed refrigerator isn't clean, or fun to work with. It means we waste food that I 'forgot' was in there. Putting off this project, or any project, means the our family, and our home, are suffering.

The second wee problem....bitterness. Actually, the two are related. Last week, I was out of the house for a few hours one evening. When I came back, something sticky was smeared across the hardwood floor in the living room. I thought, "Yuck! I better get that mopped up!" But I put it off. So the next day, it was still there. And the next day, it was still there. And by the third day, I was getting angry when I saw it. Every time I looked at, I was overwhelmed with resentment that that sticky mess would be there until I cleaned it up. It's so easy for me to slide from there straight down into a pity party...you know, "Where's my good-fairy that magically cleans everything while I'm off having fun?" or, one of my favorites, "Why do I have to do everything?" And so on.

If I hadn't put it off, if I had just grabbed a wet cloth and spent 3o seconds swabbing the floor, that resentment couldn't have built. I'm also trying other strategies to keep myself from getting upset about nothing. I remind myself that I'm choosing to do these things so we can have a happy and healthy home. So what's the point of getting all upset about things that are supposed to be making us happy? Nobody cares if the beds don't get made or if the dishes pile up for a day or two...but everybody cares when I'm being beligerent. Nobody's happy when mama's unhappy.

The other way that bitterness can sneak up on me is also list-related. So much about housework is never-ending. I can make a list today that says, "Make beds, sweep, do dishes, clean bathrooms, do laundry." And tomorrow, when I make a new list, it will say, "Make beds, sweep, do dishes, clean bathrooms, do laundry." It can be daunting to see a list that never goes down!

If you have tips, I'd love to hear them! Or wait. Is it possible I'm the only person who struggles with this? I'm going to need to go lay down.

Edited to add: So, shortly after I wrote this, my mom popped by one morning to pick Scotty up for the day. I was thinking that my house was a 'mess' at this time...beds unmade, a couple of hampers of laundry waiting to be folded, dishes from the night before still in the sink. You know, if you read the above, what I'm talking about. But my mom asked me, and after I had to leave, she asked Erik, what was up with how clean the house is...And there you. Obviously, I need to chill-ax. With wine. On my patio.


  1. You are far, far from alone. I think you have it figured out, because there really is no figuring it out. I find a glass of wine and a nap take care of a lot of messes.

  2. Ha! Here I am using vinegar to clean up messes, when what I really needed was wine! I see where I've gone wrong. :)

  3. I have found that a little clean up as you go helps with keeping the BIG clean up days to a minimum. It's amazing what Baking Soda and vinegar can do! Also, having great help, like Scotty, pays dividends. Have a glass of wine and enjoy. Yesterday, after yardwork, I made a drink to accompany chips and salsa and sat out back and enjoyed the scenery. Moose