Messiness is my Nemesis

I have a problem: I like to have a clean house. Now don’t misunderstand me. I do not like to clean my house. But it turns out now that I’m a grown-up I do actually like my house to be clean.

However, I should probably also give you my definition of “clean.” I would love it if my house was actually clean all the time, but the combination of six family members in the house and my lack of desire to do anything beyond the basics when it comes to housework pretty much rules that out as a possibility.

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So when I say clean, I mean neat. Counters and floors are clear of stuff and things look like they are in their place. (Honestly, I have like a village of dust bunnies living under my couches and I rarely take a mop to my floors and I couldn’t tell you the last time I cleaned out the inside of my refrigerator.) So when I say clean, it’s really just for lack of a better word.

It took me a long time to realize (or at least to accept) this about myself. I always wanted to let myself believe I could be laid-back, go with the flow… I mean, that’s what all the cool moms are like, right?

“Oh, pssh- I don’t care if I have a kitchen full of dirty dishes and my laundry is pouring out the front door. I’m taking the kids to the park!”

“Oh goodness, I don’t care if I’m stepping on Legos and tripping over Barbies. I mean, let kids be kids, right?”

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RELATED: Moms, We Don’t Need to Apologize for Our Messy House OR Our Clean House

But it was not all that long ago that I had an epiphany of sorts. I was having one of those days where I felt like I had a million things I needed to do and no time to do them and the kitchen was a disaster- food and school papers and dirty dishes everywhere- and I was just stressed out! I figured I had to start somewhere, so I cleaned up the kitchen. 

It didn’t take too long and it wasn’t a deep clean or anything- but you know what? When I stepped back and looked at my “clean” kitchen, I couldn’t believe how much calmer I felt! 

I honestly couldn’t even think why that list of a “million” things had seemed so overwhelming a few minutes ago. There weren’t a million things- and they were totally doable. And the only thing that had changed was that now I didn’t have to walk through a messy kitchen all day! I had to face the facts: there is something about having order in my home that clearly helps me to function in a better way.

Mom, You Were Right

Growing up, it perplexed me that my mom would clean the house before we left for vacation. I thought she was crazy, as this made no sense to me.

Well, now is when I make a public apology to my mother. Because NOW I GET IT. And I do the same thing. Who wants to be faced with a to-do list a mile long as soon as you step through the door?

So why is this desire for a clean house a problem, you ask? Well, for some reason I just can’t keep it clean. I believe there are several factors that play into this:  a) I have four kids b) I’m actually kind of lazy and c) I have four kids.  

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Cleaning With Children Underfoot is a Senseless Task

When you have kids, you know there’s no way it’s going to stay clean. The knowledge that it’s all going to get messed up again really just kills any motivation, doesn’t it? If I actually try to stay on top of things, I just feel like I’m chasing my tail. I pick up all the Legos in the family room, move on to the kitchen, and by the time I return to the family room, there are crayons all over the floor…

But truthfully, it’s more than just that. When I’m constantly picking up the house, I find myself getting frustrated. I’m frustrated at my kids for leaving their toys out, I’m frustrated with my husband for leaving the mail on the counter, I’m frustrated that I’ve just picked up the seventh pair of socks that were left lying in the middle of the floor. And who likes to be grumpy and frustrated?

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And of course, the fact that I dislike cleaning (and- you know, it actually involves some effort) certainly plays a part. It’s true that it feels so much nicer to walk into my bedroom when the bed is made- but let’s be honest, I’m going to be climbing right back into that bed in a few hours, right? Eh. Too much effort.

My Clean House Makes me a Better Person

But here’s the thing. And this is what took me so long to fully recognize and accept about myself: I’m actually a happier and more pleasant person when the house is clean and items are checked off my to-do list.

I can try to tell myself that I should let it go and focus on the important stuff.  I know my kids don’t care if the house is clean. But the honest to goodness truth is that I’m a happier person, a calmer mom, and a better wife when I feel like my life has some semblance of order to it.

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And so- I’ve made a few changes. I have given myself permission to let my kids fend for themselves while I clean (or at least straighten up!) on occasion. I try to make myself set aside one or two times during the day to spend a few quick minutes picking up so that I can at least see my floors. And I’ve created a more organized schedule for letting the kids help out with chores and for getting the house back in “order” in the evening.

But maybe more importantly, I’ve also given myself permission to accept my desire for order as a legitimate desire. It’s just who I am. I’ve tried to set up a little more of a schedule for the after school/ dinnertime hours to cut down on some of the craziness. I started an allowance system for our kids. I instituted a new parenting technique to help with some behavioral issues. I bought a big magnetic calendar for our fridge to help organize all of our events and activities. And we now have weekly “family meetings”.

And maybe surprisingly, my kids actually seem to appreciate the routine and predictability of the new “rules.” I’m not overly rigid about enforcing all of this- and my house certainly won’t win any awards for cleanliness. But it all contributes to our household running just a little more smoothly and helps this Type A mom feel a little calmer and happier. Which, as we all know, is really a win for the whole family.

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