I am not the best housekeeper. Honestly, though, I am not even a good housekeeper. By the time I clock out for the day from one job and look directly into the disastrous gaze of the next, the feeling of overwhelming nearly shuts me down.
Seeing a kitchen piled high with dirty dishes and cookware stacked on every surface, possibly even from the day before is enough to get that little voice in the back of my head saying “how am I possibly going to get all of this done?”.
Never mind that the living room looks like one of Amazon’s warehouses and dirty laundry is stopping the laundry room door from closing. Every room in the house has reached a state of “you can’t ignore me any longer“.
And I am definitely not the only one.
Work and family are always going to be an immovable constant in our lives–we need income to live, and our families are the reason that we do what we do. Time will always be the premium in our lives, especially in households where adults are working and caring for their families.
To those of us that have fallen prey to the endless battle of trying to clean; don’t let the mess define you. Our kitchens may look like nightmares, but at least our families are fed.
We’ve learned to juggle so much in our lives that we most likely had no training or strategies for beforehand and cleaning and tidying is no exception. Our best shot of achieving a more-tidy home and life is optimizing our time and how we clean.
How does life get so messy?
For one thing, it sure doesn’t happen overnight. Before I had a family, I could clean a room, go to work for the day, and lo and behold, the room looked the same when I got home at the end of the day!
Re-cleaning a room on the same day was not a scenario that I ever had to plan for since I am not out to sabotage my own time. At this time, I could confidently classify myself as a tidy person.
I had the time available to me to go through the extra tasks that would reduce future work maintaining or cleaning a room.
So why did this change?
Time. Or rather, the lack of it. When I took a job that significantly increased my commute time, I had less available time for tidying. I began to triage my time in favor of tasks that were most critical, which often meant most days went without tidying.
The problem that I wasn’t able to see yet, was that those little tidying activities had a ripple effect on the time and effort that future activities would require.
When my first child came along, the scope of my triage exploded. Not only were there regular daily activities that could be calculated and planned for, but there were a countless number of unexpected new things to do when keeping a tiny human alive.
Nap times became a mad dash to do everything I hadn’t been doing while feeding, changing and caring for my child. Rather than developing a plan or strategy for cleaning and tidying with the time that I had, I became a desperate creature of multitasking as fast as I could.
Cleaning became reactionary instead of preventative.
This is where I fell off the boat.
How did you fix this problem?
I haven’t. Not yet, anyway. I have come to see that my biggest barrier toward being able to get back to tidying is the surface cleaning and absolutely repetitive daily tasks that have to be addressed first.
You won’t be able to dust any surfaces if you can’t see them first, and if you wait for your kids to pick up the toys that are covering those surfaces, then you are going to be in for a lot of waiting.
Perhaps the best method for approaching a less-stressed and tidier life is simply being able to accept that I can’t clean everything perfectly every day, but I could, maybe, do one room one day and another room the next.
By creating schedules and checklists for what to clean and when, we can begin to break down the daunting task of not only the critical cleaning and daily grind, but bringing in the opportunity to make tidying, even the smallest bit, a regular feature of each day’s clean-up.
And, eventually, those little bits of tidying that began rippling will start to aid future cleanups and tidying.
Hello, sanity, is that you?