I walk into the house from a long day of working, start the night time routine — dinner, baths, books, and get the kids tucked in. They ask for water (with ice) about 4 times before they find something else they need to get out of bed for. Go potty, one last thing they forgot to tell us, there’s a dinosaur in the closet. Until finally, silence.
I sit on the couch, most lights off, no tv on, and take a deep breath. Until I realize the house is, again, a complete disaster. Begrudgingly, I pry myself off the couch to tidy up the playroom and kitchen. I really want to relax, be in my own thoughts before I doze off for the night, but I have realized that clutter around the house — little piles of mail, toys strewn in every room (super painful by the way when you step on a lego in the middle of the night), make me a little … on edge. Having clutter gone, or at least out of sight, brings me a level of peace, so I do my best each day to somewhat keep the house as kept as I can until ‘cleaning day’ which falls … whenever I get around to it.
This is a real-life picture of my boys’ playroom. This destruction happened approximately 2.2 seconds after I helped them organize every last toy into their allotted bins on that bookshelf. Ok, maybe not 2.2 seconds but you get my drift. I have exhausted myself sounding like a broken record. “Pick up your toys, put them in their bins, no, not that bin, the cars and trucks bin!” to the point that I knew I needed a better system, and I needed the whole family to be on board with it.
But I don’t want to!
I see a lot of myself in the boys — easily distracted if they have a task to complete that they’re not super excited about. I like to call it creative avoidance. You know, like when it’s time to clean the fans, toilet, and baseboards and you remember that you wanted to organize that filing cabinet with papers from who knows how many years ago, or you decide you need to catch up with that friend you haven’t talked to in 10 years because now is as good a time as ever, right?
Here is what I have learned and continue to work on. It’s definitely not perfect, but when I stick to this I notice my stress level goes way down, and I am more clear-minded.
Doing a little bit each day is so helpful. Instead of waiting until cleaning day to spend hours cleaning and organizing the whole house, I try to go through that pile of mail or make sure the sink is empty each night.
Create a schedule
I have created a schedule for myself that includes built-in laundry days (Mondays and Thursdays), and on those days I also vacuum and either dust or clean the bathrooms. This way the house is clean after the weekend of playing and relaxing (and I haven’t taken family time from the weekend to clean!) and then the house is clean again and ready for another weekend after my Thursday chores.
Ask for help
I am not the only person who lives in the house, so I threw out the mindset that I needed to do everything if I wanted it done. Instead, I now ask for help from my husband and the boys — can you please take out the trash, can you please wipe the toilet after you use it (life with boys!). We are all in this together, and I notice we are all happier when the house is tidy.
When I was a child, I remember my mom telling me to make my bed every day. It felt like torture, but I did it (most of the time). I’ve noticed that if the bed is made, the room will look so much cleaner, even if it isn’t completely tidy. One of the boys daily jobs is to make their bed (even if the covers are just pulled up and not perfect) and to pick up all the toys from around the house and put them in the playroom, as well as bring their plate to the sink when they are done eating.
Plain and simple, ‘stuff’ does not bring joy. I am working each week to gift and donate items so we have less we have to take care of.
All of this to say —the house isn’t always tidy, the floors are mopped less than I’d like to admit, but it is a work in progress. I have come to the realization that done is sometimes better than perfect. As we head into a New Year, I will continue to make small daily changes and recognize what brings joy into our home, and what does not.