Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Housecleaner

Do you see that? Those dirty fingerprints on the door frame?
They're everywhere. And they drive me batty.

And the windows. I don't expect them to be spotless. But this? It's ridiculous.
They love to "write" on the windows when it is covered with morning dew, or the steam from when I boil pasta. All well and good, but look at what gets left behind.
Like I said, ridiculous.

But here is the question: which is more ridiculous? Telling them to stop writing on the windows because I just cleaned them, or letting them have fun and cleaning it up afterward?

I want to know. Because these are the kinds of questions that bring me grief.
You see, when it comes to cleaning house, I am a little bit neurotic.
I love dusted baseboards. Walls free of hand prints and smudges. Cabinets wiped clean. Bathroom sinks with no water spots. Organized closets. Everything put away in its place.
I love having a clean house.

Here is the confession part. People ask me all the time, "don't you ever worry about home schooling? That it's all on your shoulders? It's up to you to teach these kids? Doesn't that scare you sometimes?"
I always answer truthfully that no, it actually doesn't worry me at all.
However, what I have never had the guts to say is, "what worries me actually, is that I will never have a clean house again."

I've never said it because, not only does it make me sound like the most shallow person on the planet, but also, a little bit insane.
"I'm not worried about teaching my kids fractions and how to read, BUT will I have a chance to dust those baseboards?"

I sound like I am joking, but I assure you I am not. It really is one of the very hardest parts about home schooling my kids. I don't like to sit down at the table for school when the kitchen is still a mess, or there are loads of dirty laundry to do, a bathroom in need of cleaning or baseboards in need of dusting.
I like everything to be in order before we start something new.

Well, that just isn't possible.
That is not easy for me to accept. In fact, I struggle with accepting it every day. I can't get it all done--at least not all at the same time. There are too many people walking around with their hands on the walls for me to stay on top of it.

And so I am learning. I don't want every other sentence that comes out of my mouth to be, "take your hands off the walls." I remind them. But I also have them wash walls. It still doesn't seem to sink in. They get to dust the baseboards for a quarter. They love to wash windows. They know where all their toys go and can put them away neatly.

But the house is still often a mess. And sometimes I just hate it. I know I am supposed to be teaching them to clean along with me. I do. But nothing ever stays clean. And that is so frustrating.

A clean house makes me feel happy, calm and restful. A dirty house makes me feel nervous, anxious and unhappy. If I let it, this could easily consume me. That is really what it all comes down to. I have a choice and every day I have to choose what matters most.

Today I chose to leave the laundry Lilly made a bed with on the floor while the boys and I finished Black Beauty. The dishes got crusty while we read more books and taught Lilly her colors and reviewed letter sounds. (1 room school house baby!) When Lilly went down for a nap, I didn't say, "Now go play by yourselves. I've got to clean house." Instead, we went outside and worked on the painting project for the boys' room. It was a great day.

I'd like for the chores to be all done before we begin those things. Some are. Some aren't. It is a balance that I have not mastered yet and I don't expect to anytime soon. But I will keep trying. I will keep wiping off those dirty hand prints and dusting those baseboards. And I will pray, every day, that I won't let my neurotic tendencies run our house.
I will remember what really matters.

I'm curious. Am I alone on this one? How do you deal with keeping a clean house and having kids and/or a job and still having a chance to lie on the couch and read a magazine or watch a movie? How do you balance it all? And tips or advice, or just a shout out of solidarity would be much appreciated.

And now, to finish the dinner dishes. Because I really hate waking up to a dirty kitchen.


Naomi said...

Too funny Greta! But not really. I feel you friend. That's the thing with housework, it never stays clean. I try my best to delegate. Sometimes it only takes a few minutes a day to teach them how to do a good cleaning job and they love to help. But you have to take the time to show them what you expect. Your boys could probably wipe windows or floors or cabinets or counter tops, line up shoes, match laundry socks, etc. I got a $20 lightweight vacuum years ago that the kids love to use that helps a lot. They fight over who gets to vacuum. They can help me unload/load the dishwasher, set the table, take a garbage bag and go get the trash from all the trash baskets, pick up dirty clothes and take them to the laundry basket, etc. Maybe make a list of things you know they can do and keep it handy. Also, maybe configure things around the house so they can be more helpful, like put together a basket for utensils that they can reach (watch the knives!) or put together a spray bottle of cleaner that is really watered down that you wouldn't mind them spraying tons of. I bet if you thought about it you could probably come up with some great ideas like that.

Sometimes having a 20 minute cleaning blitz with fun upbeat music can be fun - give them each a bag and have them pick up as many toys/clothes/whatever they can or assign some kind of cleaning job and get everyone in on the action. I give Reesie a wet rag and show her how to wipe dirty spots on the cabinets and the floors, or I'll put her up on a chair and fill up the sink with a little soapy water and a bunch of plastic cups and plates and tell her to wash them - it doesn't really accomplish much but it keeps her busy, involved, and it's an investment in a future helper.

And they're young so I do have to lower my standards to keep from getting frustrated, but the older they get, the better a job they can do.

I feel guilty saying this, but my eight year old daughter will now bathe, dress and feed my 2 year old some days while I sleep in. But I remember the years when any time she "helped" it doubled my work. It does pay off. It's never too early to get them involved.

Also, have you heard of I never got into it, seemed like too many emails but Kristine said it helped her a lot.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Your are not alone my adopted are not alone. I hear you. Solution will be forthcoming!!!! When I figure it out I will get back to you but so solution. We just have to be housecleaning maniacs!!

Simply Brookes said...

Is there not a mother out there who has your same thoughts? My solution? 5 minute tidy: everyone runs around the house for 5 minutes, gets everything off the floor, tidy's up and get's house "in order". Windows? Not a chance. Baseboards? No way. But really, who are the ones who look at windows or baseboards? Us. That's it.

I would rather have a tidy space, than a clean space. Make sense? But I always strive for harmony in the home...regardless of how clean the house is at any given moment.

Love the blog...keep it up.

Sheila said...

You are not alone. One of the hardest things for me is to learn to "Let it go." There are things way more important than a clean house. ;)

Tammy Callis said...

Oh, how I love you and this post! I feel this has been my number one concern in planning to start our official homeschooling next year. The actual teaching sounds so easy and intuitive. The housework on the other hand sounds overwhelming. I've been gathering ideas and making charts and trying to strategize ways to keep the house tidy. I've also been trying to just let myself let go of it a little bit. I've had trouble with the latter though because it's just not in my nature. I keep hoping that I'll strike some great balance and hit some stride where it will all fall into place. If that doesn't happen though I'm so glad to join you in solidarity on this issue!

Naomi- great comments and ideas. Thanks =)

Shannon said...

I can sooooo relate to this post. I often catch myself several times a day responding to Taylor's requests to play with, "Not right now, Mommy's cleaning." Then comes the guilt. The worst for me is not cleaning the house before leaving it. Knowing I'll be going home to a messy house makes me not want to go home. I would write more about how much I can relate to this post, but I have cleaning to do!

Katie said...

A mature mother once told me that children will not remember a clean house but will remember you reading to them, playing games, snuggling and all the adventures you take together. I went from a clean freak to just keep it all straightened up. On your death bed will you say I wish I cleaned more or I wish I played with and enjoyed by kids more while they were young? It's hard but I remind myself everyday.

Katie M.

Mommy of three said...

Thanks for all your kind and encouraging words, your thoughtful ideas and sharing your own difficulties with me in this area. I really appreciate knowing others are out there experiencing the same thing as me.

Erin McDonald said...

I am sure my day is comming! until then I will enjoy not haveing to fight this battle! but thanks for the preview! love you!