Cleanliness is Next to Godliness Unless You’re in My House

My house is a wreck. There are papers piled on the dining room table and counter tops. Three baskets of laundry sit in the living room floor, and another load sits in the dryer. The hardwood floors are dirty and as of last night, covered with teeny, tiny bits of play dough from Daniel’s starfish making at the kitchen table. There are clean dishes in the dishwasher to unload, dirty dishes in the sink and more pots to be dirtied tonight as I make sides to go with the pork roast I made last night.

The toilets need scrubbing yet again and even though Daniel has been potty trained for well over a year, I’m still cleaning up poo and pee thanks to our geriatric cats, and if it’s not that, it’s a hairball. Toys are everywhere, train cars mixed with garbage cans mixed with pretend food in a way that make me want to lose my mind or break a leg as I hopscotch over them but makes perfect sense to a 4-year-old. Bills to pay. Paperwork to sort. Pre-K homework to do, which is truly a family affair. Pre-K paperwork to sign and library books to keep up with that have to returned to school just so. Glitter. Birthday party invitations. To-do lists taunt us.

We clean. We do. We try to keep up. Usually on the weekends, we’ll try to tackle what needs to be done and we’ll feel good about the state of the house for about 5 minutes until a cup of milk is dropped on the floor or until the sink fills up again, always so quickly. Or the time comes to do another load of laundry, which means it will likely sit in a basket on the living room floor until the next weekend.

It’s so frustrating because there are only three humans in the house. We don’t go out of our way to make a mess.  How can we destroy a house so effectively? Is it our family’s core competency?

It’s so frustrating because there are only three humans in the house. We have one child. Surely we should be able to keep the house clean and stay on top of the dishes and laundry. What excuse can we possibly have for not having pristine toilets?  With our one child, how can we possibly feel so frazzled and brain dead by 8PM?

I don’t know. I keep thinking about it lately because it seems like we should have our shit together better than we do.  It’s true that we both work. I’m out of the house with Daniel by 7:15 every morning and it’s closer to 5:45 when we arrive home. That leaves us with roughly 2 hours to play, fix dinner, get lunches ready, get uniforms ready, take baths, brush teeth, do the nighttime routine and sing songs. We can usually do a load of laundry in that time and load or unload the dishwasher.  Garbage night is on Tuesday. Litter always needs to be scooped.

Maybe the ugly truth is that a pristine house is not a priority. I grew up watching my mom and her sisters scrub their houses from top to bottom.  One of my aunts – who worked full time as a teacher – vacuumed her carpets and swept nightly.  We didn’t have a dishwasher at my house, so every pot, plate and utensil had to be washed by hand.  It was always work before play, and most of the work was done by the adult women.  My mom never tasked me to do any of these chores, so I grew up thinking of cleaning as drudgery. I still think of it as drudgery, but the problem is that now I’m the adult who has to do it.

I suppose I prefer not to.

The thought of spending precious weekend time to clean the house is unappealing to me, especially when the damn house is just going to get dirty again. I want to relax, read a book, play with Jimmy and Daniel.  Is that wrong? Is that so bad?  I feel like I spent most of my life putting work before play with the result being that I seldom got to play. As an adult, can’t I run my house the way I choose? But those “shoulds” have a bad habit of creeping back in.

This morning as Daniel and I were getting ready to leave, Jimmy said he needed to clean a few things before he joined us at my car to say goodbye.  Daniel said, “Our house is clean, daddy.”  I looked at Jimmy and then looked at Daniel and said, “It’s sweet of you to think so.”

Maybe this means that we just keep doing the best we can and accept that we have other priorities than working our fingers to the bone keeping our house clean. Maybe we can give ourselves a house cleaner for Christmas.  But if you’re thinking of coming over, call first, OK? That way we can hide the baskets of laundry and do a cat-hair tumbleweed check.

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8 comments

  1. Yeah, I hear ya on this. Cleaning is not at all my priority in life (hence why we finally hired a cleaning lady for 2 hrs, once a month, to deep clean the bathrooms & kitchen). However, it’s hard for me to relax when our counters are covered with paperwork and dishes (which happens on the daily – HOW?!). It’s now my husband’s job to check the dishwasher in the morning when he gets up at 5am, and if it’s clean, empty it ASAP. That way all dirty dishes throughout the day can go immediately into it, and usually every other night we start it before bedtime. Wash, rinse, repeat. That one little step has alleviated a LOT of frustration for me. Same with dirty pots/pans – if I cook dinner, then Charlie washes the big dishes in the sink before bed. They’re easier to clean when they’re fresh, and we wake up to a clean kitchen.

    That being said, sweeping happens every couple of weeks (maybe), vacuuming 1-2x/wk (our border collie sheds like a MO FO), dusting maybe once a month? You definitely gotta choose your battles and decide what’s a priority to you. 🙂 For me, it was the dishes – and it feels a million times better now that we’ve gotten that under control, and it allows me to truly relax and enjoy the play time on the floor with my kid after dinner.

  2. So, back when I was in marriage counseling (hahahahaaaaa sorry, I laugh every time I say that phrase because clearly it worked out REALLY well for me, right?), our counselor said one thing that made a world of difference: in a household where both adults work full-time, a housekeeper should be considered a mandatory expense.

    Honestly, even now, as a single mom, I still have my ladies that come every other Wednesday and clean my house. It doesn’t cost that much and it helps SO MUCH. If all I have to handle is general clutter, dishes, and laundry? I can manage that. But to have someone else do the vacuuming, dusting, scrubbing bathrooms and cleaning all the counters? That is HUGE. I justify the expense by saying that since I don’t have to do it, I have more time to spend with my kids on the weekends, and they don’t grow up with memories of a mom who did nothing but try to tidy up the house when she wasn’t working.

  3. I honestly don’t know how people keep their houses so clean while having a life. I’ve never been good at it, well, at least since I got married. My house was never pristine, but it’s so much worse now! Men. I feel your pain.

  4. This sounds eerily familiar… I look forward to the time in my life where I can maybe see more of my floor than I don’t see. Of that there are more clothes in the closet and drawers than on the floor. It’s a pipe dream, I believe…

  5. When I was on maternity leave, every little dust bunny or random pebble on the floor from the litter box drove me bonkers. Now that I’m home 2 hours a day like you are, it’s gotta get fairly gross before I can spare the time to take care of it 🙂

  6. Cleaning sucks. I do it anyway, obsessively, because my husband is a slob and we live in a town where the kids’ friends drop by unannounced, and I’m too insecure to deal with them high stepping through our trash, which is what would happen if I did nothing. We also have a cleaning crew who come twice a month.

    My parents assigned chores: I cleaned the bathrooms every weekend and I did most of the yardwork, and I also did the dishes and set the table. It was a lot, and I rebelled for a while, post-college, by skipping deep cleaning. Inevitably, whenever I did, someone would stop by unannounced and rip me a new one about it.

    Now that I think about it, why do people show up unannounced anyway?

  7. Great post!! I truly believe that family (and fun) has to come first or we will drive ourselves crazy and feel miserable. I personally do go a bit crazy if the house is a mess because it is small and feels extra cramped if messy but we are lucky to have a cleaning lady who comes for a couple of hours once a week who does our school, but also does a quick clean of our house. It isn’t enough that I don’t have to do anything all week, but it sure helps with some of it. We’re also lucky that we only have to pay her $12 USD a week (for school and house), so she is well worth it!

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