Monday, May 18, 2009

On Housekeeping

Thanks to tandemracer via Flickr for the beautiful kitchen sink photo!

If my mother knew that I was discussing housekeeping, she would die laughing. And then take me to have my head examined. My husband would just skip straight to the head examination. To say that I am not the world's best housekeeper is an understatement. There are photos of me as a child in the middle of my bedroom and if you didn't know any better, you might think that we were the victims of a horrible natural disaster. There are dolls flung here, clothes laying there, puzzle and game pieces littering the floor. Things did not get much better with age. There were times as a teenager that sleeping on the couch was preferable to finding my bed under the pile of clutter.

I am be no means an expert on keeping things neat, organized or clean.

That being said, I have a husband who is a neat freak. He likes things just-so. On the rare occasion that I move the books on the coffee table to dust, he comes home and immediately notices. He doesn't notice (or thank me for) the lack of dust, but he does notice that his books are a few millimeters off center. And then he moves them back to their rightful place.

I also have a son who is learning to crawl and no longer stays where I put him on his play mats or clean blanket. Having a relatively clean house becomes that much more important when you have a wee one navigating on hands and knees!

Finally, I feel better when things are neat(er). Having a lot of clutter in the house does add to a sense of anxiety. Things run much more smoothly when clothes are put away in their proper place and I don't have to wage an all out search for a particular shirt or pair of pants. I am more likely to have friends over if I can focus on planning a fun menu instead of waging an all out war against the clutter and mess. I used to have a built in excuse for a messy house- I worked all day- I could not possibly be expected to keep everything up at home. No more job, no more excuse. I was here all day, I should be able to deal with the basics of keeping a home. I was here all day, I wanted somewhere nice to be! I would not take a job in a cluttered, unorganized office, so if home was to be my office, I needed it to be clean!

So what's a natural messy to do when it comes to keeping things clean? When I worked outside the home, we sometimes said that you don't have to know it all, you just have to know who to call. I apply this same principle to housework. I rely on tips and tricks I've picked up to help keep things running smoothly.

FlyLady: I don't follow this plan to a tee, but I do think that she's write about a few things. First, keep your kitchen sink clean at all costs. If you leave a dish in your sink- one dish, it announces, "Party in the kitchen sink!" and all the other dishes come climbing out of the cabinets to lounge in the kitchen sink. Really, I promise. And apparently, one dish in the sink in man language means that the dishwasher must be full, broken, dirty or on a vacation, because it there's one dish there, my husband adds more. Even if he has just seen me empty the entire dishwasher and knows that it's empty. I run my dishwasher overnight, so in the morning, it gets unloaded for the day and all of our dirty dishes just go in there, no stop to party in the sink.

FlyLady also advocates getting dressed for your day, down to your shoes. I must admit that I am sitting here in my pajamas typing this post. It's 10:30 am and we've been up since 6:30. But today is a good day- I'm not pulling my hair out, we slept all the way through the night last night and my son went down for a morning nap. On bad days, days when we've been up three times during the night, he won't go down for a nap and I feel like a crappy wife and mother? On those days, we get dressed ASAP. Everything feels better after a quick shower and putting on real clothes. And it makes it that much easier to just grab the carseat and the keys and get out of the house, which is sometimes the only way to rescue a really bad day. There is a reason that they make people in offices dress a certain way- clothing contributes to how we feel and how productive we feel. If you are having trouble getting things done, try dressing for success and see if that makes a difference. I know that it does for me!

Totally Together Journal: Stephanie is the author of this blog and upcoming book of the same name. I first "met" Stephanie through her CrockPotting blog. (It's WONDERFUL too- you should check it out!) Stephanie has a somewhat laid back approach to cleaning- do a little bit each day and you will never get to the point where you have to do a lot. I also really like her approach to laundry- do one load completely- wash, dry, fold and put away- each day. I can't tell you how accomplished I now feel when I do this. If the rest of the day is headed to hell in a hand basket, at least I can point to this one thing and say, "Well at least I did my load of laundry for the day!" For me, it's all about breaking it down into manageable steps.

Part of the reason that housekeeping is so tough for me is because I am a perfectionist. I take the phrase, "If it's not done right, it's not worth doing!" to heart and just don't do housework because I can't do it all perfectly right now today. I can't get the tile grout clean, so I might as well just not clean the floor at all. I don't have time today to sweep, swiffer and scrub on hands and knees, so I just won't do anything. Sometimes, I have to literally repeat to myself over and over, "Cleaner is a blessing to my family, cleaner is a blessing to my family." And sometimes it works! :-)

What are some of the things that help you stay on track when it comes to keeping house?

Thanks to Jenny at Babyfingers for reminding me about the FlyLady. Jenny is mom to adorable Suzy and Ivey, who arrives in 12 weeks or so. Jenny will be a SAHM when Ivey gets here!


  1. I have a 1 in/ 1 out rule. For everything that comes in the house, 1 thing has to go out. It also helps to have a collection spot for the outgoing. We have a box in our hall closet that everyone knows is the donation box. When it's full, we drop it off at the local thrift shop. Also, I have a large family calendar in my kitchen. EVERYTHING gets written on there. It's my brain :D

  2. Having been to your house, I dispute your claims of messiness and non-excellent housekeeping! If you were faking, you were the best faker I have ever seen! I will be trying to shut down the jacuzzi mixer that my sink seems to frequently become- I do feel better knowing it was the dishes moving on their volition to the party- I had long suspected this, but short of Beauty and the Beast, had no evidence to corroborate my suspicions ;o)

  3. Great idea Melissa! I have a donation bin in my closet too!