House of Order, House of God
My friends and family are all laughing pretty good right about now. I'm not a great housekeeper. End of story. And, to top it off, most of the time I'm not that worried about it ever getting clean. So, how am I going to talk to a group of 300 or so women about House of Order, House of God? And then it dawned on me. I'm doing the best job that I can do for ME and MY family, so that's what I tried to convey.
We talked about some of the reasons we don't have perfect homes. Some of us haven't ever been taught, some of us are rebelling, and some of us are just so overwhelmed at times that we give up. I had a friend tell me recently that she is afraid to try because she knows she will fail and she doesn't want that kind of stress. I understand all of those reasons and the many others that we came up with. I just wish we weren't so hard on ourselves.
We are working mothers, some of us, we are raising our children, we are involved in civic, school and community activities, not to mention providing the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter for our kids. We volunteer at church and have a responsibility to watch over and care for our friends and neighbors. Sometimes cleaning up our homes is the last thing on the list, sometimes for many years.
I heard a funny quote once that said, "Cleaning your house while children are growing is like shoveling snow while it's still snowing." I think that is absolutely true. When I had six children under the age of 11, the last thing on my list of stuff to get done was clean the house, it seemed so pointless. Of course, it may have been nearer the top of the actual list, but feeding the baby, grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning up spilled kool-aid and carpool usually took up most of the day and by the end, I just wanted to go to sleep. I ignored my house for a long time.
It wasn't that it wasn't clean underneath (I know how to scrub a toilet and mop the floor), it's just that with so many people living under one roof with their combined total of activities, it wasn't my priority. Was I embarrassed? Maybe. I kept the front room pretty clean and inviting so that I could let people in, but beyond that, you entered at your own risk. Some might think I'm exaggerating but in my eyes, I was the worst.
As I've gotten older, I've made it more of a priority (even if that means I have to pay someone every once in a while). My kids are older now and more able to be (really) responsible for their chores around the house. It's one thing to have six kids under age 11 doing their chores than it is to have eight children under the age of 19 doing chores. With age comes wisdom.
My chore charts have evolved too and I've taken on more of a zone defense rather than man to man. I used to assign someone the job of picking up the toys on the family room floor. Now, they are in charge of straightening up the family room. Sometimes that means putting away toys, but more often than not, it means putting the cushions back on the couch, finding the DVD case for the movie found under the couch and putting away all the dirty socks and shoes and dirty dishes that didn't belong in there in the first place. They know what needs to be done, when it needs to be completed and the consequence for not getting it done.
Even then, my house is rarely super clean. All of my children would have to get their jobs done all at the same time on the same day for that to happen. And that just isn't going to happen...
Having said that, the point that I really wanted to make was that 1 - Your house will never be perfect. With the business of our lives, we must accept that our houses will only be as clean and orderly as we want them to be. Until we made the decision to put it higher on the priority list, we need to stop worrying about it so much. 2 - Pat yourself on the back once in a while and consider all that you have to accomplish in one day. You are doing more to create an orderly home than you think. It will get better, I promise you. And 3 - I know you hear it from "older" people all the time, but I tell you it is true: You will miss it when it's gone. As much as I couldn't stand the mess that came from my 19 year old, I miss him. I miss the music blaring from his room, I miss the smell of his running shoes, socks, shorts, t-shirts strewn all over his bedroom (but not that much), and I miss the crumbs from the bazillion peanut butter sandwiches he would make throughout the day. I seriously do.
So, maybe it took me almost 20 years of keeping house but I have learned to let things go a little more. When we go to pick up the books that somehow manage to all be on the floor in front of the bookshelf ten times a day and end up sitting there and reading them instead of cleaning them up, it's o.k., they will still be there tomorrow. When my family sits around the dinner table long after the meal is over talking and laughing about the day/week's events and then we all rush off to a football/basketball/volleyball/cheerleading/
choir/band/scouts/activity days/young women's/booster club/bishopric/or "whatever" event without doing the dishes, it's o.k., they will still be there tomorrow, along with a billion or so other things that I didn't get around to today. But, my kids and husband might not.
So, today I will do my best with what I think is important and remember the words of this cross stitch my mother made and had hanging in her room for 30 or so years...it will be hanging in my office as soon as decorating/organizing my office gets higher on my priority list.
Next: Part 2: Managing Distractions