When company announced they are coming over, I was not the house that would be ready for it. I needed that ten minutes notice to pick up the living room/kitchen area. When I received a phone call that a friend wanted to bring something by, panic mode would hit. I would start throwing all the kids toys and unorganized mail from yesterday into bedrooms and close their doors. When company arrived, I would be there with a smile and a deceptively clean living area. In the back of my mind I begged my children to not open any bedroom doors while the company was there.
Try as I may, there is always that one person that shows up without notice and catches you in your filthy ways. “Your house isn’t clean because you don’t want it to be,” a person I love very dearly said this statement to me once. “My house isn’t clean because I don’t WANT it to be?” My teeth were grinding. This was an implication that my house being cluttered was a choice of mine. As if I made the conscious decision in my head that my children should live in clutter. It belittled the fact that the hours in the day did not equal the hours I had to spend picking up after three children. It didn’t allow for the fact that my husband sheds 20 pounds when he walks in the door, dropping keys, placing his planner on a random counter, and kicking off his work boots on a visible trail to the shower. I felt small and misunderstood.
I could not get this rude and ridiculous statement out of my head. On my next library trip, I checked out multiple books on de-cluttering around the house. Some books offered systematic organizing tips. It showed displayed guest towels and glass containers with stored items that my family hardly ever uses. The perfectionist in me would take these displays and work on them for hours. And let’s face it. The problem is that I have no time as it is! That, and my family is messy. I am a full-time maid in my own home. Finally, I found a book that spoke to me: Organizing for Life: Declutter Your Mind to Declutter Your World. After reading this book, my home drastically changed. It has been clean for three weeks since. If company showed up without calling today, I would honestly not be ashamed. I would even be able to leave the bedroom doors OPEN! The following tips from this book helped change my world:
- Recognize how much you deny yourself: As suggested in the book, I made a list of all the ways I deny myself. As a mother it is natural to sacrifice for your family. It comes naturally to put yourself second and serve those you love. I realized I was denying myself a clean home by doing what I am used to: taking care of others. When my husband or children walk in the door, I am happy to see them! I would rather smile and focus on them. I don’t even realize they are shedding all of their items from the day all over the floor until the house is already messy. Usually around bedtime, when the kids are already tucked in, is when I realize, “Wow. My house is a disaster. How did this happen?” I was busy enjoying my family, leaving a huge mess for myself to have to clean. I usually go crash, being exhausted from the day, leaving the mess. I wake up in the morning to the mess and try to clean. Now I am stressed out and tired and cannot enjoy my family like I want to. Well, now I am denying myself for no reason!
- Tell them you deserve a clean house: The first part of this is believing that you deserve a clean house yourself. Mommy deserves to be happy and stress free! OK, let’s say less stressed. That is more realistic. When mommy is less stressed, the whole family wins! Once you believe that, then you can relay that message to your family. It is game plan time. Sit them down and tell them that you are not their maid. You would like everyone to pitch in around the house. When I did this for my family, I told them: “I love you very much and I know you love me. How mommy feels loved is when you do thoughtful things for me. When you pick up after yourself, that tells me you love me. Doesn’t mommy deserve to feel loved?” Not a single person disagreed with that statement. Score! Note: Older children can pick up after themselves, as early as even 2 years old! For younger children, we can request help from our loved ones.
- Stay focused: As a multi-tasking overachieving mother with more to-do’s than time, the day seems like a blur. The times where the mess is happening can whiz by without me even noticing. You must stay focused to prevent your family, and yourself, from falling back into the bad habits. When walking in the door, put stuff away immediately! Make sure your family members remember this and gently remind them! When they miss the hamper, call them over and show them. After bath time, make sure the kids picked up their towels and put them on the rack. Dishes should NEVER go in the sink overnight. Have everyone put their own dishes in the dishwasher. Gently encourage. For me, this reminding process took about two days. After those two days, things went smoothly. Leave room for when family members might try to get back into old habits like after returning from a vacation.
Then enjoy the amount of spare time you have. Since getting into this mindset, I made a new list of projects I deserved to accomplish. I have actually had time to complete all of the projects on my list. I wake up now in the mornings without feeling overwhelmed that I have so much to do. I have choices that allow me to attend to what I want to work on that day. I am not bombarded in the morning by the mess from last night. Phew! It feels good!