Once upon a time there lived a girl who enjoyed neat and tidy spaces. Her home was clean and organized, and her throw pillows were never used as weapons. But then that girl got married, became a mother, and all hell broke loose. I know, because that girl is me.
Clutter and chaos cause me anxiety. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. There’s nothing more satisfying than a clean house—beds made, floors vacuumed, laundry put neatly in the drawers. Trust me, I know how crazy that sounds, but this is my unfortunate truth—I’m a neat-freak.
Shortly after I got married I realized just how much of a neat-freak I truly was. I wouldn’t describe my husband as a slob, but he doesn’t exactly share my proclivity for neatness. When we moved-in together I expected his dirty laundry to land in the hamper, but had no delusions that he would conform to my neurotic ways. So, when I stumbled across his empty glass on the counter, I quietly placed it in the dishwasher—as God intended—without making a fuss. This became part of my daily routine, I would tidy my things, then I would tidy his things. It took a little extra time, but the end result made my freaky, little, type-A heart happy, so I was fine with it.
But then, we had a baby.
And then another baby.
And before long, quickly tidying-up had turned into full-on cleaning-up after four people, every day. I was doing my best to keep it together, but it was just too much work, and I was beginning to unravel at the seams. My children, bless their hearts, are tornados in human form—they leave a wake of destruction everywhere they go. Cracker crumbs, cap-less markers, coloring books, building blocks, and baby dolls litter the floor in every room.
I was spending all of my time going from one mess to the another, picking up throw pillows, and tossing discarded toys back into the toy bin. I’d convinced myself that these things had to be done, and if I didn’t want to be a nag, which I didn’t, I would have to do them myself.
I was irritable, I was annoyed, and I was exhausted. Oh, and my house still looked like a war zone at least 50 percent of the time.
The problem was, I didn’t want to be that way. The expectation that the house had to be clean was completely self-imposed. I realized the only thing worse than a messy house was the irritable, grumpy mother I had become. If cleaning was the root of the problem, I knew what had to be done—I got rid of my family. Totally kidding! I just stopped cleaning, not permanently, although that would be nice, just during the week. Now, I only clean on the weekend. Once a week, and I don’t freak out if it doesn’t get done. My new rule is: as long as no one is naked, we’re good. Because of laundry, not because we’re weirdos. Although, with a 3-year-old in the house nakedness is definitely a thing.
Did this “no cleaning” thing take an adjustment on my part? You bet your leggings-clad a*s it did. At first, it was hard to sit down and let messes be messes, and I wasn’t sure if I could do it. So, I decided if something is really bothering me, I will clean it up. I certainly don’t leave puddles of apple juice to crystalize under the dining room table, and I still load the dishwasher once a day, but most everything else is left for the weekend. There’s a mountain of laundry on my couch as I type this, but no one is naked, so we’re good.
There will come a time when my house will be spotless again, but that day is not today, and likely not anytime in the next 18-ish years. It’s probably going to be just fine, but even if it’s not, at least my kids will have a loving, attentive mother, who isn’t a broom-wielding basket case.