I will freely admit that there are two modes to my housework: psychotic overkill or non-existent. As the child of two people with serious overkill cleaning I kind of rebelled as I got older. So either it's perfect, or why bother. I also am the type of woman who believes that my primary job is to care for my children and husband. I need to focus on my children when he's not home and focus on all of them when he is.
The problem is that when I focused on all of them 100% of the time, I never took care of anything else. Anyone with a brain can see where this went. I don't have "before" photos - and if I did I'd be too ashamed to post them.
In order to overcome the clutter, I had to come to a new mindset that involved 5 key issues:
- Throwing things out is a good thing.
- My children are capable of far more in this matter than I give them credit for.
- My children will also try ANYTHING to get out of proving me right on #2.
- If I ever want it done and want it kept that way it's up to me.
- I need to learn to get over spending 24/7 with people I love and just GET IT DONE.
Yesterday was my first day trying this new concept. My husband and son sat down to play a video game together (just gifted for Christmas), and I went into the kitchen and proceeded to organize my pantry. No guilt because they were both happy and content, engaged and excited. That was revolutionary.
XBox may just save my house cleaning!
Yup - you heard me correctly. Thanks to them gaming, I could just GO. And I didn't feel guilty, or left out, or like I was being punished. I went and organized a piece and then would check in on them from time to time, have a laugh, and get back to the grindstone.
Tonight they watched a movie together while I organized the kitchen utensils and "specialty" cooking items. Then after they went to bed I organized my soaping supplies and then spent some time doing the end shuffling that was necessary from all the clean up.
Our new cleaning schedule is as follows:
- Between 3 and 4 PM I hop up from hanging out with the kids and grab the vacuum. This is their cue to start cleaning up their daily crazy because I'm coming in there soon. I quickly run over the main traffic areas in the kitchen, dining room, hallway, and bathroom and then spend a few extra moments on one particular room in the pile. When I'm done with the details it's into their playspace and I handle the living room quickly and then head on out. Once that's finished I quickly wipe down the counters in the bathroom and do a quick clean of the toilet and the cat's litter box. Then into the kitchen for another fast wipe down of the counters and sink. I put away dishes as needed (or load them into the dishwasher), pull out dinner, and start getting that ready to run on time. It takes 30 minutes tops, including meal prep and the house is nice and fresh when hubby gets home from work.
- After dinner I take care of the dishes and put everything away again. I'm trying to learn to clean as I cook and so far that's going fairly well but will definitely take some time before it becomes a true habit. I load the dishwasher, start it if needed, wipe down the counters again, and hen I'm back to hang out with the family. Worst case scenario this takes 15 minutes tops.
- Last, but not least, I tackle a few areas that need help every day. The house is by NO means perfect yet - but by knocking out some of those every day the progress continues to move forward. I try to do 4, some days I manage more, some days less - but for now 4 is doable most of the time. Some days the projects are large (reorganizing the pantry), others are quick (clearing an area with a clear game plan in advance or relocating a handful of boxes that were presorted but didn't make it to their new home yet).
That's it - that's ALL I'm doing. I will freely admit I had a metric TON of help by my family who came to visit over Christmas and worked endlessly to get us to this point. I will also freely admit I still have a LOT of work to get done. But for now, I can cook in a clean kitchen, I can play with my kids on the floor. I can take photos of my kids being themselves without having to panic and prestage the shot so the background won't reflect something I don't want seen. HUGE steps. And now I get to take fun photos like this one of tonight's dinner! (BONUS!)
And every time I don't want to do it, those are the things I think about dealing with - and I remember those anxiety attacks. I remember worrying constantly and feeling overwhelmed. I remember what it felt like to constantly have the state of my house looming over my head.
And then I smile because as I clean, I sing. I haven't just randomly sung whatever popped into my head out loud for years. I'm a musician - and I had lost my song. Today I sang "Getting to Know You" from The King and I as I danced around with the vacuum.
It feels good to have it back.