Monday, September 26, 2011

Inquisition Monday: Cleaning

Cassie asked, "You said you at least clean the toilets on Monday. Do you have a house work/laundry type routine? And how does it go with the little ones. We are trying to have a little more routine house work around here but it's difficult with a two year old and almost 4 month old. (I mean routine in a very relaxed way...)"

So did I ever tell you about the time I was gossiping about the lady who had 6 kids under the age of eight and when I babysat for her, I was appalled at all the cereal on the floor and toys and everything everywhere. Yes, I did sweep her kitchen and do some dishes for her because I was an awesome babysitter like that, but I did tell the person I was gossiping with, "I will NEVER have a house that looks like that. EVER."


(gasp for breath)


Oh man, that is some funny stuff! When we first got married, I really felt a lot of the weight of doing the house on my shoulders. Yay social conditioning! And I kept telling myself that if I only worked hard, scheduled my life better, had more self-discipline, THEN my house would be clean.


And then I got pregnant with Margaret and heard the Mothers Who Know talk and told myself that when I was no longer working and I was home all day with my kids, THEN my house would be clean.


Oh boy! This is some great stuff, yeah?

It was only a couple years later that I realized that maybe it wasn't that I didn't have enough discipline to stick to a schedule, but that my methods were wrong. I kept attacking this problem in the same way and cycling into deep guilt. I was a bad mom. And I'm not as good as So-and-so and her blog over there because she has the self-discipline to be serious about her housework and look at it like a job and she finishes everything on her list every day before 10am and I'm still in bed at 10am (this was when Margaret would sleep that long, and not something that happens anymore at ALL). All because I am not disciplined enough and not good enough. BAD BAD BAD BAD.

This is when it really hurt to add "HAHAHAHAHAHAHA" but it deserves to be there. Because I am good enough. That entire last paragraph was what my lying brain was telling me and it was all lies. LIES. LIES.

I've mentioned it before, but I did an experiment and did everything "right" one day. I gave it 100%. There was not a second that I wasn't cleaning the house, putting things away right after using them, cleaning dishes! And you know what my house looked like at the end of the day? The same as what it looked like when I was doing only 20% or 10% (or less). I realized I had 3 options:

1) Continue what I was doing. Do a little cleaning to try to combat the guilt and have the house look like a mess. Sure, I got my homework or writing done, but it was done while the voice in the back of my head was telling me I was a bad person.

2) CLEAN ALL THE STUFF ALL THE TIME. And get absolutely no homework or writing or knitting or anything I love done. And have the house look like a mess.

3) Throw myself into what I love and do the cleaning as it comes up and not feel guilty about it. And have the house look like a mess.

And I chose 3. It's hard to de-program that guilt-inducing voice. It's still there sometimes. But I try to remember to trust myself. If it's important to me, it'll get done. I kind of thought of it like unschooling: if it's important, you'll learn it because your goals for yourself are such that you'll want it. Not because the people around you want it for you and not because you "have to," but because it's part of your vision for yourself.

So you wanted to know what I do now. I have a mental list (because physical lists get lost too quickly) of the important things for me:

1) I like the toilets and potties clean weekly.
2) I like the kitchen sink to be devoid of dishes for one moment in a day.
3) I like randomly picking things to do because it makes it fun for me.

So I clean the toilets every Monday. And at some point in the day, the dishes are done. If that point is 10am, then I don't fret over them not being done after lunch or dinner. And sometimes they aren't done until 4 pm or 7pm. And I'm ok with that. There was one moment that they were clean and that's good enough for me.

I do have the Motivated Moms iPhone app because it's a way to randomly come up with things to clean. Since I didn't make the app, I don't know what's next for the week, so I actually like doing it. It's surprise cleaning! But there's a lot of stuff on the app I ignore, too. I mean, seriously? Who cleans their bathroom sink daily? A good baking soda scrub once a week is good enough for me.

And after I do everything on my "list," I refuse to do anything else. That's my favorite part. It doesn't matter that the dining room is filled with stuffed animals, I'm DONE! I'm going to knit instead.

And at the end of my day? It looks like it would have had I spent the whole day cleaning. Or if I had spent the whole day feeling bad about myself. Plus I got to knit and blog and go to the park. And not feel bad.

So that's what I do. And don't do.

What's worked for the rest of you out there?


  1. I've been thinking a lot about this lately. Currently, I work full-time out of the home, and with my husband's help (he mainly does dishes, cleans the toilet and cooks 50% of the meals) our house is okay clean-wise. It's cluttered, there are cobwebs in the corners and I wish I could get around to cleaning the tub before it actually looks disgusting. But right now I don't want to spend all my "free" time cleaning. I want to play with my toddler and maybe even relax a bit.

    However, I'm planning to quit working after our 2nd baby is born next spring and I've been fantasizing about having a cleaner house. My idea is to clean one room in the house each day. The kitchen and bathroom may take longer, but cleaning a bedroom should be quick and then, like you, the rest of the day is for whatever my children or I want to do.

    I hope this is something that will work for me. I'd love to be able to mop the kitchen more than 2 or 3 times a year (I know, it's bad).

  2. LOL you made my morning.
    Basically around here I always keep the kitchen (mostly) clean because I can't stand it messy. And by 'I clean' I mean either my husband or I does it depending on if I'm nursing one of the two kids.
    We barely do anything here. Most nights we push down the laundry on the dinner table so we can eat.
    I was just wondering about like toilets once a week, I mean that's pretty cool. I think there could be s few things, like toliets, that would be good to try to more regularly.
    Anyway, I really appreciate your post because, you are right, I get the feeling we are conditioned to think we have to have a really clean house. it's just nice to hear you say it again, because then I can remember that houses with young kids are supposed to be messy, messy houses mean lots of playing!

  3. I don't even know how people with families keep things clean. I'm single and live by myself and it's still an impossible task. People with little kids are always apologizing for the "mess" in their houses, and I'm always thinking how amazing it is that they have a two year old running around like a tornado and the only mess they have is books and toys on the floor and some dishes in the sink. My place looks like that, and I don't have the two year old as an excuse!

    I would say these are my three important things:

    1. Keep clutter out of the living room (usually by moving it to the bedroom or storage room).
    2. Keep the bathroom counter top clutter-free (by shoving the mess in the cabinet).
    3. Get all the dishes out of the sink and into the dishwasher once a day and wipe off the countertops/stove top.

    Vacuuming, etc. happens when I notice that things are looking bad or when people are coming over.

  4. I forgot to mention- I miss the days when I was pregnant and my son slept till 10. Nice to know he's not the only one. He usually wakes at nine now. But I could use some more 10am mornings some days

  5. I clean 1 room and do 1 load of laundry everyday (M-F) plus like you the sink must be clean at least once during the day. So for example, today I have to wash sheets and clean the bedroom (pick up clutter, and dust) and do the dishes. Tuesday is towels and bathroom. Wed- I actually wash 2 loads baby clothes and whites and clean the babies room (it doesn't get very dirty yet, usually I just have to dust) Thur- Darks and living room. Fri- I wash Dave's uniforms and take care of the floors (sweep, vacuum, and mop if needed). I usually clean for less than 30min everyday.

  6. I wish I could have cleaner bathrooms, but I guess I hate cleaning them more than I love having them clean, so it rarely gets done. I agree with the dishes though...I have to have at least once a day where my kitchen looks clean. I always feel better when I've emptied the sink and wipes off the counters. Pretty much everything else, I don't care about. Well, vacuuming gets done every week or two, but I actually don't mind vacuuming (it's cleaning up everything so I can vacuum that makes it hard!) Maybe I'll try to clean one random thing a day. That seems easy and bearable....and it might help me fight the guilt that I sometimes get when I don't have everything clean every day!

  7. After years of having an extremely messy house, I have discovered the secret to keeping a clean house....... don't be home! lol

    Seriously though, we do a clean up time every evening (every meaning 5 days a week usually, because I don't clean on the Sabbath and once a week something is bound to come up where I am just too busy/tired). So every night when I go to bed, the toys are picked up, dishes done, counters wiped, floor vacuumed (if needed). I clean the bathroom once a week, do laundry once a week (but it takes the rest of the week to put it away!), and do things like cleaning out the fridge/pantry, organizing clothes, etc. as needed.

    ..... and my house is still a mess! If someone comes over at 5 or 6 in the evening, right before the clean up time, there is food on the floor, toys and clothes so thick on the floor we can't walk, dishes in the sink, food and wrappers on the counter. But it's not nearly as bad as it used to be.

    Back to not being home- I do love the days when I wake up and the house is clean from the night before, we get out of the house fairly early, then maybe the kids play outside in the afternoon and when it comes time for our evening clean up time, there's hardly anything to do! That's awesome.

  8. It's just my husband and I, so I can't sympathize with women with families, but I do laundry on Tuesdays and vaccuum on weekends and try to to dishes within 24 hours of when they were put in there. Since I live in a one bedroom apartment, it's pretty manageable, but it takes a lot to learn that having dishes in the sink for a day isn't the end of the world.

    Deciding to do laundry on the same day every week was awesome though. I never run out of clothes and I try to put it all away in the same day. I think about it like "hiding the evidence." No one would even know I had done laundry, mwa ha ha.

    Cleaning sort of sucks, but being in a clean home is nice enough that I try to make it happen.

  9. I think it's interesting to read this post because my approach to cleaning was 100% inspired by you but it looks a little different in my house.

    I got excited about your "random" chore generation and made myself a chore game that utilizes my polyhedral dice. Three times a day, I set the timer for 30 minutes and play the game (which has developed very complex rules) until the timer rings. And when I'm done, I'm done and there is no more guilt and no regrets about what didn't get done. Frequently, my dining table is crusted with kid food *begging* to be cleaned while I am off organizing a closet or scrubbing the tub because that's what I rolled and that keeps it fresh for me.

    So: 1-1/2 hours of randomized cleaning a day AND NO MORE.

  10. My mom is a NEAT FREAK. If anyone was conditioned to think they needed a spotless house, it was I. It's not that I'm a total slob--slobs don't care, and I really REALLY care. I WANT a clean house. But really, I want a maid because there are just too many dang things to do, that cleaning just gets shoved down the list. Besides, anytime I decide to get all gung-ho about it, my son is likely to start having meltdowns. Or I will be dead tired at the end of the day and have to go to bed at like 8:00. I don't know how my mom did with with FIVE KIDS but maybe it was because she didn't have any serious hobbies, and besides that, she actually LIKES to clean, and says it relaxes her.

    Anyway, my toilets don't get cleaned until they are nasty. Same with the bathroom sink. I pretty much never clean the floor in there. (Yes, gross, I know) but I do scrub the tub before putting my child in it and there are always fresh towels in there (and in the kitchen, too). I also never vacuum, although my husband does once every couple of months, lol. I do stay on top of washing laundry, but putting it away is another story. I scrub the kitchen sink every time I manage to empty it (maybe every few days). I do know how to clean things really well (thanks mom!) but I suck at housekeeping. Oh, well. Maybe one day when I have kids that are older and can help me (or I write a bestseller and can finally afford a maid!) yeah!

  11. Oh yes, I forgot about laundry. We have designated laundry days because we share the machines with our landlord and it's easier to coordinate machine usage that way. I try to fold the laundry the same day it is washed, but there have been a couple of days when it's ben done the day after. We also do the diapers every day. They are usually soaking when we make breakfast. Vacuuming gets done when it bothers me. Same with everything else. :)

    In the past, I have used conference weekend as my big deep cleaning weekends, but I don't have plans for that this week.

  12. For me I've found that I don't want to clean more than X minutes a day. The time changes depending on what stage my life is currently in. I have a general little cleaning that I like to do each day (dishes, sweeping, and making sure trash is taken out) and then I have one or two things "scheduled" to do each day of the week. I also have three deep cleaning things scheduled each week, so that the deep cleaning is taken care of monthly. I do one load of laundry a day. I set the timer and try to get as much done as I can during that time and whatever isn't done can wait. Occasionally after I put Ella to bed, I'll feel like cleaning more and I'll take that time to organize or whatever, but really, that doesn't happen very often. I don't believe in being so busy that I can't play with my child and I think housework falls into that too. If I'm so focused on having a clean house, I find myself losing the focus I want to have as a stay at home mom, my child.

  13. Some days I feel like I'm cleaning all day. And then other days it's mess heaven. I usually try to keep things picked up, throughout the day. If the kids are done playing in the family room and are ready to color at the kitchen table, then I have them take five minutes to clean up their mess. And whatever they can't/don't get to, I spend five minutes putting stuff away. If the floor is dirty (aka. covered in crumbs), I vaccuum/sweep. And I do the dishes morning and/or night. But I consider all that maintenance.

    As for deep cleaning, it's almost non-existent... I do have a system where I divide the house into zones and only have one room-specific chore a day. On a good week, every zone gets cleaned. During a normal week, about half the zones get cleaned. And I'm ok with that. Growing up, we cleaned everything on Saturday. Personally, I like breaking it all down to smaller and more manageable tasks.

    The biggest thing for me is having help. The kids have age-appropriate chores and so does the husband. He irons, mops and helps with dinner/dishes. The kids fold their own clothes and make their own beds. I do what I can and they do their part, because this is OUR home. And we're all responsible for taking care of it.

    I think it's important that you decide what you can or can't live with. I learned early on that I like my place picked up. But I'll go weeks without dusting, mopping, wiping the baseboards, etc. Because to me, those are things that can wait. You do what you can, and then you don't compare. The end. *B


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