I’m a fairly clean person. I love my home to be organized and tidy. It makes me feel calm and in control.
However, after getting married and having kids my house always seemed to be in disarray. Every time I turned around toys covered the floor, shoes laid about, and dishes piled up in the sink. I spent years attempting to find a way to keep it clean so I could stay sane with a toddler, baby, and husband.
Lucky for me the Internet and newsstands were full of helpful advice of how to adopt a cleaning routine that would keep toys, dishes, and diapers in check.
I tried every routine out there. With each new routine I tried I ended up spending more time obsessing about what I had to do than actually getting it done. I felt guilty if I missed a day. (I won’t even tell you about the internal dialogue that took place on living room day when it was clean but the bathroom was dirty. What do I do?)
As I gave myself over to each new routine with abandonment and implemented each one, I hoped I would find the balance of a clean home and happy life.
One day when cleaning out my daughters’ toys, my oldest daughter put a brand new unopened EZ bake oven kit in the giveaway pile. When I asked her why she wanted to give away the new toy she said, “you’re always so busy cleaning you never have time to help us use it. We should give it to someone whose mommy has more time.”
Talk about a slap in the face. In that very moment, I knew what I had to do. I threw away every list, clipboard, every color-coded chart.
Here is the thing: what started out as an innocent way to help organize my time in order to have a tidy home and more time with my family ended up taking over my mind and my life. Only when checking boxes becomes more important than loving lives do we need to stop and check our hearts.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with cleaning routines or routines of any kind. In fact, they can be a terrific help.
But my obsession with finding the right routine and having a clean house had become more important than spending time with my family.
Today I decide when and what I clean. If the bathroom is a mess and I have time, I clean it. If not, I let it go until a day I can. No one has died because the kitchen didn’t get cleaned. No friend or guest has ever left my house because my baseboards hadn’t been wiped down.
If you were to walk in my front door right now you would find a pile of books on the table, loose mail and school papers on the counter.
You will for sure find twigs our French bulldog hauled inside on the carpet and hair bows left behind by my daughters.
There is a layer of dust on the buffet, a few dishes in the sink, scrambled eggs stuck to the skillet and my tile floor badly needs mopped.
And I’m okay with that because this morning I sat with my girls and talked over breakfast instead of unloading and loading the dishwasher. Last night I watched my youngest daughter at cheer practice instead of coming home to catch up on housework.
These days I make my to-do list about who, not what. I scribble names up and down the sides of my notepad, instead of tasks. My priorities have shifted.
Life is too short to be dictated by a mop and duster. That is why I gave up on my cleaning routine. And you know what? It’s okay if you do too.