I reached a momentous point in my housekeeping abilities in the past month: I have finally stopped settling for clean!
What do you mean you don't get it?
You see, a year ago, my house was always messy. I'd get one room clean, then by the time I got another one clean the first room was messy again, and so forth. It was hugely frustrating. I was desperate to get my house tidied up so that people could come over unannounced without some shame on my part. But there still were toys all over, a perpetually messy kitchen and a table that was never cleared.
I sought changes, but had troubles making them stick. I had some success with weekly cleaning schedules, but gradually the day-to-day mess would overwhelm me and I'd fall off the schedule as I tried to get back to zero with all the mess. Even my daily cleaning lists didn't seem to help. I'd feel like I was checking everything off, but it felt like the house only got clean in time for me to mess it up again.
Then last Fall I decided to take one more stab at the cleaning checklists, but this time I added my own "Before Bed" list. This involved taking care of the day-to-day mess to absolute completion, every night before bed. I would not let myself go to sleep until it was done. This list had me cleaning up all the toys, all of the dishes, clearing off and wiping down the table, wiping down the bathroom and making sure everything was where it should be.
And after a while, something beautiful happened: my standards for what a 'clean' house looked like changed! This was my first momentous change. I wasn't happy with having the supper dishes moved into the kitchen - they had to be washed, right away. I wasn't content having the toys put away in piles - they had a home, so they needed to go there.
This change helped me realize that we needed less things in our house in order to maintain a reasonable degree of order, so I opted to purge clothes, kitchen items, toys and décor items as I worked to reorganize our house. AND IT WORKED!
Not only was my house tidier, and less cluttered, but it was actually cleaner as well since I spent less time picking up, and more time tackling actually cleaning tasks like vacuuming the upholstery, and washing down the baseboards. It became habit to clean while I had the chance to, and to never let a mess sit where it was. I hate the sight of spills, and a dish out of place was not going to be overlooked.
It only took 25 years, but I finally figured out how to have a clean home.
Well, in the past few weeks, I started relooking my home again. Sure, it was clean, in the sense that there was nothing on the floor that shouldn't be there, but it still looked cluttered. I realized that I needed to simplify my displayed items, but also I needed to rework some of the 'homes' for items that I had established in my first organizational run through. It's silly how we can convince ourselves that something sitting on the floor next to the couch is in its right place, since that's where we like having it. But does it really look tidy? Or does it look like its shoved? Too often we overlook objects piling up on the counter because, "That's where it goes". But really, we need to find better homes for those things. So that's what I did. I cleared off everything from my kitchen counters except what I actively needed there: toaster, knife block, phone, utensil turn-around. No more bottles or jars that may or may not be empty. No more stash of candy sitting in the back corner of the counter. No more bags of anything sitting out, pretending that's where it belongs. It all got put away, or thrown away. That was about a month ago now, and the change has stuck - and I love it! But today I made another change; I cleared out one side of our bench seat storage thanks to the end of one commitment in my life (goodbye Pampered Chef! It was fun!), and knew exactly what to put in there! I've long had a stack of books, papers and notepads that hang out by 'my chair' - essentially what works as my command station where I perch while I answer emails, make phone calls, blog and do bookkeeping. But those books never had a real home, just a spot that they sat, looking awkward and out of place. Same with my knitting bag that sat beside my chair, on the floor. I wanted it close and handy, but that wasn't the way to do it. So they finally found a new home in my bench seat! Yay!
But that was just the first stage of this new change in me. Even though the things I had out were pared down, and everything had a home and stayed there, my house still looked cluttered, even when it was clean. I realized it wasn't always what I had in my house, but sometimes how I had those things set up. For example: last year Matt built me my pallet coffee table that has four shelves which I had used for my magazines, worship books, Sunday school books, and some of the kids puzzles. Everything would sit stacked nicely in there - for about a day. Then the kids would come and push over the piles. And then I'd fix the piles, and then they'd get pushed over again. And even when they were stacked, they added to the cluttered feel of the room, no matter how straight I lined up those edges. But those piles were in their home! I specifically assigned that place for them to stay! Of course, in this case there was a super simple fix: all I needed were some cute boxes or baskets to set my piles in! And I found them, at HomeSense of course. $20 later and my little piles of magazines are sitting snuggly in contained boxes that complement the colors of the room and which make everything look so much tidier! It wasn't enough in this instance for the house to be clean and have everything put away - I finally wanted something more than just 'clean'! Yay me!
Granted, some of you more naturally clean people will have no idea what the big fuss is about, but to me this is huge. To finally hit a point where my house is clean enough that I worry about something like a stack of magazines that doesn't work within my streamlined image of my ideal home? Huge.
Mrs. VanderLeek ;)