Let me start by saying that a month of a clean house is far and away beyond my expectation for anything this side of Everlasting Glory. I've always been basically organized and clean, with a firm knowledge of how to deep clean, though no great desire to do it. Then I married a man with a mother of impeccable taste and house keeping skills whose efforts to impart any of that knowledge to her son had been entirely without success. But my own mother had given me some excellent advice on the eve of my wedding, and that was 'the man you marry is the man you marry. You can't change him and you shouldn't try.' So, I devoted myself to the path of asking for help but of never ever ever nagging. Many people who wanted me to get my excellent husband to do stuff (like remember to send a thank you note, or make a call, or say what he wanted for his birthday) have been deeply frustrated with me over the years because after asking him to do these things once, my policy of No Nagging sets in and I don't ask him a second time, unless you make me feel really guilty. Why the long autobiographical interlude? Because we were two creatures capable of keeping house but in actuality, so entrenched in bad habits that we never managed to have an orderly lifestyle. Whatever was in our hands, we let fall, and there it rested until we had a grand clean up at the end of the week, or month, or right before visitors came.
Two people who let fall the contents of their hands upon the earth is not that big of a deal. But seven people IS, its a HUGE colossal great deal. Our grand clean ups at the end of the day, week, month became so daunting and dismal that our tempers shortened and flared and we were always discouraged with cleaning all day and still going to bed in a house with lots more work.
And so, in a fit of brilliance, the idea that we should Not Ever Ever Ever let fall the contents of our hands upon the earth, and nor should our children, nor our children's children, nor also the cat, nor the dog, nor any creature that moveth in the house or in the yard hit us as from Heaven itself. The last month has been a moment by moment training for all of us. As I lay my tea cup next to the sink, I say, why don't I wash this cup and put it in the cupboard? And verily, I do. And when Gladys takes out all of Elphine's Laura Ingles Wilder Dolls and makes up the little beds and takes off all their clothes and then begins to walk off into another room, as with one voice, the family rises up and says, 'Gladys! Put those dolls away!' and she does. Romulus has learned that he may play with his knights over the face of the whole house but he has to always clean them up and so he carries them around in an enormous basket with him all day, arranging them in battle and then taking them down. No item of clothing is allowed to remain, alone, in a room on the floor with no people. The person who left it there has to come and get it and put it away. No shoes may scatter themselves over the hallway and rest on the stairway, waiting, waiting to break your neck. ALL shoes go On the shelf in the hall. Inch by inch, moment by moment we're starting to reverse our habits.
AND, this life change has resulted from the common grace of mutual respect and love, not from frustration and nagging. A month ago, Matt and I looked deeply into each other's eyes and realized This was what we wanted. It wasn't the result of either of us relentlessly complaining about the awful house. And we've put the No Nagging policy in action with the children. I'm not going to endlessly remind and whine at them to pick up. They aren't allowed to leave the room until its clean, so the nagging is completely eliminated.
And life is so pleasant. And I bake every day now. And pretty soon, school will start, but I have no fear that life will crumble into chaos and ruin. I expect we'll learn a great deal and have a nice time because we won't have to shovel off the desks every day and wade our way through piles of clothes and shoes trying to get to the door or kitchen or office. And, most wonderfully of all, you can drop by any time. I won't spend 15 minutes apologizing for how awful it is, but I probably will stand there hopefully, waiting for you to notice that you can put one foot in front of the other without tripping over shoes and library books. Welcome!