Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Just one more post about my awesomely clean house, that's it, I promise

Matt says I shouldn't blog about my awesomely clean house because it sounds prideful. He is a smidgen right. I can feel myself pitching off the cliff of humility into the pit of puffed pride. However, we're celebrating the triumph of a whole month of a deeply clean and orderly house this week and so I'm sorry, I Have to blog about it. Plus, Jeanne asked how we get the kids to pick up their piles and piles and piles of toys so that's practically an invitation to indulge myself.

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!


Teacher Mommy said...

Verily, you have lighted the path upon which I and my house and its many many people should also follow.

Anonymous said...

This post needs a "Like" tag, as on facebook - I "like" this post!

punctuation without capitalization said...

my parents were always on my fanny about picking up after myself. that's definitely one way.

another way i heard about was having a "clutter basket" in every room. anything that isn't in its place goes into the clutter basket at the end of the day. it keeps things pretty tidy and you always know where to look if you're missing something.

of course, that doesn't teach personal responsibility as well...

Rebecca (me!) said...

YES! Consistency and accountability!

Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

This is wonderful - both the writing AND the content. :) We are almost finished with our kitchen remodel (a summer-long headache) and I am looking forward GREATLY to putting our home back in order. And maybe implementing this idea!

SometimesWise said...

I had a version of the "clutter basket" that went a long way towards teaching personal responsibility. I called it the "Mom Box". If a toy or shoes or clothing were in the common rooms at the end of the day, they went into the Mom Box - and you could have that item back on Friday.
Favorite shoes? Friday.
Best sleeping toy? Friday.
Tomorrow's homework? Friday

It goes a long way towards learning about not leaving your things around.

Thank you for this wonderful post - now living in a house full of adults, it is hard to institute a Mom Box, and we're wading through the stuff that drops from our hands.

Nobody said...

We actually had something like the clutter basket...with a spin on it. I called it "The Basket of Doom". In it I put all things out of their places. The children could buy the things back for one dollar per item. At the end of the week all unpurchased items went in the trash. I only needed to have the basket of doom for a very short while. I believe the children affectionately called me "Mean Mommy" back in those days.

eulogos said...

I am here to let you know that two people letting things fall from their hands to the earth, over an extended period of time, indeed is a great deal.

We are two people who do not know how to deep clean. Chris knows how to make things look neater for a while by removing all clutter from one room. I just look at the clutter helplessly with no one to direct me.

This is why we never returned your dinner invitation. This is why we can't invite over those neat young Petersons who live in Appalachin. This is why we own three staple guns and can't find one. This is why we have several copies of Mansfield Park and can't find one. This is why I am not quite sure whether I have just misplaced my blue boiled wool jacket and my red leather jacket or whether I left them at one church or another or whether they were stolen from my car. This is why I don't know if my yellow and grey skirt and my other embroidered denim dress are around somewhere, or if I left them behind at some point while traveling. This is why I didn't call the motel to ask about my two favorite hats until they had already donated them to charity, because I assumed they were somewhere in this mess.

I used to have children as an excuse. In truth, only one of them is as neatness challenged as I am in adult life, and some of them seem to carry with them a principle of order they certainly didn't get from me.

Even my car and my desk at work show the effect of this lack of a principle of order.
And I really feel helpless before it.

So your posts make me feel guilty and I sort of stopped reading here after the first one.
That Christmas carol with the line "Make your house fair as you are able" hits me with a stab of guilt.

Maybe when I come home from work today I will at least clean off the dining room table and try again to keep it that way. I did succeed at that for almost a week after my daughter and her boyfriend visited here last month.

But now, dead flowers, empty soda cans, empty coffee cups, some "air cells" packing material, newspapers, books, books on CD, an empty blueberry container, a hair clip, a rosary, a cereal bowl with a used tea bag in it, a vase full of dead flowers and a clean vase I was supposed to put new ones in, a head lamp, batteries, a desk toy, bills, hat , garden goves, light bulbs, a bowl of jewelry and odds and ends...

Susan Peterson

At A Hen's Pace said...

Oh, you linked to me and everything, and somehow I missed seeing this until now!

I get the concept, and I basically try to do that on the main level of the house, where I can see what's going on most of the time. What kills me is the messes that get made by younger children in the basement, in the bedrooms, in the hallways, even in the bathrooms, while I am in the kitchen or the living room with older children. Out of sight, out of mind until I can't even put the children to bed at night, but only stand in the doorway and rant about the condition of their room!

I like the basket of doom. I have threatened to give away the belongings which aren't put away by a certain time...but I think the very title of this container will carry with it the dire threat I intend!



Anonymous said...

What a great idea & a brave post. I just had this discussion yesterday. Fatigue forces me to "drop & plop": drop stuff as soon as I walk in the door, then plop down in a recliner to rest. This is mandatory due to health issues. The problem is every picking it all back up, especially the darn trash mail - need to shred personal info, should I keep the coupons, the bills?
Hooray for you, esp. with 6 kids + husband...impressive!