My Relationship with Cleaning

One of the reasons why my family recently took a brief road trip was because we occasionally rent our house.  In essence, the goal is to have the house appear as if you don't live in it, which is no small feat when you do.  We change all sheets, set out fresh towels, and clean every surface.

Every. single. surface.

Friends, I emptied my entire refrigerator and wiped down each shelf.  I cleared out all kitchen drawers, removed crumbs, polished silverware, and put items back in glorious order.  I scoured all closets (bedroom, hallway, and linen), plucking items for Goodwill, stacking piles neatly, and discarding unnecessary things.  We dusted ceiling fans, wiped baseboards, washed windows, cleaned mirrors, and organized toys.

Now that we're back, I want to keep going.  I'm itching to sort the next season of clothes for the girls, paint the final room that we didn't get to during our epic painting adventure of 2011, and organize the shelves in the garage.

(I know what you're thinking.  You'd like to invite me to your house while I'm still on this hot streak, wouldn't you?)

I love, love, love order.  Give me an hour and a closet to organize, and I'm a happy woman.  Earlier this summer when I added another shelf in my laundry room, I stood back to admire my work.  Shelf, where have you been my whole life?

I'm a bit obsessive-compulsive, really.  But here's the deal -- if you have young children, there's a limit to how neat, tidy, and structured you can be.  As much as I thrive on order, as hard as I work to keep things organized, and as much as I teach my my children to care for their belongings, a house can't be perfect. 

There's going to be mess.  Life is going to be lived in our homes, and life is often messy.  My house certainly reflects this.  I'm guessing that your house sometimes does, too.

This summer I fell behind on many things.  I didn't try any new recipes.  We lived on simple, repetitive dinners cooked on the grill -- chicken and zucchini, hot dogs and corn -- and on pizza.  My typical cleaning routine lagged.  In spite of these things, my family is happy and thriving.  And in place of these things, I wrote my book.  (It's coming out this fall, and I can't wait to tell you more!)

Sometimes you have to let go of the idea of perfect.  Much like a pastor who preaches a message for himself as much as for his congregation, some of my blog posts are written primarily for myself.  A few months ago I posted about my house being my children's house, too.

Based on a few comments from readers, I fear that I wasn't entirely clear with point I was trying to make.  I wasn't condoning mess or pardoning laziness.  But I was reminding myself that life has to be lived, even in the midst of clutter.  I was telling myself to buck up and get over the fact that I can't do it all.  I was chewing on the knowledge that this season of life with young children underfoot won't last forever.

I subscribe to the belief that an organized home is a productive and inviting one, and I take great pleasure in a space organized just right.  Even so! -- and I'm preaching to myself here -- I can't be perfect.  Not with the house, not with the menu, not with the kids, not with all that I try to juggle.

Perhaps this is a message that will resonate with you, as well. 

It's good to be at peace, even when the environment around you isn't peaceful.  You don't have to hold all things together at all times.  God loves us and gives us grace.  Go on, give yourself grace today.

And tomorrow.  And the day after that.

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  1. I got your point the first time around, but I've lived through having three kids and all their friends underfoot and had to learn to treat my home and my kids as a bar of soap... hold firmly but gently.  That means by definition things will go through your fingers, but that's OKAY.  It's the important things you're still holding, tightly enough to keep hold but not so tightly that it squirms and squirts out of your grasp.  

    It is lovely to live in a perfectly clean and orderly home.  It is not lovely to have it clean and orderly because the people you love are not there.  You have to bend on the clean and orderly because the people you love need you more than the structure does.  Finding your balance point is hard because it shifts from day to day.  Life is rather akin to horseshoes, though, in that most times close DOES count.  

    Thank you for opening the doors to your life and reminding us all to sometimes just lean back and breathe and enjoy where we are.

  2. I've learned that you have to let something go.  With three kids home all the time because we homeschool, I rarely have a chance to catch up with all the cleaning.  And like you said, I made peace with that, because if I didn't I would have gone crazy by now.

  3. Alecia N RisnerAugust 18, 2012

    So true and very well said!

  4. Love it, although I need to get more disciplined on cleaning and other items needed in my home. Congrats on the book!


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