Something that people always ask me about is how I manage to keep my house so perfectly clean with my four little ones.
Just kidding, nobody ever asks me that.
I guess the reason they don’t though is because it isn’t, and that’s okay, because having a perfectly clean house isn’t really my goal. Not anymore. Okay, so sometimes it is, but I’m fighting it. I’ve gotta be honest, I’m a recovering perfectionist (I’m your typical enneagram type 1), and having a perfectly clean house was something that I used to regularly strive for. But, in my current season, it’s exhausting and if I’m being truthful, when it comes down to it, I’m really doing it for myself, not for the rest of my family. And I was pretty grumpy and unpleasant trying to maintain it.
A friend opened my eyes to another perspective too that really got me thinking. She told me that whenever someone is coming over, she makes sure to leave a basket of laundry out. The reason she does that is because she wants to make sure the other person feels comfortable and would feel comfortable having them over to their own home as well. That thought was pretty groundbreaking for me. I’d never before considered how my own impossible striving for perfection could make someone else feel. Especially if I acted like it was so effortless. And if that person knew I’d been making myself or my family crazy trying to make it that perfect, how would they feel then? For me, thinking about these things was really necessary and healthy.
There’s nothing wrong with having a clean space, in fact— I l o v e it. One day it will be much more simple to have my space squeaky clean, but today isn’t that day and that’s okay. It’s not today because I have four adorable little people that don’t really care if the house is clean. More than not care about it, they actively do their part to make sure it’s not, and frankly, I’d rather hang with them than follow around behind them all day trying to make it look like they don’t live here too.
But, I still love having a clean space. So how can I reconcile not constantly cleaning but not going crazy because of the mess and the clutter?
Here are some ideas that have helped me and hopefully can be encouraging to you too:
First, I have to set some healthier expectations for myself. For me, that starts with answering, “Why?” —Why am I doing this? This might be obvious to some people, but for me the motivation of why I’m doing something changes everything about how I feel about it. And if I’m not sure about the “why” it shows. So that’s the first step, see if you can answer it and get a “Why” that you feel good about.
My “why” in cleaning is to be a good steward of what God has given me and to have a home that’s healthy and restful for everyone that lives here. As a bonus, I also would generally like guests to not feel afraid when they are inside of my home, but hey I can’t always catch everything. Examples of that are for another time 😉 .
Next, I make a plan based on my “Why”. So, I have to ask, how can I take care of my home in a way that I’m being a good steward? And what needs to be in place for it to be healthy and restful for everyone?
As far as being a good steward of what God’s given me, it means I want to take good care of my home with the right motives, to be able to share our home with others, and also I want my heart to be right in taking care of it. That means, while I’m cleaning, I want to do it with a thankful heart, not begrudgingly tidying, or complaining about the mess– even that I can fight to be grateful for, because most of it is from my wonderful kiddos God has given me.
Then I think about how it can be a restful place for my family. I’m blessed because in my case, everyone is pretty low key, but it’s important to ask the people that share your space what helps it to be restful for them. I would say as far as cleaning goes, what matters right now to my family is that I’m not grumpy about it or consumed with it, especially when it’s an important time for us to be together. So, I know I have to structure cleaning at a time that’s appropriate.
Then, you have to ask yourself, what are the absolutes or the minimum that has to be cleaned for you to feel restful in your space?
For me, my absolutes are: clean dishes, made bed, clean kitchen and table, swept floor and clutter put away in the living room, clean guest/kids bathroom, and clean laundry(but not put away 🙂 ) . Those are the things that every day I try to check off.
I spend most of my time when I’m home during the day in the living room/kitchen which is why I focus on these areas, and the guest bathroom is just in case I have a surprise visitor, plus my kids use that bathroom and it’s just a good habit to make sure there’s not anything weird going on in there.
Next, remind yourself that the expectation can’t be perfection, but just the best you can do with the time you’re able to commit. Then you pick your amount of time, and do it, every day. Consistency is key. So, I set my guidelines, and then I just have to stick with them and be consistent. Doing them every day helps so that it doesn’t build up into a bigger mess. I also delegate where I can because I know these habits are good for the kiddos too. Right now they mostly help with their laundry and dishes.
The amount of time I set is normally a half hour each day for cleaning, except for once a week when I do a whole once over of the house, or when I know we have a guest coming over I spend extra time. The amount of time you can commit is going to look different based on the season you’re in and what’s important to you and your family, so you have to plan realistically.
How it rolls out for me is every morning after breakfast I set a timer for 30 minutes and knock out as much as I can get done. I normally start with throwing a load of laundry in, hitting the clutter and surveying the space to see if there’s anything unexpected like crayon on the wall or something. Then I do the counters and table, a quick once over of the bathroom, sweep, and make my bed. The dishes I normally have done from the night before, my kids unload the dishwasher in the morning and I reload it throughout the day.
Something about having the timer going motivates me because I’m weird, but it also helps me to not do more than necessary at that moment. Because without it, I honestly could keep finding things to clean all day. If I do find something weird, I’ll normally squeeze that in too, unless it can wait. Once the timer goes off, it’s like on the show Chopped, hands up and we’re done. High fives and time to enjoy the space that may not be perfect, but it’s in progress and way more tidy than when we started.