Monday, May 21, 2012

How to Keep Your House Clean

The title of my post would suggest some kind of advice or how-to article. I suppose that was a tad bit deceptive on my part. The fact is, evidently, I do not know how to keep my house clean. This weekend, a long weekend here in Canada, Mike and I have been working hard at doing a bunch of organizing and cleaning. In truth, we have accomplished quite a bit, even though our house is still not clean or organized. Sometimes things really do have to get worse before they get better. I'm okay with that. As long as they really are going to get better.

Friday morning I spent four solid hours cleaning. That's not something I do frequently these days, though hopefully I will get there again sometime after this baby is born. Anyway, I did a bunch yesterday too, and Saturday. It was great to see some real progress be made. Finishing the boys' room is a big part of that, though it is still not done, so their clothes are not put away yet in their room. Things like that add to the clutter around here.

So things are not perfect, but we have a plan and there is certainly light at the end of the tunnel. I was very excited to have a pretty clean house this weekend. But then today I noticed a few things. The boys' clothes were all over the floor. I mean, someone would undress in the kitchen (this happens a lot here when someone spills on their clothes during a meal, plus their dresser is currently located there), and they would just drop their dirty clothes right there on the floor and leave them there. Similarly, clothing was left on the bedroom floor, the bathroom floor, the living room floor, the front entrance floor...etc. You get the picture. In addition to that, toys were brought upstairs and left in the hall and the living room. Roller blades were left on the floor along with knee pads and wrist pads and a hockey helmet. And, the books, which I had just organized neatly on the bookshelf two days ago (because everybody else refused to do it), had been dumped on the floor in a pile in front of the bookshelf.

I was discouraged, looking around at the mess. That doesn't count the kitchen, where nobody ever clears their dishes and they leave their crusts all over the table...etc. It occurred to me that I had two options. I could either hunt down my three boys, all of whom were playing outside at that time, and force them to clean up their mess, or I could pick it all up myself and have a relatively clean house once again. Hm. What would a good housewife do? That was the question that assaulted my brain. So I asked Mike. What does a good housewife do? Does she force her children to take responsibility so they learn to pick up after themselves? Or does she go ahead and pick up the mess so she can maintain a clean house? When I asked him the second question, he said yes. Yes, a good housewife just cleans up the mess.

I have to be honest here. I kind of felt like I had gotten punched in the stomach. Okay, not that bad, but really, the gist of what he just told me was that I am in fact not a good housewife. It seems silly typing that. Of course I'm not. I already knew that, though I really am trying and I really am least when I'm not pregnant. Right now, running around the house bending over to pick things up off the floor every two seconds just gives me contractions and is painful and awkward, so I am less inclined to do that than I normally might be. But what if I was not pregnant right now? Would it be best to just do all the work myself? I have all boys. Do I want them growing up believing that the woman's job is to clean while they run around and do whatever they feel like doing? It just doesn't sit right with me.

And so I ask you, other housewives, please tell me what you do in this type of situation. When do you force your children to take responsibility, and when do you bite the bullet and just pick everything up yourself in the name of having a clean house? I truly want to know. I hope I get some comments on this post because I am kind of dumbfounded about this issue. Do I have to sacrifice being a good mother in order to be a good housewife? Or is there a way to do both? (I mean, doesn't a good mother have to teach her kids to clean up and take responsibility?) I should add that my boys are very slow learners when it comes to cleaning up. Right now, their bedroom is the cleanest room in the house, but every day I go in there in the morning and make the bottom bunk and Micah's bed. I can't do the top bunk, but that is Cody's so I figure he is old enough to do it himself anyway.

So send me your feedback, ladies. And I don't care if you're working moms or stay-at-home moms. I still want some opinions here. If I don't get any, I'll ask around in person and see what I find out. Then maybe I'll do a follow-up post on this.


Allison said...

WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!! I'll have to come back and comment with some practical suggestions later - although it has just occurred to me that I am the worst person in the world to offer suggestions on this topic. I have no children, work part time and still have a seriously messy house...sigh.

Anywho...the WHATTTTT!!!! goes to Mike - seriously if Kelly said that to me he'd be foraging for his own food for weeks to come! I think Mike needs some time to think about the consequences of what he said. What makes a good housewife??? This is a really interesting question. I don't think actually that a clean house makes you a good housewife (or maybe I'm saying that to let myself off the hook). In my mind, family means everyone (littles included) take part in household living. If you live in the house, no matter how small you are, you have a responsibility as a family member to contribute. So in short - MIKE IS WRONG!!!! more later my friend. Hopfully people who actually have children and clean houses respond to this :-)

CAT said...

LOL Allison. Thank you for making me feel better! I'm not really upset at Mike or anything. I just found it interesting, and I do hope some more people will comment with their perspectives. I love what you said about family members contributing, no matter how small they are. I believe that too. I'm not sure that in the long run I'd be doing anybody any favours by doing it all myself. (Plus I'm not sure I would be able to do it all myself.)

Sharlette said...

Ah, a true Mom dilemma. I hear you on this one too. For me, my mental state plays a role in deciding the question of who picks up what. If I am fried, and can't handle the long drawn out process of getting the kids to clean up their stuff then I do it. But I do believe in teaching them responsibility too so IF I am in a place where I can coherently and lovingly help my kids and give them the space to do the 'cleaning' then I do it. If all I am going to do is stand over them, yell at them, threaten them and punish them I try to avoid that scene. I do try to set requirements and give them options to complete it and receive a reward or not complete it and lose out on something but I am not consistent enough. I know one thing that works well here is making it into a game. When I do the laundry we get out the little cash register and we fold some laundry together and then take turns 'buying' it and taking it to our rooms and putting it away. But that takes energy and time that sometimes us Moms just don't have.
I do think that we can get too driven in making them responsible (talking to myself) and end up being a nag.
I try to remind myself that as Allison so aptly commented a clean house is not a good indicator of who you are. You are great, a great Mom and wife and a great friend. The clean house is nice for sanity (if you are like me) but reality is when our kids are all moved out we'll wish for a few toys in the hallway again. According to Darran and Greg their house was always a mess (that's right Reta's house!) always mud on the floor and stuff everywhere so you are in good company.

ChristyK said...

I think this is a question women struggle with in every generation and family. Society still pushes us to be superwomen. My MIL always tells me as long as my kids are happy, fed, clean and loved it's okay if the house is a bit messy as this stage will eventually pass. She even says her house was messy :) I've done both ways to be honest. As the kids were younger (toddlers) they only did little jobs but I cleaned lots myself. As they entered school they had to do more cleaning. I firmly believe if I do all the cleaning for them I'm not being a good Mom to them--see below ;)

They're expected to have toys cleaned up each night (doesn't always happen) and books put away. Now they have to put away laundry in their rooms and help set table etc. Cleaning their room is their responsibility (with help) and that one is the result of MANY painful battles and hours of being present in the room to guide them in how to clean it.

Side note: If they want to purchase something we have employed the chore for money system. The gain from this has made them more willing to do chores around the house. Kev and I have also told them that every member of the family helps out in some way and we're still doing the majority of the work~when the complaining bug sets in :D

I firmly believe if my kids aren't helping with some chores they will not appreciate the work done around them nor will they know how to live/take care of themselves once on their own. (Plus I see a lot of kids with the sense of entitlement syndrome who never have to do any chores). This is my personal opinion :) That being said I also employ Sharlette's rule about mental sanity and whether it will cause a huge fight (on my side)....if I can be calm then we go for it.

CAT said...

Thank you all for your comments! I think this is an area that will take me some time to hash through. Christy, I'm comforted to hear that it is normal for the cleaning issue to involve many painful battles. I have fought many already myself and my kids are so little. Sometimes it feels like they will never "get it". But maybe if I keep pushing and doing the same things over and over again it will eventually sink in! I sure hope so. I agree with you that doing it all for them does not make you a "good mom". That's why I don't feel like I should run around the house every single day and pick up all the junk they have left everywhere. And there is a LOT. Every day. Sigh. I guess I will keep pressing on and hope for some improvement in the near future.