Ok, here’s my confession: most days, I would die an embarrassed, painful death if people I know stopped by my house. I have to clear a spot to stage photos of the kids. With three children under the age of seven and a job where I work from home at tasks that have no real start and stop time, I just stay overwhelmed. The laundry is overflowing, the toys are EVERYWHERE and the kitchen table is buried under school papers and mail.
What is the answer to all this mess? Don’t relax for one second. That’s the answer. Don’t sit down with your husband, who, by the way, appreciates the struggle, but also is driven crazy by the clutter and chaos. To be fair, it drives me crazy too (or craziER, to be precise).
I went through a no-kidding, hormone-driven nesting phase when I was pregnant with my youngest. I cleaned out closets, deep-cleaned nooks and crannies, caught up the laundry and breathed a sigh of contented relief at night when I fell, exhausted into bed. In the evenings after the children were asleep, I folded laundry and put it away IMMEDIATELY, made sure that the stray dish in the sink was washed, wiped down the stove top, scrubbed shower floors, and on and on. I didn’t sit down and watch television at night. I didn’t sit down to do anything except drag out my laptop and get some work done for the magazine. It was extremely satisfying, I have to admit. And at the time, I thought, “This isn’t that hard. Why have I struggled so long?” I kept it up for about 3 months after Bryce was born, when apparently, the hormones wore off and my driving force ran smooth out of gas.
The problem with the clutter is two-fold. The first is that there isn’t a specific place for everything, so when I’m trying to figure out where to put away, say, the foam -tipped craft painters or the school papers that I don’t really have time to sort until Saturday, they get shoved in a pile that looks more and more unsightly as the week passes.
The second reason is that to do one thing requires multiple steps – most of which I don’t have time to do right then. For example, I’d like to put away the clothes immediately after folding/hanging them, but I’d first need to sort the clothing in the crammed closets and chests of drawers to make room for the clean clothes, make a bag for charity (that would realistically sit by the door or in the back of my car for six weeks), put away the off-season stuff in bins (that have clean laundry in them because, let’s face it, the laundry baskets are already full) and put said off-season items away in the storage areas high above the closets (which can be accessed only by ladder and must literally be climbed into to reach the back).
To heap more trouble onto the pile, it’s nearly impossible to do any of the housework tasks during the day because sweet little hands are contributing ceaselessly to the mess, and sweet little voices are, all the while, asking for snacks and apple juice, for help turning on lights and wiping themselves. Add to that the fact that my two-year-old is terrified of the vacuum cleaner and I have to hold him while I vacuum if I do so while Daddy isn’t home.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly blessed to have a home to clutter, a husband to drive crazy and healthy children to wipe! It’s just that I drive myself bananas in the process, trying, and failing, to keep up with it all. I saw the chart below on Facebook recently. Yeah, I know, I have time for that life-sucking activity! Ironic, isn’t it?.
It’s so true! But the fact is my sanity suffers any way you look at it. I can’t enjoy sitting down to play with the kids amid the disaster, and I refuse to be the drill sergeant who obsessively barks orders at them to keep things straight. I have enough orders to bark without adding constant clean-up to the list. Orders like; "Don't hit your sister!", "Please get your feet off of him, he hates that!" and "For the love of all that's holy, don't play in the toilet!" Midday mopping anyone? No happy medium. Am I right?
It’d be fantastic if we could be a bit easier on ourselves, to do that which we’re advised by more mature women who implore us to enjoy this time with our children and leave the mess. We absolutely know that all too soon, the kids we’re picking up after will be gone from under our wings and roofs and we’ll have much less mess to contend with. But still…
Maybe there’s no sanity. Maybe we just all band together and be real. Maybe the only people who care so much about how cluttered the house really is, is us. Oh, and our husbands.
I’m searching for the balance between the mama who never-stops-working-at-it-for-a-second and the one who trips over the dolls in an effort to give cough medicine in the middle of the night. But until the sippy cups sprout feet instead of fuzzy mold like the one I found under the couch last week, and walk themselves to the dishwasher, which needs emptying of the clean dishes as I write, I'm simply stumped.
Carry on, you mamas and daddies in the trenches. And let me know if you find some housekeeping hacks for me. In the meantime, the struggle is real over here.