Why having a tidy home doesn't define me

09/06/2016 01:12 am ET Updated Sep 06, 2016
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Parenting is a magnifying glass on all the ways you are not perfect. We’ve all tried to be perfect at least once right? Maybe it was cloth diapering. Maybe it was only eating organic. Maybe it was shedding all the baby weight in no time at all. Maybe it was having a spotless home.

When I first became a mom, some strange beast overtook me. I had never cared that much about having a spotless house before motherhood. Honestly, life is too short. There’s research that people who work in messy spaces are more creative. I’ll take creativity over order and efficiency, every time.

But then I started joining mom groups, online and in person. People were discussing morning routines and cleaning schedules. As non-mom, I had never been privy to those discussions before. Or perhaps I had filtered them out. I felt the will to live draining out of me. But I also started thinking maybe they knew something I didn’t and perhaps I should take note.

There were all these people offering me some technique, system or hack to getting a more organized home. I was new to motherhood and found myself at home a lot more than I ever had been before. I was open to new ideas and new ways of doing things, wanting to ace this whole motherhood thing.

I bought into the argument that having a home that was tidy and run efficiently would reduce stress. Who doesn’t want less stress? Especially when there is a baby or toddler in the house.

I dutifully decluttered our living space. Not perfectly I should add, there’s still a ton of work to be done. I bought new storage to help organize my son’s clothes, toys, and all the other miscellaneous stuff a baby seems to need. I threw out unused stuff. I even got my husband on board, and we devoted several Saturday’s to this pursuit.

Big high five to us! We totally rocked this getting organized thing.

Then the day to day work of keeping things tidy began. It wasn’t long before the reality of all the work I was creating for myself started to become clear. Yes, chaos and always losing things might be stressful. But trying to live up to someone else standard is way more stressful.

My son was probably around a year old at this point. One year old’s are pretty much designed to make a mess. It’s in their programming. They do not care that you have just cleaned the floors when they empty the contents of their snack box in the middle of the room.

I was running around picking up his toys in some misguided idea that keeping the place clean and picked up was in my new job description. And it left me tired and no less stressed. I hadn’t cared about any of this before I read those blog posts. Now I was wearing myself out trying to be someone I am not.

Someone introduced me to flylady.net. I only visited her site a couple of times and I knew immediately that we would not see eye to eye. But I was new at this mom thing, and impressionable. Apparently.

If you’re not familiar with it, the site has a description of how to polish your kitchen sink to a shine. By doing so, she claims, all the other housework would start to fall into place. It’s about a tidy mindset, or something. I’m a little embarrassed to admit I read it and gave it a try. The design of my kitchen sink saved me, the procedure just wasn’t possible. My sink was never going to reach a perfect shine. Thank God.

After a day of reflection (which had been created by but not in my kitchen sink) I remembered that the priorities in my life lie elsewhere. Yes, we need to eat off clean plates, and, yes, we never go to bed without doing the dishes. Usually. No, we do not need to shine the sink. A daily once over is enough. Maybe more than enough. Going a couple of days won’t kill anyone. Or longer.

I am now another year into my life as a mom. I have a two-year-old and I am teaching him to tidy up after himself. And when toys get left out then I don’t worry about it too much. 

I’m defining my own standards of clean enough in my home. I don’t need to live up to anyone else’s standard. Don’t even get me started on KonMari. 

And, we hired a cleaner. Why hadn’t I thought of that sooner?

 

 

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