I have a confession to make, and I feel it’s controversial:
I keep my house clean and I find housework satisfying.
I’m not OCD or neurotic and I don’t intend to single-handedly undo feminism — I just really enjoy and value a clean living space and I make it a priority. With a little bit of extra effort I’m able to maintain a working level of cleanliness in my home that allows my daily life to flow a bit more smoothly and with a lot less stress.
Some of the benefits of a clean home are:
- It’s easier to get things done when the space is already clean. When I prepare a meal in a clean kitchen it goes much more better than when it’s not. As I dirty dishes I can put them straight into the dishwasher or start soaking them. They don’t pile up and I can usually have most of the dishes washed before the meal is ready. When I want to work on a project there’s a clear surface ready and I can jump right into it rather than spending time cleaning first. And when the space we work in is clean and organized our brains are more free to be creative because they’re not trying to sort out the mess our eyes are looking at.
- Things don’t go missing as often. When things are generally put away, it’s easier to find what you’re looking for. I can tell Eleanor to go find her shoes and she doesn’t have to sift through mounds of toys or dirty clothes to find them. It’s easier to find that missing coupon when I don’t have piles of papers all around.
- It’s not as hectic to prepare for company. When we have friends over for dinner or a play date, I don’t have to run around for hours straightening things up. Yes, I do clean but it’s surface things like vacuuming or wiping down the sink.
- It’s easier to have people in your home. We had friends wait for over a year to invite us for dinner because they thought their house was too messy. When they finally did invite us we went and yes, their home wasn’t super tidy, but we didn’t care! We enjoyed a wonderful time with them. I’m more likely to spontaneously ask someone over or am more welcoming when someone drops by when my home isn’t a disaster.
- It looks better and is more relaxing. Okay, I admit this one is a little more shallow. But who doesn’t prefer to spend time in an aesthetically pleasing environment? If you envision a space you really want to be in, I doubt it’s messy. Being home is more enjoyable when it’s clean.
I think I would be pretty safe in assuming most of us want to keep our homes clean and organized but find the practical application a bit challenging. I sure do! But there are a few things I’ve learned along the way that have helped me to maintain a doable level of cleanliness without spending half my life wearing rubber gloves:
- Just put it away. Rather than walking over that toy or pile of clothes, pick it up and put it away. It will probably only take a few seconds. This goes for paper and other things that tend to collect (and then procreate). Don’t set junk mail or any other similar paper down – put it straight into the recycling. Put dirty dishes in the dishwasher and don’t let them pile up on the counter.
- Blitz clean. I do this several times throughout the day and it makes a huge difference. Pick up all the odds and ends laying around, put toys back in their box, make the bed, wipe down the counters, whatever small tasks you can get done in 5-10 minutes.
- Get the kids involved. Before Eleanor has her quiet time or goes to bed she has to put her toys away. This way when I have some time to myself I’m not surrounded by my kid’s toys or spending my time cleaning up after them. If you have older kids assign them specific responsibilities and chores and take the time to teach them to do them well.
- Clean before you go to bed. No one likes waking up to a sink full of dirty dishes or eat breakfast next to a basket of unfolded laundry. Get as much done as you can the night before and start the day with a clean slate. It’s easier to welcome a new day when you’re not dealing with yesterday’s mess.
- Set aside time for the bigger stuff. This is the hard one and definitely where I struggle the most. Tackle one big project at a time, break it down into smaller tasks and be intentional about doing it.
While your home will probably never look picture perfect (mine sure won’t), when worked at a little bit at a time a clean home is achievable. It doesn’t have to be a daunting task and it doesn’t have to keep you from doing the things you enjoy.
If having a clean space isn’t a priority for you and you can relax in and enjoy your home in whatever state it’s in, more power to you (can you teach me how to do that?) Or if you simply do not have time to clean or energy to clean, don’t. While there are benefits to a clean home sometimes it comes at too high a cost. I loved the Huffington Post article My house is messy and I don’t care and I can relate to Dugans InCahoots’ post We can’t be friends because they’re PSAs reminding us that it’s the relationships fostered in our homes that matter, not how magazine-worthy they are. So whether your house is clean or messy, open your doors wide and love on whoever comes through them.