Thursday, June 7, 2012

Why Clean The House?

(This is an essay I wrote for a homemaking course I'm taking.)

Why clean the house?

This was something I asked myself for years, with the wrong attitude and lots of “poor me” type statements tacked onto the end. Why clean the house – nobody appreciates it? Why clean the house – it’ll just get dirty again? Why clean the house – I’m not the only one who lives here?

For years, I had plenty of excuses so I didn’t clean the house, or I did the bear minimum to keep things halfway sanitary, but not at all neat or welcoming. I have never had to clean while I was a child, except as a punishment, and I had never really learned how to clean or keep things in order, but I had convinced myself that it wasn’t all that important and that I had “better” things to do.

I remember really thinking about it after reading a quote online at said something like “A cluttered house is a sign of a cluttered soul”. I didn’t know why, but that quote made me so mad at the time. How dare they judge me? How could they assume my house was any sort of reflection of me? Why was a messy house always the woman’s fault anyway? Didn’t they know I worked long hours and needed a break when I got home, too?

Looking back, those thought and attitudes were the very type of clutter my mind and soul were filled with. I was so focused on myself and on how busy and self-important I felt that I never realized that the clutter and chaos in my home was a reflection of me. I blamed my messy house on depression and constant fatigue, and then I blamed the mess for causing my depressed feelings and lack of energy. I felt overwhelmed by it all, but was too caught up in feeling sorry for myself to make even a small change. The sad thing is it took a stay in the hospital, when I was physically and mentally at the end of my rope, for me to realize that I needed to get my physical house in order the same way I needed to get my mental and spiritual “house” in order.

Being in the hospital was a little like being in a hotel. The room was sparse but neat and I was limited to a few outfits, basic toiletries, and some books and notebooks for writing and drawing. The first morning I woke up, I made my bed because it looked so messy and unkept and I started taking pride in keeping my few things neat. I realized then that order and routine set the tone for the whole day and lifted my spirits. It really began to sink in how much my cluttered home was dragging me down and affecting my moods and my energy, and I started to realize how it must be affecting my husband as well.

When I got back home, I started working on cleaning. I didn’t really know where to start, so I spent a lot of time sorting through boxes and drawers one small thing at a time, taking hours without making much visible progress. I finally found my way back to the FlyLady website and determined to give it a try. For a couple years, I would try it, “flutter” for a while and then get into a depression or get overwhelmed with work and fall behind again. Still, things were getting a bit better, very slowly. I still had way too much clutter and what I now realize was a hoarding problem, but at least I had routines to help me keep some of it in check and to keep on top of hygienic things like laundry, dishes, vacuuming, and clean bathrooms.

When I found out I was pregnant out of the blue, after 8 years of supposed infertility, it really put things into perspective. My house was still far too cluttered and hard to clean because of the piles of stuff in the way. I knew I needed to make some big changes quick and get rid of a lot of clutter and then do a thorough cleaning to make it safe and welcoming to bring my son home to. I had pregnancy complications that resulted in having to quit both my jobs early, which gave me lots of time at home. I was also blessed to have a chance, thanks to a television special, to get to meet Marla Cilley (the FlyLady) in person for help and encouragement in de-cluttering. I did manage to get things neat, for the most part (one thing we found out is my husband also has hoarding/packrat tendencies and he was more reluctant to let things go), before my son was born, but I had health issues after his birth that let things fall behind again. Things are much neater than they were, but I still have to push myself to keep on top of things and not let the nagging voice that tells me “it’s not worth it” or “it’ll just get messy again” win. It’s also just been a big adjustment to try to find time to clean with a small child who wants to get into everything as fast as I can straighten it up.

Now, I have so many answers to the question “Why clean the house?”

The first is simply, because it’s my job. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and have been blessed to be able to do so. Part of this “agreement” is that my husband takes care of earning most of the money to pay our bills and I take care of our son and the house. It is also part of the “job description” the Bible gives for a woman who is a “keeper at home”.

The second is because my family deserves it. Like I mentioned earlier, a cluttered house can make you feel very moody and depressed, and it often causes arguments between spouses. On the other hand, a neat and clean house can lift your spirits and is a calmer and more relaxing place to rest or come home to. My husband should be able to come home in the evening to a peaceful and welcoming environment, not to chaos and clutter that makes it look like I don’t care about what he has provided for me. My son needs a home that is neat and safe for him to play in and explore, and where he will be happy to invite friends over as he gets older. I also deserve a clean, orderly house, because it shows that I respect myself and my family enough to keep it up and that I respect my job as a homemaker.

The last reason is so that I can use my house to bless others. My husband and I used to enjoy having friends over to visit us before the house got so messy, and that is something we have only recently been able to enjoy again. At one point, I even had an informal book/study group with some local ladies that centered around FW, but I did not feel like I could continue that until I got my house back in order again because I would have been ashamed of the clutter and dust. I believe that one of the greatest gifts we can share with others, especially if we have the opportunity to be stay at home wives and mothers, is hospitality, but that requires a home that is clean and welcoming. I look forward to having a home that I will be glad to invite people over to again, and where I will not hesitant to open the door and ask someone in if they stop by for a moment.

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