Monday, June 29, 2009

Mad Housekeeping Skillz?

Or just mad about my lack of housekeeping skillz? I'm an awesome housekeeper when I put my mind to it and decide to clean something up. It's just somehow finding the motivation to clean things that I don't enjoy cleaning. I hate tidying up after the kids because they're old enough to do it themselves, damn it. I also have sciatica problems in spite of the rest of my back problems disappearing since my surgery back in December. It's not the cleaning itself but having to bend down and get floor level repeatedly. I hate it. The kids are getting better about cleaning up their own messes and Anneliese always helps. She's quite the little housekeeper and I can always count on her to enjoy helping me around the house.

I also seriously hate doing dishes. Yes, yes, we have a dishwasher so it's really a matter of filling and emptying the dishwasher. Let me clarify. The part about doing dishes that I hate is the silverware. I loathe touching other people's eating utensils, especially when there are still bits of food or a coating of a sauce or something on them. Not just on the part that goes into your mouth, but when it gets on the handles of the utensils. It happens EVERY TIME I do the dishes and it skeeves me out and there's nothing I can do about it. Everything else is fine. It's just that utensil thing.

I don't mind doing the bathrooms although recently I had to clean up a horrifying toothpaste incident thanks to Grace. Somehow, she got toothpaste all over every single surface in the upstairs bathroom, including the edges of the shower stall doors. There was blue Crest Kid's toothpaste everywhere. The sink, the cabinets, the mirrors, the floor, the window, the toilet set lid and outer bowl. It was one of the grossest yet pleasant smelling messes I've ever had the pleasure to clean. I don't mind the toilets or the shower stall. I don't mind washing floors, that is until my sciatica starts acting up. I enjoy doing laundry although I hate folding clothes. I love doing yard work like trimming the hedges, weed whacking, pruning, planting, tending, yard edging. I won't mow the grass thanks to serious outdoor allergies, and I dislike washing cars.

The problem in my house is that my husband seems to think I follow his timetable of when things should be cleaned. When I do clean, it's not always to his satisfaction. When that happens, it becomes a power struggle. That's just not a good thing when it comes to house-cleaning. I'm not someone who likes being ordered to do something in my own home. Request it? Sure. Suggest it? Sure. Ask me for help? Not a problem. But TELLING me to do it will cause some trouble and I'll likely not do it until I'm good and ready. I'll even do it on my own.

When I won't do it on my own, aside from being ordered to do it, is when a mess literally overwhelms me. My brain can't see or process clutter that reaches a certain point because if I focus on it I get anxiety attacks at what there is to be done. Those types of messes get handled by my husband unless I'm able to look at the mess in steps by cleaning up a particular part of the mess or doing it in stages. For instance, cleaning up toys? We attack dolls first, then books, then stuffed animals, then plastic animals, etc. Or we might go section by section of the room that needs to be cleaned in a manageable, organizational way. The problem then becomes getting me to split my focus, because once I start on a job like that I can't stop until it's done.

Other household "projects" can just be plain old difficult because it requires heavy work or lifting, or is in a place I can't reach because I'm too short. Those aren't so much of a problem for my husband to understand. The problem is when he thinks I should have done one thing instead of another or haven't done it to the level his mother would have. But then again, his mother never has let messes occur in the first place. Her home is spotless, and she's admitted that when her kids were young she cleaned their messes as they went and spent her entire days cleaning. I tend to play with my kids and spend educational time with them, and put the cleaning up part off in certain instances. Some messes get cleaned up right away before it's a problem, while other messes are just part of the process. Apparently, that makes me a bad housekeeper. I also don't always clean something before it gets dirty. That makes me a bad housekeeper too. I don't mind a little bit of clutter, because clutter doesn't equal dirty. I don't let things get dirty, but for my husband there's not a distinction to be made. Clutter is dirty.

The fact is that I'm not a housekeeping-oriented person. Messes are a sign of children learning, although there's a difference between a play time mess and a grungy mess. I don't let the bathrooms get nasty, for instance. I keep my countertops clean and try to clean those as I go. The sink might get full before I get to it, but I try not to let it get overwhelming. So what it comes down to is a different approach to cleaning, I guess, and being OK with the fact that not everything is going to be clean 100% unless we get a live-in housekeeper.

I'm OK with not being a fantastic housekeeper. I will never lay on my deathbed wishing I had cleaned more dishes or tidied up the living room more often. Those things will always be there. My children won't.

Babies Don't Keep
by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo

The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

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