I hope my children will look back on today
And see a mother who had time to play.
There will be years for cleaning and cooking
But children grow up while we're not looking.
Dusting and scrubbing can wait 'till tomorrow
For babies grow fast we learn to our sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep
(adapted from “Song for a Fifth Child”
by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton)
Nana went to be with Jesus years ago, and now as I raise my own children I think of the wisdom she had hanging on her wall. Trying to find the balance between keeping a home, being a wife and mother, and pursuing interests outside of the home is difficult. Trying to not be discouraged by the endless messes of a busy life, a rambunctious toddler, or an over-committed schedule is something most of us can relate to; however, most of us also have a desire for order.
How to Get Your House in Order - While Still Having Time To Play
1. Have a Plan
Sound familiar? Having a cleaning schedule can tremendously reduce your stress level. Each day of the week tackle one area of your house. I have a daily and a weekly schedule. There are certain small chores I do everyday. In addition, I tackle one big cleaning project on each day of the week. Mondays it is the bathrooms, Tuesdays I deep clean the kitchen, Wednesdays I scrub the floors, and the list goes on. By having a plan I know that it will take me about forty-five minutes each day to keep my house presentable. Notice I didn’t say perfect.
2. Rethink Perfect
No ones house is perfect all of the time. What can you live with? For me, I like my counters to be cleared and clean. So I clean my counters several times a day, but there may be shoes piled up under the kitchen island. I must let go of this idea of perfection
3. Check Your Heart
Trying to obtain an ideally perfect home can keep someone so busy that there is no time for anything else. Aside from the busyness, it also affects quality of life. For a person obsessed with a clean house, expectations are normally high for others to do the same. I say this from experience. When expectations are not met it usually leads to resentment, and that resentment can come out sideways leading to anger and conflict within the home.
4. Ask For Help
I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to ask for help. Asking for help means admitting I can’t do and be it all. It means I may not always be on top of my game, and have it all figured out.
Enlist your children in daily chores. Hand your toddlers a non-toxic wipe, and have them wipe tables, chairs, door handles, sinks, and so on. Don’t be afraid to call on a friend to take your children for an hour or two so you can get ahead. Swapping play-date times with a friend each week could be a great way for you to have time to dance around your living room - or clean.
For a long time as a stay-at-home mom I had a hard time asking my husband for help. Eventually I would exhaust myself, and my frustration would come out on him. My husband is gracious, and he would often ask me why I didn’t just ask for help. The answer was simple: I thought I was superwoman.
5. Make Cleaning Convenient
Each one of my bathrooms has it’s own set of wipes, sprays and toilet brushes. I can easily clear my counter and wipe my sink each morning as I brush my teeth. Cleaning my toilet only takes an additional 30 seconds. My kitchen has its own set of wipes and supplies. By having easy access to cleaning products and supplies, I don’t spend time hauling things from room-to-room.
6. Clear Clutter
Make a time each week to de-clutter an area of your home, and set a goal for yourself to get rid of a set number of items. Start off with a small goal, like cleaning out one kitchen drawer a week, and as the weeks go on set bigger goals. The less stuff you have the less you have to worry about finding a home for, and then you are not trying to clean around clutter.
7. Know When to Throw in the Towel
Listen for ques from your family. Does your husband get nagged for his lack of meeting your expectations? Do your children talk about how much mommy cleans, become whiny/clingy when you are tackling one of your lists, or are your kids acting out from lack of attention. These may all be signs that the cleaning needs to be set aside for a while to enjoy the people you know you are working for.
I feel like most of us could admit that we find ourselves weak in some of these areas at times. There are many times (in a day) that my house is out-of-order, but I have to prioritize my time. My prayer is that we are gracious with ourselves and others in our efforts to work, serve, love and play.