Chapter 3 – Maintenance
By the time summer was over I had worked through the entryway, kitchen, both bathrooms and part of the living room. I knew that these major projects would have to be put on hold while I returned to full-time teaching. A wise friend suggested I focus on maintaining the progress I had made and push forward on breaks. I realized that in the kitchen especially, maintenance was a huge issue for me. Most weeks I ignored the dishes until both sides of the sink were full or until something I needed was dirty. I picked up an important tip from Nony the Slob’s blog – wash the dishes every day. This seemingly obvious concept had never been a reality for me. I decided to try it out. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that it was so much easier and took so much less time to wash one day’s worth of dishes than it had to do a week’s worth. I also discovered that all my glasses did not fit on the shelf at one time! I even discovered the joy of a clean sink and sparkling counters.
Another problem area was the living room. It was littered with toys, tools, clothes, and anything else we happened to drop there. I worked together with the family to establish a daily ‘quick clean’ time right after dinner. Each of my girls gets a laundry basket and fills it with any of her belongings that have migrated to the living room. My husband and I gather our stuff. Actually most of the time I gather his stuff and put it in his ‘man cave’ for him to deal with. This has not been a smooth road for any of us. The girls would often argue over whose stuff belonged to who and who had to return jointly-owned items like art supplies. Also, there was the problem of items on the floor that no one claimed ownership to. This one I could usually resolve by offering to put the item in the giveaway bag. Someone usually claimed it. Still the ‘quick clean’ has never become popular. As with many things in my life, this is a journey of progress rather than perfection.
One accomplishment I am proud of is teaching my children to clean the bathroom. First we did it together and I led them through each step. Then I turned them loose to try it alone. Arguments about who would do what ensued. I tried an experiment. I wrote all the various jobs on separate slips of paper – clear off and wipe the counter, scrub the bathtub, etc. Then I called the girls together planning to have them draw for jobs. Surprisingly, they grabbed the papers and split them up themselves without complaint. Then off they went to make the bathroom sparkle. I am amazed at how well this strategy worked.
For most of the summer we kept the main living areas of the house clean and usable. It was a great accomplishment. We also passed the fifty bag mark for removing stuff from the house.
Then school started. Suddenly we were all busy and tired at night. I came home and collapsed on the couch. It was enough to fix dinner, oversee homework and piano practice, and prepare for the next day. I had no desire and seemingly no energy to clean. The dishes piled up. The clutter crept back into the living room. I would vow to get back on track, but it didn’t happen. I felt stuck.
One day I was listening to an audio book about procrastination and habits. It discussed rewards and gave the example of parents letting their kids play outside after school before doing their homework. Of course, this works for some families, but for some kids this is giving them their reward first and removing any willingness to go back and do their necessary work. I suddenly realized this is exactly what I was doing for myself. I came home and sank into my comfortable couch and disappeared into the internet. My selfish psyche had no reason to leave this nest and go clean. I tried setting a time limit, but this did not work for me either. I just didn’t want to get up once I settled in for the night. The only solution I could come up with was not to sit down when I got home. Anything I wanted to get done had to be done before I sat down. It sounds crazy but it worked. I started coming home and throwing in some laundry or reloading the dishwasher while I was making supper. Then after supper I could relax guilt-free. Also, I created a reward while I was working. I enjoy listening to audio books and you tube videos, so I started playing these while I was working. It made my chores so much more enjoyable. I guess my mind just got bored when doing menial tasks. Having something to think about during the process helped immensely.
My cleaning routine is far from perfect, but it is also far better than it was in the past.