Monday, 2 December 2013

maggot lady

The elusive "tidy home". I hardly know a woman (or married manwho does not bewail disorder and mess in the house - in degrees exponentially linked to the population per capita of the home (particularly when some of those little "capitas" are toothless and toddling).  Women's blogs are split between those who champion traditional (and perfect) homemaking skills - and those who insist that it doesn't matter - your true friends love you even if your house is a mess.  While I'm sure that's true, it is nevertheless an act of service and consideration towards family and friends to offer a comfortable, clean, attractive place for eating, relaxing and recreating. Good stewardship of our material blessings means, in part, keeping them in a condition that makes it pleasant for others to use them. No matter how many times the rebellious modern insistence resounds, there is something in most of us that inherently loves a clean, orderly home. No one enjoys sticking to the kitchen floor. No one likes to find cat hair in the freezer. No one delights in stepping on a Lego in the dark. I think it's got something to do with the human attraction to the Transcendentals: Truth, Goodness and Beauty. We live in a beautiful, well-ordered universe and something of that is inscribed in the heart's desire regarding indoor living spaces as well. Except the hearts of two year olds. I think it's something that must grow in later, like wisdom teeth.

How I like the library books to be arranged.

How Joseph likes the library books to be arranged.

I find in myself two principals at war:

On the one hand, there is a neurotic impulse towards perfection - an uptight or even resentful attitude of heart that places things above people. I can become impatient with my kids because I want the house to look just so and they ruin it! Or I can be tense and controlling simply because of the way they are interacting (or might interact) with things. That unhospitable determination to keep a nice, pleasant home can instead make it really unpleasant  to live in my home. Rather than using things to make people comfortable, I can sometimes make people uncomfortable on account of things. That's exactly the opposite of good stewardship, good hospitality, good homemaking and good motherhood.

On the other hand....I'm busy. Too busy with more important things to waste my life mopping a floor that will need to be mopped again in approximately 32 minutes. Or I'm tempted at times to write myself a pass for the next - oh, ten years - because I've got a lot of little kids! No one could keep a neat house with four little kids! 

Keeping up with this particular area is a losing battle.

These trucks have a wicker basket "home" but my boys prefer to park them around
(and on top of....and inside of) the fish tank.

Virtue, being the middle of two extremes, finds a balance. Kelly, being in need of a Plan, found Fly Lady. I liked the idea of Fly Lady - you don't try to clean the whole house on one set day; instead she sends you an email every day giving you marching orders for the day's housework. Housework is broken up in little pieces that follow a repeating cycle. I tried it in New Zealand, but her system did not work in my house, for many reasons. So I created a baby version - Maggot Lady, if you will.

I wrote out my normal weekly routines (grocery day, tutoring day, errands day, etc....) and distinguished between days that tended to be less demanding versus those that tend to be more demanding.  On the "easier" days, I assigned myself housekeeping tasks that would be more involved. On the busier days, I assigned fewer, faster or more flexible tasks.  The result: a manageable weekly routine that allows me to keep the house liveable with minimal effort.

Monday:  dust, sweep, mop & vacuum - entire house
                 1 hour maximum

Tuesday: deep clean kitchen
                 30-45 minutes

Wednesday: tidy up a "random area"
                (alternates between car, garage,
                  basement, mudroom/laundry area)
                 15-30 minutes

Thursday: pay bills & sort paperwork.                      
                  5-20 minutes                      
Friday: declutter. tackle piles and put things where they really belong.
            throw out stuff and add stuff to the give-away bags.
            also, organize something (a closet, a shelf, a room)
               15 - 60 minutes

Saturday: deep clean bathrooms, change bedlinens & towels
                 45 - 60 minutes

Sunday: Sabbath rest
                24 hours

8 am, right after breakfast
Two years later, the house is pretty consistently "good enough". There are days and weeks when it is really bad, but most of the time, it's just a matter of keeping on top of the daily crisis areas, the things that spiral completely out of control without daily attention: laundry, dishes, toys and crumbs. These tasks add about another 60 minutes of work per day, but it's spread evenly throughout the day in small bits - and these tasks are also very generously shared with the little people who help create the need for them:)

Less than two hours later....
I have a strong daily routine for when to cook dinner, when to read to the kids, when to pray, and when to brush my teeth (the important things!) and a much looser weekly schedule for my evenings - one night is for grading papers, one is for a Holy Hour, one is a "date night" with Richard, one is "family board games", etc.... Basically, I've realized that if something is important to me, I need to schedule it or it may not happen. Life is busy and the urgent, the immediate (and the internet) will swallow all my time unless I have already dedicated portions of it to what I value or what will contribute most to the sense of well-being in my life. Disciplining myself to follow a routine that I have created is not nearly as hard as living with chaos and the crushing sense that I'm not following through on the things I value.

I share this post not because I have it all together, but because I do not, and I have found the concept of routines to be a great tool for creating order out of the chaos. For me, one of the most stubborn areas of "not growing much"  in my vocation is finding balance -for example, between being extravagantly present to my children during the day while also attending to the tasks that need to be done to foster a sense of order, well-being and peace in the home. Slowly establishing routines has been an immense help in growing in discipline, in making sure that certain goals are met and in making sure that other goals do not completely take over.  And that's something that anyone can benefit from, regardless of gender or vocation.

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