September 16, 2011

This messy life

I've always prided myself on my ability to keep a clean house. It's something that has always been very important to me. There are a hundred thousand neurotic reasons why. I got married at 21, and so I think having a perfect, spic-and-span abode felt like some way I could prove I was mature enough to be somebody's wife, that I was ready for it. Also, J.D. and I have always lived in small spaces, and there just isn't a lot of room for clutter. Clutter actually makes things take longer: try cooking dinner in a 30 square foot kitchen that's laden with dirty dishes. And then there's the fact that cleaning is such an easy way to feel like a success: you do the job, and then you can step back and see it's done, see what you've achieved. When I was in law school and struggling with thorny legal issues that had no real resolution day in and day out, I found it difficult to sleep unless my entire house was clean, everything put away, all the laundry folded, all the towels hanging the same way on the rack in the bathroom. probably something I should discuss with a therapist.

Having a baby changed things. For one, there was more clutter. Little toys, onesies, cloth diaper inserts, all needing a home, a place. Tiny socks needing a mate. Bottle bladders, guaranteed to reduce colic--all of these things needed to be washed, dried, matched with corresponding parts. And then, of course, there was less time to do all that.

I tried my best for a while to keep up. I followed the Fly Lady's protocol. I downloaded the Motivated Moms app for my iPhone, and received a list of tasks to perform each day. But both programs made me feel like more of a spazz, not less. Organize my crafting corner? WHAT crafting corner? Clean guest bedroom? I vacuumed the couch, looked inside the cushions, found three forks. I got sidetracked for an hour by a note directing me to scrub my upstairs bathroom--oh, what I could do with an upstairs bathroom! And an upstairs!

I started to fall further and further behind. A few dishes left in the sink when I went to bed. A jumble of shoes in the corner, instead of neatly put away in corresponding closets. And then, almost without my realizing it, this happened.

At first I felt bad about it, fought a little harder. I'd decide to tackle that front closet, pull everything out as the start of a massive decluttering project. Then the baby would wake up, and I'd have to leave everything where it was and go change her, and oh, shit, do a load of cloth diapers, and all the shady things that had been hidden away at the back of the closet slowly became permanent parts of the surrounding landscape. It was like quicksand: the more you fight, the faster you sink.

So I stopped fighting. One of the most liberating moments of my life was the day I realized that I was a better mother because I had stopped putting such a premium on a clean house. Before, Lulu spent a lot of time in her swing while I folded clothes, listened to way to much of the Toddler Tunez HD music channel. The song about walking to school, bouncing like a kanga-ranga-roo? On a trampa-lampa-line? I think that was driving both of us insane.

Now we do a lot more of this:

And this:

And yes, there is still some of this

But in the end, it's probably a lot less brain-damaging than the trampa-lampa-line.

And now, if you'll excuse me, Lulu just woke up, and I need to go hike up Mt. St. Laundry to find a burp cloth. Wish me luck! I may be some time.

1 comment:

  1. I started to give up on a clean house with Joy. By the time Grace came along, clean house was a faint, fond memory. It's about all I can do - and more, sometimes - just to keep the girls and me clean!