Thursday, April 15, 2010

Why Do You Clean Your House?

Yesterday morning, #4, #5, and I went to a ward member's duplex to help clean. They have moved out, and they really wanted their deposit back. They have one small child and are expecting another one next week --so their place wasn't too big (one floor, three bedrooms), nor was it too dirty (I've seen dirty, and trust me, this wasn't it...). Still, the cute pregnant woman was mortified that we were seeing her dirty house. Her uncleaned fridge. Her uncleaned stove. The dusty blinds and the dusty vents. She was so embarrassed. I reminded her that we were there to clean, so thank goodness there was something to clean!

I thought about what she had said as I was scrubbing down a bathroom and the top of the gas stove. I thought about her reaction, my reaction, and the reactions of the ladies around me as I scrubbed the walls. I wondered about the fine line between being realistic and being respectable as #4 ran up and down the hallway.

It's the same old adage, isn't it? We complain that we don't have time to clean, or we don't take the time to clean, or we do it and begrudge it. We agonize over visitors and die internally when we think they will have to use less-than-bleached-perfect toilets. Then we fall over ourselves apologizing when our house is a mess, or if the dishes aren't done, or if there are left-over apple cores and sandwiches behind the couch. However, if we realize we're too good for apologies, we make a joke out of it. "Welcome to the chaos!" is my favorite. I've also used "Please ignore our wallowing in filth" or "It's my day off."

I know we're supposed to be all "it doesn't matter what my house looks like because what matters is if I'm doing the things that matter like feeding and clothing the children," but it doesn't always work that way. I think a lot of us still --whether we admit it or not --cringe with embarrassment when our house is less than stellar. Or at least less than our own standards of clean (and trust you me, there are a lot of standards out there. Which is okay by me!). Where does this guilt come from? Religion? Our mothers? Society? Personally, for me, I think the desire to have a clean and organized home comes from a much bigger place: My health.

That may sound kind of dumb, but stay with me. It has taken me years to come to this conclusion (which may or may not be correct; the jury's still out), but as I was cleaning my friend's house, I realized a few things about my cleaning habits:

1. When my house is clean and organized, my stress level is way low. Waaaaaaay low. Like practically non-existent. I breathe better. I relax more. I smile more.
2. Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Absolutely. A sweet-smelling, comfortable, clean home invites the Spirit more easily than a cesspool of poop and vomit. Go figure.
3. Cleaning my home gives me a sense of purpose. One that I hated for years because cleaning a house somehow meant I was a suppressed housewife and the world told me I needed to have something "better" and "more validating" and "more important than taking care of my home and family because where would that get me??" But finally, I have embraced it! I love doing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen before bed now, something I have rebelled against forever. I love teaching the kids how to clean up. I enjoy it when we actually work together without fighting to get something (like cleaning the playroom) done --which is rare, of course. Not the cleaning --the doing it without fighting. I love that cleaning the house (once again, to me) proves that I actually like my family. And I want to take care of them and show my love to them.
4. Although my cleaning skills have improved over the last decade, I truly believe it has been my desire that has improved the most. I think I was rebelling against my parents for always making us clean the house (our house was pretty dang clean growing up) or something. But as my desire for a clean house has improved, the house has gotten a little bit cleaner. Go figure.
5. Clean bathrooms, clean clothes, clean bedsheets, and clean kitchens are safer. Less germs. Less bacteria. And again --less stress.

All of that equals health. Emotional, mental, and --most definitely --physical.

I think that's why I apologize to my friends and family when they see my messy house. See, I may preach that clean houses are the bomb, and I don't think any of us will disagree with that, but I am realistic. I have five small children, for pete's sake! There is going to be dirt and fingerprints and bugs and messy diapers. I mean, we may not agree that we all need a white-glove test (I wouldn't), but still, having a clean and orderly home is a good thing. A nice thing. A gift, really, to our children and our friends and ourselves. So, I apologize because I know it could be better. I make jokes because in reality, I don't care what THEY think of my house, I care what I think. And what I think really matters the most, because I'm the Queen of my Castle. And I want it fairly clean.

So the next time you come to my house, and if it's not perfect, and I apologize, you can know it's because I'm trying to be all healthier and what-not. Not because I somehow believe I should be just as good as you or Sister fancy-pants or my mother (whom I love) --but because I like me some clean. It's good for me. Clean is pretty awesome. And I want my home to reflect that --at least a little bit!

Why do you clean your house? Or why do you NOT clean your house?


FoxyJ said...

Part of the reason why I clean my house is simply because I have anxiety and I get overstimulated easily. Having a lot of clutter and stuff stresses me out. I also don't like dirt; like you, I want to be healthy and I want my kids to be too. I've also realized lately that I have an issue with having too much stuff, so I regularly go through and clean things out and throw stuff away. I'm worried about someday having a house (like my parents') crammed full of stuff we don't need or don't use.

Julie P said...

Why do I clean?
1. I hate clutter. It gives me serious anxiety attacks (for real).
2. The germ thing is gross.
3. to teach my children to work by seeing me work and by working themselves.
4. I believe the Spirit is more easily present in a peaceful home and soul, and I (and by extension my family) feel more peaceful in clean.
5. To show respect for ourselves and our things.

I just read a thing about someone who's "not rich" hiring a housekeeper. Oh, in my dreams. I hate baseboards, and dusting things that are up high (or down low, or in the middle).

Courtney N said...

I have to have a clean house... I guess that's easy to say because I am single and live alone. I vacuum, mop, and dust once a week and I never have dirty dishes in the sink. I just like to be organized and clean. : )

Stephanie said...

My two biggest motivators are mothers (my own, my husband's, and any others that may come into my home) and safety. If I don't pick up the little bits, my 1-year old WILL eat them. And if toys are too spread out, I WILL trip on them in the middle of the night or while carrying one of my kids. So I pick them up when we reach a certain point, and try to ignore it the rest of the time.

On the other side of it, I love laundry. There's just something about closets full of nice, clean clothes. Plus, it takes a good week for it to pile up again, so I can feel like I really accomplished something.

FluffyChicky said...

I clean because I want my house and the stuff in it to last a long time. I have worked long and hard for it and I want to show respect for my work by not letting the house be "ruined" by filth and neglect. What other people do with their house is their business and I really don't care what they do with their things. I can't control what other people do. But I can control myself (and my husband/kids). So I clean. And I "force" them to clean too. And we are all happy. The End.

Anonymous said...

Apple cores and sandwiches? Feeling a little better about my dust bunnies now. Thank you.

I don't clean if I'm not in the mood. Sometimes I'm not in the mood, but if I just kind of force myself to get started I can get myself in the mood. But sometimes I'm just NOT in the mood. And that is no time to be cleaning, my friend.

Marianne said...

Love this!

I usually do the day to day type cleaning, let the clutter build, do a major crisis cleaning before someone comes over and then revel in the joy of a clean house and wonder why I don't just keep it that way. Wash, Rinse, Repeat. It's like a horrible cycle of abuse! :op

I too, feel MUCH better when things are clean and tidy. However, I often lack motivation and don't use my time as wisely as I could. I need to be better at involving my kids and having a more set routine.

Either that or hire a maid! ;o)

Susan M said...

Why I clean? Cuz it's nice to be in a clean place.

I think a big part of why I don't clean is related to my sensory issues though. A lot of people with sensory issues tend to act out and get hyper (like my husband--you should see him when he's on a cleaning streak!)--I tend to shut down.

Cardalls said...

totally get this woman's anxiety! i am now on partial bedrest and a team of RS sisters is coming to clean my house on Saturday...I have anxiety over them coming! but i have to swallow my pride because i can absolutely not do it right now.

Mel said...

I'm totally with you. A clean house makes me HAPPY. But with three small children having it ALL clean at any given time is practiaclly impossible. So I try to find joy in the small things. Like the kitchen is clean, family room is a mess, but the kitchen is clean! And when I get really organized I try to follow "The Fly Lady." When I can get going, her methods really do take the stress out.

Amanda D said...

I posted something similar yesterday...well sort of. My post was about how I need to get the house under control because it's spinning into every other part of life.

I hate to clean. But I love to be in a clean, neat and tidy house. The main reasons I clean, though, is because the kids are happier and i'm happier and the house is more inviting.

Alison Wonderland said...

It's so much nicer to be n a clean place. I breathe easier, am calmer, and much more comfortable in a clean home. That being said I don't spend nearly as much time cleaning as I need to and the kids' rooms forget about it. I need to do better, I want to do better, I have no time to do better.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

This is probably going to sound stupid, but I don't think we're supposed to have a clean house. I think we're supposed to WANT a clean house and work toward it. This phrase from General Conference about Mary and Martha's house fit in perfectly with my philosophy on this:

"It was a welcome place for the Master, where He could rest and enjoy the surroundings of a righteous home."

Elder Sweitzer(?)

I think I need to blog about this. Thanks for the inspiration.