By Mom Jeckyl and Mom Hyde
So those of you who either know me in real life or have read some of the adventures involved in getting our house ready to go on the rental market know that in general, my housekeeping . . . well . . . ummm . . .
sucks leaves something to be desired. Generally speaking, with all of the balls I try to keep in the air, housekeeping is the first thing to go. We bring in a regular cleaning service to make sure that we’re not wallowing in filth and squalor, but between the world’s messiest human (yes, someone in our family has the nickname “Piglet”) and the normal craziness of four people with busy lives, we tend to live with clutter and piles of papers, and I’m generally happy if the sink gets emptied and the counters wiped down once in each 24 hour period. The FlyLady, I am not, although to date we’ve not yet been featured on an episode of Hoarders. Thankfully, a cardinal rule in our neighborhood and among our friends is that none of us judge each other for our housekeeping. Without that rule, I’d have to live the life of a hermit.
There is another reason, however, that I refuse to stress about housekeeping, and that reason is rearing its ugly head right now. When the house is clean to my standards, I turn into a psychotic raving lunatic and generally unpleasant human being. You see, for me, clean house vs. dirty house is a binary state: one’s house is clean or one’s house is dirty. That means that in my brain *anything* out of place in the clean house instantly turns the clean house into a dirty house. I know that’s not literally true: a book, a pair of flip-flops, a brush, and a laptop computer case left out in the living room don’t mean we’ve suddenly reverted to living in filth and squalor, but for me, it’s a double-black diamond slippery slope, and I know that if I tolerate the book, pair of flip-flops, brush and laptop case now, the entire house will revert to chaos and piles and dirty laundry and papers strewn everywhere before I can blink. So right now, with the house on the rental market, I’m insisting that everything must stay picked up at all times, and I find myself trying to turn my children into little Stepford Children. But on the other hand, I refuse to be anyone’s maid, so I’m left to harangue the children into sharing the load.
As a result, immediately after the kids’ lights out last night, as I puttered around the house, I summoned (in, admittedly, perhaps more of an “outside voice” than an “inside voice”) my kids out of bed three times to pick up their crap. Julianna had to pick up the towels she’d left on the bathroom floor. Elizabeth had to get her book and flip flops. And Julianna had to put away her laptop and laptop case. Then she had to return again, because she’d forgotten to put away her brush.
I don’t like this side of myself, and I recognize that some of it is my own crazy, but to be fair to myself, as I know from past experience, there is also some truth to the idea that if I let things slip a little, entropy will quickly reassert itself. So when my house is clean, I holler, and feel ridiculously stressed. When the house is in its normal state of chaos and disorder, I feel much more comfortable, perhaps because I’m not struggling to maintain what feels to me like an impossible ideal. So perhaps I just have a case of the Clean House Crazies, but I realized awhile ago that my anxiety level is far, far higher when my house is clean than when my house is full of chaos and piles. My kids agree that everyone around me is much, much happier if we live surrounded by some chaos and disorder. Thankfully, Mike has been willing to accept this as well.
But now the house is on the rental market (yay), and so for the moment, complete cleanliness must reign. And so Mom Jeckyl has disappeared, and Mom Hyde has reared her ugly head. My only hope (other than us quickly obtaining a signed lease from a wonderful family) is that a silver lining will come out of this in that my kids will start to grow less tolerant of entropy and chaos themselves. Perhaps in the long term our lives will permanently stay a bit more picked up, without me feeling the urge to holler at anyone. Wishful thinking? Probably. But it’s good to be optimistic.
In the meantime, perhaps one day my kids’ definitions and my definition of a “neatly made bed” will begin to coincide. I tried to give J a lesson this morning in bed making (e.g., remove the stuffed animals before you pull the covers up and pull up one layer of covers at a time), but I’m pretty sure it was in one ear and out the other. Sorry kids! I love you, and hopefully we’ll have a signed lease soon! In the meantime, at least our cleaning service’s job is now about 100 times easier than it used to be. And, to my joy and amazement, both girls actually did a great job today of not just running each of their own laundry, but of putting it away as well. Progress. . .
Am I the only person who suffers from the Clean House Crazies?