Why I Gave Up Cleaning

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Stop worrying about keeping your house clean and start being ok with it being a living space. Embrace the mess and instead of chaos find freedom.

Don’t you love it when your house is clean and organized?  I love to clean. The act of cleaning relieves any stress I might be feeling and a clean house helps keep stress away. It’s a win-win! I find the moniker “neat freak” to be an amazing compliment. 

immaculate living room

I don’t look down on people who aren’t as “freaky” as I am about clean. I believe they made that choice and that’s great! Own your messiness. It never once occurred to me that I would one day embrace that lifestyle.

And then I added a third child.

Now I was mom to a five year old, a two year old (who refused to potty train), a newborn (who didn’t want to be put down) and caregiver to my MIL (who often had childlike needs). Suddenly my housecleaning opportunities were getting fewer and fewer. I was also feeling more stressed. Not because my house was messier, but because my efforts to clean were so often interrupted and then I felt like a failure.

I hoped to pass on my love for clean to my children. Surely they would recognize the freedom that comes from having a clean space and keep their things neat and tidy right?

Wrong!

My kids love mess. They find such joy in dumping out toys and finding their lost treasures. To them cleaning means tossing everything into one box (an organizational nightmare!) and shoving all their belonging into a corner.

Oh the horror!

The chaos stresses this mama out! So, to keep myself happy I started cleaning for them. Every night I would spend the better part of an hour reorganizing their toys until I had a magazine worthy play space. 

With the dawning of a new year, I noticed myself becoming more and more dissatisfied with life. I was frustrated because the messes just kept coming and I was stressed out because I felt like all I did was clean. It got to the point that my family was living and I was walking around behind them cleaning. 

Sorry kids, mommy can’t play. I have to vacuum.

Sorry Nana, I can’t talk to you right now. The kitchen needs to be cleaned.

Sorry hubby, you will have to wait. I have to clean the playroom.

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cleaning

What would happen if I let go of my need to constantly clean?

First, because I’m a Type-A person, I would need to detail exactly how this would happen.

1. Find an alternative outlet for stress

I decided rather than cleaning, my stress relief would be writing so I started focusing on my blog. Anytime I feel anxious I pick up my tablet and write, get crafty with graphics, work on something technical, take a course, or read a blog related book. Its something I’ve wanted to do for some time but with all the cleaning I was doing, I couldn’t seem to find the time. Now, I have set “office hours” for my blog work and I schedule my housekeeping around it. 

2. Develop a cleaning management schedule

Let’s face it, if I let it go completely, chaos would reign supreme and my house would be condemned by the end of the month. Ok, that may be a slight exaggeration but there are things that need to be done every day to keep chaos at bay. So I set cleaning goals of loading and unloading the dishwasher once day, wiping down countertops after meals, a load of laundry everyday, gathering laundry and trash twice a day, and picking up toys in the main living spaces before bed. I tackle one hotspot (those places that stay messy, like junk drawers) for 15 minutes a day.  

3. Be more intentional

It was eye opening just how much time I was spending cleaning my home. I had to reevaluate my routines and schedules to make sure I spent my time intentionally. I set timers and stick to them. If it goes off before a task is finished, I set it aside for the next time. This ha been really hard because leaving a single task unfinished feels like failure to me. But, I remind myself that I will be coming back.

The Result

No one noticed.

Seriously.

No one.
This was a huge eye opener for me. I had been investing all this time in something of very little significance. My house is messy but not disastrous. Instead of my priority being housecleaning, its now my family and myself. I realized there are other ways of dealing with my stress. I get less irritated with my family who don’t share my neat freak-ish-ness. No one thought any differently about me. It didn’t change my character.
So I guess I didn’t entirely give up cleaning, I just loosened my expectations of myself. I stopped worrying about keeping my house immaculate and started being ok with it being a living space. I embraced the mess and instead of chaos, found freedom.

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