Uniquely Mi Vida

The Struggle with Housework

I am not ashamed to say this: I hate doing dishes. I do. And dusting… mostly cause I’m allergic to dust and mold..

The passionate dislike of dishes, however, does not have to do with allergies. That started when I was growing up and my mother, God bless my dear mother who is now in heaven, had this great idea that EVERYONE would take turns doing the dishes. Seeing as she cooked day after day, it all made sense that my brother, Dad and I would help. Our names were written on the calendar. Everyone agreed. It was a great PLAN! Right? Wrong!! There was one problem: the “boys” refused to do their part, always having an excuse. Somehow they found themselves “OUT” when it was their turn, and even “homework” would finally show up for my brother… which had NEVER HAPPENED before. In short, I got stuck with the dishes, and cleaning the kitchen. At the age of 11 I put my foot down. “No work without pay.” So, I learned the value of capitalism and that lazy people who choose not to work should pay those who do it for them.

Then I had my own little dorm room and my own little house with no one else’s chores to do. Which was fine, because I didn’t have time. In the midst of 15-17 credit hours at the university, 15-20 hours of work, and volunteering for the church, who had time to clean, cook and do dishes??? So I learned to prioritize. Clean the living room and dining room, ignore your bedroom and don’t let anyone in it. Do dishes if you don’t want roaches and mice, and use paper plates when you know you don’t have time. Later, Todd came along and he had to help, too, especially with the dishes.

Marriage came, and before the children, we divided work evenly: I sweep, mop and vacuum. Todd dusts, pick up, and mows the yard. I cook, he does dishes. He does laundry, I fold. I cleaned the bedroom, and he the bathroom. Okay, I had to help him some. NEAT, Huh? Then our great plan fell apart… little by little our children popped into this world and there goes the kitchen, the bathroom, and even the living room. And don’t forget the bedrooms!

I needed a plan! I needed a desperate new plan! Because kids took more time than I thought.

Kids just don’t understand the rule of CLEAN AFTER YOURSELF. Yeah.. that didn’t go well. Soon toys were everywhere. A living room filled with a baby swing, walker, floor blanket and toys. To add to the chaos, both Todd and I were working and going to Seminary. It wasn’t pretty. I had my dad hounding me. “Your house has to be a house of order just as your life.” Or “Beti keeps our house clean, and remember that being holy means that your house has to be clean too.” Or more directly, “your house is in such a mess.” In exasperation I said, “Well daddy, you have 2 children, I have 3. I work full time, and Todd works full time, and we both go to school. Your wife is stays home clean and taking care of kids all day, plus she has help from her family, I only have Todd. Of course my house is messier than yours.” He did stop. No guilt here, because I knew that my house was not going to stay perfectly clean daily.

I knew, shamefully, that he was right to some extent. He had a point. I needed to get the house a little bit more under control. I wasn’t able to keep up with the dining room or bedrooms because, incidentally, that was the playroom, and my bedroom was always a mess. I was able to I maintain the living room, and did my best to keep the dirty dishes under control. I learned during the busy times that I had to have ONE area where I was free of chaos. Except that my kids messes spilled into that area as well. Needless to say, keeping a 2 bedroom house clean with one baby, a toddler and a Pre-K was next to impossible, no matter what I did. My solution: Saturday became cleaning day for everyone. And Sunday? It all better stay clean! Then we began picking up and cleaning as a game, (until they figured out it wasn’t). Another thing I taught my girls was to pick up their toys every night before going to bed. And thus my living room stayed clean, at least overnight, and the mess contained. It was cleaned daily, you could tell “kids live here” but things were mostly picked up and the main areas were cleaner from dust and dirt, even if clutter was still around.

As time went by and the children got older, we moved into bigger houses. It was easier to divide areas of the house to contain the mess. My girls had their play room, I had my living room. They had their bedrooms and bathroom, I had mine. Rules had to be made. Besides a chore chart, we had (and still do) general rules: Rule 1: no playing in the living room and no toys outside of the play area or bedrooms. Rule 2: Pick up your stuff before going to bed. Rule 3: You take it out, you put it back (goes for friends too) and rule 4: Hubby shares the cleaning, especially when Mom is still at work. (And the cooking).

Soon those rules became essential. We were busy. Everyone grew up and became busier. Things may have gotten out of hand off and on, especially when we were gone from sun up to PAST sun down. So I learned the busy “Mom rule” of: letting it go for a day or two. I had to be at peace with not every room being perfect and things being out of place. Yet, after a week of chaos, life had to get back in order and so did the house. I needed to get my growing kids, my laid back husband and my stressful self consistent, so the main area still had some semblance of cleanliness. WE NEEDED A NEW PLAN! And believe me, we have gone through many of them. Family meetings, chore charts and dish days. Although never perfect, the mess was under control. We had our great days and our “I’m too tired” days, you know, “Let it go” days. But I get stressed when it is too much, and I’m stubborn. I have to have areas that are clean from chaos so here is what worked and still works for us:

  1. Have a “Good Morning” habit Pick up one area of your bedroom, like make the bed, pick up dirty laundry, or put away your make-up (personal items) before heading out. (Or all of them).
  2. (From my husband) Clean as you cook. I must admit he is better at this than me because I get distracted. Another similar one, clean as you watch TV. I don’t mind this one.
  3. Parents share the load 50/50: Whoever is at home, or has a day off from work, helps maintain the house. Both home? Then split the load.
  4. As mentioned, a daily chore chart works great but when your kids are older, everyone takes care of their own areas.
  5. Do a 15 minute quick pick up when arriving from work and 5-10 minute one before going to bed. If time allows do a quick sweep or vacuum so dirt wont accumulate until your cleaning day.
  6. Take turns in the kitchen, one cooks, another does dishes. Here your children/teens need to be involved in this area. (They have to learn to cook sometime)
  7. Have a laundry folding party. This means do laundry, and while everyone watches TV have everyone fold their own clothes. When the kids are old enough to do their’s, have them do their own laundry.
  8. Organize: Make sure that you have a place for everything and everyone knows where it all goes. This keeps messes to a minimum and easier to keep up with.
  9. If friends or family come over, they clean their own messes and dishes. You will be surprised how helpful they can be.
  10. Keep your main area picked up. This alone will save you a lot of headaches.
Best way to get rid of clutter: garage sales!

Needless to say, it all seems simple. Well, it isn’t. You have to work at it, you have to agree together and you have to be as consistent as possible. This is NOT to say that it has to be perfectly clean daily, it never will be unless you have a housekeeper. It will at least give you some peace of mind or at least contain the mess. It does help if you love the rooms. So if you don’t love the rooms, redo them until you do. It is easier to be motivated if you love the way it looks. Most likely it will be easier for the kids to keep their room clean if they love the way they look. I must add that any house, whether it be small or large, if it has a lot of stuff, it will look messy no matter what. So do your best to keep it as organized as you can. If you have too much stuff, get rid of some of it. Garage sales, giveaways, however you want to de-clutter, go for it. Give yourself a motivation to make it look presentable at least your main areas.

After you have a plan that works for you and your family, you be surprised much easier things can become if everyone helps. Now your “house” becomes your “HOME.” It makes a BIG difference when you have an organized home. Bigger still if it is picked up and clean for the most part and often (note that I did not say “daily” or “always”). Make it a home that everyone can enjoy and others can visit. Plus, you won’t have a nagging parent. LOL

So was my father right? Sadly, Yes. Our house should be a reflection of God’s work in us. It shows the blessing that He has given us. It shows how we take care of what He has given us. It shows God that He can trust us more and more with material things because we can take care of them. Just like we ought to be good stewards of the money God provides, we must be good stewards of the materials he provides and gifts us with. We need to remember that in the end, it is because of God that we have what we have. That is my motivation to do my best to keep up with my home, at least picked up and in order.

By wisdom a house is built. Through understanding it is made secure.
Through knowledge its rooms are filled with priceless and beautiful things. ”

-Proverbs 24:3-4

Enjoy your new UNIQUE, not perfect, just unique, good looking home. Let it be a reflection of you… just remember, the kid’s room, yeah that is their reflection, so don’t sweat it if they can’t keep up. They will eventually. In the meantime relax in your own personal “spa” you call “HOME” or a bedroom or, well, any room. Do your best, and you will LOVE showing it off, specially to your Dad. (The day after you cleaning day 😀 )

***Please share your ideas and pointers in the comments below***

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