When my oldest kids were very small, I used to say things like “What’s the point of cleaning when you’ve got kids?” or “Oh, I’m so laid back, a little mess doesn’t bother me,” as I waved away tumbleweed-sized dust bunnies and stepped gingerly over piles of who-knows-what all over my living-room floor.
In truth, though, my surroundings were making me feel depressed, overwhelmed, and anxious. But I couldn’t figure out how to get started on the out-of-control mountain of mess which had become our life with two little kids – accentuated by piles of drawings I couldn’t bear to toss and rarely-played-with toys – or which tasks might make the most positive impact in the least amount of time.
As time went by, I came to understand myself a bit better. I realized that I could spend all day scrubbing the bathroom floors to a high shine and not feel like I’d accomplished anything, but if I took ten minutes to clear off the kitchen counters I immediately got a huge boost. That’s when I realized that for me, clutter is the thing I have to concentrate on vanquishing.
A while ago I wrote that there is no secret to having a clean-enough house – it takes persistence, staying on top of things, and the ability to “embrace the endlessness” that is keeping up a house full of children. But part of the process is figuring out, first of all, what “clean enough” means to you…and whether you’re more bothered by dirt or clutter. (Or both. Or, I guess, neither.)
We all have certain “trigger” spots that can make us crazy (even when they don’t seem to bother anyone else.) Mine are almost all clutter-related. Sure, I don’t like a gross bathroom or a smelly kitchen, but when it comes right down to it, my biggest triggers are things like:
- A cluttered dining-room table. Can’t stand it.
- Toss pillows and throw blankets “tossed” and “thrown” (and left) on the floor.
- “Stuff” thrown on my buffet table, which is the one space in the house I try to reserve for looking nice all of the time.
On the other hand, dirty baseboards, cobwebs in ceiling corners, dingy grout, pen marks on the walls? I barely even notice them. My brain is set to register “clutter” and “mess” more than dirt and grime. So while I occasionally, in a fit of energy, might wash a window or take a Magic Eraser to a grimy wall, for the most part I can ignore those things and feel quite happy and functional. It might not win me any homemaking awards, but I’ve identified my own version of “clean enough”, which is really more about taking care of clutter than actual cleanliness.
How about you? Are you more than a little bothered by certain household messes, while others go on your “eh, whatever” list? Are you more affected by clutter, or dirt?