My house is always clean. Everything I own is neat and organized to an embarrassing degree. Let’s put it this way – the items on my spice rack are in alphabetical order. No joke. Everything has a place and rarely is anything out of its place for very long. Clutter and chaos drive me bananas, and I would gladly forfeit my very scarce bubble bath opportunities in the interest of tidiness.
Sometimes people ask me why I care so much about the condition of my house, especially because I’m not one to fret over anyone’s judgment. The reason actually has nothing to do with other people. I could be a hermit living on a mountaintop and my house would still be just as organized. I’m trying to measure up to my own standard, not anyone else’s. I’ve just always been happier in a clean space and I function better in an organized setting.
Friends and family often teased that I would have to give up my compulsive neatness when I had kids. Well, after Reese was born I didn’t change and neither did my house. I’d like to think that I did it without compromising my responsiveness to her needs (or my own), but I’m sure that wasn’t always the case. Many nights I would put her to bed and then spend my me-time picking up toys, washing dishes, and folding laundry. When Allie came along, I was just as determined to keep up my charade because, after all, a clean home is a happy home.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that I would have to make my peace with the disaster that has overtaken my living space. I’m not sure what pushed it over the edge – the addition of a second child or the toddler who leaves a trail of toys through every room – but I’m finding myself outnumbered by burp cloths and puzzle pieces. In the weeks after Allie was born my efforts to battle the mess were futile, and I slowly began to lower my standards.
Looking back, I see that all I ever got out of my obsessive need for order was a temporary sigh of relief and a side of unnecessary exhaustion. For a long time I thought of housekeeping as a part of my job description as an at-home mom, and I believed that giving it up would mean I had failed in that aspect of the role in which I have so much pride.
Today, my house is no longer the perfectly organized haven to which I have been accustomed for so many years, and I’ve had to find other ways to achieve the inner peace I had always derived from a tidy home. The more I let it go, the easier it got to leave things undone and I’m even finding that I have more time for other things I enjoy – things that bring me greater peace than a spotless kitchen ever did.
Contrary to my fears of failing at my job, letting go of my house is making me a better wife and mother day by day. I finally see that obsessing over my kids is much more worthwhile than obsessing over my chores because there’s nothing miraculous about housework. I don’t cut snuggling sessions short when the dryer buzzes because wrinkles don’t grow up and move away. I don’t stop the puppet show to sweep the kitchen because my days with crumbs on the floor are not numbered. And in those few precious moments when the girls are asleep and the house is quiet, I can finally walk past the dishes, step over the toys, throw my clothes on the floor, and sink into a tub of bubbles because a relaxed mom is a happy mom, and a happy mom makes a happy home.
This is a Bigger Picture Moment.
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