Cleanies VS Messies, After-talk

vintage black and white kitchen dining room
Lots of good comments in this post about messies vs cleanies (not in an ‘us’ against ‘them’ way, but in a ‘here are some differences’ way).  Here are two in particular that really made me think:

I am mostly a cleanie, but I think more people should understand thes differences. I remeber being in a conversation with several women who were complaining that when their husbands cleaned the dishes they forgot to clean he sink out when finished. I was appalled because they attributed this to laziness and stupidity,, saying evryone KNOWS that one must clean the sink when finished. I kimd of reprimanded them, remembering how long it took my mother to drill into our heads the strps to getting a kitchen cean when young. It took much longer to teach my messie sister than me, cleanie They were both perfectionist types and did no comprehend differences in training and personality and priorities..
I also think this is a great reminder to us cleanies to not become discouraged when training our children, and to take into account how we teach them, lest we give up in dispair aas my mom( a very strict cleanie) did with my sister.

From Rebekah. This is so true. It’s true even for non-cleanies. In the first four or five years after we were married, sometimes my husband would kindly say, “Why don’t you just go to bed? I will do the dishes.” The reason this was only a once in a great while offer is because he usually worked nights. And when I got up in the morning, that is what he had done- the dishes. The counters were unwiped, the floors unswept, sometimes food not even put away. He meant exactly what he said, no more, no less. Instead of getting annoyed, I just had to learn not to go to bed, but to help with at least putting the food away.

And this, from Diana:

What struck me most about this post was not the content, though, but how much it applies to a completely different area of life – PARENTING. I was giggling the whole way through as I applied this to parenting. There are some people (not me, unfortunately) who are “born parents” – and who one can watch for instruction, but good luck trying to get any concrete process-advice out of them. They just say something like, “Make rules, enforce them, and discipline your kids, and there you are!” Oh, my goodness. Those of us who are parenting “messies” truly need the process, step-by-step-by-step.

“And that’s one of the important things that I had to learn- is this a person who can teach me by telling me something, or is this somebody I should watch more than I ask her questions? Is this a person who knows that there are a multitude of steps between “how do I keep a clean house?” and “Just keep a clean house?” I also had to learn not to take it personally if it isn’t a person who knows there are steps.”

Housekeeping – yes. Parenting – yes.

Wow. What insight. We could go on with this, could we not? Writing, drawing, sewing, organizing one’s time well, dealing well with people, song writing, teaching…. There are many, many things in life where one person comes naturally to the task, internalizes it quickly, has an inborn internal mandate to just *do* this. I have a homeschooling mama friend whose children never, ever miss music practice because music is her life and she never misses it she doesn’t even have to think about it, it just is. It baffles her that I always forget about it (hence, nobody has been in music classes for years now). But she struggles to make other topics fit in to their day, and they are topics I don’t even have to think about- we just do them.

Somebody else shared that they are overwhelmed and just don’t know where to start.  I have no answers for that. I do have some suggestions, and one of them might work, or maybe a combination. And maybe somebody else has ideas that have worked for them. Different approaches work better for different people:

  • This will seem silly, but maybe it’s best to start with a brisk walk in the sunshine to clear your head.  Start taking vitamins or supplements if you aren’t already.  Make sure you are drinking enough water.
  • As I mentioned in the post, I am a ‘pack it all up on one large tote (or five), and work on things one at a time’ person. But others find that overwhelming.
  • Perhaps starting in one corner and just working around the room works best for you- but be careful not to get distracted (I still get distracted, btw, as I mentioned in the postscript to yesterday’s post, where I took 3 hours to do a 20 minute job).  use bags, boxes, totes, baskets, etc to put stuff that goes in another room, and take it to that room later, or else you’ll never finish.  If you are easily distracted, that’s when the timer really helps.
  • Get rid of stuff.   Every time we have moved, I have noticed that as I slowly unpack, there is a point in time where I think, “I could handle maintenance if this were all the stuff we had.”  I don’t know why I keep unpacking past that point. Yes, I do.  I am too attached to my stuff.  If I could force myself not to add another thing unless I get rid of something else, that would be good.  But just because I fail at it, it does not mean you need to.
  • Get rid of toys, too- I’ve shared before that once I packed all the kids toys (except a few blocks, educational stuff that was stored on shelves, and some dress up clothes and a babydoll)- the intention was to help them learn to manage their stuff. I would give back a toy each month that they kept things picked up. They never got their stuff back, but to my surprise, they never really missed it, either. They spent more time peacefully playing with fewer toys (and fewer messes).  Years later, I dug out the boxes and they picked out a couple sentimental faves, and we got rid of the rest.  More about toys here.
  • Figure out storage- sometimes our houses fall into chaos because we don’t have room for things, we don’t have a place for the stuff. Sometimes you need to get rid of the stuff, but sometimes, you just need help with storage ideas. Here are a few ideas.
  • Find a cleany to help you prioritize. Sometimes when I have been overwhelmed, I call our daughter JennyAnyDots in and ask her, “Where should I start?”  And then I start exactly where she tells me to.
  • Pick one habit that would help, and work on that- whether it’s put it back, not down; or put it away not down; or get dressed- whatever. Just think about that one thing and work on it.  DO what you need to do- put up reminders, set alarm clocks, timers, computer notices, tell your friends and family and ask them to hold you accountable. Be grouchy if that’s what it takes.
  • Clean when you’re mad. It’s easier to get rid of stuff that way. I do my best closet cleaning when I am really frustrated over some other totally unrelated situation.

 

 

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5 Comments

  1. Posted August 21, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    As to your comment about cleaning when you’re mad:
    The other week I came home from the grocery after hearing some bad news that I couldn’t do a thing about except pray. It was the kids’ bedtime, the kitchen was already a mess, and it wasn’t trash night. Still, I took that opportunity to deep clean the refrigerator.
    The new groceries sat on the floor in their bags among the rest of the kitchen mess while I diligently cleaned every surface inside the fridge, tossing out a lot of old gross stuff, making room for the new, and reorganizing the door shelves…
    Meanwhile, the kids were in a pre-bedtime tailspin of hyperactivity and my dear husband came downstairs after getting them to bed and wondered why on earth I was cleaning the fridge.
    BUT afterwards, every time I opened the fridge I felt stress melt away.
    So, I get it! 🙂

  2. Posted August 21, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    I do enjoy your blog posts!

    As for parenting, I have come to the conclusion that I will teach as explicitly as I can… e.g. social skills. They come fairly easy for me, but Hubby struggles and has no idea what to do. I explain the situation, he can think on it, we talk about it, and we come to a conclusion. But you see, no one every taught him many social skills, and as the perfectionist he is, and because he didn’t just pick them up, he never learned them. So, now, I am quite explicit when I talk to my Little Man about social dynamics. He, Little Man, will stop, stare at someone and then smile at them. I explained (yes, he’s only 2, but he understands so much) that its rude to just stare, it makes people uncomfortable, and just smiling is a bit odd, also. So, make sure you say “hi. how are you?” along with your looking (not staring) and smiling. I’ve decided to take this approach in as many areas as I can: cleaning, biology/science, etc. It also forces me to think about why and how I do something. In fact, about 6 months ago, I stopped folding a certain selection of things. If I didn’t have a good reason for folding them, I decided to not fold (socks, panties, some towels, some wash clothes). And, goodness, has my to-do gotten shorter! And its easier for Little Man to help, and Hubby isn’t afraid to help any more either (perfectionist… if he didn’t know what fold I wanted, he wouldn’t do it… no fold? he’ll take care of that)

    I’m wondering, is it possible to teach Husbands that wiping out the sink and the counters is apart of doing dishes? Or perhaps we just need to be more explicit that we would like them to (1) do dishes, (2) wipe out the sink, and (3) wipe down the counters. Or do I just need to let go of it and be thankful he’s doing the dishes?

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      Regarding your last question, I think it depends on the husband as well as the job. Mostly, yeah, we should learn to interpret “I will do the dishes” as “I will help in the kitchen by washing and rinsing those dirty dishes that are near the sink,” and be grateful for the help. But some things- like changing a baby’s diaper, have to be more thorough for the child’s health, so there I think it’s fair to say, “It’s not helping if you aren’t more careful about cleaning that little bottom, you’re giving the baby a rash.”

  3. Paula
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    I really enjoyed the article from yesterday and relate to so much of it! My husband is only a little better at keeping things picked up than me but he came up with a strategy for keeping the house relatively picked up that is working reasonably well for this family of messies. He suggested we break everyday for tea at 4pm, and actually sit down with something nice to eat at the table, but before we come to the table we take 15 or 20 minutes and get most of the toys/clutter picked up and put away. (It helps that most things have a home in the house now, we’ve been de-cluttering slowly for about 3 years!) The house stays pretty clean this way and the kids get a snack before I start making dinner so they’re not bugging me in the kitchen.

  4. Fatcat
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    a good book that I found for this was ‘The house that cleans itself” . It doesn’t actually make your house start cleaning, but it gives you a new way of looking at your habits and kind of arranging the house to fit around you.

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