Do you ever feel that you’re constantly battling chaos? What I mean is, does it often feel like an uphill battle to keep your life in order?
I live with four children ages 9, 7, 4 and 1, and my wife and I feel like we are constantly trying to keep our house from reverting to a state of absolute filth. I cannot believe how much junk that we somehow produce. And the “clutter-factor” is astounding — there are so many little toys, hair accessories (clips, bands, ties), books and homework papers to try to keep put away, not to mention all the laundry that is constantly strewn about, both clean and unclean. If Robin and I aren’t constantly working, the house reverts to a pig’s stye in the blink of an eye. Oh, and did I mention kitchen clean-up? Dishes constantly have to be done, the dishwasher ALWAYS needs to either be loaded or unloaded, the counters/table and floors always have to be wiped off or swept/mopped. I’m frequently finding apple cores in diverse places, candy wrappers lying on the ground and used dishes sitting on any available flat surface. Add to that all the shoes and socks that always need to be put away. (Note: if you have an average of three pairs of shoes per family member, that’s 18 pairs for family of six. Wow!) And those 18 pairs of shoes often have a hard time locating their “sole-mates” and finding their way back home. Oh, and did I mention how much I hate trying to match up socks?! It’s horrible. What about disposing of used diapers? That’s always a treat.
So as I write this post, I am a little concerned that you are judging us; that you’ll think we’re sloppy people who do not teach their children responsibility and accountability. Trust me, we’re trying. But we have to constantly nag to get the kids to do stuff, and we both hate to nag. It creates such a unpleasant feeling in the home. So we offer motivation, both positive and negative, rewards and punishments. For a while, we did the “accountable kids” program. But it was hard to keep up with. Right now, we have little mason jars for each child in which “righteous deeds” are rewarded with a quarter that is to be used for their purchasing of Christmas presents for their “secret Santa” (more on that in another post). But that doesn’t seem to motivate them much.
We’re also trying to train them to avoid making messes in the first place with a few simple rules like:
1. If you get it out, put it back.
2. If you mess it up, clean it up.
3. If you put it down, pick it up.
4. And so on…
I take comfort in the fact that everyone has to deal with chaos to some degree. I also take comfort in the fact that everyone in my family situation has a cluttered house, at least occasionally. I don’t care how good you are about keeping things clean and neat, four children WILL mess up your house. Now, I won’t blame all of our messiness woes on the children; Robin and I make our fair share of messes. But we also clean up much more than our fair share. I guess that’s what we signed up for when we decided to have kids.
My goal is to do 30 minutes of work each morning while everyone is asleep. And I usually accomplish that goal, which consists mainly of unloading the dishwasher and tidying up the five main rooms in the house. I don’t do a lot of actual cleaning (bathrooms, vacuuming, etc.), but I feel I make a good contribution. (My wife might disagree since my tidying often consists of picking stuff off the floor and putting it on the coffee table…)
Last night I came home to a beautifully cleaned house. No clutter. Clean kitchen. Kids in bed. It felt (and feels) so good. But I can’t help looking around the house and thinking about how quickly it will degenerate later today, despite our best efforts. I often think of Sisyphus from Greek mythology, who was punished for an offense against the gods by being cursed to roll a huge boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll down again, and to repeat this throughout eternity. That’s how I feel sometimes. As I do the dishes each day, I sometimes wonder if I’ll be doing dishes for the rest of eternity. Will there be housework in the next life? Or will we be able to snap our fingers like Marry Poppins and have the work do itself.
Anyway, I’d better end this post since I’ve already on too long. I’ve got some more chaos to tame!
P.S. What have you found to be effective in the war against clutter/chaos?