Saturday, November 16, 2013

Why I will Always Suck At Keeping a Clean House

Some people are really good at managing chaos and keeping their house clean and tidy in spite of having children or hobbies or whatever.  These are the kinds of people who look at my house with frustration and entreat me to only do a few simple things:

1. Only eat at the table, 


2.  Put something away before you move on to the next thing.

These people are 100% correct.  It really is that simple.  My house would be 10x cleaner if I issued just these two Grand All-Encompassing Edicts and enforced them all the time. 

Except that I'm not that kind of person.  First of all, I suck at all-encompassing edicts.  My inner rebel wants to demand an exception just on hearing the rule. I tend to view too many things as somewhat fluid. 

For example, this is what my No Eating In The Living Room Rule looks like in theory:  There shall be no eating in the living room, mostly, and never on the couch.

First off, I recognize that left to my own devices I always eat in the living room. As a child, there was nothing I resented more than "do as I say, not as I do," which I heard a lot of. SO while I recognize that children are messier eaters than adults, I also understand that everyone wants to eat on the couch in front of the TV.  It's where all the good stuff happens. So this rule is more like an ideal than a steadfast one.

In practice it's more like this: 

No, don't eat that in the living room. Well, OK if you sit in the blue chair, or on the floor, and are very careful. Or if we are watching a movie and I want popcorn and I am on the couch.  But never ice cream in the living room. No ice cream on the rug seems like a good rule. But now I'm trying to write something and the kids are making me crazy and fine get out of my airspace and eat that anywhere but on the couch! 

A friend  came over yesterday,and I theorized that if I moved to  a new house I could switch all the rules to new, more-better ones and the kids would just follow them docilely. Unfortunately, she decided to through a bucket of cold, wet reality on my plan.

"If you are the kind of person who eats in the living room, that's unlikely to change if you move."  

Drat. Why can't I magically solve everything in life with overspending?  And why do people have to bring reality into everything?

And as for the whole Grand All-Encompassing Rule #2 (Put something away before you move on to the next thing.) The people that can manage that successfully are either:

A. Less spacey and distracted than I am - wait, there's a squirrel!

B. Better at time management than I am - Holy hairballs, we had to leave five minutes ago! Everyone in the car, now!

C. Better yellers.  I found that because I don't have the kids everyday, I don't like to spend a majority of the time yelling. Yup, I'm playing the single Mama card. I'd rather play than yell.

But let's look at that excuse more thoroughly.  If I had them everyday, would I yell more? Sure. But probably not all that much. Really, a certain amount of mess doesn't bother me as much as it does other people. All I need is some clear space between the piles. As long as I have that, I really am fine with it.  Again, if you are the kind of person who is OK with mess, that probably isn't going to change all that much.

Of course I'd rather have a clean house.  We'd all like a clean house, but in the effort : reward ratio, my general day to day happiness is increased by not caring too much about it. 

Unless I invite people over. That changes everything. I actually view my house much more critically if someone new is stopping by.  But there's a theory on that, too.  If my house is clean the first time you come over, you will expect it to be clean.  If my house is trashed the first time you come over, you will disproportionately impressed whenever you see it clean in the future.  Or you'll run screaming. Hard to say. And if it bothers you that much, we can hang at your house instead, which is better, because that keeps my house cleaner anyway.  I'll even bring the snacks.

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