This summer, I’m tackling the clutter in my house, which by the end of the school year had reached epic proportions. It’s been a challenging task, one I’m not nearly finished with, that has been alternately satisfying and discouraging.
I’ve never been the kind of person who cleans obsessively, the kind who can’t go to sleep at night if there are dirty dishes in the sink, and conversely, I’ve always been the kind of person who has clutter issues. My bedroom was always messy as a child and teenager, and now that I’m an adult, I still haven’t figured out what you might call an adult-type cleaning routine. Instead, we let things devolve while we’re “too busy,” and then we do massive cleaning strikes, often reserving an entire weekend.
Lately, though, it’s just not enough for me anymore. I look around my house and all I see are surfaces piled with things to be dealt with, and it’s making me uneasy and unhappy in my own house, my shelter from the external storm, my little nest. I’m losing more things than I’d like, and spending more time than I’d like to find them. I don’t have excessive issues, but I do feel stressed when I look at a cluttered area. What is that stuff? Where does it belong? How did I let it pile up like this? I get discouraged and frustrated, and do something concrete like sweep the floors or do the dishes, and the clutter remains unresolved. I think we are also very susceptible to the keystone demise, when we start letting one thing slide after our big cleaning binges, and all of a sudden everything is sliding.
I think what we’re going to end up with is a chore chart, but not for the kids: for us, a list of tasks that need to be done every day, so we adults can check them off and feel more structured in our daily cleaning. Recently, I’ve been rereading The Blessing Of A Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children, one of my favorite parenting books for once you’ve passed the potty-training stage, and one of Mogel’s theories is that it’s not enough to try and teach your children good habits if you are not practicing them yourself. Making it a whole-family effort can make it more effective, and bond your family together as well. We’ve used chore charts before with the kids, and they’ve been great, but I’m feeling hypocritical preaching to my kids about keeping their rooms clean when I’m struggling to keep the house clutter-free myself.
So far, my biggest efforts have been in our spare bedroom, which became the catch-all storage space in our house and was chock-full of stuff. I’ve loaded up piles of trash bags and have donated piles more, and while the room is not finished, it’s clearly and definitely in much better shape. This was the worst clutter-flashpoint in our house, but now that I’ve tackled it, the smaller sites are getting on my nerves even more, so that I’m itching to tackle them as well. Once the decluttering is over, I want to set in place new behaviors and habits for all of us, so that we don’t get this far gone again (and also buy some cute new bins and things to help organize). I’m trying to see this as a positive thing, a big accomplishment, and not spending too much time getting frustrated with myself for letting it all pile up. It’s hard, though.
It’s not the most fun or exotic way to spend the summer, but I’m hoping to feel lightened and proud once I can look around my house and see clean, clear surfaces, as far as my eye can see.