I Take It Back


photo courtesy of photobucket.com

Over the past six months or so, I have analyzed myself in search of those areas in which I need to improve. I’ve done my best to find contentment in circumstances that I’d otherwise like to change, and I’ve tried to highlight the joy in the simple pleasures of life. I heap a lot of guilt on my shoulders when I find I’m not enjoying my kids, so in the midst of craziness and chaos, I’ve learned to take a deep breath and say, “I am blessed.”

Yet even with these goals as my mindset, I’ve noticed that I’m not content. I’ve tried to figure out why, and when I hear myself complaining, I find I’m repeating some of the same sentences over and over:

I need a break. I need some alone time. I just want to sit down for a minute.

But the reality of the situation is that I’m not going anywhere, and alone time is very hard to come by. However, this weekend I had an epiphany. I started asking myself why I couldn’t seem to get that minute alone or the small break that I needed. Why was I going to bed so tired every day, waking up more tired, and not feeling fulfilled?

And I realized it was because of that stupid cleaning routine.

Nine months ago, I wrote that I had found a cleaning routine that had changed my life, and for nine months, I followed this plan religiously. Every single day, I made sure to clean the rooms assigned to that particular day of the week, and if I didn’t finish or missed the goal for some reason, I made sure to finish on one of the other days.

Don’t get me wrong–the plan is good. If one follows the plan, one will have cleaned the whole house in a week. I liked the structure of the plan, and I liked feeling like I was giving my family a clean home, and it was the cleanest it had ever been.

But sometimes a clean house isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

In order to achieve this clean house, during the one hour that the kids had their ‘Quiet Rest Time’ in front of the T.V., I scrambled to accomplish the task at hand for the day. If I didn’t finish, then I’d either extend T.V. time and feel guilty, or I’d try to finish at night after the kids were in bed and Matt and I had had our late dinner at 8:30 or 9:00. And if I decided I was too tired, I had extra chores the next day. Forget about extra tasks like sorting through random papers and organizing closets–there wasn’t any wiggle room in the schedule.

And what did I have to show for this effort? A messy house two minutes after I cleaned it and a frustrated spirit that I hadn’t finished a book for pleasure in about six months.

The problem is that I had become a slave to a plan, a plan created by a woman that I had never met, a plan that she had made for herself. And while the plan is good, it wasn’t working for me.

Who said that I needed to clean my whole house in a week? Why did I feel the need to take on this goal at the expense of my sanity?

When I reread over my post, I saw my good intentions. I wrote about the flexibility of the plan, how it was just a guideline, but I didn’t stick to those intentions. I, instead, let a cleaning routine control me and rob me of something I had never realized was so precious–a moment to do nothing.

And I’m sure I’m not the only one. Perhaps a cleaning routine has never dictated how you spend your hours, but maybe you are a slave to something else.

Perhaps you are controlled by the need to work out. No matter how you feel, whether or not you really should take care of some other items on your list, you feel guilt if you don’t hit the gym. It’s no longer a matter of obtaining good health and showing discipline–you have become a slave.

Or maybe you can’t say ‘no’ at church. Your family really needs you right now as you have a wife and house full of kids, one a newborn, but the church needs you. How can you tell your church ‘no’?

Many times, good things aren’t good for us.

Cleaning my house is definitely a good thing, and I still plan to clean every day–as I stated in my original post, I want to fight against idleness and take my job here at home seriously–but I also realize now that if I don’t occasionally take a moment for myself, I will continue to burn out. And if I continue to burn out, that joy that I am so desperately seeking will continue to seem elusive, out of reach.

And, frankly, I’d rather have my children suffer a dusty house than a cranky mama.

To what are you a slave? What is robbing you of your joy?

7 thoughts on “I Take It Back

  1. I am an organization-lover in a house full of three disorganized people. I have learned what I can live with and what will push me over the edge of stress. When my house achieves a certain level of messiness I feel personally out of control, because my house is the one thing in the world I feel I have some control over, right? So I have to have the beds made and the toys picked up. The floors may be filthy and you may be able to write on the dust, but if everything has a place, I breathe. But it does not happen often, so I get grumpy a lot 🙂


  2. First of all, your dad's comment made me laugh! 🙂

    Secondly, this is not my particular problem. I used to be completely OCD about cleaning…until I started blogging and writing, that is. Now I pick up the house (i.e. neaten up), but I don't clean it thoroughly very often. It sort of looks like the Adams Family house around here. I'm with Gaby…as long as everything is in its proper place, I can breathe.

    That said…I have a new obsession: blogging and writing. And I have become a slave to it, yes I have. Especially the answering comments/visiting other blogs — I am wracked with guilt if I don't visit people who have stopped by my place. Sometimes I sit on the computer and visit blogs till 11 p.m. — once, when I couldn't sleep, I even got up and did it at 3 a.m.

    I have struggled with this for a year…and it's only getting worse. So yes, this post has given me A LOT to think about.


  3. BRAVO for this post! I gave up on a cleaning schedule to spend time, to slow down, with my kids. When I am rushed I am SO SO SO cranky because the kids cannot move as fast as I "need" them to. And my husband that loves a clean house loves a PEACEFUL house even more!!! So the dishes sit in the sink a little longer…the laundry gets folded later, and everyone remembers a happy mommy. Totally convicting when your preschooler asks you if you can PLEASE put your happy face back on!!!


  4. This was written in 1938 in Ladies Home Journal and is still so true today! I have never heard a mom say I wish I had spent more time cleaning my house instead of playing with my children!

    I hope my child looks back on today
    and remembers a Mom who had time to play
    There will be years for cleaning and cooking
    But children grow up when we are not looking
    Cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
    Cos babies grow fast, we learn to our sorrow
    So settle down cobwebs, dust go to sleep
    I'm cuddling my baby, and babies don't keep


  5. Mine is housework as well…laundry. Picking up toys gets on my nerves.

    But my husband is good at reminding me that little children live here. So toys are going to be on the floor, and food under the table. "Lisa, children live here…" and he's right.

    So I am getting better at sitting my butt down on the couch to read or watch Kathy Lee and Hoda even though I have a clear visual shot to the food under the table, I make myself NOT go get it.


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