DIY and Organization, Life and Health

To Clean Or Not To Clean?

We have had a whirlwind of birthday parties these past four weeks. As of writing this we’ve had a birthday party every weekend for a month, and it’s been succor to this extrovert’s heart but after two years of the pandemic it seems like my social life (or more accurately my daughter’s) went from 0 to 60 without blinking. While we have both enjoyed being able to be around people and socialize in a way that hasn’t happened for quite a while it’s been weird having commitments again and I must remind myself that I don’t want to live in that frenzied state of running from one thing to the next without a break.

But as someone who thrives on engaging with others even in small doses, how can I meet that need without burning the candles at both ends? How can I feed my extrovert soul without shirking my responsibilities at home or the need to sometimes pause and reflect?

Photo by Ricardo Viana on Unsplash

The problem with being out all the time is I feel like my house is in shambles because we haven’t spent time cleaning up and putting things away because we’re running. My daughter has also found new friends on the block, so she is out the door to play with them most days after school; since it’s keeping her from becoming a screen zombie and it’s feeding her extrovert soul, I find it hard to tell her no but then she is also not learning responsibility around keeping up with the household chores.

Don’t get me wrong, our house is not an unsanitary, hazardous waste dump but there is just STUFF. Stuff that collects on every surface because we (yes, I do it to even though I tend to blame most of it on my husband and child) just come home and drop whatever we’re carrying or what needs to be sorted through in any number of places. I attempt to have clean surfaces, such as the breakfast nook or the dining room table but they quickly get overtaken by mail that needs to be sorted, kindergarten work that needs to be recycled in the dead of night, so she doesn’t notice it disappearing, or other items that need to find their home in our house.

I try to put systems in place that facilitate getting things put away in an organized manner, but my husband tends to rebel against those systems (he’s a rebel at heart, thanks Gretchen Rubin) and my daughter is now six so any thought process that extends beyond the here and now is lost on her. Days or weeks later she will ask for something — I’ll respond, “did you put it away?” and she’ll look bewildered at me like those are foreign words she’s never heard before.

But I know full well this is our fault. We have not instilled in her the need or the routines. Sure, she helps around the house, or she’ll put things away when I tell her to or withhold something from her when it gets really bad (“you can’t go play until….” “Or no TV until….”) which is not the best strategy. I’d like to raise a kid who puts things away and cleans up after herself but her parents haven’t been so hot at it either so I can’t really blame her.

Being someone who deals with ADHD symptoms, having systems in place and routines greatly helps keep me be organized and productive because when my environment is chaotic, my mind is chaotic because it’s struggling to keep tabs on ALL THE THINGS. Where are *insert item here*? What was I supposed to be doing? And then I’ll get distracted by the things that need to be put away or dealt with but trying to stay on top of these systems when I’m in essence forcing them on two other mostly autonomous beings in the house is another level of exhaustion so then I just say “screw it” even though I know that makes things worse for me in the long run.

I keep promising to myself that we will implement regular chores or time to clean up again both as a way to keep the house neat but also work on teaching her responsibility, but it always feels like I’m swimming against the current. And yet at the same time I know it will be good for all of us to go back to a little bit at a time — I just have to be the adult and make it happen.

Who knew that most of adulthood would be cleaning up the same $hit repeatedly?

And then I think about myself, it wasn’t until I got to college and had “itty bitty living space” where I really learned the value of putting things away and keeping things organized.

As with so many things in parenting, I know that we are sowing the seeds that take a long time to bloom but I just have to plant them.

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