Imagine walking into your house from running errands with the kids and it smells fresh. The floors have been mopped. The countertops have been scrubbed down. There are vacuum lines on your carpet. The beds are made and sheets are clean. The bathrooms are spotless with no pee stains around the floors or walls. No, you’re not dreaming, although it might seem like a fantasy.
Let me take you back to when I was single and had no kids. Rooms stayed clean for longer than a minute. If someone spilled something they cleaned it up immediately. The bathrooms didn’t look like a hurricane just blew through them.
Now, fast forward a couple year to when I had one or two kids and it was much easier to stay on top of keeping a clean house. They didn’t use the toilet yet, and I prepared all their meals. Really the only mess they made was their toys and that was pretty easy to clean up. Our dog even licked the floor clean for me, so I really just spot cleaning here and there.
Then it happened. They started getting older and we added more kids to our family. The mess got bigger and almost out of control. I would walk into a room and sigh knowing what was ahead of me. It was the thing I dreaded about my day.
So, you know how fathers sometimes give push presents for their wives after having a baby. I never really thought of my husband as one to do something like that but I did in fact tell him when I was giving birth to our third child that I would like something this time around. I wanted a cleaning lady to come once a week to thoroughly clean the major traffic areas of our house.
Even though, with two kids I did clean, it was never something I was that good at or liked to do. I’m pretty sure my Grandmothers like to clean and even my mom keeps a really clean house. Maybe the cleaning gene skipped a generation or two (my kids aren’t to keen on cleaning, either). So, I was happy to give up this duty to someone else. Six years later, we still have someone come to clean once a week and honestly, I wish she was here everyday. Our lady does a really good job of the kitchen and bathrooms, i.e. our high traffic areas and also areas we don’t use as much. She is very detailed and if I need her to do more like dust, blinds or baseboards, then I give her a holler and she does it.
There are some things we are good at and some things that it is better to hand it over to someone else. As mothers, we have the tendency to want to do everything ourselves and control what goes on in our house. While having a cleaning person is a luxury to some, to me it’s a necessity. It forces me to stay organized and keep the things in our house neater on a regular basis. But the best thing is that it allows me more time with my kids doing things we like to do instead of worrying about keeping the house clean. It also opened me up to the method of KonMari and rid my house and life of clutter.
By getting rid of things I didn’t need or really want, I carrying around emotional baggage that I didn’t even know was there. Before reading Marie Kondo’s book, every six months or so, I would do a good purge of the house getting rid of a good amount of things, so I thought. But when we moved down to Charlotte, I did a mass exodus of things that were no longer serving me. I called it a moving purge and boy did I get rid of a ton of stuff. More than half our garage was full of things we no longer used or didn’t need.
While down in North Carolina, I was introduced to a book called Marie Kondo’s The Magic Art of Tidying Up. It speaks about keeping items in your house that bring you joy and not holding onto things because someone else would be sad if you got rid of it. What it allowed me to do was to let go of unnecessary things and yes, even gifts that I never used. You verbally thank the item for giving you joy at a past point in your life and then let it go. It served its purpose and is ready to help someone else. Yes, I got rid of gifts, family heirlooms, childhood memorabilia, tons of papers, our library of books and even photographs.
What I found is that when I released this stuff from my life and from our house, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. It was truly cluttering up my head space. Before, I did this, I was finding that I was spending my weekends or free time organizing drawers or cabinets in my house when I could be doing fun things with my family. After letting go of the physical stuff in our lives, I had more time to work on my hobbies and read because I had also gotten rid of mental clutter.
Sure, my method is not fully proof, because the kids will bring their things into the house that I’m NOT allowed to get rid of it. Also, during my KonMari cleaning out, I got rid of all the owner’s manuals and I thought my husband was going to have a heart attack ( I reminded him of this wonderful invention called the internet, where you can find instructions for EVERYTHING). What I learned from both experience and the book is to only get rid of my things or collective items that I know no one would miss.
Every six months, I still do a purge but it’s of things that six months ago I was not allowed to throw away but now they don’t need it. I also look back at things I have gotten for myself, the house or my clothes and think about if it brings me joy currently. If it does not then off it goes to charity. I have found that doing a huge purge at the beginning is where the weight comes off but doing mini sessions throughout the year helps me to realize what is important in my life right now.
When we moved back to Ohio last year, packing was actually really easy and I didn’t get rid of as much stuff as I did the first time because all of it really sparked joy in us and therefore got to stay. The important thing when getting rid of stuff is being brutally honest with yourself. Are you holding on to an item because someone gifted it to you or do you really love it? Are you afraid that you are going to disappoint someone by getting rid of something? Think of it this way, thank the item for brining joy to the giver and how excited they were to see you receive the gift. It’s not about the gift, it’s about the emotion between the exchange that means the most.
As I get older, the more I want a simpler life. By getting rid of clutter and delegating cleaning to someone else, I have more time to work on my passions in a productive way. I don’t focus on cleaning up my desk because it’s already done so I can get right to the task at hand. There are less things getting in the way of my hopes and dreams.