Making a Mess of… Housekeeping

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I’m not a naturally neat person. I joke (but it is true) that I prefer living in a space where I can, at a glance, see everything I own. I don’t do cubbies, drawers, cabinets, or shelves – well, shelves actually work quite well, but

So, this summer I’ve taken to doing something that I believe has been dubbed as “cleaning sprints” – I tell myself a small area or a specific task, I give myself 20 minutes, and I just get that one thing done. I try to do 3 or 4 per day because I’m at home and alternating between a lot of tasks, but with 4 sprints I get almost an hour and a half of cleaning. I naively hope that this is enough to undo the mess I incur per day!

I used to think about cleaning in terms of what was necessary, and that got me nowhere: I can live with any amount of mess if I have to! I had to instead start thinking about how I would want to present my life to others: if my mother-in-law was coming over, would I want her to see this? If a friend was bringing a baby over, would I be satisfied with how clean this was?

It took a long time, also, to make sense of Husband’s cleanliness needs. He is a fairly neat person, but he also doesn’t freak out when things are messy, and he also spends quite a bit of time procrastinating on things like picking up his own socks or getting laundry fully put away. I learned after a while that if I can contribute to surfaces (dining room table, for instance) being clear, dishes being put in the dishwasher promptly, and all junk mail recycled immediately, he was pretty much happy. Everything else could happen when he and I were able to do it.

I will also say he DOESN’T expect me to do all the housework, or even more than 50%. We both work long hours occasionally, so we have an informal relationship of exchange – trying to pick up the slack for each other relative to how much work is taking over our lives at the given moment. It’s a good system, I think, though whenever he has to do the dishes because I have been busy and haven’t pulled my weight in a while, it can be hard. I have much more trouble being taken care of than I have taking care of others.

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