See that photo up there?
That isn’t me.
First off, I have no fresh flowers in my home. While I appreciate the fact that the shelf life of Baby’s Breath is four years longer than a Twinkie, they still need maintaining. Which is something else in my home that needs attention. So, until flowers are genetically engineered to yell, whine, throw things at me, or otherwise find a way to get my attention sooner, this probably won’t happen.
Second, for most of my life, my table was so cluttered it never had a corner even to set a cup on. If I had a child who couldn’t stand, and I had to set her down on that table quickly, I maybe needed to shuffle papers around so the clutter was even and the baby wasn’t lopsided. This way she wouldn’t slide off the table.
I know how that sounds. But, she never fell.
Third, anytime I pour myself something hot to drink my children materialize out of nowhere to tattle, ask for a snack, argue their case for a Band-Aid for the microscopic cut on their finger (which is actually ink from the pen they used to draw on my wall), or ask me forty-seven questions in fifteen seconds. Unless that cup of tea in the photo is cold, it’s not in my house.
Finally, I’m a messy person. Let’s just get that out right now.
“Hi. My name is Christina, and I am messy.”
“Nice to meet you, Christina. Looks like you spilled something on your jacket.”
I’m not only messy, but cluttered, disorganized, horrifically scatterbrained, and lazy. I even passed the gene on to one of my children. It’s that child’s bedroom where I always have to stop, take a deep breath, and remind myself that in her wildest dreams, her bedroom couldn’t be as messy as mine used to be when I was her age. I had to make an actual path from the door to the dresser. There were no monsters under my bed because there was too much trash.
So, I found it slightly odd when I discovered that by keeping my house maintained and my laundry at a less-than-tear-inducing level, I felt peace.
Now, this wasn’t something I planned to do. I didn’t set out to have a consistently clean house, it just kind of happened. Like how you pick an avocado from the grocery store and it’s not overripe. After a long weekend away from home, I came back to a clean house. By clean I mean it was cleaner than how I usually kept it. So clean that I told a friend and she said to me, “God’s plans for you are filled with hope. And coming home to a well-ordered house is part of it.”
It made me think.
If having a well-ordered house was part of God’s plan for me, it meant that even if He showed up in my living room in all of His blinding bright and brilliant glory, I wouldn’t be able to find Him under the discarded clothing pile that was my couch.
“Why is the couch glowing?” My husband would say.
“It’s probably another flashlight one of the kids left on,” I would say.
“I need to get the name of the place that manufactures that bulb.”
It was funny to me, that to find peace at home, all I had to do was a little de-cluttering. While that initial method largely consisted of throwing stuff in the trash (my philosophy is that if no one has claimed those items by now, they don’t need them and won’t miss them), it helped.
I know, you can roll your eyes. It’s cool. I did too.
But it works.
I swear by it.
At first, it felt like constant cleaning because it was. Cleaning your house with five or more people living in it is like trying to wash mud off pigs in a field, in the middle of a rain storm. My house wasn’t clean when I started — not by any definition of the word. Not even a synonym of the word. But, as I kept up on things, it gradually became part of the day’s routine.
It was so simple.
The more I picked up, and kept up, the less there was to do.
This is my day’s work. I stay home. It’s my job. So, I began to treat it like one. Including having an end time. I didn’t fold clothes, clean, or otherwise manage my house after 7:00 p.m. That’s how it worked when I had an office job. Whatever had to get done was done first, then I moved down the list. Whatever wasn’t completed by 5:00 p.m. was saved for the next day.
I don’t love cleaning.
I really don’t.
But it feels good to sit down in a clean space. When the kids finally go to bed after fifty thousand glasses of water, seventy rhetorical questions, and fourteen rounds of bedtime prayers, I have a clean home.
I feel like I’ve accomplished big stuff.
Even if it was just vacuuming the floor rug under the kitchen table.
Maybe someday I’ll even get fresh flowers for the counter. At least I know Baby’s Breath will withstand the plight of existence in my home.
For awhile anyway.
At least four years longer than the shelf life of a Twinkie.