Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Cleaning Can Wait...

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"But I love to clean, Mom!"
     Have you heard, or said a statement like that before? Usually it's in the context of one mother lamenting about everything that is a mess in her home and another mom or older woman will say, "the cleaning can wait, spending time with your kids is more important."

     Now, before I continue, let me say that if you are the type of person who has a beautiful home, with an organizational system for every closet, and never lets anything in her fridge grow mold, then this post isn't for you!

     I'm also not speaking to the mother with children who are sick, or a newborn who wants to be held all day, or the teething baby who just needs some extra snuggles this week. Please don't let me add to the load you bear. 

This is not the time for cleaning!

     But if you are like me, and could easily spend your day playing, reading, or going to the park with your children only to realize that your husband will be home in 15 min. and there isn't a clean dish, or outfit in the house and you have no idea what dinner should be, let's talk!

"These were clean, Mom. Then, I decided to dump them all on the floor instead!"
     I am not a naturally organized person. When I first became a stay-at-home wife and mom 8 years ago, I was very used to being in a work environment, where you always had a boss who said, "You need to get these things done today!" and if you didn't- there were consequences. So coming home and being in charge of my own days left me feeling adrift, and it was easy to feel like the kid who got a day off! "Let's see what the internet has to say!" "Maybe I should take the baby up to see the horses again, or down to the park", "The baby needs something warm to wear should I sew or knit today?" "This book is all about motherhood- it's very important that I sit and finish reading it!"

"What should we do today? Hike a mountain? Explore the neighbors trash cans?"

      I could always find an excuse why the things I would PREFER to do, was what I "should" be doing! But it wasn't without consequence (though I have a very sweet husband who never came home and said "Gee Honey, have you happened to notice that there's not one square-inch of counter space left in the kitchen?") I was easily frustrated, and often the things I needed were not to be found without a long draw-out search. And sometimes money was wasted re-buying something we could not find. But, honestly, none of these things were enough to truly change my ways.

"Off to see the horses!"
      What I started to realize was that this was more important that just the difference between a clean and a dirty house. This was the difference between a home and a house. This was a way that I could show love to my husband by preparing for him to come home, and give my children the memory of home being a place of peace and beauty that they enjoyed being. This was the difference of throwing a meal together quickly and not thinking how nutritious it was, but instead how fast I could make it!

     I've noticed something about the Proverbs 31 woman. Why is she considered so virtuous? If you could sum her up in one word what would it be?

"She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants."

-Proverbs 31:13-15

     For me, that word would be "prepared". She does things in advance, she gets ready for what she knows lies ahead. Her wisdom is in her forethought. That's what I was missing, forethought. I was living in the moment and not preparing ahead. I was letting my emotions guide me, rather than preparing what my brain told me needed to get done.

"This mess is totally not my fault Mom, these shreds just jumped out and grabbed me!"

      Yes, playing with your children is invaluable! Yes, you should do it EVERY DAY. But the matters of the home like clean dishes and clothes, a vacuumed floor, a well-planned meal are truly equally important. Because they turn your house into a home, a place where you all desire to be together, a calm place that is full of industry rather than chaos. Here's a few practical tips I would give to those who this doesn't come naturally to (like me!):

Tip #1- don't let your kids do THIS- it tends to break the door off the dishwasher. *ahem*

  • Books/Sermons on tape. This is my #1 thing that helps me clean- having something to listen to while I do it! Most librarys have free audiobooks you can download and listen to (don't know what to try? Listen to some classics! Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, LM Montgomery, etc.)Also, Revive Our Hearts has TONS of excellent radio messages recorded on their site that you can listen to for free.
  • Set a timer. Dishes are my nemesis. =) But when I realized that if I set my timer and washed them three times a day for 15 minutes each, that my dishes would be done (for the most part- I'm NOT a perfectionist!)it made it seem much easier! 15 minutes? I could manage that!
  • Involve the kids! We like to get out a CD and try to beat a song. "Okay- do you think we can get all these toys cleaned up before the song ends? Let's do it!" or "I want you to continue to sweep the floor until this song is over- think you can do it?" It makes things a lot more fun and usually helps stop the can-I-be-done-yet's =)

No she wasn't ready to sweep herself yet, but she sure looks cute doing it!

  • Don't try to be a perfectionist. I usually look at a room and see if there is one way I can make it cleaner quickly. Run around with a trash bag and pick up any trash, vacuum the rug and fix the couch cushions, quick spray the counters and table clean. It doesn't have to be perfect in my book- just functional and not a chaotic mess!
  • Try to keep at least one healthy complete meal in the freezer for those days that NOTHING goes right. (more is better- unless you are nervous like me and have prepared a freezer full of meals only to have the power go out for a week and loose all of your food- TWICE in the same year. *ahem* yeah. )

     I hope that encourages you today! I'd love to hear from you in the comments about ways that you make your house into a home and bless your family!  
Womanhood With Purpose