I’ve never been a housekeeper like my Mom was. It’s not that we didn’t have chores growing up or that she didn’t teach us how to make a bed or mop a floor. We were expected to do our fair share. She kept a very nice home and fought to keep 4 kids on track and tidy. My sister Steph is just like her. So is my son Jake. My sister Mindy and I? Not so much.
To be honest, I love the way my home feels when it’s nice and clean and tidy. To be even more honest, I have to make myself do the basic things that keep our house habitable. There are just other things I would rather do; pet the little dogs, wander through the yard, sit on the deck. Super important things. Eventually though, we run out of towels, the sink overflows with dishes and the entire house starts to take on the funky smell of free roaming dirty dogs and quiet desperation. And I start to leave earlier for the studio and come home later.
It’s a vicious cycle. I hate housework so I put it off as long as possible, then it takes me all weekend to work through the mountain of laundry, dishes and clutter making me hate housework even more. And if we get a call that someone might come for a visit? A near heart attack caused by the crisis mode of cleaning visible areas and stashing in hidden areas all the while praying that no one opens a closet and is crushed under falling debris. Really, not a good way to live at all.
My Mom tried to tell me on several occasions that there was a better, less stressful way to live. “If you would do a load of laundry a day, it wouldn’t build up like this.” “It doesn’t take that long to do up the dinner dishes. Let’s just do them now and you won’t wake up to a sink full of dirty dishes in the morning.” I really should have listened. But I’m a stubborn child at heart and sometimes it takes me a while to finally get it.
This Spring though, I realized that things had gotten out of control in so many areas of my life and that the only way to pull out of my funk and get life back on track was to just get in and do the hard work to make it happen. Little by little we worked on clearing our home of clutter and stuff we no longer love. And I took my Mom’s advice and wrote a simple plan in my daily planner:
- Monday – Bathrooms
- Tuesday – Living Room
- Wednesday – Kitchen
- Thursday – Laundry/Hallways
- Friday – Bedrooms
- Saturday – Garage/Outside projects
- Sunday – Rest
In addition to that I have my daily tasks:
- Make the bed
- Wash the dishes
- Wipe the counters
- One load of laundry
At first glance it looks like a lot. But really, it’s very manageable and if I keep on top of my daily chores, it doesn’t take long to get a room in order before I leave for the day and still have time for little dog petting and garden wandering. And I don’t come home and feel overwhelmed by the mess.
It’s a system that for the most part I’ve been able to maintain. Every once in a while though, I get off track and the stubborn child in me comes out and demands a reward for doing the un-fun work. A conversation with my friend Beckie gave me the missing part to my “system”. The reward for a job well done and for staying on task. She calls it “Candle Burning Clean.”
Beckie told me that several years ago, she decided that she couldn’t light her favorite candle until her house was clean. Didn’t have to be spotless, but it had to be pretty darn good and an obvious effort had to be made. Then, and only then would she allow herself to light her favorite candle and sit down to a nice cup of tea. And not just any candle, but one that was richly scented and made her think twice before she spent the money on it. A really good quality candle.
Beckie and her “Candle Burning Clean” really resonated with me. Raising 3 kids there wasn’t much extra for luxury items, but now and then I would treat myself to a richly scented seasonal candle that I burned sparingly to make last as long as possible. I could totally relate to this reward system. With Fall fast approaching, I’m even more excited to use Beckie’s candle reward to keep me on track. No lighting a lovely candle before my house is clean. Candle burning clean.