Posted in Rambles

Making Peace with the Messy

I had all kinds of thoughts about publishing a post this week with pictures of the pretty Christmas things around my home – the tree, the wreath on the door, our little penguin collection, and the advent calendar that our kids love.  Maybe I would get a batch of cookies baked and take a picture of them, too.

But first, I would have to adjust the tree ornaments the kids have moved around.  Pick up the ones that have dropped on the floor.  Smooth out the tree skirt.  Clean up the mish-mash of blankets, pillows, and teddy bears surrounding the tree.  Push aside the dirty dishes to reveal the advent calendar sitting on the counter behind them.  Glue together the decorations that have broken.  And so on, and so on.

Which got me to thinking about something more interesting, to me, than those picture-perfect Christmas displays: the messes.  Not awful kinds of messes, but the big, beautiful ones that come along with lives being lived.  The messes that you see when you enter the home of a family that has young children.  Gravel on the entrance floor.  Dishes on the counter, and maybe the remnants of lunch.  Toys scattered about.  Small people dashing from room to room.  Half-way completed craft projects shoved into corners.  Pieces of laundry to trip over.

I get embarrassed when my house looks like that, if anyone unexpectedly drops by.  However, if I walk into another person’s house, and it looks like that, I breathe a sigh of relief.  Ah…they, too, are normal.  I don’t think about how they should have picked up the mess before I dropped by.  I marvel at the messes – at the stories the messes tell.  The kinds of foods their children like (or don’t like), and the dishes they eat (or don’t eat) out of.  The creativity displayed by their projects on-the-go.  The powdering of flour and icing sugar on the floor, and the smell of cookies hanging in the air.  What they had been doing outside, before their wet mittens and boots were hurriedly deposited at the door.

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My son attends a weekly kids’ club at our church.  I feel a little overwhelmed, when I walk into that room to pick him up.  8 year-old boys hardly ever stop moving, so the entire place seems to shift ceaselessly, like an anthill.  The air is saturated with the smell of laundry soap and fabric softener, because the kids keep so busy that their bodies heat up and release the fragrances of their clothes.  There are, er…other smells too – some not so pleasant.

And in the midst of it all, are the volunteer leaders.  Adults in the mix of children, a couple at each table.  They smile, and chat with the kids, and make sure they’re not causing too much trouble or getting hurt.  They seem relaxed – tired, perhaps – but at home within the big, beautiful mess.

It makes me think of God.  Isn’t that kind of how He is, in-amongst the big, beautiful mess of people He has created?  Read through the Bible, and you will find things in there that would make most Sunday school teachers cringe.  It is messy business, this thing He is doing.  But He’s committed!  So much so, that He made His home within the mess that we all are.

It’s not always pretty, or clean, or orderly.  But it’s real, and amazing.  It’s Christmas!

With the warmest of wishes for a big, messy, beautiful Christmas –

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

Cleaning House on Auto-Pilot

Ah, cleaning.  The necessary evil, some might say.  I’ve flip-flopped between having a good and bad attitude about it.  In the end – one way or another – it needs to get done.

The internet is loaded with housecleaning schedules and lists of all kinds.  We’ve all seen them on Pinterest.  As a younger mom, I found these schedules fairly helpful.  Because quite honestly, I wasn’t sure how often I should be doing all the different tasks.

After a while I made my own schedule, and put it up on the fridge.  I followed it pretty well, most of the time.  Then I had a second kid, and even the schedule I had made (as basic as it was) became a little too daunting.

These days, I work off of a list of priorities.  I knock off the things at the top of the list first, which are the most important (think: basic survival).  And then I work my way down, in-amongst the multiple interruptions that may occur throughout the day.  The things at the end of the list – truthfully, they don’t often get done.  Needless to say, my house is not sparkling clean.  But we stay fed, and clothed, and in a basically neat and sanitary space, as often as I can possibly manage.

Here are the things I keep on my mental list, in order of importance:

  • Dishes (there are always more)
  • Laundry (ditto)
  • Food (meal prep)
  • Tidy (put all/most of the things away)
  • Clean the bathrooms
  • Sweep or vacuum floors

Those 6 things, on a good week, I can keep up with for the most part.  When I have the luxury of moving beyond the basics, these are next:

  • Mop the floors
  • Wipe down kitchen cupboards and appliances
  • Organizational tasks (e.g. sorting through clothing)
  • Dust
  • Clean doors, windows, and walls

During the years of having a child under 3 at home, it is the exception (and not the rule) that I actually complete those final items on my list.  And for those of you who have more than one child under 3, well – bless your heart!

The nice thing is, after being a mom for a whopping 8 years, the list has become pretty automatic.  Which is helpful for me, because I do become overwhelmed with a lot of commotion, or when jobs pile up so high that I know I can’t possibly do them all.  My tendency, in those situations, would be to circle the house in a distracted and confused way, jumping from one task to the next and then forgetting what I was doing before.

Now, when I get to that overwhelmed place and can’t imagine laying eyes on a cleaning schedule of any sort (like really: just shoot me now), I flick on my auto-pilot.

Dishes, laundry, food.

Everything else will wait.

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And once I have a handle on those 3 things, I relax a little.  Any step beyond that is icing on the cake.  The further I move down the list, the more competent and relaxed I feel.

Sometimes I have a bad week, and I don’t move beyond the first 3.  Yikes.  This is when I take a deep breath, collect myself, and decide that I will be starting fresh on Monday.

Because, the cleaning will always be there.  My children won’t.  They’ll grow up, and move out, and the house will probably stay a lot cleaner.  But while they’re here, they need to be cared for and nurtured.  That takes a lot of time and effort.

So in the meantime, my husband and I put up with the stubbed toes (seriously, those toys are everywhere), sticky floors, and overflowing laundry baskets.  And no, it’s not always with a smile on the face.

I think other moms probably keep up with their houses better than I do.  But, I’ll keep on tryin’.  And besides, when it comes to loving my kids – that’s one job I know I’m best at.

What’s your housecleaning routine?  Do you like schedules, or hate them?  Any cleaning advice for me?

Warm wishes,

Lisa