Friday, March 25, 2011

How to Hate Cleaning LESS: Part III

Now that you've dug up all those awful stories from your past, it's time to:

Transform your stories from "I used to feel. . . I used to think. . ." to what you want it to be by acknowledging your strengths--the things you like to do in homemaking and focus on those.

The process: This is a tricky step because it's really personal. For me, it had a lot to do with reading the books Virginia Woolfe’s A Room of One’s Own and Simple Abundance and focusing on my love of art, philosophy, talking, and simplification. Specifically, here are some things I did:

*I became interested in finding the ways simple, seemingly mundane tasks can turn into times for contemplation and meditation. Sincerely. I started to really think about why our lives are mostly comprised of small, ordinary tasks and what kind of meaning there is in that mentally and spiritually.

*I really considered what kind of life I wanted and wanted for my children (I frequently revisit this idea) and how my ideas of feminism would translate to them in specific ways. I try to be equal with teaching the tasks for each gender and I decided that knowing homemaking skills is vital to each of my children and will have a positive affect on their future family life.

*I changed from focusing on what was wrong with my apartment/flat/home, to seeing what it could become (this chair will go here, we'll frame this piece and put it there, etc.) in a week, month, or year's time.

*I would throw out a lot and only bring in items into my home I really loved, which made caring for them and cleaning them easier. Dusting a picture I loved, or a lamp that has cool design is a lot more enjoyable than dusting junk someone gave you at for your wedding that you didn't even register, but just put up because you didn't know what else to do with it and Dillards wouldn't take it back.

*I went through hand-me-downs with a more discerning eye so that my kids had fewer, but nicer clothes helped cut back on the amount of laundry I had to do.

*I threw away the mix-matched kids cups from random restaurants to choosing teal, matching ones for $3 from Target made putting away the dishes seem more deliberate. I slowly did the same thing with office supplies, toys, decor, etc.

*When I'm talking on the phone with a friend, I will clean. Dusting, wiping, picking up, going through, most everything but vacuuming can be done on the phone which makes it more enjoyable and makes me feel less guilty about talking on the phone.

*And cleaning out the home, room by room and having a place for everything, versus finding everything a place, was a big break through for me. For example, I would have a place for cups, a place for dishes, a place for jeans, a place for schoolwork, a place for wrapping paper, etc and when that space was full then that means no more stuff. I think a lot of people just try to find/cram in more space instead of editing their stuff. They have too much stuff. How many spools of ribbon do you need? Well, first know how much you have by having it all in the same place and when that place is full, then it's enough. How much schoolwork should you keep for each child? Well, a binder for each kid for each Elementary experience seems realistic, so get a binder for each kid and when it's full, it's enough.

Then the dialogues I associated with homemaking changed. Now I tell myself:

*I am modeling the way life should be (vs. the way it is) to my children: clean, orderly, full of beauty, art, literature, music, and peace. A way of life that is important to everyone-- women and men.

*This isn't a to-do check list, this is a WAY OF LIFE. By teaching this to my sons and daughters, I am affecting generations and changing the world. This is meaningful work because it will help my children everyday of their lives.

*I will have balance in my life and not let things be more important than people. A clean, orderly home makes others feel welcome and calm when they come to my home, but I will also make time to read and watch tv and not let the ideal take over the reality of living with five children.

*It's easier for me to do this work myself, but if I do it all, I'm not doing anyone any favors. I need to take extra time to teach and reteach and then check and reteach if necessary as my kids learn to do this.

*It will never be "fair." Life isn't fair. And most of the time, this works in my favor.

*I will never iron my pillowcases and sheets, but I won't judge my mom for doing that. It makes her happy and I think it's endearing.

*When in doubt, I will throw it out and not waste my time weighing the options or I'll never get anything done.


  1. Can't you just come to my house and do it for me?

  2. Still not buying into it. Hopefully, after I turn in my thesis, I'll be the one with the hotshot job, and my husband can stay home and dust the family photos. Although, to be fair, the children are almost big enough to be doing that. I may just start them early.

  3. It's always going to be work. Sorry to be so serious about this, but I did just write a three parter on the subject. . . But why does it have to be a big deal or a polarizing one at that? For example, why does it have to be about the one with the "hotshot job" not cleaning and contributing? (Like it's one or the other, not both or "regardless of.") As if work outside our home is always more important than in our home, on any level. That's a big message.

  4. I really struggle with this. I am working on the Fly Ladies website and trying it one simple thing at a time. I am not moving very fast, but I am changing slowly and surely. I suspect that this will take a lot of time just like everything else in our lives.

  5. I respect that. The title "How to Hate Cleaning LESS" indicates that the goal is not necessarily to love it, but just to hate it a little less. And don't underestimate the high you can get when the house, or a part of it, is clean and "done." That'll get you going. . . or maybe that's just me.

  6. I just listened to something which reminded me of what you've written:

    click & listen

    I honestly have to CONSTANTLY bargain with myself, have those negotiations and inner dialogues in order to make any progress with housework . . . and still end up feeling like (being) a failure 98% of the time.

    I have loved these posts, THANK YOU.

  7. I would never question your expertise! :) Have also enjoyed reading these posts. But the fact remains, doing these things, cleaning, spending my time putting my heart and soul into a clean welcoming home for my family is stealing my time from a lot of other things I should be doing. That's just one side.

    Another is, the value we put on different jobs in our society. I'm not undermining the value of it, at all, it's a wonderful thing to teach that value to your children. But I'd just love it if society at large would put a higher value on cleaning in all contexts. Dirty hospitals = bad. Dirty schools = bad. But why shouldn't we put a higher value on the jobs that people do in those contexts. Pretty sure they could use a raise.

    We are also interior decorators, are we not? They're pretty well paid out there, in the "real" world. And that reflects on a person who spends the effort at home. But cleaners and janitors? Not so much. Would just love for the whole "cleaning" thing to command not only respect, but higher wages.

    Yeah, I think I'll shut up, because obviously I can go on and on :)

  8. I just love you and don't know what I did to have a person like you in my life to inspire me to be better! For realz. We can do hard things!! (Lisa, that is my motto for 2011.)

  9. I can't tell you how much this helps me, Lisa. For the first time, I am viewing all of these mundane tasks not as punishment, but as opportunities. I really hope I can make my home what I want it to be, and be a better example to my kids. Thank you for your perspective!

  10. Jennie, I really appreciate your perspective. You're right--we don't value it like we should.

    Thank you for your comments. I do hope these posts are somewhat helpful. I just know I hit a wall a few years ago and now I don't see it as a big deal. And I stole all of this from my mom, it just only clicked in the last few years.

  11. Wish you had taught our RS lesson on work a few weeks ago because of course it ended up being. "Kids today don't know how to work!" from the post 70 crowd and "Work is great, because God said so." from the rest. While I sat there thinking (and cowardly not saying) but doesn't anyone else find it mind numbing, soul deadening tedium?

  12. I am so grateful for these posts, Lisa! I want my apartment to be clean and organized, I know I would feel so much better (mentally, spiritually) if it were, but I haven't figured out how to get there with any sort of consistency. But now I feel empowered and I'm going to start making some changes. Thank you!!

    And I think "having a place for everything, versus finding everything a place" just became my new motto.

  13. I'm planning a big trip to DI! Sonic after?

  14. I really get this. I have all those dialogues spoken by my mother so long ago, when my sisters were good at cleaning and I just wasn't. Now I'm still struggling with it, four kids later, and trying not to be a good role model for my kids. I want to give them a peaceful home and show them through example how they should keep their things. It's really hard! I use Nemo's Dori as my mantra a lot, "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!" :)

  15. oops.. trying TO BE a good role model I mean... :) I just linked to you on my blog by the way, I really like these cleaning posts.

  16. Lisa, I keep coming back and re-reading part 1,2 and 3 as I get my house in order. Thanks for the inspiration--and the perspective shift on this. It is really helping me. I think it's the least I can do to send my thanks in comment form! :)

  17. I really love these posts. I don't think we talk about cleaning as much as we should, when really it's something everyone struggles with. It does seem like a mundane topic, but then I find myself craving tips and tricks and ways to rethink homemaking. I don't want to be one of those people that just give up and give into the mess. I didn't really learn how to clean growing up, so these words of wisdom are a great help to me.