Why I Stopped Deep-Cleaning My House to Start Enjoying My Kids
There’s an old adage that says, “Cleaning and scrubbing can wait ’til tomorrow, for babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow. So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep. I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.”
A long-time friend of mine, who is years ahead of me in the parenting game, sent it to me one afternoon while I was in the middle of a mommy meltdown. I only had two of my four children at the time, and I was exasperated at the thought of never having a clean house again.
It was during my full-time corporate days, while my husband was also running a restaurant and attending school full-time to obtain his accounting degree. Cleaning my house was the last thing I wanted to do, but it drove me crazy to always come home to a huge mess that never seemed to get any better, even when I’d spend hours scrubbing away.
The friend who sent me the quote included a little message of her own with it. It read, in part:
The days are long, but the years are short. As much as you are struggling right now, know that things won’t always be this way. You will never get this time back with them. You have to ask yourself, ‘What is more important? Dust-free shelves or giving your daughters time, love, attention, and priceless memories?’ As cliché as it sounds, you will miss these days when they’re gone.
Boy, was she right!
I Let Go of Perfectionism and Enjoyed My Growing Babies
My daughters now range in age from almost 8-16, and every time I open up my Facebook memories or dig out old photo albums of their toddler years, I long to have those moments back, if only for a split second. The plethora of artwork lining the refrigerator (and cabinets… and walls…), the marker on the walls up and down the hallway, the food-stained faces, the way they pronounced grown-up words in little-kid voices (sometimes missing a few consonants).
Eventually, when I made the decision to become a stay-at-home mom, I had so much more time to spend with my girls, but I would still spend hours constantly picking up their things and cleaning areas of the house that, quite frankly, no sane person ever touches (I mean, who scrubs the corners of a linen closet with a toothbrush?).
Attribute it to my anxiety in cluttered spaces or my husband’s irritation of everything just being thrown about all willy-nilly and no one ever picking up after themselves, or something else entirely—I’m not exactly sure why I felt so compelled to maintain such an immaculate abode. But, I was wearing myself out, and that was not making me a very pleasant wife or mom to be around.
Enter Lent 2016. My church’s theme that year was “Let Go.” Our pastor did an entire sermon series on letting go of various things in our lives (the perfectionism sermon really hit home) and letting God take the reins. Jesus, take the wheel, so to speak. I learned a lot about myself in those 6-plus weeks, and how my perceived need to control all of these various aspects of my life, even when they were clearly things over which I had no control, was causing me to miss the point of life completely.
So, I made a commitment to let go of my need for a clean house. It was difficult at first…extremely difficult. But it got easier over time. And the more I let the everyday messes go, the happier I was, and the happier my family was. With so many children and animals running around, there is no way my house will ever look like a Pottery Barn catalog, and I have made my peace with that. They’re kids, after all. We can’t expect them to live like they’re in a museum of fine antiquities.
I Now Determine the Best Use of My Time
Now, this doesn’t mean I’ve completely let myself and my house go. I still have standards. My girls are old enough now that they help with our regular household chores. I make sure we aren’t living in total anarchy.
I just don’t get all up in arms anymore if the shelves are dusty or there’s dried toothpaste in the bathroom sink. There is so much more to life than being a slave to the messes life brings.
Several weeks ago, Crystal Paine (@themoneysavingmom), posted a series of stories on her Instagram account regarding her stained baking pans. Apparently in some of her videos, people noticed that her pans were a little crusty and needed cleaning. They sent her all sorts of tips on how to get them clean, so she tried some of them.
And do you know what she realized? After 30 minutes of relentless scrubbing on just one pan, she halfway got it to shine again, but she lost 30 minutes of her day over a baking pan…a baking pan no one will probably ever see unless she intentionally shows them.
That’s half an hour that could have been spent on the things in life that truly matter. But she spent it on a futile task that served no purpose other than trying to make her followers happy (and possibly a good 30-minute arm workout).
And she owned it. She admitted how silly it was to get caught up in having a shiny baking pan that is not supposed to be shiny; it’s supposed to go in the oven and get stains and spills on it and have crusted-on food and layers of baked-on gunk. It’s meant to be well-used and well-loved. I completely admired her for her stance on this.
If you are always frustrated at feeling like you live in a perpetual mess, if your baking pans are stained with love, if your house sometimes looks more like a war zone than a page in Better Homes & Gardens, I’m here to tell you it’s okay.
It’s okay to let go of the need to always have a tidy space. It’s okay to stop worrying about what other people think of your kitchenware. It’s okay to live life and focus on the little moments with the people that really matter rather than the pile of shoes strewn all over the floor.
It’s okay to bless the mess you’re in and give yourself some grace because you will miss these days when they’re gone.
P.S. I want to see your pans! Comment on this page or tag Grit and Grace Life on social media with the hashtag #showmeyourpans. Here’s one of mine…
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