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A Spotless Wench

For most of my kids’ lives, I’ve gone easy on them as far as house chores are concerned. Here and there I’d give them a token chore, even making various chore charts now and again to add a little structure to the work. However, the various systems soon failed. I found that it was easier in some ways just to do the cleaning myself, and I would rationalize that they weren’t old enough for steady responsibilities.

At their ages, they really were too young to complete most chores unsupervised, so if I didn’t feel like cleaning, I wouldn’t force them to do chores that I’d have to help them with. I was too lazy to teach them to work hard.

But something’s been changing in me over the last few months, and I really can’t stand living in a mess anymore. I want a clean and organized house, not just once a month when I do the big crazy cleaning because someone extra-tidy’s coming to visit, but all the time or at least once a day.

The problem is that Laylee and Magoo are now old enough to tear the house limb from limb, light it on fire, and then sprinkle Polly Pocket shoes on the ashes. If I spend my entire life cleaning up after them, I will have no life at all. And I think that by age 3 and 5, they are capable of learning how not to throw every item they’re using on the floor the minute they’re done using it. They should be able to be trained to put things away when they’re done with them. Right? Right? I mean, I haven’t been trained to do that yet but I’m working on it, and they seem like they’re a lot smarter than me … so there has to be hope, right?

Yesterday I hosted a PTA board meeting at my house, so I spent the day cleaning the clean of a person who’s having virtual strangers over for an hour. It bordered on madness, but when it was done my house felt so glorious that Dan and I decided we’d like to keep it like this indefinitely. Sure there can be catastrophic play or cooking events, but we just want to be able to clean them up the same day.

This resolve was solidified when our financial advisor showed up for a scheduled (but completely forgotten by us) house call to go over some documents this morning. We ran downstairs in our pajamas, let him in, and apologized for our forgetfulness. Then we ushered him into an immaculate, eat-off-the-floor-clean home and it felt so GOOD to receive an unexpected visitor that way.

So I spent all day today clearing my throat and pointing at scattered items. If the kids didn’t pick up my subtle hints, I would tell them explicitly that they needed to pick up their junk. It got old. Fast. They were sick of hearing me harp. I was sick of hearing me harp. The house stayed clean, for which I am very proud.

But I have to wonder, isn’t there some way to maintain a clean house and still be a nice person? My mom did it. I know there are others who’ve been successful. What will it take to find the balance between living like a slob and being a complete and total raving nag?


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