Thursday, October 9, 2014


I intended to sit down and write a post about the ongoing 'sticks in a jar' chore experiment we have happening right now. I still intend to do that, but that's not what this post is about. Nope. This is about housekeeping and my inner demons.

My house is a wreck.

There's no nice way of saying it. We have junk everywhere. The couches are covered. The floors are covered. The countertops are covered. Every surface that could possibly have something piled on it has something piled on it. You know the saying everything has a place and everything in its place? Nothing has a place here or if it does, it's not likely to be in it.

I hate living like this. It drives me crazy. It's embarrassing.  And more than embarrassing, it makes me not want to spend extended time in my house. Don't misunderstand. I don't mean I don't like spending time with my family because I do. I don't like spending extended, unstructured time at my house. I am the type of person who needs order to feel relaxed. Clutter makes me anxious. I am surrounded by clutter. I am also the only person in the house afflicted in this particular way. No one else seems to notice we are drowning in junk.

Since I'm gone so much, I can spend a lot of time at home during the week with blinders on. I am busy and I can pretend not to notice as I kick a pathway of junk to traverse the living room. Over the weekend I am tired and feel entitled to relax a little. Feeling entitled is usually your first sign of a problem. I catch up on a bit of housework, but I rarely dive in to do what needs done to make the house enjoyable to me. I work hard to keep that area of my brain turned off because when I think about it, I usually get angry. I don't like getting angry about it but I do. I am resentful and bitter and angry.

A lot of my frustration goes back to when we moved in. I was pregnant and sick and I never got the house put away in the way I wanted. There are still packed boxes shoved in closets. I have felt perpetually behind ever since. This feeling of being behind ebbs and flows with any particular season of life. When I am pregnant, nothing gets done. I feel terrible for most of my pregnancies and so the little bit of pick-up I do day-to-day and week-to-week stops and the house slowly collapses on itself. After delivery, there are the demands of a newborn that usually squashes the majority of my dreams of getting stuff done while on maternity leave. Then I go back to work and for the first six months or so, the baby demands every moment of my free time after work since I abandoned her all day long. I don't mind giving my time to the baby but it does mean other stuff doesn't get done. After that intense newborn/infant period, I usually start digging the house out of the backlog until I get pregnant again and start the cycle all over again.

Even though Marian is 16 months old now, the truth is that our house has still not recovered from that pregnancy and, for whatever reason, my will to put the house back together has been lacking. There have been a few bright spots such as the victory over the paperwork pile of doom which was well documented on FB. Fun fact about that project: the two bags of paperwork that needed shredded are still sitting in the living room. The real problem is that the house is in such a state that each room is a muti-day project and if I can't complete the work, I'd rather not start. It is too demoralizing to work all day Saturday on something and have most of that work destroyed before the next Saturday. So I just don't do it. This is not an admirable attitude.

I feel like if I ever got the whole house completely in order at the same time, we wouldn't live in such squalor because I would be able to maintain it. It *is* easier to clean a clean house, but I've never had a clean house to start from. I spend two or three weeks working on one area and then spend two or three more weeks working on another. There are weekend activities and trips away interspersed among the work. By the time I get back around to the first area, it looks like I never touched it. Having seven days elapse between cleaning sessions when the house is lived in full time is not very productive.

My favorite analogy is mowing the grass. What if you could only mow an eighth or a sixteenth of your yard once a week? You first mow the area nearest the house. Then what do you do the next week? Do you mow by the house again or pick another spot? Whatever you do, by the end of the summer, large sections of your yard are going to be impassible. You live amongst chest-high weeds.

Since I've been off from work this week, I decided I wanted to get the girls' room in shape. I have been wanting to add their room maintenance to their daily jobs but knew I would need to dig them out of the hole first. I try to be efficient by separating into three bins: trash, stuff that should stay in the room and stuff that belongs in other rooms. It saves time to stay in one spot with the bins rather than get up and down constantly putting things away. After the whole room has been sorted, then I put away the bin items.

I have struggled. I still haven't finished sorting the room. I've made good progress, but I start and stop attempting to find the will to just get it done. I am annoyed and distracted. Even as I work on their room, I can't help but think of all the other areas of the house that aren't getting attention this week. It makes me angry and I feel defeated. I'm running out of time and I am starting to wonder if I am going to get it finished. There is just so much junk in there, but the real problem is that I am not working diligently enough at it. This is stupid. The girls have taken well to the stick experiment so I have a reasonable expectation that their room would be maintained and not fall back into chaos. It might finally be checked off the list. So why am I having so much trouble getting it done? I don't know.

Sometimes I wonder if I am being tested. Do I have to make peace with the chaos before being given the opportunity to correct it? If so, I'm failing the test badly. The disorder drives me mad. This is why I close my eyes to it and pretend it doesn't exist until I am here for an extended period of time and am forced to reckon with it.


Melanie Bettinelli said...

Even though I am home all day every day, I still feel I'm in a similar boat. What you say about being pregnant while moving in and never getting out from behind that back log. Yes. That. When we moved in Bella was 2 and Sophie was 7 months old. Within weeks of moving in I realized I was pregnant with Ben. We still have boxes stacked under my sewing table in the pantry/laundry room and under Dom's desk. We occasionally get an area of the house in decent order but while that is going on things everywhere else descend into chaos. I desperately want to deep clean and declutter but there's never time. And so while I maintain a thin veneer of livability, keeping the worst of the clutter picked up, the livable spaces get smaller and smaller as the clutter creeps in. My kids are still all wearing summer clothes even though it's October and chilly because I can't bring myself to face the monumental task of finding the cold weather clothes and realizing that no one has enough of the proper size but we can't really afford to go buy new everything. Last year I was desperate enough that I put out a call for hand me downs on the homeschooling board. And we got plenty. Including a bag of new stuff with the tags still on from one incredibly generous soul. But I don't think I could face doing that again.

Jenny said...

"We occasionally get an area of the house in decent order but while that is going on things everywhere else descend into chaos. "

Yes. Repeatedly. I have fantasies about sending the children away and taking a month off of work and just cleaning the whole house. Whoever had the children could bring them to visit at suppertime so we wouldn't completely miss each other, but cleaning would happen without destruction somewhere else. And I would totally need the whole month to get it done. I can't even say we have a thin veneer of livability. There are currently no seats available to sit in except the kitchen table chairs, the computer desk chair, and the rocking chair. Every other piece of furniture has a pile of stuff on it.

We've lived in this house since 2007 so it seems ridiculous to blame everything on not getting moved in right. Surely those issues would have sorted themselves out by now, seven years later. But no. The boxes testify against me.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

I am positive that if we were in your position with Dom here and me gone that we wouldn't have the thin veneer either. He can't multitask. He can either watch kids or clean. I can sort of do both. Sometimes.
The problem is that there is no way you can clean up messes faster than the kids can make them. It will always be a holding action. Unless you can somehow train them to clean after themselves. That's my long-term goal. And I know it's yours too.

The Sojourner said...

We are theoretically moving soon (if we can ever find an apartment that doesn't break our budget *too* badly) and I seriously wish I could just "lose" about half of our stuff in the process. Sadly, we will only be moving one or two suburbs over at most, so the opportunity to lose stuff is very small. I will consider it a positive that I am not (as far as I know) currently pregnant, so MAYBE I will be able to maintain some kind of veneer of livability in the new place.

Last time I was pregnant I suffered debilitating anxiety (mixed periodically with depression) for close to a year (from about 4 weeks pregnant to 3 months postpartum) and it makes me a bit daunted at the thought of having another. How is it that most Catholic families do this every 2 years or so for a decade or two?

Jenny said...

I get very sick during pregnancy which isn't the same as having anxiety so I can't really speak to the difference, but I can say that the most nervous I ever felt about having a baby was after I had the first. I was no longer ignorant of the physical demands of a pregnancy and I dreaded doing it again. Happily O came along long before I would have decided I was ready for another one, which isn't to say just do it, necessarily, only that just having it over with made it easier for *me.* Also, experiencing multiple pregnancies puts you in a position to more easily put the time frame in perspective. Even though it feels like forever, you know it is not forever. You have memories of how you were before, how you were during, how you were after, and how you will be again so it isn't quite so daunting as it is the first couple of times. Now all this isn't to say that I will ever get to the point where I enjoy pregnancy and don't dread it, but only to say that is has become something I can cope with more easily over time.

The Sojourner said...

I occasionally fantasize about getting pregnant accidentally (right now the only thing standing in our way is money and we'd probably manage one way or another if we were forced to) but I'm probably not fertile enough for that to ever happen. I suppose the flip side of that is that by the time I'm likely to get pregnant on purpose, J will be older and maybe everything will be more manageable.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.