Where are all my “messy at heart” wives at?
The ones who “keeping house” doesn’t come naturally to, but you strive hard to do it anyways. The ones whose husbands feel infinitely more relaxed when they walk into a calm, clutter free environment as opposed to the chaos that would be without them. The ones who, as their house gets more chaotic, their anxiety takes over, leaving them feeling like the most simple task is overwhelming. The ones who keeping a tidy house doesn’t come naturally but instead takes work – a whole lot of work.
This is me, jumping up and down, raising my hand in the air, trying to get somebody else’s attention so that I don’t feel like so much of a failure when I let myself down.
Ever since marrying my husband 5 years ago, it’s been an endless journey of learning to keep house. Some days this is so simple – I complete 3 loads of laundry, washed and folded, sweep and mop floors, keep up with the dishes, all at what feels like an almost manageable pace. Other days, dishes load up as my child clings to my legs, yogurt and newborn spit up spills on the floor go unnoticed for hours, dishes just seem to appear out of nowhere and for some reason all of my laundry magically misses its basket.
With social media I spend my days discouraged as I see other wives and mothers seemingly doing it all. The ones who not only have the large houses with infinite space but the tidy house, Instagram ready at all times. Social media sucks doesn’t it? It’s fun in theory but it’s an augmented reality that constantly bogs us down and takes our eyes off of the prize.
Despite you most likely thinking that I’m suggesting the prize is a clean and tidy house, it’s not. It’s the mindset of serving, not in a slave to your house sense, but in a larger sense of love. It’s taking the time to do the tasks that come with difficulty to you, because you know that someone else will feel loved by that action; which can be more important as well as push you and your relationship further.
Does my husband require me to keep a clean house? No. Never in our wedding vows did I promise to “love, cherish and clean up after thee”. But I have an immense amount of respect for my husband and I know that he feels loved when he sees me caring for a house that he works so hard to financially provide for us. So, in turn I work hard to show him love in that specific way. In the opposite sense, he also greatly respects me and knows that each decision I make to clean is not one that comes naturally but one that I’ve physically had to make to show him love in that way. This means that often on days when my anxiety feels overwhelming and he comes home to an untidy house with a wife crying in the bathtub, he shows grace, upon grace, upon grace.
But I’m not here to preach to you. I’m here in solidarity and to help you show love to your spouse in this way. These are the tips and tricks that I’ve learned over the last 5 years that make this a little bit easier.
- De-clutter. ALL of it. Those textbooks from college? Probably impractical to keep, especially if you’re like me and in an industry that has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. Those movies that you picked up in the $5 movie bin 3 years ago and swear you’ll watch but yet still have the wrapping on them? You likely don’t need them. Finished that book and don’t plan on reading it again? Donate! We ended up downsizing our house last year which forced me to de-clutter, and trust me I still have more to do, but in the end, this has made keeping house so much easier.
- Paper clutter – this is a big one for my husband, he HATES paper clutter. We’re working hard to become a relatively paperless household, which means that my childhood habit of keeping every single birthday card, is not something that I wish to hand down to my children. We scan birthday cards, notes, drawings, etc and keep them digitally backed up. This means that when we go to look at the kid’s birthday party photos, in that same folder, we will also find their thoughtfully written birthday cards from family and friends.
- A “puttering” list. I always remember the term puttering being used as a kid but didn’t understand its full meaning until about a year ago. The idea of puttering (to busy or occupy oneself in a leisurely, casual manner) would be that you have some sort of little basket or bucket of cleaning supplies/small garbage bag and you slowly go from room to room doing little “tasks” that make up keeping house. It’s not one ginormous, overwhelming task of “clean the whole house”. It’s a bunch of little tasks that you complete while in that room. I went ahead and created my own little “puttering” list – since I do much better with a following a list – full of small tasks to complete throughout the day, each day including one large task (like mopping the floor), as well as a small section at the bottom for monthly tasks (like vacuuming the couches). As much as I try to do them every day, there are days when only half gets done and others that I can do a full puttering list plus the next day’s big task if I’m feeling adventurous. This has made a huge impact because it keeps me visually accountable and if I miss a day here or there, I know that smaller tasks like the toilet and sink, were just done the day before. It also helps my husband see what I would need help with if I am out for the day working or having a difficult day at home.
- The most effective thing I’ve learned is that if a task is going to take you less than 5 minutes, just do it. Quickly washing a couple of dishes now to prevent a back log later will be worth it. Bringing the laundry all the way downstairs so that it’s already there when I have time later on to complete it, will be worth it. PUTTING AWAY THIS LAUNDRY WILL BE WORTH IT <– my biggest struggle. Giving the bathroom a quick run down while my daughter is taking a bath – genius.
- Before your spouse gets home, pinpoint the areas that will have the biggest impact and tackle those. For my husband, its clutter on surfaces. Before he gets home, when I have the time, I try to tackle the most visually impacting areas and have them feeling less stressful. For me, that’s the couch inside our front door (a seemingly perfect diaper bag holder), the living room tables, dining room table, my computer desk and the kitchen counter. These are the main areas that are visual from our front door. Pinpoint these spots in your house and keep them clear!
- Lastly, give yourself grace. Do you need a day to just relax? Take it. Is this one task too overwhelming for today? Shut the door and do it when your spouse is around to help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your spouse, family or professionals if you need it.
I remind myself daily that my worth does not come from my success in my job as a homemaker, or in any career that you choose. Our worth comes from our Father above, who calls us each of us His daughters despite our brokenness and earthly shortcomings. Its knowing that He is present with us in our mundane moments, where we feel that perhaps keeping house may not be a Christ-like activity, but when we serve with a full heart, seeking after his Kingdom first, even our housekeeping is worship.
So when you’re done reading this, let’s put down our phones, tablets or computers, confess our sins of procrastination and jealously to our Father, put on our favourite worship album, and start cleaning as if the Lord was coming home today.
“23 Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people,24 knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24
*Want a copy of my puttering list to help get you started? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with what your biggest housekeeping struggle is as well as how I can be praying for you, and I’ll send you over a PDF printable copy!*
** I also feel the need to add in that serving your spouse in this way involves a beautiful and loving commitment to one another. If you feel like you are being controlled by your spouse or are fearful in any way, shape or form – then you need to consult a professional and seek help.**