Sometimes, we create our own cleaning and organizing problems when we refuse to change old habits and try something different. Often our habits create stress and steal valuable time, without really improving out lives. If we can identify and change these obsolete habits, we can make life a lot more pleasant for ourselves. Here are some examples from people I know of habits that created more trouble than they solved. After you read through them, think about the areas in your own life where you feel overwhelmed. Would it help to change your thinking in that area and change the way you do something?
A woman with four children under the age of six decides she wants beige carpet throughout her house. She then spends the next few years nagging her family to be careful. A portion of every day is spent cleaning spots off the carpet. Then she complains to a friend that her husband and children are slobs because they make a mess of her carpet every day.
The reality is that her family is unusually careful when it comes to making messes and if she had a twill type darker carpet with a small pattern you wouldn’t be able to see any spots.
A friend of my daughter’s was complaining about how many loads of wash she had to do every day for her small family. When my daughter suggested that she have her family wear the same pair of jeans a second time if they were clean, her friend became angry at the very thought.
The reality is that if clothes still appear clean and don’t smell, there is no harm in wearing them again. I have never heard of anyone dying or getting some exotic disease from wearing their jeans a second or third time or even for a week, but I have known of children who have been needlessly mistreated by grumpy, angry and overworked moms.
Do you insist that everyone get a clean towel every time he takes a bath? Why? Assign each person a towel and have him use it two or three times. When you get out of the bath, your body has just been scrubbed down and cleaned (we hope!). You’re getting less dirt and germs on that towel than you are on the sheets that you have slept on for a week or more.
One interesting observation about people who are obsessive about one use washing: It’s not really about the dirt. I have noticed that women who insist on washing everything after one use often allow their children to wear their winter coats and tennis shoes until they are so grungy that you aren’t sure what color they once were.
We knew a woman whose children would come in from their swimming pool every day all summer long and drip pool water on her good hardwood floors. Each time it happened (several times a day), she would scold them and then mop up the floor. The bathroom where the children changed out of their swim suits was against an exterior wall right next to the back yard patio. The reality was that for a small amount of money– which this family could easily afford, she could have put a door leading from the pool to the tiled bathroom, but she refused to have it done because she insisted that they learn not to walk inside while dripping.
In case you think I exclude my own habits, I too have had this problem. I used to iron everything. With my first child, I even ironed my baby’s little t-shirts and pajamas. (note from Tawra: I knew something went wrong in my childhood ) When my second baby came, he had very bad colic followed by pneumonia. (It took many weeks and four pediatricians to find out what was wrong.) I had walking pneumonia for three months, but I was still trying to iron everything. There were days I would only get up long enough to take care of the kids and then would collapse on the floor because I didn’t have the strength to make it to bed. Well, one day a little light bulb went off in my head– Maybe I should stop ironing (at least for this season in my life). Duh!
Don’t get me wrong– If having beige or white carpet inspires you to clean, puts a song in your heart and gives you warm fuzzies then by all means choose the beige carpet. Carpet your walls if it makes you feel that good. The same goes with the laundry. If it fills your heart with pride to see your children in freshly washed clothes, then let them change their clothes every hour.
The easiest way to keep your sanity is to reduce the things you do to the simplest process that gets the job done. If you want to be especially picky about one thing and you don’t mind spending the extra time, go ahead and do it. Just don’t neglect maintaining your home by becoming obsessed with it and, most importantly, do not blame your family for the extra work it causes you. It is not fair to them for you to take your anger out on them because you choose to do more work than necessary.
There is a verse in the Bible that says “Every wise woman builds her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands.” (Proverbs 14:1) Measure everything you say and do by asking yourself this question: “Is it going to be for the good of my family and build it up or is it just the way I want things done even if it tears down my family?”
Here are some quick tips to start saving time and energy by changing habits:
- If clothes are clean, hang them up and wear them again.
- Spot clean clothes – If they have just one dirty spot, take a wash rag and wash it off. Then wear it again.
- Let each family member use one towel per week.
- When remodeling or replacing items, get things that will make cleaning easier. Get carpet that will conceal dirt. Don’t put in tile — The grout is horrible to clean.
- Put down inexpensive throw rugs under tables if a vinyl floor is not possible in the dining area.
- Allow the family to eat only at the table to avoid food messes in the rest of the house.
- Make toddlers wear a bib or oversized t-shirt when eating.
- Serve only light colored drinks if you have light colored carpet such as white grape juice, lemonade and of course water.
- Don’t overdo when buying clothes. A four week supply of clothes isn’t necessary for every member of the family. Ten days worth of clothing is plenty for most people. Unless you work outside the home, five dresses for church, two pairs of jeans, two pairs of dress pants and some blouses are more than enough.
- Buy clothes that don’t need to be taken to the dry cleaners.
- Don’t clean if it doesn’t need it. Who says you have to vacuum everything every week? For a seldom used room like a guest room, don’t waste time vacuuming it every week.
- Don’t dust until you see dust.
- If there is something that continually frustrates you, fix it. If you can’t find you keys, hang them by the door. Put them there as soon as you walk in and you will know right where they are when you leave. If the door knob doesn’t work properly, fix it. Sometimes we think that we are too busy to take care of these things, but eventually the hassle of working around something exceeds the time necessary to fix it. I once heard someone refer to this as being “too busy driving to stop for gas”.
For more easy cleaning tips to make your life easier, check out our Keeping It Clean e-books.