Why is it that we take better care of the outdoor environment than the environment in our homes? I’ll tell you why –Because our society has made working for a clean environment a noble cause. Having a warm, inviting, organized home isn’t a noble cause anymore. Imagine being at a large office party. Say someone comes up to you and asks what you have been doing today. If you answer "saving the environment," they would probably be terribly impressed and ask you to tell them all about it. On the other hand, if you said "cleaning the house," there wouldn’t be one person asking you to tell them about it.
I’ve always had this uncontrollable urge to say: "I’ve been saving the environment." "Oh! Really?" they’d say, "Tell me about it." "Well, I shoveled the trash from my daughter’s bedroom, cleaned the air by emptying the diaper pail and washed the pile of blankets and sheets the toddler wet on last night. I also helped save the fish by cleaning out our goldfish Leroy’s tank and took care of the world’s wild animals by feeding my children and teens their dinner. The hardest part of the day came when I tried to train a Homo sapien by explaining to my husband how to put his dirty socks in the hamper. This was quite challenging because we’ve been trying to master this trick for about 10 years now."
Our homes should be beautiful, peaceful, inviting and welcoming places, but so many of us fear going home because of the mess we will face when we get there. I’m not sure at what point in history it happened that the place we live went from being a home to a just a place to sleep and change our clothes. Somehow, it went from a place where we could find peace, relax and renew our bodies, minds, souls and spirits to a place of confusion, disorganization, frustration and continual fighting and bickering. Instead of the home being the place we can hardly wait to get home to at the end of the day, it is a place of tension and anxiety.
We work harder at having a clean environment than we do at keeping our homes clean. If you don’t believe that to be true, walk into a few homes and look at the dirt and clutter. Compare that to what you see on our highways. Most of us don’t dream of throwing our garbage out the car window, but we throw trash all around our homes and leave it lying about for extended periods of time. Even the air in most homes smells worse and is more impure than the air outside. Most foul smells in homes come from improper cleaning or no cleaning at all.
It’s important to realize that in the same way we work for other things in our lives, we need to work to have peaceful homes. We work hard to earn money, to have a good marriage, to be good at sports, to have the perfect figure or to get a good education. How many of us spend more time at learning a new craft or working out at the gym than we do cleaning or learning to clean our homes?
We live in a world where housekeeping is usually the last priority on the list, but I believe we need to wake up and smell the coffee. (If you can find the coffeepot!)
We worry so much about doing healthy things-from the food we eat to the air we breathe to exercising all the time. But we aren’t using common sense. Many people wouldn’t dream of drinking anything but bottled water for fear of the bacteria in tap water. But those same people use tap water to brush their teeth, wipe their counters or wash their vegetables. Then, they take their bottle of water and set it in a refrigerator that hasn’t been cleaned for a couple of months-or more-and is full of all kinds of bacteria and germs. They think nothing of grabbing a damp sponge that has been sitting on the counter-growing bacteria all day (or week)-and swiping the counter with it. They take that same hand that has touched the sponge and stick their fingers in some frosting that then goes in their mouths. I’m glad their water is bacteria-free because that’s probably the only thing in their homes that is.
We complain about our children breathing secondhand smoke (I don’t smoke and don’t recommend that anyone should), but then we turn around and don’t change our children’s sheets but once a month. Many of us don’t realize that they can develop extreme allergies from dust mites.
We shower ourselves silly every day and are obsessed with clean bodies, but we stand in a shower we never clean. Then, we walk across a dirty floor, picking up all kinds of fungi on our way. Then, we proceed to use a sink and toilet that has who knows what growing on it.
We become totally unglued when our children touch the doorknobs in a public restroom, but in our own home, we leave piles of dirty, filthy underwear and sweat-soaked clothes lying around our bathroom or bedroom to be stepped on and touched.
When we don’t take care of our cars, they won’t function properly or do the job we bought them to do. In the same way, our homes can’t do what they’re meant to do if we don’t give them proper maintenance and care. If I don’t keep good tires on my car, the chances are pretty good that I’m eventually going to get a flat tire. Do you know how much discomfort a flat in the dead of winter will cause me? What about the extra work and being late to everything for the rest of the day? Compare that to if I had kept good tires on my car. I won’t be stuck in the freezing cold trying to change a tire or be late to where I’m going. Having a home that’s not properly cared for will cause you the same discomfort, the same problems and lots of extra work, keeping you constantly behind on your schedule.
If you live in this type of toxic environment, set aside time with the hazardous materials team to focus on getting your home clean! Don’t let yourself get discouraged. If you’ve let it go for a very long time, it may take a little extra work at first, but once you’ve gotten it in order, it is much easier to simply maintain it from week to week. You’ll be surprised how much simply cleaning up your "home" environment will reduce the stress in your life!
If you don’t know where to begin and need some tips to help you (or if you just need a little inspiration), visit Getting and Keeping Organized where you’ll find lots of information to get you started!
Now go do it!