I have a love-hate relationship with cleanliness.
I love to be clean and organized, but I hate the work that goes into it. Having a toddler makes cleaning and staying clean Sisyphean at best. Nothing stays clean for more than ten minutes at a time with a human tornado.
This gets discouraging very quickly. Why bother keeping clean and organized if it’s only going to become a mess immediately?
It’s hard for me to get organized and easy to allow clutter to take over. I am ashamed to admit that it took until June to finally put all the holiday decorations away. They were removed from the main areas of the house but sat waiting to make it inside the storage closet we have in our room. Ash and I had to move around the boxes and clutter that kept piling up on a nightly basis as we got ready for bed.
For that, I hated spending time in our bedroom.
It took so long because it required a cleaning and reorganizing of our storage closet. We’ve accumulated a lot of old baby and maternity items that we’re not ready to part with just yet, so there wasn’t any room to put holiday decorations back inside.
This required an organization session, cleaning, and purging a lot of items. Making the time to do this is difficult with the fatigue and have limited energy stores day-to-day. Because a cleaning session wasn’t important in my mind, it kept getting pushed back in favor of working on other projects.
But that doesn’t mean the cluttered chaos didn’t cause issues.
Benefits to Clean House
Over the years I’ve recognized the benefits of having an organized house without a child: it’s a way to find things easily, everything has its place, and generally makes life easier.
I am also one of those people who gets depressed if my living space is messy. I am not just talking super messy but depression starts to set in even if there’s a little bit of clutter. So when the house “gets out of control,” I tend to freeze and get frustrated.
I am, by no means, obsessive over the cleanliness. When I can’t even get myself to spend 15 minutes tidying up because of either fatigue or feeling overwhelmed I feel frustrated.
Cleanliness and MS
With MS, having an organized house also has a lot of added benefits that are obvious: I don’t have to worry about tripping over things and I am able to remember where I put something because I put it where it belongs.
The less obvious advantages to maintaining an organized house?
Naptime. Seriously, when I have a cluttered bedroom with a pile of clothes on the bed from the laundry, I can’t physically take a nap because they are in the way. Shoving them into a corner on the bed, or piling them on “that chair” creates an emotional frustration because I should put them away but too exhausted to do so.
My memory issues. When the house is cluttered I never assume I put something back where it belongs. In fact, most of the time I assume I left it somewhere else, yet after tearing the whole house apart, I find the item exactly where it is supposed to be. I am so cluttered that I forget about the times I actually put something away.
When the house is neat and organized I am more likely to check the place where it belongs first because I trusted myself to put it away.
Finally, my depression. While it is hard to pinpoint the source of my depression: MS or otherwise, I know that my levels of depression correlate with the mess levels of my living spaces. If my public areas are clean, but my private bedroom/bathroom is messy – my depression levels are elevated. If the entire house is an out-of-control mess? Well, I will push through the naptime frustration and nap rather than dealing with the mess.
Now that I have Jai, these issues become more pointed the messier I am. I feel especially bad because I really don’t want to teach him bad habits – I want him to know how to clean up after himself by providing a healthy example.
Where to Start?
This is always the difficult part of organizing/cleaning a house: knowing the best place to start. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve found? Just starting somewhere.
Think of it like a band-aid: just rip it off. Start organizing someplace.
I find that starting from a geographic perspective helps: I will work from the front door and into the house is easiest. When I do this often enough I find that it can get stale, so it makes the solution for refreshing my routine easy as well: start backwards once or twice and do the rooms I usually end with first.
The other thing that I found helps me every time to get started, and from my discussions with friends I am not alone with this, is putting my favorite cleaning show on in the background: Hoarders or Hoarding: Buried Alive. Both shows should be on demand with a cable provider and there are a lot of British cleaning shows available on a popular free streaming service affiliated with Google.
There are three reasons why I love to have these shows on in the background:
- It makes me feel better about my living situation. I have never gotten it to the point where the fire department will shut my house down for being a safety hazard, but it’s the recognition that I only a few decisions away from that situation.
- Psychological help. Whenever the psychologist asks the hoarder about whether or not they need a particular item, I try to remember the same questions when I get stuck on something as well.
- Company during a tedious task. I love having noise on in the background when I am working on something because it keeps me company. It’s weird, but it helps keep me motivated in its own way.
Keeping it Simple
Many experts recommend keeping it simple when starting your organization and cleaning project to avoid overdoing it. These are some tips I’ve worked out on my own or found to be useful from my research online:
- Start with a plan. Decide on how you plan to attack the cleaning: room-by-room, section-by-section, time limits, or some other way that works best for you. Stick with that plan as much as possible.
- Do one room/section at a time. This is basically breaking it down into small and manageable tasks. If you are like me and prefer to do it room-by-room, say that on Saturday you will work in the kitchen. Then only work in the kitchen, try not to go beyond that.
- Take as long as you need, but work in 15-minute spurts. If you find that this is a big room and overwhelming, be okay with the project taking several days to clean and organize. Try to do 15-minute work spurts and take a short break in between. If you feel you can handle going longer because you are in a groove, do so, but if it’s a task that’s really frustrating and overwhelming – doing a small amount in small doses will help maintain the needed productivity and drive.
- Move an item to the proper room. I find that things make their way all over the house and so I need to move them back to their proper location. What I will do is take that item and dump it unceremoniously into the room I know it belongs in and leave it there until I’ve moved into that location. If I’ve already cleaned that room then I will immediately put that item away rather than just dumping it. Avoid creating a catch-all room by putting things away as soon as you can.
- Don’t overdo it. Set an end time for each day that you want to clean and stick to it. If you want to be done by 5pm every day, be done at 5pm. Everything will still be there the next day or next cleaning day whether you like it or not.
- Pretend to be clean and organized even when you’re not. If you are in the process of cleaning and organizing your living space but are nowhere near finished, pretend that you are. What this means is you grab something from one space to use it, make sure you put it back where you want it to go once you are done the cleaning. This will help cause a passive cleaning and helps with maintaining a cleanliness attitude that you need in order to keep that space organized.
By following these steps I’ve found that it’s helped someone like myself with limited energy levels, so I have to find the right time of day to do my cleaning and organizing and accept that there will be days where it just won’t get done by me and I’ll have to rely on Ash to take over.
Gathering Your Tools
Figure out what all you’re going to need in order to do a deep cleaning. The reason for this is nothing halts progress or slows down a clean than having to run out to get more cleaning products, bags, vacuum filters, or some other product that isn’t available.
Physically go through your supplies and see what you already have. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve operated on assumption that I don’t have a product, gone out and bought it, and when I went to put it away after a cleaning session see that I have 2 unopened products waiting for me.
While most cleaning products don’t go bad, it’s still annoying to have valuable storage space taken up when I could have just looked in the first place.
If you have carpets, you may need to rent a steam vacuum for the weekend, so that may have some extra steps involved with setting it up. Items that require renting will dictate your cleaning schedule, so it’s important to factor those into your planning and gathering.
Don’t Get Frustrated
This is easier said than done. There are days where I will look over a room and get super frustrated over the mess I see. Even after doing a deep clean.
Frustration may set in, so when that happens, give yourself a break. You may need to adjust your schedule if you find that you can’t carry onwards for whatever reason. If you are like me, don’t wait until some special event comes up to do the deep cleaning because you’ll get frustrated when you aren’t finishing on the schedule you set out for yourself.
What do you do to keep yourself from being frustrated when doing a major clean or maintaining a clean house? What frustrates you the most about the messiness? How do you schedule your cleaning? Leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.
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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton Photography