Keeping the Mess in Check

The chief cause of disorder, messiness, and chaos in my home.

When I was young, I couldn't understand the hullabaloo over a messy house.  Why so much discord?  It was a source of painful contention between myself and my parents; I thought, why can't they just let it go?  I knew I had more important things to do, books to read, photos to scrapbook, poems to pluck out of the air.  You can't control everything in your life down to the last detail.  Mere living is going to create messes.  I'ts the sign of existence.  There's such a thing called the Law of Entropy, which seemed to back my case that everything, left to itself, neither abused nor taken care of, would approach a greater and greater state of disorder.

I don't know what shifted or clicked into place or turned the gears: but nowadays I am so undone by a disorderly home that I can feel the frustration choking me like a cloud of cigarette smoke.  It fogs my mind, puts my heart thumping, and makes me panic.  I hate that I'm like this.  I hate that the state of my house can affect me so much as to alter my mood, making me cold and short with my son and husband, interfering with my creativity and clarity.

I know that some of it is about control: when so much in my life feels like a runaway train in a black-and-white western, the cleanliness of my home is one way I can gain the upper hand, so to speak, be a Big Woman--more like a spoiled child on atop a hill claiming to be king of the world.  I need to let that go, acquiesce into the arms of God, know that He is in control of everything and I am in control of nothing, and with that find peace.

But I think there is more to it than that.  Something tugs at my sleeve, saying, "It's not just about having control."  I am and was always moth-antennae sensitive to my environment.  My surroundings affect not only my mood but my ability to perform.  Productivity is clogged if I'm distracted by an ugly home, whether I know it is because I should clean it or because it is just difficult to accomplish things when I don't know where I put down my pen or my shoes or am tripping over that pile of laundry every time I walk through the hallway. I want to be more productive, not less.  That's tricky because one could easily be consumed in the up-keep, cleaning at the expense of all else that is more valuable and worthwhile: a picnic with my family, prayer time in front of the Sacrament, writing letters to friends.

There is also the artistic sense in me, that thrives in a lovely home, with pretty meals, eclectic music, and a rhythm like that of a monastery, alternating work and repose.  Surrounding myself by beauty is so, so important to me.  At one time, I would have thought of it as a shallowness, and reprimanded myself.  Stepped into self-imposed guilt like a well-worn dress.  But not anymore.  One can create beauty in so many ways.  It's not about stuff.  A vignette of colorful pebbles, pine cones, and dried flowers in a glass is a drink of beauty in a home, and it costs nothing but a walk outdoors.  An old quilt folded on top of a trunk.  Warm homemade bread wrapped in a clean dishtowel.

I don't want to be the way I remember my family being: the arguments forever circling around "pick up your laundry," "put your plate in the sink," "I don't like your shoes here," etc.  I want to be free of that conflict, the kind inside and out, in my soul and running back and forth on the lines of communication between my family, like electricity.  I'm not sure what I can do to exercise more patience and peace and letting-go.  Perhaps the old adage in this instance is applicable: fake it 'til you make it.

In the meantime, I can do things that will ease the tension and struggle, by trying to keep on top of the mess and intervening before it gets out of hand.  So I drew out this plan.  It's not hard-and-fast, more a guide, but if I do follow it closely, I know I will save myself stress.  There are five rooms in my home, and five days in the work week, so I've divided the chores thusly:

  • clean windows
  • make bed
  • dust shelves & tables
  • sort and wash/dry/fold/put away laundry, esp. sheets
  • vacuum

TUESDAY--Sunroom/Dining room
  • sweep, mop, and vacuum
  • vacuum & arrange sofa
  • clear & wipe down table
  • put away miscellaneous objects (toys)
  • clean windows

  • shake out rugs (wash if needed)
  • sweep, mop, vacuum
  • unload dishwasher
  • clean counters, stove, table, etc.
  • put away miscellaneous objects

  • scrub bath tub & shower
  • scrub sink & counter-top
  • clean toilet (in and out)
  • sweep & mop & vacuum
  • put away miscellaneous objects
  • fold towels and/or replace with fresh, clean ones
  • clean mirror
  • organize & clear away shelves

FRIDAY--Back room
  • vacuum (& hallway)
  • put away misc. objects
  • organize closet & clothes
  • clean windows
  • clear & organize desk, dresser, surfaces

take out trash, put away groceries, pick up after the Squirt, wash dishes as used, put away clothes

The weekends--and here I may vary which days are weeks and which are weekends depending on my work schedule and how tired I am--should be taken off, except for the ALL WEEK chores.  Those are necessary to keeping myself from getting behind and creating a snowball effect that will trip after my heels, chase me, and threaten to knock me over completely, so that I am back in the helpless Cathy-comic caricature, crying in a heap on the floor and tugging out my hair.

So I hope.



  1. it's hard and I struggle with it myself (and have only me to blame for the most part). young one will do this. but I do think perhaps you will not be able to avoid conflict if you want to teach your child/children how to keep things clean. A mother is one who has to teach kids how to do things and avoiding conflict in it would perhaps lead to frustration for you (boundaries and all) and would not teach the child responsibility, as much as we disliked it when we were children...

    1. I know I need to teach him with a firm unwavering resolve, and being angry is the opposite of that calm resolve I am looking for. Conflict is inevitable, as long as it is more conflict on his end, against my firms stance, and not me raging like a child and letting my temper get the better of me, infecting the mood of my entire family. It should be something more intellectual, like an "a and b, therefore c." So that I am teaching him and disciplining out love and not anger.

  2. Christie! That photo. Is outstanding!!! It's sharp and beautiful and the blue eyes/blue shirt focus is just stunning. I love it!

    And I know what you mean about... well, pretty much everything in this post. Not being so concerned about the space (as a child) until it becomes your space (as an adult). Being sensitive to environment and needing beauty around, even--perhaps especially--in the small and simple things. Needing a regular, habitual routine/checklist for household chores. (Mine almost never get done if they're not part of the routine.)

    I think being artistic really plays into that... you wind up with a passion for good aesthetic, and that becomes part of all of life. And somewhere there's a balance between lived in and life chaos... it's just about finding where that is for you... It's true that I'll leave a few dishes in the sink (there's a limit on how much of that I can handle in my house) and tuck multiple pairs of shoes under the hallway shelf, but I have to be able to walk barefoot across the floor without cat litter sticking to my feet, and I have to sit down to a clean table at dinner... God knows what'll happen if/when I get a toddler in the house, though. ;P

    Oh, and I always liked Cathy. :)

    1. I pray you get a toddler like who worries when rugs are folded over and tries desperately to doesn't really help the mess, but it does give hope for the future!

    2. I appreciate those prayers. <3 And your little sweetie is so adorable. I hope I DO get one like her.

    3. Thanks. xD It was actually too grainy, with "noise" from the ISO, but I edited it and managed to camouflage it well, I think.

      Great thoughts, thanks for adding!

  3. Good luck! It sounds like a good plan to me. Better to break up most of the cleaning and do a little bit each day than be faced with a mountain of chores one day a week. At least it used to work for me in my in my house (doesn't really apply to my current situation).

    I also think the daily tidying will help as well, and that is something I need to start doing again. Ten minutes tidying before bed will make getting out of bed in the morning that much easier.

    I am also very affected by the visual state of my surroundings, and it stresses me out. I need spaces to be clear and I need beauty and order as well. It is a fine balance to maintain--clean enough to satisfy the eye and yet not allowing cleaning and tidying to take up all the available time.

    1. Yes, getting up in a clean environment really does something to make you ready to tackle the day! Wish I had someone else to make sure that was the case for me, though, haha! [/lazy]

  4. Christie, I feel like I could have written this, it's so much of what I've been working to improve recently. My schedule of chores, my will to follow through my schedule of chores and my ability to Not be negatively affected by the disorder of others (i.e. SETH..whose work clothes are Always on the ground, and Yarrow, who decided to make herself a permanent bed in the middle of the floor with all my blankets and pillows ;p

    Thanks for the inspiration, and the reality check..5 rooms!!! Ugh! I would die!!

    1. Yeah, but on the positive side, you can feel like you've accomplished something by cleaning one, smaller, less messy room, and then go around and close off the doors to the untidy ones!

  5. Wow, like everyone said here on this post, you just described me! It must be a mom thing, but for me, it is also the idea/concept that I am giving an example to my children, that I should be creating the right environment for my family, and that my mess (or non-mess) reflects what I am dealing with inside!
    I feel that if my children see an organized house, they will be more organized, that if they see me cleaning/organizing with happiness, they won' t mind doing it either. It is also the idea that if I want them to pick up their rooms and keep them organized, I should keep mine too. At the same time, I am with you when you say that you need the "right environment" in order to work, create, get inspired. It happens to me too, but I also think my children probably feel that way too. And yes, right now in my life I do see how the mess in my house reflects how I am feeling inside.
    I think having a cleaning schedule will surely help. With my kids (that are 3.5 and 5.5 years old) I try to have them pick up their toys/materials daily (but it does not always happen because I am not always available) and I try to keep my area organized too, but it is hard.
    So it also comes down to being consisten. Which I struggle with too.
    Hang in there, mama, we are with you!


Leave me a comment! Don't be shy!