Years ago, I realized that something is deeply wrong with me.
I get so anxious when things are disorganized and messy, and yet I am a terrible housekeeper.
It’s just not fair.
If you’re someone who needs clear spaces and dreams of color-coordinated closets, you should really also get The Clean Gene.
But I was born without it.
And so earlier this year, I did a cleaning challenge. It worked really, really well.
And the weeks that I did all my daily chores, and nothing weird happened, things stayed pretty clean.
But a few weeks ago I went out of town.
And then on the flight home, I got sick. (Note: Reading this book while flying, while sick, is slightly unsettling ;))
I was really sick for about 3 days (and I’d been gone for 4 …), and it sort of felt like the house was crumbling around me.
I wanted to fix things, but that would have involved getting out of bed.
And so, feeling desperate, I resorted to bribery.
I’m down with bribery in that sometimes we all need incentive to make something less miserable. When I was pregnant with my son and still working full-time, Fridays were busy. I worked at a newspaper, and in order to take the weekend off, I had to make sure everything for the section I oversaw was set for the Saturday, Sunday and Monday editions.
So Friday mornings I got up extra early, and bought myself a giant hot chocolate on the way to work.
It gave me a reason to get my very pregnant self out of bed before 6 a.m. in January, in the Midwest.
And so, surrounded by cast-off socks, frying pans caked with egg residue and a dining room table covered with unopened mail and general detritus, I checked my wallet.
A plan was born.
“Guuuuuys!,” I shouted, and within seconds, a cleaning team was assembled.
“Listen,” I said. “Things are nuts. I can’t even focus. I kind of want to cry. I need your help.”
And so we made a list of all the biggest issues – the cat box; the bathroom; the living room floor covered in dog hair.
I listed laundry and dishes and everything else that needed to be done for the house to feel settled again.
We split up everything and we got to work.
And within less than 90 minutes, our home was restored.
And surprisingly, no one had complained, and no one felt resentful that they’d had to do it all. Ahem.
There have been times previously that I have resorted to cash bribery when the house got crazy, and there are plenty of times when I hang three bucks on a crazy closet with a sign that says “clean me.”
I’ve always kind of considered these desperation moves, born out of my own anxiety-stress mix that makes me willing to pay for peace.
But then my kids came to me with a plan.
What if we changed how we’ve been handling cleaning here? What if we made Monday clean-ups a regular thing, and added in Friday too?
We wouldn’t have to clean on weekends, they reasoned.
Also, they told me that they want to help, but that sometimes they aren’t sure how.
I’m fairly certain that this is directly connected to my own inability to “organize” cleaning very well. I’ve tried various chore charts in the past, and we’ve tried numerous family cleaning routines.
But what we often need most is a house reset, that has nothing to do with gold stars or even mopping. What we really need is someone to track down all the library books and drag them to the car and someone else to throw in a load of towels.
These are things that can’t always be anticipated.
But in the moment, they are so clear that in some cases, we might literally be stumbling over piles or staring at empty shelves.
This idea had merit, but was I willing to pay for it?
I gave that some thought …
Yes, we all make messes, and so yes, we should all take care of our home.
Growing up, my mom and grandmother both worked full-time. So once a month, they hired a cleaning crew to show up in a station wagon and deep-clean their homes.
Even as a small child, I saw this as a sanity technique.
So couldn’t I do the same thing on a smaller scale?
Couldn’t I also maximize my resources as a working, homeschooling mama?
And so, we negotiated a salary for twice weekly cleaning days.
On these days we make a list, and divide responsibilities.
Sometimes we agree to a Starbucks run in place of cash. Sometimes, we plan for take-out that night as a reward.
But whatever the payment, we now work together to keep our home neat (ish) and tidy (er).
And in this season, that’s just what was needed.
P.S. Here’s one other way to make Mondays more sane.