By: Amy Forstadt
Back when Benjie was having trouble sleeping, I took the advice of a parenting book and made a bedtime chart. It had pictures of what Benjie was supposed to do and in what order – first, brush teeth, then pajamas, then books, then bedtime. According to this book, putting everything on a chart took away the power struggle between Benjie and me and put it on a nice, objective chart that neatly laid out the rules. If Benjie didn’t want to go to bed? Just consult the chart. We’ve brushed our teeth, what’s next? The chart knows!
In the meantime, a longstanding source of conflict between my husband and me has been the neatness, or lack of it, in our house. I know, real original problem, right? But we’ve got it. According to my husband (and for the sake of this blog post we’ll say it’s true) he’s neater than I am. He often informs me, often not too gently, that the mess in the house is driving him nuts. According to me, I’m busy and it doesn’t bother me and if it bothers him so much why doesn’t he do all the cleaning, etc.? The non-gentle, non-quiet, non-productive discussion proceeds from there.
But then I saw a friend reading a book. An 884-page book called Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson that’s all about housekeeping. As in, the most minute details about everything from your weekly cleaning schedule to the staples you should have in your pantry to the finer details of washing labels. When I saw that book, I had to have it. I love information and there’s a part of me that loves to follow instructions. I was drawn to it like a 50s housewife to a basket of rick rack. I bought the book that day, went home and cracked it open, determined to absorb every detail of those two-column, tiny-printed pages.
And voila, I don’t mind cleaning. It’s like someone took away the cleaning power struggle and made me a chart. Now I get it. Cleaning doesn’t have to be a big deal. A clean home really is an easier place to live in than a messy one. Clean, uncluttered surfaces in the house help me have a clean, uncluttered brain. Plus, it’s pretty doable. Every day I just add a few extra minutes of picking up here, de-piling there, and sweeping everywhere. It’s made a huge difference, both in my house and in my relationship.
Oh yeah and, not to bury the lead here, but I also was laid off a few weeks ago. Suddenly I have a lot of free time, and there’s nothing like spending it cleaning and organizing to make me feel productive, not to mention filling up some of those empty hours that might otherwise be spent watching our bank account shrink. Or catching up on back episodes of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Or, say, looking for a job. So see that? A cleaner house is a hidden bonus of unemployment, the silver lining in a cash-poor cloud. And speaking of silver lining, I think I see some tarnish. I was going to work on my resume, but I think I better get out the polishing cloth first. See ya!