I'm at a place in my life where I actually find joy in cleaning. Humorous, I know. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't always enjoy mopping or cleaning toilets, but I am able to take great delight in serving my family. I also really like the end product, a clean home, even if it only lasts while the kids are in their rooms having rest time!
Now, if you were to walk in my house right now you wouldn't think that my house is clean because there are clothes laying on the sofa that need to be put away, toys all over the playroom and living room, and a cluttered kitchen table. My house is lived in!! It's not a museum, with absolute order, it's a home where two little busy curly girlies live and play and grow. It's a home where on any given day you will find cracker crumbs in the playroom, blueberry stains on the kitchen floor, and a trail of dress-up clothes in the hallway. It's a home where I often put aside cleaning so that I can play house with my girlies. It's in this home where I am learning to welcome my friends over to play and dine and see our "lived in" home, a home that is not sparkling clean, has mis-matched furniture and toys in all rooms. This is just another area of my life where the Lord is teaching me to replace my desire for approval and acceptance from people with Him!
Now for me, I still have to find a balance between accepting that my house is "lived in" and doing my part to clean it. Since I am the one who is at home during the day, I want to serve my family by taking a small amount of time every day during the week to clean our home. Thankfully, I have a great husband who helps me clean too - he cleaned the kitchen last night while I was having coffee with a dear friend - what a true blessing.
Last year, a good friend of mine let me borrow a great book on cleaning called Sink Reflections by the Fly Lady. Just like any book, you need to read it and then apply what you think is best for your family and home. For instance, she recommends that step one is keeping the kitchen sink clean. For me and my house, that is not practical for us. So, I don't focus on that first step. However, I do like step six, which is cleaning hot spots. When you walk into the house, the FlyLady says, "the hot spot is the first thing you see". In our house, it is the kitchen island and living room, so those are the two spots that I (try to) clean and de-clutter every morning.
The Fly Lady also offers helpful advice on keeping your house free from clutter. Check out this great post entitled "How to Declutter". I encourage you to do these things! They really do work!
Some other helpful steps:
*Pick out clothes the night before and get dressed immediately when you wake up.
*When you go downstairs, take a load of laundry to the washing machine and start it.
*Establish a morning routine and an evening routine.
*Toss old magazines after you read them - this can cause major clutter if you keep them all.
Another great source for cleaning is the May 2010 edition of Real Simple magazine. There is an article entitled "Dirty Jobs Made Easy" which offers tricks to cut down your cleaning time.
*To get rid of hard-water stains in the toilet (if you live in the city of Atlanta, you definitely have these), pour in a cup of distilled white vinegar once a month and let it sit overnight.
*Run the exhaust fan while showering to prevent mold from building up.
*Place a couple of dryer sheets in the bottom of the trash can to absorb spills and to mask the stinky odor of trash.
The Real Simple website is also a wonderful source! The cleaning page under "Home and Organizing" gives fantastic tips for all areas of your home.
In addition to these sources, I have some practical cleaning tips that I acquired from my Mom. My Mom and my Dad both did a great job of teaching me how to clean, mainly by making me do it myself. I'm so thankful for all that I have learned from them about making a house a loving home!
*Make your bed - it really does make the bedroom look neat.
*Wipe down bathroom sink and counter tops daily. (I don't do this enough!)
*Keep the main room de-cluttered.
*Do a load of laundry a day so that it doesn't pile up - then you have to do it over the weekend, major bummer.
*If you get something out, put it away!
*Clean as you are cooking so you don't have a huge mess when you are finished. Let pots soak while eating so you can put them away when you are done with the meal.
In short, here is what I AIM to do each week:
Mondays - vacuum and straighten bedrooms
Tuesdays - clean bathrooms
Wednesdays - mop
Thursdays - deep-clean a different part of the kitchen and clean-out fridge
Fridays - FREE DAY
Once a month, I clean the front porch and basement. I dust the furniture and I re-organize the pantry.
I daily AIM to do this:
Wipe down sink and counter tops in bathroom
Wash, fold, and put away two loads of laundry
Hit my "hotspots" - kitchen island and living room
Open mail and sort
Clean up kitchen after each meal
Put away toys before Daddy comes home
Now, to end this post, I want to be honest and tell you once again, this is what I AIM to do. Do I always do these things? NO WAY! Some weeks I don't do anything and then I have a very, very messy house, which I find very frustrating. So, that is why I have created a schedule for myself where I do just a little a day. I need a schedule because I would rather be lazy and not do them. A schedule helps me to be more effective and it really frees me to focus on what is most important, my curly girlies!! For you, a schedule may drive you crazy or you may find yourself becoming a "slave" to it. If that is the case, don't do it. Find a balance and a method that works for you and your family.
I am finding it helpful to include my curly girlies in the cleaning process. They actually like to clean right now, so we've been doing a few jobs together. Both girlies put away toys in the playroom at the end of the day. Oldest curly girlie cleans her room, brings her plate and silverware to the sink after meal times, and helps me sweep. Of course, I often have to re-sweep after she is done, but it's a great lesson for her on serving her family. She also puts away the clean clothes into her drawers. Now, are her drawers organized and neat? No, but she is learning responsibility and she is proud of herself. I'm so proud of her too!
Finally, I want my house of curls to be a home that reflects Christ and His love for us. I want my friends to feel loved and welcomed into my home, whether it looks shiny clean or "lived in". I want my children to find freedom to play dress-up and fingerpaint without worrying about making a mess. I want my husband to come home after work to a house where his wife isn't frustrated over the mess but where he is greeted with love and excitement by his family. I want my own heart to daily believe the Truth that having a sparkling clean home may bring me temporary happiness here on earth, but it won't bring me eternal purpose and fulfillment. I desperately need the love of Christ and His amazing grace to fill me and to do these things through me. I need Him to give me the strength to wake up every morning, empty the dishwasher without complaining, mop the stained floor, and clean the dirty toilets with a smile on my face. I desire my Savior alone to bring me satisfaction, and I pray His love will daily captivate me so that I put away my own selfish desires and live sacrificially for my children, pointing them to Jesus Christ.