Sunday, December 6, 2009

Messy Monday: Training Our Responses

If you grew up in the home of a tidy mother, you started life with a homemaking advantage. Even if you didn't follow Mom's ways as a homemaker, at least you heard her voice in your head instructing you in the proper ways of keeping house. While my mother has modeled for me many aspects of homemaking (like cooking and decorating), unfortunately she did not train me well with regard to regular weekly cleaning.

It was while I was in college, living with roommates, that I first learned the whole idea of cleaning certain areas of the house on a weekly basis. Shocking, isn't it? Growing up, we cleaned only when we felt like it...which wasn't terribly often. Nothing was ever enforced. So as I embarked out on my own, I had to study how to clean and learn how to go about it from the ground up.

Of course, I'm still learning (why else would I write a regular feature called Messy Monday?!). :) It helps, and at the same time, doesn't help, that my husband grew up in the home of a very neat mother. I've learned countless cleaning tips from her, and been reminded of them on occasion by him (when I've asked him for advice on how his mom did things).

Really it all boils down to this simple fact: our mental reactions to out-of-place items, dust, and dirt--and the physical actions we take based on those responses--are the biggest defining factors for how our house will consistently appear. These reactions, both mental and physical, are largely ingrained in us by our mothers (or fathers perhaps as well). But even if we were not trained to have tidy thoughts and habits, the good news is we can learn them (if we want to)!

Here's an example of how different mental reactions affect our responses:

I asked my husband the other day what his first thought is when he sees something out of place. He said it's like a red-flag: "Ding, ding, ding--item not where it belongs. Return to where it should be," and he follows through with a physical response immediately (usually). Me on the other hand--I will see the same things, but my response is so much different: "Gee, there's a pair of shoes in the middle of the kitchen floor. Hugh." I still register the response, but I haven't trained myself to respond to it right away, as my husband--and other "tidies"--have. I can ignore it and walk away. My husband can't.

So I am going to work on training my responses. Instead of just seeing something, and thinking, "Hmmm, look at that there," I'm resolving to combine my mental response with a physical response: "Hmm, look at that there. Let's put it away now." Sometimes I may not feeling like following through with the physical work, because....well, it's work. It takes time, and with little children, I don't always have the time. But  disciplining ourselves to work hard (and cheerfully) is always of value (Col. 3:23).

Since the whole "tidy-mental-response-and-fast-follow-through" is new to me (somewhat!), if you are that way, I'd love for you to share what goes through your head when you see things out-of-place or otherwise needing cleaned. Can you ignore them and walk away (like I can)? Why or why not? What were some of the best tips your mother taught you? Let's learn from each other on this one!

Disclaimer: If you're not terribly tidy and it doesn't bother you or anyone in your family, please know I am not trying to change you. I am trying to learn new responses and habits, because my husband prefers a tidier house so he can relax mentally and physically; and it is important to me to please him. He extends me much grace in his leniency; I should extend him the same consideration by learning how to more effectively manage our home.


  1. I hear Justin. I can't really relax until things are picked up. I LOVE having a clean house! I feel so relaxed. No, it doesnt always happen, but I LOVE it. I get really lazy a lot too, and I know it bothers NOlan too. Especially with all my health issues, I just havent always had the energy to make things nice all the time. So I am working on trying to keep things tidier, so he doesnt get annoyed with it, and so I can shut my brain off and RELAX! Right now is good training. My house is perfect, just in case someone, anyone, anytime, wants to see it- since it's for sale. :0)

  2. Hi:) I'm just found your blog over from a link at A Holy Experience and thought I'd drop by and say hello.

    I can relate to this post. I grew up in a very messy home, with lots of chaos and heard my parents argue a lot of the time over the mess.

    I think it is a lot easier to keep a clean home if you have some sort of model for it. I took over the cleaning at very young age but I never learned was just clean everyday whatever I saw that was needed.

    With 7 children, my sanity could not take the mess I grew up in...yet, I can't obsess over it or I'll drive them crazy. There has to be a balance! So what goes through my head when I see something out-of-place? Depends. If I'm homeschooling it's usually, "That'll keep till school is first, house second." Other times I may jump on it with your husband's mentality. And still there are other times that I think, "I don't care!!! I just want to relax."

    I'm working on more consistency by learning to follow a routine now:)

  3. BTW, I've added you to my blogroll:) Look forward to getting to know you in blog world!


  4. Clean = Peace. Clutter = Anxiety. At least in my world. So while it's not perfection that I attain, it's order, tidiness and clean. (of course there are off days and seasons, but the general rule is this.)

    I also reward myself for hard work. Right now I am catching up on blogs, having a Chai Tea and listening to peaceful Christmas melodies....and the kitchen is sparkling clean -- at least until lunch!

    My husband also appreciates the peace that he feels from an orderly home and a non-frazzled wife enjoying her picked-up home!!! Is it hard work? Sure. Is it worth it? Absolutely.

    P.S. If you are a "messy" and it really doesn't bother you, that's great. Don't change a thing but if less anxiety and greater peace (by you or your spouse) can be attained by some clean-up discipline, then work at it with all your heart :). It's worth it.

    A HUGE key with 5 kids has been to START EARLY training them to pick up their messes. They are totally able to and refusal is disobedience (with appropriate consequences) in our home. As they have gotten older, the big ones help with household chores as well. Just training them to be mommies :) .....

  5. Thanks, Michelle! Wouldn't it be fun to sit down and talk in real life? :)
    Appreciate you sharing your thoughts. I know what you mean about thinking "I don't care; I just want to relax!" :)
    I'll come visit your blog in a little bit. See you soon!

  6. Good points, Jodi :) Thanks for sharing. I think I can learn a lot from you. Hopefully you won't mind my questions now and then on how to re-train my responses :) I'll have to interview you one of these days soon!!

  7. how incredibly true.

    something I need to work out. thanks for putting it in a way that makes sense. :)