Obsessively . . . cleaning?

I am . . . . kind of particular . . . (ok, shut up and stop laughing) about lots of things.  I have a way I like to do things, and I prefer that they get done that way.  Brushing my teeth, sorting my laundry, only eating at the table, putting things away in the cabinets (or in the grocery cart), taking shoes off in the house, cleaning my kids after they eat — I’m picky about all of it.  It’s all for good reasons — I didn’t pluck any of my particularness out of thin air, and it all makes good reasonable sense if I explain it — but taken as a whole, it’s a lot, and I am grateful to my friends and family who are amazingly understanding about it.

I’m working on it.  I’m trying to turn over a new leaf, be more flexible, and not let small stuff get to me.  The world will not end if the kids get down from the table and (gasp) touch the furniture before they wash their hands, nor if someone walks all the way into my living room with their outside shoes on.  (I don’t even hyperventilate thinking about those things.  See how far I’ve come?)

It may seem odd, then, that my house is always such a mess.  There’s clutter everywhere (I know what’s in each pile, but still) and little, common, household chores (like wiping down the bathroom sinks or making the bed) don’t get done as often as they should.  To the casual observer, this is weird — surely if I’m so obsessive about the way things are done, my house should be overly, sterilely clean.  But it’s actually my perfectionism that gets in the way of keeping my house neat.  I don’t like to do anything halfway, so I’d rather leave something undone than do it “wrong” or partially.  Keeping the house clean also, with my personality, could threaten to consume my time and energy, so rather than getting it sparkling clean and then worrying about keeping it that way, I keep it “clean enough” and try not to look too closely or to cringe when people come over.

Really, though, it hasn’t been working for me.

I really *am* too tightly wound to live happily in a disorganized house.  The progress I’m making on letting go of little things helps a little, but I’d at least like my house to be clean enough to enjoy and organized enough to not stress me out.  And then a friend of mine recommended “Sink Reflections“.  It’s the first book I’ve ever bought about how to clean and organize my house better and it seems to be changing my life.

At first, I was really skeptical.  I didn’t think I could do the things she suggests in the book, and I didn’t imagine that they’d make much difference if I did.  I’m still not doing all of them.  But I’ve started doing a few small ones — I’m amazed at how much I’m getting done in a really small amount of time, and I’m actually starting to clean.  Voluntarily.  Often.  Like every day.  (I’m shocked.)  It’s amazing how this stuff snowballs.  I’m spending maybe 40 minutes a day doing stuff around my house (and not all at once — there’s no way I could commit a solid block of time like that to ANYTHING while wrangling the little ones) including the stuff I was doing every day BEFORE I read the book (like laundry and sweeping).  My house is the cleanest it’s ever *stayed” (meaning, I’ve had it cleaner, but never maintained it).  And I started doing this while my kids were sick, so I’ve had even less time to spend on it, yet it’s still been working.

But what’s most astounding to me is that I’m starting to look for things to clean, clean up and organize.  I walk through the house and I’m bothered by the splatter of chocolate milk on the refrigerator (which was been there for TOO long) and by the pile of unfiled paperwork on the dining room table.  This is stuff I used to turn a blind eye to.  It’s true — I’m generally looking for ways to cut down on my list of things to obsess over, and this is at odds with that goal.  But I really do like having a clean house.  And, for the first time EVER I’m enjoying getting the house clean.  It’s a new feeling, and I like it . . . which actually freaks me out a little, but I’ll learn to live with it.