Depending on whom you talk to in my family, any one of them would say I like our house in order at all times. I can get a bit obsessed with this. I don’t like clutter, which I define as anything left out that is currently not being used.
It drives my family a little crazy. Exhibit A: My husband gets very frustrated when he sets an empty glass on the counter and a few minutes later he cannot find it. That’s when I have to explain to him, yet again, the purpose of a dishwasher and why we have one.
For a family of seven, this poses some challenges. It can cause tension when the other six family members don’t define “clean” the same way I do. As my five children will tell anyone, and they usually do, I can go a little over the top occasionally, especially before we have company over.
There are two strong influences in my life for this learned behavior. My father, who served in the military, did not like anything left out, especially shoes. I remember him threatening to charge my sister 50 cents every time he found her shoes in the living room. Had he actually acted on this threat, he and my mom would have been financially set in their retirement for years and probably would have traveled the world by now. As for my mom, she is the one who taught me how to clean. So, I blame them.
My obsession with keeping things tidy might be coming to a head. Recently, my teenage daughters made me watch a YouTube video of a person cleaning their house before company arrived. My girls said they laughed so hard that they cried because it reminded them of me. I think it was their attempt at an intervention.
Let’s just say the person in the video was basically a nut job. They were cleaning frantically and finally yelled out in frustration, “It can absolutely not look like anyone lives here!” I didn’t see anything wrong with that statement. It sounded completely rational to me. And, so, there lies my problem.
My daughters made their point loud and clear. It was becoming evident that I needed to take my cleaning obsession down a notch … or two (or 10). It should have become clear earlier, like when some of the cleaning products I used started taking the coating off the porcelain in our bathrooms. I’m not sure if it was the potency of the products or my elbow grease that caused it. To say the least, the bathrooms were definitely sanitized.
To help me overcome my cleaning addiction, chores are now divided up among the family. Ideally, my children are learning responsibility and I’m learning to let go of occasional messes.
The results are debatable. What I think is actually happening is that I am learning patience and my children are learning how long it takes mom to get frustrated and do everything herself. This process is obviously going to take a while. In the meantime, it might make things a little easier if I just revise my definition of clean.
Lisa Baniewicz is an Atchison resident and mom with five children ranging in age from 8-20 years old.