“The cruel irony of housework:
people only notice when you don’t do it.”
— Danielle Raine Housework Blues — A Survival Guide
Life is messy. People are Messes. And Messy.
Do you ever feel that rush of urgency when you find out you’ve got guests coming over, or when the door bell rings at 3pm on a weekday?
Do you feel like your home is not clean or tidy enough?
Like the afternoon when our neighbour called to check if she could bring by friends who were checking out the different house plans on our street. My husband and I were happy to oblige, but we did the first of man, head spinning where do we tidy first. We had been diy’ing and unpacking at the time – there were suitcases and clean laundry and tools and documents on most surfaces! We got it done, mostly and the visitors were lovely. They ended up buying a house on the street!
I only tolerate the piles of clothes that build up or books strewn about when a)there’s not appropriate furniture to store them or places to put them, or b) I’m really too busy to rectify the pile. But as soon as I have a moment, it’s gone and a sense of peace returns. I need cleanlinees and I need a sense of order in the midst of chaos.Chaotic mess is like some kind of sub conscious block for me.
My poor husband doesn’t even have a capacity for even that level of disorder. He likes it incredibly neat and he likes order without eclectisism. His tolerance level for “clutter” isn’t even approaching what I would see as homey or lived in. He is a minimalist at heart.
I find spaces of order and move forward a step at a time. I cannot write unless there is some sense of order in those spacet. I cannot feel comfortable in an area of dissarray and pushing the piles aside doesn’t ease discomfort.
I focus on a room at a time, seeking to tidy as I go.
I often wish that I could find an order in my heart and mind that transcends the physical. But, the physical impacts me and i can’t ignore it. It impacts my mental state and my concentration. Mess makes it difficult to be in those spaces, and impossible to write or create in them.
Rather than feel guilty or overwhelmed and rather than feeling like it is necessary to adopt an entire system of lists and such in one afternoon, start small. The resource we’ve found most useful on a day to day basis is the Flylady. She advocates building habits that can last a life time. She offers lots of free resources.I do warn against signing up for all of her emails, however, as they can be overwhelming.
One of the biggest lessons we’ve been learning is to start small where you are right now…Home isn’t about pristine perfection — it isn’t about perfect white couches small children sit quietly reading “Le Prince” in their perfectly pressed clothes…
Home is about compiling those memories, of the dings, scratches and flaws. It is as much about that table cloth that you seem to be able to turn back to white no matter what gets on it, it is the third hand dining table you bought from a work colleague or the two low bedside tables that are for the time being because there isn’t endless money and there are other priorities.
And that’s okay, because a perfect house is just staged, after all. It’s an empty showroom where no one actually lives. You work hard. You play hard. Be proud of all the evidence. No, you probably won’t be able to walk across the living room floor without stepping on a Lego or little plastic dinosaur. And, yes, your kids are guaranteed to muddy your newly mopped floors within moments. Getting the house in order is a Sisyphean task, but, hey, we all need dreams.
If you use a kitchen, it will become messy. The activities of daily life will generate hot spots or little piles of papers that might make you feel overwhelmed…
The routines of life: the mundane quotidian tasks of everyday, are what enable us to be free of being at the will of our possessions. It is worth talking through your priorities. For us communication has been, and will continue to be key. The choices we make about how we prioritise our time is important and are worth talking through. How much time do you want to be spending on chores? What patterns of behaviour do you have every day that could be tweaked just a little? – my mum taught me about putting a load of laundry on just before bed or just after waking. We try and split the loading and unloading of the dishwasher, loading at night and unloading in the morning.
I value relationships and spending time with friends more than clean dishes, but i do like clean dishes, and i love cooking in a clean and uncluttered kitchen. I love being able to lay my hands on exactly what i’m looking for in the study or being able to enjoy creating and then knowing where everything is able to go. Everything having a place takes time.
Working through “things” takes time. Things can carry a great deal of emotion and its okay for the process to take a while. It can help to approach it a little each day; i still do this every tme we prepare to move. It is a great idea to work on a “if something comes in, something goes out” rule; to check each year what has been used and what has not, and to think about minimalism. I’m still not sure exactly how minimalism works for me: I love to be hosptable and only having a bare minimum of dishes and cutlery make that a little more difficult than I would like.
Life is messy and we need to show each other grace. Giving your friends, family, and acquaintances the gift of not passing judgment on them for how you might encounter their home is a great place to start. Accept them, and their mess, because life is messy.
Listening. Observing. Participating. Writing. Photographing. Reflecting.
Anna Blanch Rabe is an Australian-born writer and photographer. You can follow her adventure on Not A Pedestrian Life, or Facebook. More of her photography can be viewed here. For more domestic things take a look at Quotidian Home or her previous website, Goannatree.
This is Day 5 of 31 days to Making a House a Home. The Introductory post is here.
This is the first 31 days series published on Quotidian Home.