You know those signs they sell that say:
“Please excuse our messy house we are busy making memories”
You will never find that sign in my home. Just the mere presence of that sign makes me anxious.
I must also add: I wish I could be the person who owns and displays that sign. I am not proud of my anxiety.
I am a neat freak. Actually, in college my roommates referred to me as “anal retentive girl.” I had a schedule of when things were to be done: I cleaned my room on Mondays, vacuumed Monday and Thursday, laundry on Wednesday… you get the point. At one point in my life, people would come into my apartment and move things without my knowledge and then time me to see how long it took for me move the items back.
I was “crazy” but my crazy didn’t affect anyone else… and it was easy to continue the neat-freakiness (definitely not a word) because it was just me. I didn’t have a significant other or 2 children displacing things.
Fast forward to 2010 (ish), when I got married. I moved into my husbands house and I took over. We had dated for 5 years before marriage so he knew my habits, but I don’t think he was prepared for the pressure that was about to be placed on him.
He would get the mail and whatever he didn’t need, he would place in the sink. The garbage was right under the sink, but nope, he put it in the sink. He had a dog, and it shed in a way that would make tumble weeds of hair in every corner of the house. Also, he would clean his shower “when it seemed dirty.”
WHHHHHHHHHAT? Who does that? Don’t you know you need to stay ahead of that.. scrub it once a week, then use daily shower cleaner on it… seriously, you have WHITE grout.
So, after many (many) arguments, he finally said to me “I feel like I’m afraid to live in my own house!”
I, then, decided that it was all on me. It was okay for me to be a neat freak, but I could not make him cater to my needs. I started my schedule: Laundry on Sunday and Wednesday, clean all rooms on Wednesday, etc.etc. I would do it all on my own, thus not burdening him with my “crazy.”
This worked. We got in a few arguments, but nothing major, and my anxiety was now about making sure I stayed on schedule, opposed to walking into a nightmare of a “dirty” home.
Well, fast forward, again, to 2014. Baby S was born. She’s so sweet, but also such a distraction to my perfectly clean home. I continued to make it work. I hired someone to help with the big things, like floors, bathrooms, dusting, and I managed the rest. It was hard, but I was not going to ask for help on the day-to-day stuff, and CERTAINLY wasn’t going to just let it all go.
I managed fairly well until about the last year. In the last year, S (mostly) and A are learning to help clean up. They can put their toys away when asked and they don’t even complain about it. I am now becoming the problem. I have a very particular place where everything “fits.” If the toys don’t go back in the correct containers, boxes, or bags, then they won’t all fit perfectly and the toy room will look chaotic (I realize what I just said, and understand that it’s f’n nuts).
So, now that they are helping I have to pretend like I am proud of them when, really, all I can think is, “you did it wrong.” I have been working really hard at cheering them on and not moving things to “where they belong” after they go to bed. I fight the urge because S remembers EVERYTHING. If she puts something away and I move it, she knows it. S has asked me why her toy was moved over night and I can’t help but hear my husband’s words in my head, “I feel like I’m afraid to live in my own house.”
I don’t want my kids to be afraid to live and play in their own home. I want them to have FUN and play with the toys they love. It is so hard for me, though. Just today, the kids sat down to watch a movie in the middle of the day, and I thought, “well, this seems like a good opportunity to clean up the toys from this morning.” But WHY? Why not let the toys sit out until bedtime?
I struggle with this. How can I sit down with the kids and “relax” while there is chaos all around me? Leaving the toys out seems like a no-brainer, but for me, it isn’t.
Today, I left the toys sit out in the play room, in the dining room, and in the family room. I watched as the girls finished their movie time and then return to playing with the exact toys they were playing with prior to the movie. They picked up right where they had left off. Hmm, who knew? I’ve never witnessed this before, because I always steal the toys away to complete my “mental order” the second they have down time.
Tonight, we put the girls to sleep and we came downstairs. I started to clean up. My husband asked “why?” as we have no plans tomorrow beyond playing in the house. I replied with, “they are used to their toys being in certain spots, so I don’t want to throw them off .” He rolled his eyes and went to bed.
He’s right… why? I believe that is a wonderful excuse to give when asked that question.. it’s like saying “honey, it’s for the children.” He knows, as well as I, it’s for me. It’s for my anxiety. And quite frankly, it is likely detrimental for the girls. Who wants to grow up thinking everything has to be in order? Chaos is okay. Chaos helps us adapt and cope. I would like to teach my girls to be conscious of their surrounds but not to make it rule their life.
Tonight, I cleaned up all of the toys, BUT, I did leave one thing in place. The girls and I made a fort with dining-room table chairs, sheets and blankets today. The girls played together in there and even brought in toys to “hide.”
I left it standing. This sounds ridiculous, but it is a big deal for me.
Not only do I recognize what drives my anxiety, but I have recognized the impact it has on my family. Tomorrow the girls will wake up and not everything is going to be perfect, but instead, they will have their fort and “hidden” toys right where they left them. They can choose to resume play, or not, but I have not taken away that option. Also, maybe they will learn that nothing in life is perfect. My house may look “perfect” every morning but appearances aren’t everything. My “perfect” home comes at a cost which is paid for with my anxiety, which can, and will, affect my girls.
It’s not New Years yet, but I think I’ll start a resolution, anyhow. I will resolve to leaving out one set of toys a night. I hope I can stick to it because obviously leaving up a fort for 12 hours has driven me to write an entire blog post regarding the uneasiness inside me. I want to do this to help myself, my husband, and my kids, by teaching them that perfectionism isn’t necessary, but love and happiness are.
I hope to start making more memories in our “messy” home. ❤
An addendum: I realize these are first-world problems, but it’s what shapes my day-to-day in my (very fortunate) first-world life.