This post is about housekeeping. Now, I've admitted several times that I'm not the best housekeeper. (Here and here, specifically, if you're interested.) So, if you're one of those moms whose floors are never sticky, whose bathroom fixtures are always gleaming, whose windows and mirrors never look dingy, and whose laundry never sits in an unfolded pile on the couch for a day and a half before finally finding its way into the appropriate drawers and closets, then this post is not for you. You might want to stop reading right now and just go read this post. Or this one. (By the way, you have my deepest admiration. I really don't know how you manage it!)
For the rest of you, I wanted to share something that has helped me maintain my home (and my sanity) in the hectic months since the birth of our third child. I can't take credit for this bit of wisdom (which came to me in the form of a Facebook status update by a friend who had recently given birth to twins), but it has saved me untold hours of pointless condemnation. I'm a perfectionist, but I'm convinced that perfectionism in housekeeping is one of the worst enemies to a mother of small children. (Okay, I guess perfectionism in anything is a bad idea when you've got preschoolers underfoot. I've already had to give up on perfectionism in personal hygiene, but I'm still working on becoming more relaxed in other areas. Old habits die hard.)
What helped me conquer the temptation to beat myself up over not having a spotless home?
I embraced a new ideal: Done, not perfect.
You accept that your home will never look perfect again–then, you do the next thing that needs to be done to keep it looking livable.
Your kids somehow managed to scatter breakfast cereal in a 27-foot radius all the way around the dining table? Clearly, you need to vacuum. But that doesn't mean you have to move all the chairs to another room and pick up all the toys on the floor first. (If you do that, by the time you start vacuuming, they'll have tracked Cheerios all the way to the bedrooms!) Just vacuum through the toys and under the chairs–and while you've got the vacuum out, you might as well vacuum anywhere else that really needs it. Now, doesn't that look better? And it probably only took you about five minutes. Sure, it's not perfect. There's probably some bits of fuzz and little wads of paper hiding under those toys that are still littering the floor, but you did it. It's DONE, not perfect.
Your toddler thought it would be fun to spew juice out of his mouth like some sort of bizarre fountain and then splash in the puddles? First of all, put him in the bathtub (but don't plug the drain or turn on the water yet, since you're going to have to leave him there for a few minutes while you clean up the mess so that your other children don't get any ideas about playing slip 'n slide in the orange juice while you're cleaning the toddler). Sop up most of the liquid with a towel, then grab a damp rag to wipe up any sticky residue, starting with surfaces that come into contact with food (tabletop and counters) and working your way down to the floor. (Okay, so the floor routinely comes into contact with food too, but that's not what I meant.) Resist the urge to mix up a bucket of that special mopping solution–you've got a toddler screaming for you from the bathroom. Besides, it's amazing how much you can accomplish with a wet rag. And since you're already on your hands and knees, give the kitchen floor a quick once-over with the rag, focusing on any spots that are visibly grimy. It'll only take you an extra 63 seconds or so–the toddler can wait–and when you finish, your kitchen mopping will be done. Not perfect, but done.
I just want to interject here that I don't know what your mopping schedule looks like, but I no longer have one. It was too overwhelming to find an hour per week to mop the "right" way, so I gave up, and now I only mop as needed. But around here, we have kid-related food and beverage accidents often enough that I find myself on my hands and knees with a wet rag several times a week. It keeps our floors tolerably clean, even though I rarely bother to use anything stronger than water and a bit of elbow grease. Our floors are done, not perfect, and that's good enough for me.
Done, not perfect.
I think it's a great housekeeping motto.
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