Monday, May 12, 2014

Nobody Wants to Clean a Messy House

Library of Congress: Heath Family in the Kitchen, 1942 Connecticut.

Cleaning to me is part of decorating. I go through the house and tidy things up and make them look pleasant to the eyes.  Home decorating is a way to create a nice atmosphere for the family.  This is done without money. It is done everyday when the chairs are made neat and pillows are fluffed. It is when furniture polish makes surfaces bright and gleaming in the afternoon sun.  It creates an ambiance.

I clean throughout the day, or else things will get out of control. I clean whenever I see something out of place, as I walk by the way. (Of course, stopping at a certain hour to end the day's work and enjoy some leisurely rest.)  I clean a neat home, but of course the work is a little harder at mealtime when the most work is needed to be done.

But nobody wants to clean a mess.

We have all walked into an unattended kitchen and seen spills and crumbs and dishes all over the place.  This is a messy mess and no one wants to go in there.  Very often this happens when it has been left to the care of children or teenagers.  They just don't have the experience to keep things nice and keep messes decent.

We have also seen a child's bedroom that looked like a tornado had been there.   No housekeeper would walk in there without sighing.  This is not a pleasant type of cleaning!  So we call in the child and we put them through a training session. I love to make these humorous.  I will say to the child, "I wonder what happened in here?"  To which the child will shrug and look around to survey the damage. It is almost like the child was oblivious to the mess until mother pointed it out.  I smile and say, "Well, let's clean this together."  Do you know why I don't demand the child do it alone? Because that would be unfair and too much. It is obvious that help is needed to get things under control.  I also use this time to re-teach how to do the work.  And lecture about cleanliness. This not only gets the message through, but sometimes bores the child so much they would rather have the room kept clean than have mother talk about cleaning for hours! (gentle smiles)

I will show the child how to make the bed by taking all the bedding and throw it on the floor. I will put on a sheet, arrange the pillow and make the bed.  I will talk while I do it, as if I am sharing how to make a meal from a recipe.  When it looks nice and neat, I will say something like, "See? Doesn't that look better?"  When the child's face brightens (probably because he thinks he got out of making his own bed), I will say, "Now it's your turn." I will take all the bedding and throw it back on the floor. Then I will watch and direct while the child remakes his own bed. 

Next we go to the bureau drawers. I start with one drawer.  We sort the junk from the clothes and fold and make things neat. Then I take it all back out and put it on the floor. The child redoes each drawer on his own, just like we made the bed. 

We go on to the bookcase, the floor, and all through the room until I have shown how to clean it all, and the child has redone my work. 

Granted, I must have time to do all this, and it only happens a couple of times a year.  But once the training session is done, that child does not want to hear me say, on another day, "Hey, do you want me to help you clean your room?"  (smiles)  Because now they have learned that it is quicker and easier to just do it on their own.

We can do this with any room in the house - the kitchen, the living room. We can re-do jobs with the children until they are ready to take on the chores responsibly and on their own.  Children should be taught to spend between one and two hours a day in personal cleanliness and chores. This is something they will have to do all through their lives.

However, sometimes when we mothers are too overwhelmed, sick, or tired, we might just walk into one of those messy rooms, sigh, and say we will work on it later.  We will just have to make that mess look pretty, rest up, and then get the help from the family to retrain and make the home look nice again.

This, of course, is the training ground for children to gain an excellent work ethic.  These skills we teach, to have a clean home where their own labor made it happen, is what helps build character.

Mrs. White

From the Archives -

Mother's Christian Example in the Home - The last Witness of an Era.

Pleasant Times - The Parlour in the Morning.

Motherhood - What I Learned from My Husband's Weariness.

- To find out more about this blog, or Mrs. White, please visit our About page. -

Find Home-keeping Inspiration, in Mrs.White's book - For The Love of Christian Homemaking.  Paperback, 274 pages.


Anonymous said...

Wow that is genius! My younger children usually mess up their rooms so bad I end up cleaning it up for them, which doesn't really teach them a thing. Except for mom will take over when it gets too messy for them to handle. I love this post! Thanks Mrs. White!

Always Learning said...

I recently asked my facebook group if they would consider themselves good homemakers. The majority admitted they were terrible homemakers! So I too am doing some posts on keeping the home clean. Most women today weren't trained by their mothers since many of their mothers worked outside of the home full-time.

Renee said...

I really like your approach! Though childless, it's always nice for me to learn from others, in hopes of one day receiving blessings from the Lord. :) In the mean time, I enjoy being auntie, and applying said-lessons. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you! A prayer answered! I am constantly trying to figure out a way to help my 13 year old daughter with her room, which is always trashed and very discouraging. I end up just closing the door on the mess because I don't have time to deal with it. This makes so much sense. God bless you for sharing your wisdom and please keep going!
Much love to you,
Marybeth xo

JudyZ said...

What a great reminder! My home got so out of control this school year! Today I cancelled school just to clean the house... all day!! It helped a lot- but sadly its only the beginning. :( Thank you for your sweet inspiration!

The Momma Chronicles said...

I just want to tell you how much this post has helped confirmed something, encourage me. I discovered this very principle about a month ago and it revolutionized my thinking about housework.

I've always had a cluttered home. Clean underneath, very organized drawers and closet, but the CLUTTER. Any surface that could hold things, held *many* things.

I deep-cleaned my great room area for a party and kept it cleaned up for 2 weeks after that. I loved spending time in that room. I loved to straighten and tidy and polish - loved! - because it only took a few minutes. I also had the added benefit of a guilt-free afternoon hour in a book.

I left for a weekend and it wasn't the same when I returned (coughcough). I had a very busy week after that, so no tidying. The clutter started to take over again. It's always bothered me, but now it BOTHERED me. I could barely look at my kitchen counter.

Yesterday I read this blog post and was reminded about how much I loved tidying my clean space. I was motivated to deal with all that clutter, and this morning my great room is neat and tidy again. And I was able to sit and read yesterday without feeling guilty!

I am thanking God for using you to remind me that if I am diligent, I will reap the benefits - easier work and a guilt-free rest in the afternoons!

Blessings to you, Mrs. White!


Katrinka said...

This is a good time for this post! We all have areas that get out of control for some reason, and just getting started for me is the hard part.

I also agree that if a big mess is overwhelming for me, it certainly will be so for a child. They don't know where to begin, and I think they need direction and encouragement. It will help them as adults to learn that they can do this as well.

Deanna said...

Dear Mrs. White,
Blessings to you.

My enthusiasm meter doesn't reach a high when the rooms are so messy. It takes some talking to myself to get after it when there's a mess.

I have the messes for sure.

Enjoyed this read,

Carrye said...

This is a very helpful way to look at teaching children to clean. I'm too often the parent that sends them in to clean their room with NO help or throws up my hands and simply does the work myself when I finally succumb to being overwhelmed by the clutter.

I appreciate your gentle advice and patient step-by-step ideas. :-)

Michele Morin said...

Yes! Those daily disciplines do help us to keep the mess quotient at a minimum. Thanks for sharing truth with grace.