Recently, Marie Kondo wrote a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
I haven’t read the book yet, as it’s on my hold list at the library.
(I am legitimately excited about this because I read books about cleaning/organizing for fun.)
Anyway, in the (um, spirited) discussions on these posts, cleaning and decluttering are sometimes framed as an oppressive something or other that’s been foisted upon women in particular.
The idea is basically that women are desperately trying to live up to society’s cleanliness/organizational standards, and that they feel worthless if they’re not successful.
I’ve been pondering this since reading the posts a few weeks ago, and as I was working through the post-holiday, post-sickness mess at my house, I’ve come to feel more and more certain that I think this is ridiculous.
At least for me.
I can’t speak for every woman, but I personally do not clean and organize and declutter in order to conform to an arbitrary standard that’s been held up for me.
I clean and declutter because *I* want to.
It’s not that I’m trying to make my house look like a magazine, or that I’m trying to find my worth in the state of my house.
I’m also not trying to live up to a standard set by my husband.
(Like me, he’d love for things to be cleaner/neater than they are, but he recognizes that we live in a house with kids and that there are only so many hours in the day for either of us to work on the house.)
And when my house gets messy, I don’t feel worthless and I’m not even embarrassed.
In fact, it seriously does not bother me in the slightest to post pictures of clutter on my blog.
But the thing is, my life just does not work well when things are messy because….
I function better in spaces that aren’t messy.
When my not-so-spacious kitchen counters are cluttered, it is very, very hard to cook dinner, and that makes my life frustrating.
When I can barely make my way to the washer and dryer in my laundry room, doing laundry is an enormous pain.
When my shelves are cluttered with too much stuff, it’s hard to put things away neatly. And when I don’t put things away neatly, I can’t find stuff when I want it.
When my fridge gets cluttered, I forget about food and it rots.
When I let papers pile up, I forget about things I’m supposed to pay/respond to.
(Digital clutter has the same affect on me…when my email inbox gets out of control, I lose track of things I’m supposed to be doing and miss deadlines!)
What serves you?
I know some people function well with a much higher level of mess than I can handle and on the other hand, some people would feel like my house was WAY too messy to function in.
What’s important, though, is to figure out what works for you. What level of neatness serves you and your household well?
If that’s being super-de-duperly clean and neat, I don’t think those of us who are slightly messier should give the side-eye and be all, “Oh, geez. She probably has OCD and/or is mindlessly catering to the standards handed her by the patriarchy.”
And the super-de-duperly clean and neat among us shouldn’t look down on those who function fine with a few things out of place.
For me and my household, keeping a fairly medium level of neatness and organization works well.
I try to keep my counters clear, I try to stay caught up paperwork, I don’t usually get behind on laundry, we do dishes every day, I get rid of things on a regular basis and think really hard before I bring new items into the house.
So, neatness really seems to help my household run better, but there are a lot of other nice-but-not-necessary things (mostly cleaning chores) that I let slide.
For instance, I don’t do a super consistent job of dusting things, I don’t wash my floors very often, and my shower usually grows pink stuff before I scrub it.
In an ideal world, my heart would be thrilled by taking care of all those cleaning chores promptly. But I’m ok with letting those go.
Cluttered and unusable counters = Unpleasant Kristen.
But dusty fan blades really don’t affect me.
To maintain a healthy relationship with cleaning/decluttering, don’t compare your house to a magazine or TV show or to someone else’s house. Instead, figure out what works for your household, and what would best serve you and the rest of your housemates.
Once you’ve figured out what is necessary to make your life hum along nicely, make that your goal, and seriously, don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.