I finally stopped worrying about the stigma.
I'll be frank: I'm not a tidy person. My whole life, I've been plagued with a lack of organization and an abundance of random items strewn about my living quarters. I've developed a ninja-like ability to watch where I step and long as it's quiet, I can work fairly well in the midst of clutter.
But when I became a mom, my disorganized way of living started to feel wrong. I began to wonder how the mess affected my kids and whether it bothered them in ways they couldn't understand or express.
I know some people have a higher tolerance for chaos than others, and with my children being so young it's hard for me to know how much organization they need in order to feel peace. So, I started to feel it was time to change.
In the beginning, that feeling of responsibility presented itself as nagging guilt. (As if I didn't have enough things to feel guilty about already, right?) But there it was, nagging me from my stuffed-full closet, staring at me from the dining room table, mocking me from the shelves of our hutch; the mess I had created was turning against me.
I started to fight that mess, and made very little headway. I'd organize one little corner of the house and feel a sense of accomplishment but when I turned around and looked at the rest of our living space, becoming tidy seemed impossible.
I was messy to start with, but now with a kindergartner and a toddler following close behind me, I was overwhelmed.
I'm big on understanding your weaknesses and working with them instead of against them. Obviously, my lack of organization is a weakness of mine, and I began to think about how I could work with it — or maybe, at least, work around it.
I'd spent 30 years fighting it and sometimes you know when to throw up the white flag.
I knew having a house cleaner at regular intervals would help me keep things picked up to the extent that she'd be able to dust and deep-clean. But in my mind, a house cleaner was a lavish expense reserved for people who don't mind throwing away their money. Could I get away with it? Could we even afford it?
I don't consider our family to be wealthy, but we have enough to get by. When I mentioned the idea of a house cleaner to my husband, he felt the same sense of hesitance. But the more I thought about it, I realized that I had two options:
First, I could continue fighting the fight that had been besting me for my entire existence. I could continue trying to change the way I lived without any outside help. An option, but not a very logical one.
My other option was to barter: to trade a strength of mine for something I needed. In this case, I needed my house to be cleaned regularly. What did I have that I could trade for that? I had my job.
A little more writing every month and I'd be able to pay a house cleaner to come for a couple hours a week. I'm utilizing my strength to employ someone else's.
No, she's not here long enough to get the whole place organized, but it's enough to motivate me to keep the counters kind of cleared and keep the floors vacuum-able. (And if you knew what my house usually looked like, you'd know that's some serious progress.)
I don't talk about having a cleaning lady much, because I can just imagine what people think. I always felt like a good stay-at-home mom should be able to at least keep the house looking decent... I mean what else could I be doing all day, right? (Aside from keeping two children, two dogs, a cat and myself alive and reasonably happy, of course.)
But no two moms do this job the same way and not everyone is built to be "neat." Once I stopped worrying about the stigma, I was able to ask myself a logical question: would I rather spend more hours per week cleaning or writing? It's as simple as that. I chose to write more, and our home feels more peaceful.
I'm not constantly feeling inferior because I can't keep up with the house. The thought of company isn't quite as terrifying. I don't feel guilty that my kids have to deal with so much clutter. Instead, I can be proud that I'm showing them how to maximize their strengths and know their weaknesses — and that is worth a lot.