I recently had someone tell me that cleaning had always been a frustration. Not that they didn’t want to clean but that they didn’t know how to clean. That was such a strange concept for me. You see, my mom and dad were cleaners and were known to have the house and cars cleaned as well as the yard mowed before 10 on a Saturday morning. My brothers and I had chores to do as children and the thought that I actually learned how to clean never entered my mind. Didn’t everyone know how to do that? Apparently not. After a short conversation with this person, I realized that what seemed to be common sense to me was eye opening to her. I’m not sure that she will ever enjoy cleaning but I do think that following a couple of guidelines would make it less of a frustration.
I’m a strange one though. Cleaning is what I do when life gets stressful. At the most chaotic times you will probably find me mopping the floor or cleaning the bathrooms. Other people may think that’s weird but there’s something about keeping a small area of my life orderly that helps me to deal with the disorderly parts of life… and we all know there’s a lot of that. There’s also another bonus to cleaning for me. I learned this idea from a skit we did about 15 years ago in church called “The cleaning lady”. It was about a maid who had found deep meaning in her work. Not in cleaning but in praying while she cleaned. Each action reminded her of someone. For example, the vase that she dusted reminded her to pray for a beautiful and curvy young woman that was struggling with men. I had tiny kids at the time and this whole idea that my mundane activities could take on deeper meaning was refreshing. I also believe that mundane activities have value simply because they are done for those we love and to take care of the things God has entrusted to us. It’s a gratitude thing in many ways. But God has used this idea over the years to teach me a lot about interceding for people, being sensitive to the Holy Spirit and praying without ceasing. It’s extended past the point of cleaning to other areas of my life. The other day as I was mowing I had a strange train of thought. As I mowed around our bonfire area I remembered a party we had last fall which reminded me of a friend’s brother that had been there with his son. I remembered that he had moved and was looking for a job, so I got to pray. I prayed for him. I prayed for his son. I prayed that God would continue to draw his heart and work in his life. I prayed that he would find a job and I prayed for his mom and my friend and all sorts of things related to that situation. All because God used a pile of wood to remind me of someone that he loves. That’s a productive day of mowing. God is infinitely creative and it never ceases to amaze me how he can lead me, if I’ll just be open to his voice, in the most unexpected ways.
Maybe you’ll start doing this. If so, think of me when you clean your computer because I’d appreciate your prayers anytime. But, either way, I thought I’d share the tips I’ve picked up from my mom over the years. Hopefully, it can take the stress out of housework for you.
I recently had someone tell me they didn’t know how to clean. That was such a strange concept for me. Both my mom and dad were cleaners and were known to have the house cleaned, the cars washed and the laundry done by the time we woke up on Saturday mornings. It sounds like they were fanatical but it wasn’t that at all. Honestly, they were simply great stewards of what they’d been given. That’s a concept that our “throw away” generation doesn’t relate to as well as the older generation. If something breaks or we get tired of it, we toss it and get another. (Another strange idea in a culture that desperately needs to cut down on the trash we produce -but that’s another topic.) Anyway, my mom taught me to clean. Yep, I had chores and I hated them; but, I’m grateful for what they taught me.
After talking to this particular person about her struggle with housework I thought it might be helpful to share a few tips I’ve learned from my mom over the years. If you hang in there with me, I’ll throw in a few tips that I learned from God as well and, maybe, they can help those of you that struggle with this whole issue.
First of all, my mom worked full time so she was all about consistency. Letting things get away from her wasn’t an idea that she relished so these concepts and beliefs were actually really instrumental in keeping things at a manageable level.
- Simplify life – Most of us have so much more than we need and could free up time and money if we gave things to people that needed them, chunked a few items in the trash or sold some others. Less clutter means less work.
- Kids benefit from work – Give your children jobs that they can continue to do over a period of time. That’s one item off your list and one child that learns the value of hard work, doing a job right and responsibility. Side note-don’t redo their work. If you need it done differently, help them learn. Never complain if a child (or husband) helps but doesn’t do it like you would.
- Have a schedule – things get done easier if everyone knows when they are expected to do them. For example, while I was growing up we cleaned house every Saturday morning. This is especially important for working parents.
- Being part of a family means we help one another – Everyone helped. My brothers normally helped my Dad do yard work and I helped mom inside, but they made sure that we switched it up enough that we all were capable in each area.
- Everything has a place – clutter is the enemy to cleaning. If it doesn’t have a place, make one. If you can’t, do you need it? If it’s broken, throw it away. Train your family to put things back where they go after they use them. This is one of my biggest struggles to this day.
Secondly, there’s a method to cleaning. It’s not rocket science but here are a few of the top tips.
- Daily issues – Some things make life easier if we just do them daily. Putting toys away, taking the trash out, going through the mail each night or whatever your “things” are. Mine is the kitchen. For me, a clean kitchen makes life easier to handle so I’ve always tried to wash dishes each night so that food doesn’t get crusty and I wake up to a fresh and clean room. Here’s a warning though. Young moms may get overwhelmed by everything that has to get done so don’t stress over it. When my kids were little I had to practice leaving dirty dishes in the sink till morning just to remind myself that the world wasn’t going to end if I didn’t.
- Move from the top down – If you’re deep cleaning that means to change your AC filters, clean the blades on your fan and then do the counters and floors. But normally, that means clean showers or counters, dust the furniture and then do the floors.
- One thing at a time – When you have certain cleaning supplies out use them everywhere you need to. Clean all the mirrors, then clean all the bathtubs and showers, all the toilets, counters, sweep all the floors, mop everything and then vacuum.
- Don’t throw mud – ALWAYS SWEEP BEFORE YOU MOP.
- Take out the trash – That’s the last thing I do whether it’s needed or not. Oh, and another hint is to keep old Walmart bags in your smaller trash cans so they don’t have to be washed often. It also makes it easy to empty everything. Just grab the bags at one time and take them all out together.
Thirdly, I’ve discovered some things that make housework more enjoyable.
- Music – I always have music playing. Cleaning can be a great time to play some worship music but it can also be a great workout. Play some upbeat tunes and keep moving as fast as you can.
- Kids like to dance – One of my favorite memories was mopping the kitchen floor with my girls and letting them slide around in wet socks. They probably didn’t get much cleaning done but I haven’t had as good a time mopping that floor since.
Lastly, what has God taught me over the years?
- Be grateful – I have a home and a family to love and take care of. That’s not a burden, it’s a joy.
- Priorities – I often let the act of keeping my house “together” eclipse the act of enjoying my kids. Make sure you just leave it all and sit down to play every once in a while. They grow up too fast and then things are oddly quiet and clean.
- Pray – I once did a skit at church about a cleaning woman that prayed as she cleaned. I remember a line that said, “This vase reminds me of a young girl I know that has a wonderful figure but is struggling to wait for the right man.” I thought it was such a great idea that I try to let God prompt me to pray according to what I’m cleaning as well. You’ll be led in different ways but these are a few examples of how God has led me. As I dusted the piano I prayed for my worship pastor and his new marriage. As I put sheets on my bed I remembered a friend that has been through a really hard time and needs rest. As I washed dishes I was reminded to pray for our church and its’ sanctification. As I cleaned the bathroom mirror I prayed for a young lady that was feeling insecure and not as beautiful as she really is. As I dusted a picture of my husband and me, it prompted me to pray for a young couple that is struggling. As I cleaned the shower I prayed for God to wash away the depression of a dear friend. And, obviously, as I clean my girls’ rooms I pray for the things that they are dealing with and as I clean my husband’s desk I pray for his job
I’m not sure if any of these thoughts will help you guys but I hope so. I’ve noticed that when life gets hectic, an orderly home can offer some stability. Don’t worry about it being perfect. Just do the best you can. And on the days that you just don’t want to wash another load of clothes or clean another toilet remind yourself that you’re not alone. We’re right there with you. But also, remember that it’s all a gift so take care of what God has entrusted to you and find joy in counting your blessings.