I told y'all I would follow up on the state of my house as time passes to show how I am keeping up with my new space, so here it is.
I asked my friend Stacie to text me randomly, requesting pictures of my house. I honestly had no idea when they were coming. Over the course of a month, she asked for pictures four times. For the most part, I had no issue with taking the photos. I genuinely felt as if I was keeping up with it all well. I felt like I was keeping my home in a state I felt good about most of the time. Of course, it was not perfect, but I wasn't and still am not concerned with letting someone in with little or no warning. That would not have been the case 6 months ago, and let me tell you, it's a fantastic feeling just to be able to fearlessly open my front door for whoever is there.
Is my home perfectly spotless and dust/dog hair free ever? Absolutely not. I hate dusting. I have three dogs, and better things to do than constantly cleaning. However, I do feel like my house is a comfortable place. My home is made to be a space to live, welcome loved ones, and feel at ease. I feel like my house is no longer just a building I sleep in; it is now a place to welcome people into instead of a way to hide. It has become a space where my family can live and enjoy time together. Even more than that, it is a place I take pride in. I love my home, dust bunnies, dog hair, and all.
As I was looking back at the pictures I took, getting ready to write this update, I started wondering what was so different that I could keep my space clean(ish) when before, I struggled to do things like dishes, put laundry away, and take the cups from my bedroom or office to the kitchen. So here are some of my thoughts about why I can maintain my home now and some tools helping me keep it up.
The primary reason I believe I am keeping this up is that it feels good. There is less anxiety and overwhelm in general. I am not constantly looking at messes and thinking, "you should clean that up." There is no panic when there is a knock on the door or someone asks to stop by to drop something off or grab something. Plus, it's just easier for me to focus when there isn't "stuff" everywhere. I don't feel like a bad mom because my house is a disaster. (My teenagers, in perfect teenage fashion, make sure I know there are plenty of other things that make me a bad mom…) Spending a little time everyday cleaning is well worth the reduction in my overall level of anxiety.
Next, I like having the ability to invite people in. I have always valued relationships, and inviting people into your home is an incredible way to grow those connections. It feels like a million years ago, but not that long ago. I would host parties and have people over for dinner. I missed that. I am excited to have a Kentucky Derby party for the first time in at least a decade. Yes, that is still six months away, but it gives me something to look forward to and plan for. Also, knowing I will have people in my house helps me keep it tidy; I know how much work would have to go into getting my home ready if I don't stay on top of it. There is great joy in knowing that I am opening up my home and myself to people again.
The last reason I am keeping up with the cleaning is that I knew I would share this with you. Yes, I could not have followed up or faked pictures, but that wouldn't have felt good or authentic. I really want this to be a place where no one feels like they have to fake anything, and if I am pretending to keep things up, I am not honoring what I am hoping to build with The Mental Society. While I could have faked it on a website, there was no way I could fake it with Stacie. Now, Stacie wouldn't have judged me, she wouldn't have made me feel bad if everything was a mess, she would be kind and held space for me, and she would check in and made sure I was ok, but I also wanted to feel good about what I was sending her. Quite frankly, I wanted her and the people reading to be proud of me, and I want to be proud of my home and myself.
I have kept up with all of the things for myself and others. I know some people, and I may have been one of them, that would say you should be doing something for yourself and not because of what others may think. Maybe that's true. Perhaps considering others in this adventure is the wrong thing to be doing, but if it helps me keep things up, is it bad? And also, while others play a part in my decision to keep my house clean, at the core, it's because of how it feels for me. I feel excited about hosting people in my home. I am proud that I have continued to keep things clean and organized. It feels good to share my accomplishments and that it hasn't been easy. There have certainly been bumps along the way, so I have come up with a few valuable things that I hope will help those struggling as I do.
Completing a few tasks daily or almost every day has made an enormous difference.
I make my bed almost every morning. There is something about that 3-minute task that changes my day. In addition to it looking nice, it discourages me from climbing into bed in the middle of the afternoon. I do love a good nap, but I would often use my bed as a place to hide and avoid things. With a million pillows to move, I pause and think, "how will getting into bed serve me right now?" Of course, I still take naps or snuggle under the covers in the middle of the day, but it is far more purposeful and not just a way to avoid life.
I also put my clothes away when I change. In the morning, my pajamas go in the hamper to be washed or folded and put up to wear again. In the evenings, I put my shoes on the shoe rack; I put my jewelry away; I hang up things I will wear again and other items in the hamper. I no longer have a pile of random clothes in the corner of the bathroom. I can find what I want to wear, I can always find both shoes or earrings in a pair, and there is nothing to trip over because everything is where it belongs. Just having my floor clear of those things makes a huge difference.
Two friends told me about The Fly Lady; you can check her out at http://www.flylady.net/. They told me for similar reasons, and while I have not looked at much of anything she has on her website, I have used the tips my friends told me about. The first tip was to put my shoes on every day. The idea here is that putting your shoes on helps put you in "work mode," and you may be more productive. The other is "swish and swipe." Which is a quick swish of the toilet brush and swiping the bathroom counter and mirror every day when you finish your morning routine. Neither of these seemed like a big deal but had a significant impact. I feel a mental shift and am ready to work when I put my shoes on. When I take those two minutes every morning for the tiniest bit of cleaning, things stay cleaner, and when it's time for deep cleaning, it is easier and faster.
And perhaps the most important thing I have done is to involve my kids. They have a few daily chores like dishes, trash, general picking up, wiping down counters… Giving them a few tasks takes things off my plate, keeps the house tidier, gives them ownership, and teaches them skills I wish I had learned much earlier. My kiddos are teenagers capable of 10 minutes of daily work around the house. Not to mention, they live here too, make messes, and they can clean up after themselves.
I have been working hard to keep my home looking how I want it to. To continue to feel good about welcoming people into my home. And, most importantly, feeling better mentally and physically in my own space. What I have learned is that it is hard to make big changes and make them stick. I figured out that understanding why I want to have a clean home helps me maintain it. Feeling good means that I want to continue to feel good, so I keep it up and feeling better means I have the energy to keep it up. And for me, breaking things up into tiny pieces helps me as I can get overwhelmed when I don't know where to begin.
Here is the TL;DR version. Keeping my home clean is more manageable when I am being held accountable. My emotional state is better when my space feels good. Spending a few minutes daily keeping things clean helps me stay on track. And, not doing it alone, involving the others in my house makes it feel better for all of us.
Since accountability works well for me, I will use this space to hold myself accountable. In addition, I will update the state of my home and any struggles at least once a month. I am hopeful combining how I feel in my clean space and the tools I am using, along with accountability to y'all, will help me keep my home feeling good.