Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Patience initiates an experiment

For sixteen years I have been cleaning up after my children and husband. As of today, I am done. I hate disorder. I can't be relaxed or comfortable in a messy room. Clutter makes me anxious and depressed. Which is why I spend an inordinate amount of my valuable time working as an unpaid slave for my husband and children.

Once the kids leave for school begins my morning housecleaning routine. My reward is a quiet afternoon in a peaceful house with the winter sun slanting through the windows. The floors are shiny and free of dust. The counters are clean. The dishes are clean. The pets(we have three--two dogs and a bunny) are fed, exercised and contented. The beds are made. The pajamas, left carelessly on the bathroom floor are folded and stowed neatly beneath the bed pillows. The clean laundry is folded and put away. The bills are paid. There are no stacks of papers, no clutter, no toys, shoes, tools out of place. Every day--even on those I work or have school, I proceed through my house from top to bottom, bringing order to chaos.

I bask in the peacefulness of a clean house until the first child comes home from school. By evening, there are backpacks, musical instruments and shoes strewn everywhere. Chip crumbs collect on the computer desk, drinking glasses on every flat surface, bowls of half-eaten cereal are pushed under the couch.

And it's not that I don't ask, tell, beg, cry, yell at them to pick up after themselves. I do, and they won't. Not only does my family not help around the house, they are quick to criticize if their comfort is impinged on in any way. Example: Occasionally a bowl will come out of the dishwasher with some dried food on it. I will hear, "Mom, YOU didn't clean this bowl properly before you put it in the dishwasher!" Or else it's "Mom, how come you never wash my fucking sweatshirts?" (Because your fucking sweatshirt is stuffed under your bed where I can't see it.)

Enough. I am not cleaning up after these people. I am on strike, starting today. I have done this before, and it is hard to resist giving in and cleaning anyway. I have to remind myself that it is weak to continue as an enabler to a houseful of inconsiderate people. The strong thing to do is ignore the mess. I need to be strong.
Photographic evidence.
Day one. This is the mess that accumulated after less than 24 hours of me refusing to clean.

Mad Scientist drops his books wherever he happens to be standing when he stops reading. This is the threshold between the kitchen and family room.

I started to pick up these socks, but stopped myself. They are wet, by the way.
I have asked my children 1,000 times to CLOSE their drawers.

The old Patience would have made this bed.

Jon's shirt, on the floor. We have been married for sixteen years and for all the times I have asked, he still will not put his own clothes away.
My computer desk. Note the fork, the lid to a jar of peanuts, the drinking glass. In the drawer, a carving knife. Nice.


  1. You hang in there and stick to it. It's time they started helping you! There's no need for all of that. Be strong!

  2. Folks, I've seen Patience's house and want to reassure you that she's not an unreasonable neat freak and obsessive cleaner. Just so you don't think she's over-the-top. Her house is neat, but she's not so fussy that you don't feel comfortable.

    I will be very eager to hear how long the experiment works and who will cave first. My guess is that your daughters will eventually pick up the slack, but you can just forget about the 2 older males helping out. There's still hope for the youngest.

  3. You can do this! Be strong, be brave, be tough.

    And if all else fails, threaten to throw their stuff away. Works for me every time.

  4. My husband calls me an entropy fairy. He claims to see fractal patterns in the clutter of chaos (or is it the other way around?) that seems to follow me.

    Good luck!

  5. Patience, one of these days I am going to gush to you on how awesome you are- this strike is just one of the reasons. You are far too busy and have far too many other hands in the house to deal with all the mess. Just like with the buy local blogging, I look forward to details and progress (as well as the issues). Query- did you tell anyone in your house that you are on strike?

  6. You go, Patience! Good luck to you.

  7. I've got my fingers crossed for you. I'm right there with you. I've injured my back and I can't get this kid to pick up a freakin sock. He puts all his crap on my blocked knitting. I could go on but I'd be guest blogging. Lemme know how it goes.