The Clean House
My house stays clean now. Well, relatively speaking. A few papers get left out now and then. My desk is still a jumble. But the kids’ rooms are perfect. Everything stays put away. There are no clothes or shoes on the floor anymore, no books and papers topping off the beds and desks, and the living room—oh, my—what a change! A scattering of to-do lists and a book or two and the rest is put away in drawers or shelves or cabinets. What blessed organization, you might say.
But you know why it’s neat and tidy? My kids are gone. One is a software engineer in Boston, one runs a hostel in Nashville, and one works in wardrobe in film and TV in Atlanta. I’m in Covington, Georgia in a beautiful log house my husband built over three years’ time in the early 80’s and where we raised our three children and homeschooled them. This now-clean house was once filled to capacity with lively endeavors of all sorts. The kids flew our coup rather swiftly though—in just three years’ time because they were so close in age—and I found it astonishing what had gone with them: the live piano music, several guitars, a flute, the three DJ’s for our Bose, the other hand for a card game, the racket on the other side of a badminton net, the sound of the basketball in the driveway, the reason for homeschooling catalogs, the need to attend all sorts of sports events and recitals, the young friends, and the crazy, lively conversations that popped up continually throughout the day—all vanished.
Okay, so gone also were the squabbles and the petty jealousies, and the general angst of growing up and all its natural but often emotional upheavals. I admit, it is much calmer now. The whirlwind broke up and became diffused over several eastern states and I am left in the calm after the storm. But it was a storm of raucous creativity and growth, and I sorely miss it. But the house is clean, and that brings me back to the reason for this particular rumination.
Life is Messy
Life and creativity are naturally very messy, and I have found that I have no trouble contributing to the mess…to an almost depressing degree. I’ve been told that messy people are the creative ones and vice versa. Supposedly, those who are highly organized are the left brained engineer types. But the right brained among us shouldn’t take this as a signal to give up on the task. No one should have to live without order in her life. But the thing about keeping house is that it is such an intolerably verbish ing word, ongoing, as in never finished, a constant sort of do-ing. One has to stay after it daily to keep the disorder at bay. So how does one do that and home school three children too?
I realized early on that I would need to make some changes in my mindset and in my behavior to gain even a foothold on staying organized, so I began to read books on the subject and pray about it too. Perhaps I might never excel at housekeeping, but I could certainly improve.
The following suggestions are just a few simple ideas that have stood the test of time in my own career as a homeschooling mom trying to stem the tide of projects, papers, supplies, games, did I say papers?, and three kids who kept thinking of new things to try that inevitably would make even more of a mess.
1.If it’s not too late, teach your children when they are very young to put away their things as soon as they are finished. Make this a priority, like not putting your hand on the eye of the stove. Well, perhaps, down one notch from that. At this point, it is essential that you take this seriously yourself. Be industrious to teach this and you will reap the benefits forever. If your children are older, begin a new-world order. “Children, a coup has occurred and I must enforce the program of the new regime.” (And be prepared for, “What’s happened to my mama? Who are you!?”)
See Here for Part 2