My house will not be clean in 2011.
Granted, my house has not been clean since I’ve had a place to call my own. And before that, my bedroom at my parents’ house wasn’t clean. In fact, in high school, my mom gave me a choice between picking my clothes up off the floor and doing my own laundry. I chose the laundry.
When I was a kid, messes didn’t bother me. I could tune out the Barbie clothes all over the floor while I was reading. It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized how much messes bothered me. Most days, after classes, I’d clean up my half of the room and throw my roommate’s crap back on her half. (Don’t worry–she did it to me, too. We got along well, despite our passive-aggressive cleaning habits.) At home, if my bedroom was a mess, I could go to the den and have a clean workspace to do my homework. In college, that one small shared space was all I had, so I had to clean it.
After Dexter and I got married, we moved into a 650 square foot apartment that used to be military housing. It had cinderblock walls and ugly tile floors. At first, I was so overwhelmed with the extra space (compared to the dorm room that I had been in for the past two years) that I let my cleaning habits go. And I didn’t clean. And I didn’t wash dishes. One day–and this is not a joke–the only clean dishes we had were one knife and one chopstick. What’s more impressive that our dishes consisted of 8 plates, 8 small plates, 8 bowls, 12 sets of silverware, and then we broke into our 14 “nice” bowls that were wedding gifts and a mixing bowl small enough to eat cereal out of. All that was dirty. We were pigs.
At some point, I decided I couldn’t live that way anymore. I had so many clean friends who, in my eyes, were perfect wives with perfect homes and perfect child rearing tactics. I’m sure they didn’t think of themselves that way, but in my mind, they were the bar and the bar was high.
So, about three and a half years ago, I decided my house needed to be clean. Perfectly clean. And when it was, I could relax. But that hasn’t happened. Even when we moved, moving has been a messy process, and the only point at which any of our places has been entirely clean was before we moved in (even then, it was only clean by the standard of whoever lived there before) or after we moved out. So, since the summer of 2007, I haven’t given myself permission to fully relax.
I was listening to a sermon last week, in which the pastor said, “Whatever you sacrifice yourself for is what you worship.” In the past few years, I’ve sacrificed time with Dexter, sleep, time with God, time with friends, and exercise, in the pursuit of a clean house. A clean house has become my idol. The thing about idols is that they’re not God–they can’t do what you want them to do. Despite all my sacrifices, “the cleaning gods” have not blessed me with a clean house. Instead, I’ve “cursed” myself with discontentment, shame, and hopelessness.
So, in 2011, I’m going to clean my house. But even if my house isn’t clean, I’m going to enjoy snuggling on the couch with Dexter. I’m going to read my Bible and spend time in prayer. I’m going to push crap off the floor and do pilates. I’m going to get a good night’s sleep. I’m going to return my friends’s emails. I’m going to blog. I’m going to knock items off my 30 Before 30 list. And I’m not going to berate myself about having a messy house. I’m going to accept that God loves people with messy houses and that he cares more about the condition of my heart than he cares about the condition of my clutter.
I feel a little stupid about having this be my resolution–it goes against everything resolutions are supposed to accomplish, but I think it’s a good thing. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve felt hopeless and depressed in the past several years because of a messy house. Now, really, the problems were perfectionism and pride and harmful patterns of thought, but they manifested themselves in my dissatisfaction with my messy house and myself as a housekeeper.
Although I’ve made the decision to change how I think about my home, I know it’s not going to be easy give myself grace in the area of cleaning. I still believe that my house should be clean and that if it’s not that I’m lazy. I told Dexter that I wish some authority would tell me it’s okay for my house to be messy because then maybe I would believe it was true. He took the opportunity to pull the husband authority card and instructed me to relax my idea of how clean the house needs to be. It’s awesome to be married to a guy who would be happy if our house was a wreck and we ate frozen pizza every day.
My new mantra is, “Yes, that’s my house. No, it doesn’t bother me.”
What are you letting go of in 2011?