It’s the Little Things

2 Feb

Whine: Had an unfortunate “streaking” experience today at church. Meaning that Big Sis took herself to the restroom (All! By! Herself!) and when she needed assistance, came running out of the restroom and across the foyer (did I mention that the “foyer” is a big open space covered with glass windows that face directly into the parking lot?) with her pants closer to her knees than to her bottom. Luckily almost everyone had cleared out before the “full moon” appeared.

Cheese: Didn’t you read the last paragraph? She went to the restroom all by herself, well, almost. I’ll take that (with or without the full moon) any day of the week.

I am a housewife. A stay-at-home-mom. A domestic engineer, if you will. Yet since I began this career over four years ago, I have had a chronically cluttered house. More days than not I’ve lived with the fear that my laundry pile may actually get taller than me, grow arms and legs and suffocate me in my sleep (although the arms and legs would not be necessary, as the smell of sweaty socks is usually sufficient for suffocation.) Attempts to make dinner often forced me to trek across my sticky kitchen floor that could double as flypaper only to arrive at a fridge whose distant regions were best left alone. And my dishes. Usually piled in the sink, sometimes rinsed off, growing until my choice was to load the dishwasher (which was only eighteen inches away) or call in a Hazmat team.

Oh, I somehow managed to restore order every so often, so that when invited guests arrived, I at least looked like someone who believed Louie Pasteur’s germ theory. But spontaneous visits by friends often elicited many apologies and a strong “enter at your own risk” warning.

The stress of having to hide my laundry in the guest room and hope that noone ever looked too deeply into my fridge drove me crazy. I always wanted to be like my clean friends, what with their clean laundry and empty sinks, but I’m just not one of “those people.” I’ve tried a million times to “get my act together” and to no avail. I run out of steam after just a few days of trying to be something I’m not (i.e., perfect).

And then over Christmas, I had a conversation with one of “those people.” You know, the friend who always remembers your birthday, always sends a thank-you note within days of receiving a gift, and generally doesn’t eat soup straight from the can for lunch. Luckily I’ve known and loved this friend since high school (i.e., the time of braces, bangs and marching band), so I know she likes me even though we’re, well, different. In the course of our conversation that night she made a passing remark about how she runs her dishwasher every night before she goes to bed.

The conversation quickly moved on to other more interesting topics, but a little light went on in my brain. She runs her dishwasher every night? What if it’s not full? How can she run it if she knows that she could probably jam two more sippy cups in there if she was creative? I do not understand.

But I went home that night and decided that I would make January “clean dishes” month. I didn’t make a New Year’s Resolution, because mine usually involve overhauling every aspect of my life so that I can be Supergirl’s better looking older sister.  I just decided to try this new idea every day in January. I even made a chart, so I could check off the days. Because checking things off makes me happy. And if, after the month was over I had succeeded in my new venture, I would give myself a reward.

Which is embarrassing. I’m thirty-two years old and I needed a reward to wash my dishes.

But you know what? It worked. Instead of getting ready to make dinner, then, being rebuffed by the stack of dirty dishes and ordering out, I could walk into my kitchen and actually make dinner. And what I walked away from this month knowing is that most of the time, it’s the little things that count.

A little remark made in conversation. A little more effort toward running my dishwashwer regularly. Little things that have changed a lot of bigger things. Now the whole house stays cleaner because I’m not overwhelmingly paralyzed by the menacing glares from the row of stinky sippy cups. Now we eat out a lot less because I can find my frying pan clean and in its rightful place instead of as a storage receptacle for old bacon grease. Now we enjoy being at home because sitting in the living room doesn’t seem to involve rearranging large piles of stuff to make a space. Isn’t that interesting?

But if I had resolved to keep the whole house clean in January (or heaven forbid, for the year), the first time I fell off the wagon, which would have been almost immediately, I would have chucked the whole idea and given up. So instead of trying to be perfect, I decided to do what I can.

Little things. They really add up. I have a lot more to say about this topic, but in the spirit of little things, I’m going to stop here and pick up where I left off another day.

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11 Responses to “It’s the Little Things”

  1. Sarah Johnson February 2, 2010 at 4:07 pm #

    So the question is, how are you going to reward yourself?

  2. Louanne February 2, 2010 at 5:33 pm #

    I can only assume that your friend introduced you to the FlyLady??? If not, please check her out at http://www.flylady.net Her book is called Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley: How to remove CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome) from your home. One of her recommended habits in running your dishwasher every night! Seriously, the book and now her yahoo group have changed me for the better and made being a stat-at-home mom much more enjoyable! And, yes, I’d love to hear how you are going to reward yourself! 🙂

  3. Megan February 2, 2010 at 5:53 pm #

    Dishes are one of the few things I consistently keep up with, precisely because of the dishwasher. I even put my crockpot liner in it!

  4. Johanna I. February 2, 2010 at 7:01 pm #

    Good idea, Sars!

  5. Rosie February 2, 2010 at 7:42 pm #

    I did discover that it is better to run a half empty dishwasher than to have sinks that runneth over. “Wasted” water is better than dried on, caked on egg yolk. BUT back in the day when there was no dishwasher…I’ve been married 34 yrs!!! YIKES! I used to DETEST washing, rinsing, drying and putting away dishes…so then I discovered the dishdrain…so then I had a pile of clean dishes just sitting there and we used the dishes off the dishdrain rather than putting them away…the cabinets were just inches away!…Well I thought I would share my saga from a “ole used to be stay at home mom.

    How DO you reward yourself? I say I am due some rewards myself!

  6. Sars February 2, 2010 at 8:23 pm #

    Ladies, it’s all about the hair! I got it cut and hilighted. I feel like a new woman. A spoiled woman, but a new one nonetheless.

  7. kjlangford February 2, 2010 at 9:09 pm #

    So this reminds me of another site, which is probably like the already mentioned fly lady. The lady who writes the “totally together” blog also writes the crockpot365.blogspot.com blog, which is how I found this. (do you use your crock pot? If not, visit her site, you will start using it and it will be amazing) The site is a little difficult to navigate, but here are two articles that could be useful for what you mentioned… simple things to do every day (hey, you could add just one every month until you’re doing all of them) or just before company comes to make the whole cleaning thing not so overwhelming.

    http://www.totallytogetherjournal.com/how-to-company-clean-in-30-minutes-or-less

    http://www.totallytogetherjournal.com/the-daily-7-for-a-highly-successful-household/

    Talk soon!
    kj

  8. KImberley February 2, 2010 at 10:29 pm #

    I am so glad you mentioned “laundry” at the beginning of your article. My washed laundry has been sitting in the machine for 10.25 hours, so if it doesn’t stink, I’ll go throw it into the dryer. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

    Baby steps…that does sound like the Flylady…she saved my life.

  9. wee February 3, 2010 at 9:51 am #

    WAY to go!! can you find me something about papers??

  10. wee February 3, 2010 at 9:52 am #

    actually, strike that, I think getting up earlier would change my life…but I’m not sure if I’m ready for that yet.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Five for Friday « A Little Whine and Cheese - July 9, 2010

    […] was too sick to move, and let me tell you, that is a good friend, because that was before my “do the dishes every day” phase of […]

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