Housework has never been my forte. Just ask my mother, my husband, or any of my past roommates. I'm not a total slob, and I don't like to live with mess, but there are always many things above housework on my priority list.
When we were first married, we did housework pretty much even-steven, or if I was feeling sick, John did pretty much all of it. The house was never all that neat, but we had a dishwasher, so the dishes usually got washed ... especially if it was John's day off. And I managed to do laundry at least once a week, and if our bedroom was full of clean unfolded stuff -- hey, it saved a trip to the closet. Vacuuming, though -- I think John did it sometimes. I know I tried once, and threw my back out.
Now that I'm staying home with the baby, the housework is almost all my job. John helps when he can, but the simple fact is that he is not in the house all day, and I am. So I try to do 100% of it on the weekdays, and let him help on the weekends as convenient. This makes it the first time I have ever been trying to do everything in a house. I always split chores with my brother when I was a kid, which meant they got done on his day and not on my day. Or I would make dishes, and my roommate would wash them. I'm kind of a horrible person to live with that way. But with no recourse but actually doing the housework, I am finally motivated to do it.
Only now motivation suddenly isn't good enough! I am so motivated! I want to be clean! I want to be proud of my home! So I get up in the morning and start cleaning ... only to have the room trashed five minutes later. I wash a bunch of dishes ... and the whole time the baby is tugging at my leg asking me to make him something that will inevitably dirty four more dishes. I get the laundry washed, and there's a heaping basket full of more. I must say I have never understood more deeply that "a woman's work is never done."
So I tend to excuse myself, explain the mess. Some people understand. They say, "You have a toddler, of course it's going to be messy!" I try to believe them. But then other people try to be helpful ... which I inevitably understand as criticism. Housework is my weak point and I tend to be kinda ... okay, very ... sensitive about it.
For instance, I say, "My house is always messy, I just can't keep up with it!" And the person will answer, "Oh, mine used to be too, and then I discovered that if you just dedicate 20 minutes a day to it, it's not that hard! Just clean a different room each day!"
Seriously, do you think I'm not spending 20 minutes a day on housework? I spend 20 minutes cleaning the living room, say. It's clean. Great. So I go into the kitchen to start on the dishes and 20 minutes later, the kitchen is clean but the living room is trashed again. So I go back into the living room to clean it and then we're all hungry, so I make something to eat. By the time we're ready to eat it, the living room is trashed again, all the food is out on the counters, and there are a dozen dirty dishes. Repeat. If I try to clean everything, the other rooms in the house will never get clean, and just forget about the laundry. And when you use cloth diapers, forgetting about the laundry is never wise.
Or this one: "I used to have trouble getting the laundry folded, but now I fold it right out of the dryer, so it's never sitting around!" Wow, I never would have thought of that. Perhaps next time, when the dryer finishes up, I should lay my novel aside, stretch luxuriously, and mosey on down to the laundry room to fold it. Pardon the dripping sarcasm. What happens more often is that the dryer finishes during naptime ... and the laundry room is kind of ill-placed, behind the baby's room so I can't get to it during naptime. (It's kind of inconvenient that way.) So I wait until naptime's over and then I've got this demanding child who is clingy and needy, and only recovers from that in time to want a snack, and trashes the room while I'm making the snack, and after I clean it up, he flings himself against the front door and tearfully begs to go outside, so we go outside, and when we finally come back in he is hungry again, and when I finally buckle down to fold that laundry, he spends his time pulling it all out, dumping it on the floor, and putting the underwear on his head. Meanwhile there's a load of diapers in the washer that needs to dry. Today was a good day, and we managed all this. But on a bad day? It's just not happening. Enough that we have clean clothes. Folding them is more along the lines of a luxury.
Things keep happening to motivate me. For instance, I was getting kind of lazy about the dishes. I was doing them the morning after, instead of in the evening. And then there started to be billions of teeny tiny ants filing along my counters. I HATE ants. So now I am very, very diligent about dishes and counter-washing. That one gets done pretty reliably. My secret is to wash every dish it is possible to wash before dinner, so that after dinner when we're dealing with bedtime and bathtime and everything else in the world, there are only a few left to do.
Then I was lazy about the laundry. I was washing, but not folding. I had, for once, reduced the clean laundry to one load's worth when a disaster started happening. The baby was grabbing at the cat when she was in the litterbox. And my dear, well-behaved, beautiful kitty, the one who never has an accident, went on a spree of peeing all over things. The laundry basket got hit, as well as a stack of THREE comforters. I'm still dealing with that one. So now I am really making a Herculean effort to get those clothes folded and away, so as not to provide an opportunity for Demon Kitty to make her mark.
Some people recommend wearing shoes while at home, so you feel more "dressed" and ready to see housework as a job. I, on the other hand, make sure to go barefoot so that if the floors start to get gritty, I notice right away. (Also because I hate wearing shoes.)
Honestly, I'm growing to like housework. I like keeping my little house clean because it is finally my own house. And I like the way it looks when it's clean. And there's something nice about just cleaning something, you know? Don't get me wrong; I still prefer yardwork by a long shot. But I am to the point that when John gets home and asks, "Can I help with something?" I always let him have the baby and plunge into the housework. Housework seems a lovely break of non-toddler time.
Of course I could be doing a better job. I know people who are busier than I am and still keep their houses cleaner. I could quit my blog, stop checking out library books, never play with the baby, and I could get more done. But I've never been willing to kill myself over housework. Though it's important to me, it's below a lot of things on my priority list. As it is, I think I do okay. The house gets cleaned at least once a day, we manage to eat dinner, and there are clean clothes to wear. Probably when the baby is older and I can put him to work or send him out to play, I'll do better. For now, I do what I can and usually don't feel bad about it.
If you comment, please don't tell me the secret for doing better. I honestly don't want to know. I would prefer comments telling me your house is messier than mine. If you would like to help, come scrub my bathroom or something!