"Don't Judge!" It has recently become such a popular quip and the subject of numerous mommy blog articles. I also think it may soon replace, "OMG!" as the most annoying thing teenagers say (and the cutest things toddlers repeat). Why do I find it so annoying? Because I don't think it properly conveys its intended meaning and I believe it doesn't always means what it ought to anymore. I realize that "Don't tell people what you think about what they are doing if it is going to hurt their feelings," is not at catchy as, "Don't judge," but I think that is what really needs to be said. It is in human nature to make judgements about right and wrong, good and bad. We can't simply flip an off switch in the 'judgey' portion of our brains.
I remember a judgement I used to make about parents who walked down the street
with a toddler in tow, but not holding vigorously onto their hand. I thought they were absolutely unfit to parent and it was a miracle that these children were still alive. I judged them harshly because I was parenting a toddler that would have been on another continent by morning if I let go of him for two seconds. If I had chosen not to make the judgement that holding a toddler's hand at all times was a necessity, that toddler would not be a teenager today!
The dictionary meanings of 'judge' include, 'assess the quality of something,' 'form an opinion of someone or something,' and 'to criticize someone on moral grounds.' I think we are doing children a great disservice if they grow up to believe that it is wrong to even form an opinion about something. It is quite scary in fact! We cannot decide that everything everyone chooses to do is just fine. Instead, we can hold an opinion that is contrary to the actions or beliefs of a person and yet choose to treat them with love and kindness. I did not berate or shun those non-hand-holding parents. I treated them with the exact same respect I would have given to a hand-holding parent.
So while us moms should really strive towards being more kind to one another, regardless of whether or not we hold our kids' hands, feed them organic fruits, make pin-worthy birthday treats, breastfeed, or give spankings, we should never quit judging. We can't get so caught up in avoiding making judgements that we stop paying attention to the people around us and what they are doing. Analyzing what other parents do can be an amazingly useful tool in figuring out what might or might not be helpful for you or your child. So judge away! Just be kind and keep it to yourself!
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Stage 1: Let’s Not Get Nominated for Hoarders
If you think I'm joking, you apparently missed the pictures of my kids' bedrooms in last week's post. The best time to do it is after you have tripped on some useless hunk of plastic and the twinge in your ankle is a reminder with every single step that you MUST declutter. Two weeks of a crying kindergartener who can't find her shoes puts you in the right frame of mind as well. Pull out ALL the stuff into one huge pile. Sort out as much as you can to the trash and give away piles. Next you have to skip ahead to stage two for a bit to wipe down shelves and dresser tops. Then put things back where they belong. Last, take what is left and throw it in the crap box referenced in my last post. I prefer to do most of this stage without help. My oldest daughter is an awesome organizer, but this is a rare child. Most kids will be a hindrance to this process. The most important part of this stage is to explain to your kids each day, or twice a day, or 18 billion times a day, that PLAYING IS NOT ALLOWED until spring cleaning is over. I let them watch too much TV and play on the computer too much during this time, but it helps tremendously.
Stage 2: Scrub-a-dub-dub Whole House in the Tub
Vacuum and shampoo every carpet, move every piece of furniture, deep clean the bathrooms and kitchen, clean the fridge. Younger kids love to help with this stage. I am excited to give them my new e-cloths this year because they clean so well without having to worry about the kids ingesting toxic sprays or wasting expensive sprays because they like to spray soo much. I also force older kids to begrudgingly join in. Alternately keeping them busy helping and giving them breaks outdoors is super important because it will be extremely tempting for them to play with the newly tidied up toy areas. Remember the PLAYING IS NOT ALLOWED rule is still in effect.
Stage 3: Extreme Makeovers Reveal-Worthy Touch Up
The .2 seconds you have been waiting for are at the end of this stage. Motherhood is often akin to running in a hamster wheel. You go, go, go,and never seem to get anywhere. Kids get more clothes dirty, get out more toys, make more messes, and need to eat AGAIN! This stage creates that amazing moment when you can attain an "I'm done!" high that we all yearn for. Go back through every room in the house for a third and fourth time. If your kids are like my kids, they will toss a mess into a room that has already been retouched, so you have to go back through and take care of those things. Now, if you just can't stand the thought of this only lasting .2 seconds, call grandma and see if the kids can spend the night with her. Now you have a day and .2 seconds to enjoy the fruits of you labor!
I know what you are thinking, "EVERYTHING? Get out everything?!? Everything 'done' at once? She is insane!" Hold on just a second because I do not get to every nook and cranny of my home every single year. During the first two stages, I pick my battles. I relegate things to my ten-year plan, which means I will get to it sometime in the next ten years, but not this year. It is only for closets, cupboards, and other storage space; not for open living space. Otherwise, stage three won't work. Currently on my ten year plan is the storage closet in my office and the storage in my sewing room. My kitchen cupboards have been on it awhile and I plan to tackle a few of them this year. I used to call this my 'when I’m done having babies plan.’ The first job on that plan was the big storage room overhaul to get rid of all the baby stuff and clothes I did not need anymore. It has been about a year and nine months since I did that. My just-turned-1-year-old sure looks nice in all her brand-new clothes! You see why I changed the name of the plan:)
So what is the point of the ten-year plan? It helps me not care about the things that are not getting done. Thinking about every single thing in the whole house that needs decluttered and reorganized is too daunting and then I just end up sitting at the computer. Yes, I am aware of the irony that I had to sit at the computer to tell you about this problem! The entire plan is designed to provide me with the greatest sense of accomplishment. I have zero motivation to follow through with plans that do not have a finish line. That is the reason the plans that have you tidy up for fifteen minutes a day don't work for me. I don't feel good about the house looking slightly better. It has to look awesome to make me feel awesome, otherwise it might as well be a giant disaster. It is usually a giant disaster, but there comes a point when it is unhealthy and depression-inducing to just let the mess pile up everywhere! And that is where So-So Spring Cleaning comes in. The brutal hard work is worth it no matter what, but there is just nothing better than to do a whole house touch-up at the end and have everything just right. Even if it last only .2 seconds.
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So here it finally is, my first spring cleaning post! My blogging schedule is just as haphazard as everything else I do, so it is fitting that my spring cleaning post lags a solid month or two behind everyone else's and implementation of this plan will run well into the first month of summer.
I have finally figured out what almost, kind of, works for me sometimes and might just work for other people because it is more about figuring out yourself than following someone else’s plan. Guessing you have picked up on my lack of confidence in this post, I am going to begin with a ‘my advice likely won’t work’ disclaimer. Please be aware that this advice comes from a woman whose children’s bedrooms currently look like this:
As you can see, on a scale of 1-10 my ability to keep a house clean is negative one. However, most of my advice concerns getting a house clean, which I do much better due to the ample practice seven children provides. Every year, I start cleaning the kids' bedrooms during the last month of school and then they help me with the rest of the house once school is out. This may sound backward, but decluttering kid rooms is best done without the hoarder, I mean child, present. Keep these tips in mind when you tackle a whole house cleaning overhaul.
Pick your own neurosis, but only ONE.
Mine is laundry. I have an excellent routine, and I make sure that whatever else I am cleaning does not interfere with that. In other words, don’t mess up something you are already doing well, in an attempt to do something else better. However, if you’re unlike me, and there is more than one thing you keep up with well, just pick the one that supplies you with the most ‘sane’ feeling. After all, cleaning is mostly about maintaining sanity. Weeks that I fail to complete my usual laundry routine are not pretty weeks for anybody!
Don’t be afraid to make a gigantic mess when you are cleaning.
For example, if the entire contents of my closet are on my bed, I have motivation to keep working. I have emptied the entire contents of my sewing room and storage room into the adjacent rooms and then completely started over organizing. Each project took about a month, but those rooms were beautiful for awhile after that! If this sounds completely horrifying to you, go check out the fly lady. She would be horrified too, so maybe she would be perfect for you. Also, be prepared for your husband to have a strong dislike for this method. I remind mine that he is welcome to take over anytime and that pretty well ends the conversation. It appears that my house gets messier and messier as I clean because I pile things to get rid of or take to other parts of the house, out in the open as much as possible in order to reduce the chance they get tucked away somewhere and forgotten.
Use large totes or boxes to throw things into as you go to avoid getting distracted.
There needs to be a place to put absolutely everything right near the area you are working. Running stuff all over the place is a gigantic waste of time and very distracting. I know that if I run something to the car and then come back in, I will completely forget what I was doing.
My Cleaning Totes
Things That Belong to Others
What ends up in mine? Grandma's endless supply of Tupperware because my family is the garbage disposal of left over holiday food, softball uniforms that were supposed to be turned in 10 months ago, baby paraphenalia I borrowed that the baby has outgrown, the toddler pants I borrowed from a friend because I had an inadequately packed diaper bag, and the five things the last kid who spent the night left behind.
Things That Belong on a Different Floor
This is very important because if I send a child to take something upstairs, they will not return for an hour and then when I finally go hunt them down, I won’t return for an hour, and then a different child will have disappeared, and well, you get the picture. Mommy ends up angry.
Things to Sell or Donate
I am considering renting a u-haul to replace this tote. I struggle to fight the good fight against sentimentality and the what-if-I-need-that scenarios, but we all have to try.
Missing Parts, Pieces, and Mates
This tub started when I found 7 mateless shoes in my storage room and this year I am extending it to include mateless gloves, pieces of toys, battery covers, and any other stuff I know goes to a something that I can’t currently find. Why the special mention of battery covers, you ask? I honestly don't know, but they are everywhere! And, yes, the batteries too.
Crap I Can't Decide What to do With
Secretly I also use it for stuff I just don’t feel like dealing with properly right at that moment, but don’t tell my kids. I don't let them get away with that. This is a brand new idea this year and I am loving it so far. I used it when I cleaned my office. As you saw in the picture, the name was slightly altered. A child took offense to some of its contents being referred to as crap. You know what I used to do with things when I couldn’t decide where to put them? First, I wasted time thinking about what to do with them. Then, I stuck them in a random place that was all neat and tidy before I stuffed some random junk there. If this sounds like you, I highly suggest a crap box. The real beauty of it is; it can just stay in there if you never decide. Just guard it well so a toddler doesn't dump it out and refill it with blocks and then freak out when you dump out those blocks. Or does that stuff just happen at my house?
Now, here are my two tips for my renewed effort to keep the house clean (er) when we finish the big spring cleaning project this year:
Figure out what you (and your kids) actually do day-to-day that makes the mess and work with it.
I used to buy lidded basket to hide stuff because they are much prettier than open baskets. The problem is no one in this house, including myself, will take the two seconds to open a basket. Result?
Pretty basket with a pile of crap on top of it. Those baskets are mostly being converted to longer term storage purposes rather than day to day use. I am resigning myself to piles of shoes, which is less irritating than piles of shoes on top of baskets. Now I am going to think about the places where we tend to throw stuff and create a mess and think of a solution that we might be more likely to use. For example, there are usually jackets and bags mixed into the aforementioned pile of shoes, so I am putting up more hooks. Amazingly, four of six children who are old enough, will put stuff on the hook instead of on the floor under the hook. Those are excellent odds here. I tried to limit the hooks because I would rather the kids each keep only one bag and jacket on one hook and take extras to their bedrooms. Hahahaha, I know, like I said, more hooks.
Don’t lie to yourself about changing habits.
I have insisted to myself for fifteen years that I am going to start putting my shoes away properly, but I've been lying to myself. I could also tell myself that I am going to make the kids tidy up the basement every single week, but I would be lying to myself. I could vow to hunt down every child every time they threw a something on the floor that didn't belong and make them pick it up right away, but I would be lying to myself. My new plan for my closet is an open shoe basket just outside for the most-worn shoes. I finally realized it is just stupid to line my shoes up neatly on the floor of my closet twice a year just so they can end up in a pile in front of it within two weeks.
Pick a very teensy, tiny simple habit to change and schedule it.
I am terrible at changing habits, but I know it is possible. Instead of lying to myself about changing a whole slew of them, I am carefully contemplating one to change. I haven't come up with it yet; I will keep you posted. When I do I am going to use my phone to remind me to keep it up.
I know you are wondering how and when I am going to implement all this. That is next week's post, well, my next post anyway. I have 17 days to finish cleaning all the bedrooms. In the meantime, what habits are you lying to yourself about? Do you have any habit change suggestions for me?
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I am the mother of seven children ranging from teens to a toddler, living out in the middle of nowhere, USA. I aim to hone the craft of giving advice without pretending to have this whole mom thing figured out. I am Christian, but not the really nice kind that is good at it. I am also conservative, but I promise not to be in your face with political agendas very often. I like to infuse humor into my writing, so don't freak out if you are offended or appalled by what you read here. There is a very fine line between serious advice and sarcastic hyperbole.