Years ago, when our eight children were small, cleaning the house was not a real problem. It was a constant work in progress.
I don’t believe the whole place was ever totally clean at any one time. With all the interruptions, by the time I got all the way around the house, it was time to start over.
Then I went back to teaching full time and new rules were set. Basically it was “no one goes anywhere on Saturday until the house in in order.”
There were a lot of creative excuses, but the rule stood. So they gave up and the house was livable.
Now our children are fighting the clean house battle with their children. We just observe and smile a lot.
We’ve discovered that cleaning house is no longer a big problem since we retired. After all of those years of cleaning up after ten people, picking up after the two of us is pretty easy.
Yep, the problem isn’t the cleaning. It’s the clutter.
All of those years of habitually stowing away those things that someone could surely use some day has left us with a lot of clutter that no one will probably ever want.
It’s not just big stuff like furniture, dishes, and pillows. I even stored stuff like plastic bags.
Plastic bags come in all sizes and they have more uses than old newspapers. I seem to come home with a bumper crop of them every time I go shopping. I stuffed them here, there, and everywhere. I even threw some away. I finally concluded that plastic bags are like wire coat hangers. Leave them alone and they multiply.
Several weeks ago I decided to de-clutter the small front bedroom I spent a lot of time gathering up plastic bags and shoving them into great big plastic bags.
When I had three big bags full a friend told me about a place that could use them. There was one small catch—no sales slips left in the bags.
I was so happy that someone could finally use something I had saved. I spent a lot more time going through the bags to remove sales slips. Once the bags were gone to a better use cleaning the room was a breeze.
To avoid a replay of the bag problem, I hung a bag to stuff other bags in on the door knob.
I did see some really neat fabric tubes made to stuff plastic bags in, but no sale. I would have wound up with fabric tubes full of plastic bags all over the house—more clutter.
Funny thing about clutter though. As long as I look at it en masse, I can believe in eliminating it. But when I consider it item by item, I can think of a good reason to keep it.
I guess the only solution is to sell the whole place, clutter and all, and start over. Wow, that‘s a really depressing thought.
Maybe I‘ll just buy one of those posters that say, “It‘s my mess and I love it,“ and tape it to the front door.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This column was first published in the Daily Advocate on Sept. 30, 1998.