In my mind, I make a distinction between “cleaning” and “picking up” – between dirt and clutter. Dirt is the stuff that needs to be scrubbed, wiped, vacuumed, etc. Stuff that tends to happen just as a course of living, no matter what you do. Clutter is different. Clutter is when someone in the house uses an item and then just puts it down. Somewhere. Anywhere other than the place where the item belongs.
“Cleaning” is removing the dirt that is a natural result of living in a house. “Picking up” is putting things back where they belong. The distinction is important in my mind because – right or wrong – I have little problem with cleaning, but I resent the crap out of picking up after everyone.
And one can rarely clean without picking up. The table needing dusted has dirty ice cream dishes left on it. The floor needing vacuumed has shoes and socks and jackets and what-all strewn about. The bathroom counter needing scrubbed has . . . well, I won’t even go there.
When I look at the clutter, I find myself thinking that everyone just assumed that I would pick up after them, like the family maid, and so they left it there. And thus the tremendous resentment. I’ve decided, however, that I am probably assuming wrongly. Most likely, what they were thinking is, “This item doesn’t HAVE to be put away right at this moment – I’ll put it away later.” (After all, I think that sometimes, too.) Here’s the problem with that thought process:
1) They usually forget.
2) I usually have to clean that space before they remember, and so I end up putting the item away AGAIN.
It’s not malicious behavior. They don’t intend to treat me like the maid. I shouldn’t feel so resentful. I’m learning to let go of my attitude. But I still feel a responsibility to ensure that my children are more thoughtful of others than they are being of me – and more responsible for their possessions.
We have a new cleaning schedule for our family which allows us all to share in the joys of the household cleaning duties. But the picking up . . . I’m not sure what to do about that. Any plan I come up with to deal with the clutter is one that I know will be met with much groaning and whining and resentful looks and attitudes. So, either they are resentful or I am. Wouldn’t it just be easier – and more fair – if we all put things away when we’re done with them? Hmm?
Just getting it off my chest, people.