This evening, as I was finishing a small maintenance project, I took a few minutes to clean up properly rather than make the clean-up into a project of its own for another day. As I scrubbed and scraped and swept, it occurred to me that my attitude towards essential household tasks has matured a lot over the years.
There was a time when I took a passive-aggressive stance, expecting someone else in the household to pick up the slack. Surely they could see the Really Big Hint inherent in a full laundry hamper, the pots and pans stacked in ludicrously high configurations on the kitchen counter, or the shin-deep snow on the front walk. I expected them to care.
Apparently they didn’t care as much as I did, because I was the one getting upset about it.
In looking back at those days, I can now see that although I cared about the messy house, I didn’t care enough. I cared about the wrong things — about the embarrassment and frustration of the mess, rather than the calm of having things the way I like them.
In the end I resolved the problem by creating habits and systems.
- If there’s been a snowstorm overnight, I do a quick path-clearing for the mailman on my way out to work, and a more thorough job when I get home.
- If the laundry basket is full, I take it downstairs in the morning and place it on a stool near the basement stairs. When I get home, it goes into the machine. When it’s done, it comes back upstairs to be put away — it doesn’t sit in the basket any longer than it has to.
- As I’m cooking I’m also washing the dishes that I use. By the time the food gets to the table, almost everything is clean and most of it has been put away.
- When we get a meter-reading card, I grab a pencil and head down to the basement to get the readings, then phone it in immediately and shred the card.
But there are those moments where I walk right by a splotch on the floor, meaning to deal with it later. Still working out a system to deal with that.