There is one topic that I can never seem to relate to other moms on. Anytime another mom complains or jokes about her constantly messy home, I feel like an outcast. As the other moms laugh and nod in sympathizing agreement, I sit and laugh along awkwardly, because no, I cannot relate….at all.
My family will often find the cup they started the day with, in the kitchen sink with the other dirty dishes by noon. Put leftovers in the fridge? You better get to eating them in the next 48 hours, or in the trash they go! Leave your graded school work and artistic masterpieces on the counter? Those probably have a 24 hour lifespan before you have no idea what happened to them. There are few surfaces in my home that are safe from the “mom clean sweep” for too long.
See, thanks to my extreme anxiety, I almost always have a clean and organized house. This diagnosis did not cause my cleanliness, per se, but having a clean and organized house has helped tame my symptoms, and in return, has kept me sane-ish. Sometimes when others comment on my home always being clean-it’s awkward for me, and I never know what to say. My clean home was never for bragging rights or to make anyone feel bad. It’s always been for my own mental health. It didn’t come naturally, and it took many months of re-training my brain to be where I am today.
I used to be messy. Not “gross” messy, but I was definitely not shy to having a cluttered space, or putting off picking up my house for weeks. I realized after many years, a cycle would happen every time I would allow this to happen. PHASE ONE would be me shutting down and doing absolutely nothing about it. Just looking at the mess or thinking about cleaning it, would put me in a state of panic. PHASE TWO would be me (on some random day) freaking out on everybody in my household and demanding that EVERYTHING MUST BE CLEANED RIGHT NOW! I would snap, be hateful, and wonder why I was the only one who cared whether or not we lived like slobs. PHASE THREE would be me rage cleaning for hours, mostly alone, because no one cleaned as well as I did.
Around the time I was pregnant with my last child, some eight years ago, something had to give. I hated living in the cycle, and because of my high levels of anxiety, I seriously thought the world was crumbling around me. I couldn’t see through the cloud of panic and mess. So, I started the process of list-making. I would make calendars and lists of what I needed to accomplish each day, laminated them (former teacher) and hung them on the fridge. I would take a little time each day to accomplish my tasks, no matter how tired or unmotivated I felt to do them. I also gave tasks to other people in my home! I have barely washed a dish or have done my husband or teenager’s laundry in years!
Now I don’t make as many lists, and a lot of daily picking up and cleaning habits have become second nature. I even gave in and hired someone to come in to help deep clean a couple times a month when we moved into a bigger space and I began to work again. I won’t promise that the three phases never happen anymore or that the dining room table isn’t occasionally a catch-all during seasons of business. I will say this, the messes are now much more manageable, in my brain and otherwise. I’m sure Mom being more chill makes everyone else around me happy too! What do they say? If Mom is happy, everyone’s happy?! And Mom is happy when the counters are clear.