I’m not a particularly clean person. Don’t get me wrong, my kids always have clean clothes to wear, but they have to dig them out of a basket of folded clothes in the laundry room as opposed to removing them from their closet or drawers because I wash the clothes but don’t put them away.
I leave breakfast dishes on the counter until dinner and I’ve developed a cleaning technique called Sweep-A-Meal-Later. SAML has saved moms across the country countless hours of frustration as we have all agreed to never attempt to sweep up fresh rice or soggy Cheerios off the kitchen floor. No, we let them dry out for a few hours then Sweep-A-Meal-Later.
In a recent blog interview I was asked, “How do you do it all? Write books, speaking engagements, keep up with a blog and a weekly column?”
I answered honestly, “I don’t do it all. Something’s got to give and it’s usually my house. My kids are more important to me than the laundry and writing is more important to me than dusting my furniture. So there you have it– the secret to my success– we live in squalor. I’m sure my Momma is proud.”
But it’s sort of the truth, just like every other working parent on the planet I have to decide every second of every day what is the most important task to accomplish. If my kids are at school, then I work. If my kids are at home, then I’m their mom. For the last few months my two full-time jobs have left very little time for my other full time job as Domestic Engineer or The Cleaner and Organizer of All Things.
*Brief disclaimer: My husband rocks my face off when it comes to helping out around the house. In fact, last week before he left to go on a business trip, he came home, packed a bag, moved the wet clothes from the washer to the drier AND mopped the floor. You can have your roses, I’ll take a freshly mopped kitchen any day.
But my husband works full time to support our family (as Lynette Carolla says, “He brings home the bacon. I bring home the bacon bits.”) and when it comes to scrubbing toilets, washing shower curtains, and organizing the house– it’s all on me and for the last three months I have been squeaking by.
Last week there was a fatal accident involving my MacBook, may she rest in peace, and all the worrying, working and stressing I’d been doing over writing and PR became utterly pointless. I had no computer. Writer Robin was temporarily laid off, Momma Robin wasn’t on duty because my kids were in school so as my computer died a quick and painless death, Domestic Engineer Robin was resurrected and that chick is crazy.
All of a sudden I saw my house. I saw it like you see your house when you look out in the driveway and see that someone is unexpectedly dropping by and you panic. Everywhere I looked I saw total chaos.
I saw all the toys and electronics stashed in Toy Timeout– the top of the fridge– where they are safely tucked away from the hands of naughty children. I saw the jumble of shampoo and lotion bottles in my bathroom cabinet. I saw the dish towels and wash clothes shoved onto my laundry room shelf and I snapped.
My mother, who has known my happily disorganized self my entire life, stood in my pantry slack jawed as I took my arm and swiped everything on the shelf onto the floor and started fresh.
I wiped out cabinets with a damp rag and made no less than five trips to the store to purchase plastic bins to organize my house. I alphabetized soup cans and stacked pasta boxes by size. I sorted washcloths and filled a bag with trash and another with items to donate.
My people started to worry when I dug out the label maker.
“Are you okay?” My best friend worried.
“What are you going to do with that?” My husband whispered, fear creeping into his voice.
“I’m going to label our things.”
“ALL of the things.”
I labeled our laundry baskets and drawers for unmatched socks. I labeled baskets of snacks and shelves for sunscreen and baking supplies. I slapped a label on Baby Sadie’s forehead as she walked by just in case we forgot who she was.
My mother crinkled her brow with worry when she found me standing in front of my highly organized bathroom cabinet admiring my handiwork.
“What are you doing?” She asked.
“Just looking… it makes me feel better.” I sighed.
It doesn’t take a psychology degree to understand that this is a way for me to feel more in control of my life and I don’t even care if this means I’m crazy. It makes me feel better and should you find yourself at my house and in need of a spare sock, AAA battery, or a roll of Scotch tape– I now know exactly where to find them.
SPILL IT. What do you when your life gets chaotic? Let the mess slide or go all crazy clean?