Crazy Clean

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.”

“What 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?

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  1. says

    The coat closet.
    When I start tackling our coat closets (the place I usually hide things from visitors), organizing them and labeling the bins on the top shelf and – Holy Crow – possibly even vacuuming in there? I’m freaking out, need control, and there better be wine at the end of it.

    The rest of the house will openly look like a smoke-colored batch of cotton candy exploded all over it and was peppered with Goldfish cracker crumbs, but if that (always-closed) closet is organized? I feel disturbingly accomplished.

    PS: I love my P-Touch and she is my Valentine. That is all.

  2. Debbi says

    Personally, I like to go at it and clean. Love it when things are organized. However, with an almost 8 month old that doesn’t happen all that much. :)

    By the way – even though you have a label on your forehead, you are looking fabulous!! :)

  3. says

    If I lived alone, my house would be immaculate, but I would be lonely. Having a messy house is a tradeoff I’m willing to make. So, I try to focus on the important things in life and let the house slide. I know I’ll never look back and wish I had washed the kitchen floor more.

    Sometimes, I take a day off from work to tackle the chores – there’s something to be said for getting paid to clean your own toilet.

  4. says

    Yeah, I totally do this! Rob and I are both slobs at heart, and it takes both of us working at full capacity to keep our house in any sort of decent shape. Every once in a while, one of us loses our mind and goes on a cleaning rampage. I’ve been known to purchase plastic bins while he’s been known to do laundry for 10 hours straight.

    We are each crazy in our own right. :)
    Anne Riley recently posted..That Time I Accidentally Flew To Europe For Spring Break

    • says

      OMG YES! Zeb and I are both slobs. I have two friends that are both OCD clean and their house is IMMACULATE b/c they both pick up and put stuff up constantly. So jealy.

  5. says

    I knew we were soul mates! I do the exact same thing. I’m an organized chaos kind of girl, and I clean/organize like CRAZY when I am mad/upset or feel like I’m losing my grip on my life! Whenever I mention to my mom that I am furiously cleaning my dorm or anything about organizing, she ALWAYS says, “Are you okay? Did something happen? What’s wrong?” because it’s my coping mechanism and everyone knows it! My mother is the same way. And guess what? I came home from school one weekend in January and found my mom with a label maker. Label makers are NEVER a good sign! 😉
    Alexa recently posted..2012 vs Alexa: Stairs, Hospitals, & Conquering The World

  6. says

    “Sweep-A-Meal-Later”…can I get an Amen?
    In our house it could be Sweep-two-meals-later for how well I’ve kept up with everything lately. Running after two babies, growing another one, and trying to get my manuscript, blogging and column finished? Girl please. I think, especially in a writer’s life, the housework will always come second. Otherwise, you find yourself saying, “Oh, I’ll hit my word goal after I do XYZ”.

    In the immortal words of our beloved Erma, “If it won’t catch fire today, clean it tomorrow.”
    Paige Kellerman recently posted..Husband’s Great Offense

  7. says

    Since I’m about to have baby number three, this post actually brought me RELIEF. I’m in crazy nesting mode, and people (who’ve been there, done that but fake amnesia) love to tell me how a clean house doesn’t matter. IT DOES. I’m not always super clean and like you, there are many, many times I let the house go because I can’t do it all and am not trying to win a contest. HOWEVER, having a clean, organized space does wonders for my mood. It gives me energy. Clearing external clutter clears emotional clutter. So pass me the label maker and slap Cray Cray on my forehead. I’ll wear it with pride.
    Angie Mizzell recently posted..Thinking before we speak and listening with the heart

  8. says

    SAML? Nah – I have a dog. And a cat that thinks he’s a dog. My toy time-out is on top of the cabinet in the dining room. Some toys stay up there in time out for so long that when I get around to cleaning it off the kids think it’s Christmas again. What?! New toys??

    I agree with you. We can’t do it all, so we choose to do what we love the most and what matters the most.
    Jan Culpepper recently posted..The Halftime Show

  9. says

    I am laughing because I’ve been practicing SAML for years, have had all my clean laundry in baskets waiting to be folded for days, and pulled out my label maker to redo my linen closet last week. It’s like your in my head.
    Charlotte recently posted..Unrequited Friendship

  10. says

    OMG! I love this. The really sad part is, I bought a label maker last week for just this reason. But then things went @pe$#!t at home (I am RE-potty-training a five year old…don’t ask), and now I don’t know where I put it. I’m sure it’s buried under a pile of crap somewhere. Robin, I just want you to know…you complete me. Happy Valentine’s Day!!!
    Jodi recently posted..Pirate Party

  11. says

    Let’s see, I totally relate to this post and the fact that I’m reading and replying to it, tells you that yes, I’m one of those that lets it slide, at least until the Internet goes down and then I have no choice but to get up off my butt and clean! :)

  12. Amy Massey says

    I just came upon this delightful blog site as I am lying in my bed ( temp 99.7) ruthlessly taking advantage of my flu to avoid all forms of domestic duty ( actually failed this-made sandwiches for son and husband, smoothies for daughters, braided hair, found missing school books, read course syllabi (?) for son, fed dogs because no one else will, and washed, dried 3 loads of laundry but as far as they are all concerned, I have just been lolling in bed all day) and have greedily read loads of these great vignettes.
    I too, am a chronic slob and am always just a few days away from a somewhat tidy house but
    when the combination of work and a family of three children, one domestically challenged husband, two elderly relatives, two dogs and a cat threaten to overwhelm me,
    when I walk away from a diligently scrubbed and tidy kitchen, only to come back an hour later to find that my teenaged daughter has decided to make tacos but thoughtfully left the cleaning to me
    when i overhear my seven year old telling her friends that her mommy is old and can’t do much
    I resort to IOT- Intensive Organizational Therapy!!!
    Go Robin!
    Amy from Australia

    • says

      Hey Amy!!! YUCK at your fever! I was sick a few weeks ago and ran a low grade temp for the first time in several years and thought I was going to DIE! Hope you feel better!

  13. samantha says

    thank you for sharing your personal lives with us..its nice to know i am not the only one out there that do the same things. hope you have a good week

  14. AmyR says

    I’m a super crazy cleaner when my life spins out of control. And I don’t stop at cleaning and organizing my house. I get my scrapbooks put in order (or as close to “caught up” as I can get them). I also organize all my pictures in their photo albums on Shutterfly. I get my online scrapbooking on Shutterfly caught up (I make an Shutterfly hardbound scrapbook for my daughter for each year of school. So far she has 3 books for each of the 3 years of preschool she has completed, kindergarten is in the works). I’m an organizing fool… and I have a label maker and I’m not scared to use it! :)

  15. Angela says

    Oh, I understand this completely! I am definitely the crazy clean sort. And the sad thing is, I will go for cleaning something that is easy and has an end in sight (like my china cabinet or bathroom cabinet) rather than the things that actually need to be done yesterday, like the firetrap that is currently my office. Sigh!

    Just found your blog and book today and am enjoying both! Thank you particularly for your thoughts about breastfeeding and postpartum depression, two areas that I REALLY struggled with.
    Angela recently posted..Our Little Guy…

    • says

      Hey Angela! I should be SORE ashamed that I am just now commenting! Thank you for your feedback– you can’t possibly know how much it means to me to hear from women like yourself. I felt like I was getting nekkid on the internet talking about all that stuff but it is totally worth it when I get feedback like this! Please leave an Amazon review if you haven’t– it is a huge help to me. And find me on The Facebook so we can chat!

  16. says

    I have been reading your blog for almost 3 hours and feel awesome to know that there are other people out there like me! My house is always kinda clean but not super clean until I know family is coming to visit. Luckily for me they and anybody I know lives 500 miles away so I always get a warning!! ( yay me) I am a welding Inspector not a normal job for a single. Mother of 2 but I get some kind of thrill working in a mans world. After getting off of working picking the kids up from daycare, cooking dinner, bath time(5 minute mommy time) one load of laundry and dishes every night who wants to spend their weekend cleaning when they could be bowling with the kiddos?? I noticed in one of your post you said you shaved your legs in Smith Lake?? I loved Smith Lake super fun! I would love to obtain your book can you please tell me the name of it??

    Thank you for your short stories I’ve been enjoying them very much!


  1. […] The Piles-O-Crap are everywhere. My email inbox. My office (empty boxes that Christmas decorations were stored in.) My brain– I don’t know how to turn it off. There are piles there, lurking, waiting for me to get started on one project so they can jump up and down and scream, “LOOK AT ME!! DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME!!!”  My first instinct is to sleep. My second is to clean my house like Dexter. […]

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