Monday, January 6, 2014

The Clutter Conflict

January is often a time for new goals - like organizing! I've enjoyed learning to know Flo through my writer's group and she shares her perspective of organization and priorities.

The Clutter Conflict
by Florence Fox

As a teenager, I had definite opinions on what constituted a clean house. I knew that housekeeping required effort, because I came from a big family. But the bonus was how little time it took to clean when we tackled it together. So my patience was thin when I entered the homes of moms with young children. How could they stand shoes all over the rug? Toys covering the living room floor? And the sink filled with dirty dishes—my biggest pet peeve—despicable! 

Time brings changes, and for me it was no less true. God brought a wonderful man into my life, and we committed our lives for better or for worse. Two and a half years later, God gave us a baby boy. He turned out to be equal parts blessing and adjustment—he had colic. Our dreams of rocking a cooing, smiling infant vanished as we took turns bouncing and walking with our screaming new family member.

Housekeeping definitely took second priority during the first year of his life. But with just three people in our home, the housecleaning didn’t suffer too much. However, overnight guests were a common occurrence at that time since we lived a distance from both of our families. When my husband came home from work, he would spend the evening pacing with the baby while I tackled housecleaning. It took more effort than before, but I prided myself that a spotless house was still attainable. Other moms just didn’t try hard enough, or else didn’t mind the dirt. 

Our firstborn always demanded attention; I never was sure when he outgrew his colic. When he was two-and-a-half-years-old, God gave us a darling baby girl. She was much more content then her brother, but caring for two children was still an adjustment. It was twice as hard as before to complete the scouring that I deemed necessary. After a long work day my husband was exhausted, and entertaining two children so I could clean was not a good way to unwind. It bothered my conscience how obsessed I was becoming. His comments of: “Why don’t you just sit down for the evening” or “You’ve done enough for today; there’s always tomorrow” did not go by unnoticed. 

I determined to be less consumed by the C word. Surely there was more to life then slaving away indoors. One day as I walked in from getting the mail, I was struck by the beauty of God’s big world. Why didn’t I enjoy it more? Because I thought I didn’t have time. It was too important to me that people thought of me as a clean person. But was that really how I wanted to be remembered? Wouldn’t there be so much more satisfaction in taking time for people? Other people spent less time indoors then I did and they didn’t seem any less happy. If anything, they seemed more at peace about life. I determined to be more relaxed about my approach to housework.

But what really drove that realization to the depths of my heart was a short story I scanned sometime later. In examination of a prospective foster parent home, a social worker found a house that almost didn’t meet criteria, because it was too clean. Her concern was that children would be hampered in their ability to play and develop because of the fastidious atmosphere. 

Did I want my children to suffer at the expense of my reputation? Would I someday regret that I hadn’t spent more time playing with them instead of working? 

I thought of two of my friends with dishes in the sink. The children didn’t seem to suffer because of patient dishes. Their children were secure and well-adjusted in the carefree aura their moms helped create. Wasn’t that what I wanted for my children? Didn’t I desire a relaxing haven for my husband to come home to?

I wish I could say I’ve learned to always put my children first. Practicing new priorities takes time, though I have learned to take a more tolerant approach to housecleaning. I do not clean scrupulously every week. A more thorough cleaning one week allows me to skim quickly the next. And if even that much isn’t possible, well, (this is my dirtiest secret) we make a swipe at the worst parts of the house and pretend that we did it all. A relaxed atmosphere contributes more to the good of the family than dust-free furniture. I still love a clean house, but more important to me than gleaming mirrors is contented children. My new motto: There is more to life then cleaning.

Life is too short to consume with something that will not matter in eternity. My list of priorities starts like this: My husband, my children, and somewhere way down is cleaning. You get the idea. And I reap the benefits of sweeter relationships. 

Have you ever found that you needed to adjust the priorities of your life?

Florence lives in the northwoods of Michigan with her husband and three preschoolers. Her hobbies are writing and baking coffee cakes. A few  months ago she published a book titled My First Deer Hunt. This is a children’s story about the time her husband took their oldest son (then four-years-old) to the woods for his first hunting trip. The story is illustrated with real photos, and professionally designed. Told from a child’s viewpoint, this account will entertain and educate young children who love wildlife. If you would like to order a copy, email Flo at The cost for one book is $8.99 plus $2 shipping and handling.


  1. My mother was not a good housekeeper. She was plagued by what her mother would think "If she were alive" There were times as children that we were embarrassed by the state of our house and yard. But I forgive her! I remember Mom spreading out a blanket on the backyard lawn, as we kids wondered what on earth she was doing. We were told to get our lunch and bring it outside. What a fantastic idea! As we digested our p & j sandwiches and watched ladybugs climb in the grass, I heard my Mom say , "I don't think the kids will remember the dishes in the sink, but they'll remember this!" I don't know, she may have been talking outloud to her Mother, but I've never forgotten, and thank God for her! She was right!

  2. It's amazing how "clean" a house can look if the floors are swept! And one thing I have tried to do less over the years is, when someone comes, don't make a big deal over your lack of cleaning, etc. It makes it uncomfortable for the guest, and very likely, if you are a gracious, welcoming host, your guests will remember that and not your imperfect house. I hope I can pass on some good housekeeping ethics to my daughters, but not at the expense of neglecting a good relationship with them. May God especially bless the mothers with young ones with the needed grace to accept the undone household tasks and the wisdom and energy to get the (seemingly) necessary things done!


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