Whine: Had an unfortunate “streaking” experience today at church. Meaning that Big Sis took herself to the restroom (All! By! Herself!) and when she needed assistance, came running out of the restroom and across the foyer (did I mention that the “foyer” is a big open space covered with glass windows that face directly into the parking lot?) with her pants closer to her knees than to her bottom. Luckily almost everyone had cleared out before the “full moon” appeared.
Cheese: Didn’t you read the last paragraph? She went to the restroom all by herself, well, almost. I’ll take that (with or without the full moon) any day of the week.
I am a housewife. A stay-at-home-mom. A domestic engineer, if you will. Yet since I began this career over four years ago, I have had a chronically cluttered house. More days than not I’ve lived with the fear that my laundry pile may actually get taller than me, grow arms and legs and suffocate me in my sleep (although the arms and legs would not be necessary, as the smell of sweaty socks is usually sufficient for suffocation.) Attempts to make dinner often forced me to trek across my sticky kitchen floor that could double as flypaper only to arrive at a fridge whose distant regions were best left alone. And my dishes. Usually piled in the sink, sometimes rinsed off, growing until my choice was to load the dishwasher (which was only eighteen inches away) or call in a Hazmat team.
Oh, I somehow managed to restore order every so often, so that when invited guests arrived, I at least looked like someone who believed Louie Pasteur’s germ theory. But spontaneous visits by friends often elicited many apologies and a strong “enter at your own risk” warning.
The stress of having to hide my laundry in the guest room and hope that noone ever looked too deeply into my fridge drove me crazy. I always wanted to be like my clean friends, what with their clean laundry and empty sinks, but I’m just not one of “those people.” I’ve tried a million times to “get my act together” and to no avail. I run out of steam after just a few days of trying to be something I’m not (i.e., perfect).
And then over Christmas, I had a conversation with one of “those people.” You know, the friend who always remembers your birthday, always sends a thank-you note within days of receiving a gift, and generally doesn’t eat soup straight from the can for lunch. Luckily I’ve known and loved this friend since high school (i.e., the time of braces, bangs and marching band), so I know she likes me even though we’re, well, different. In the course of our conversation that night she made a passing remark about how she runs her dishwasher every night before she goes to bed.
The conversation quickly moved on to other more interesting topics, but a little light went on in my brain. She runs her dishwasher every night? What if it’s not full? How can she run it if she knows that she could probably jam two more sippy cups in there if she was creative? I do not understand.
But I went home that night and decided that I would make January “clean dishes” month. I didn’t make a New Year’s Resolution, because mine usually involve overhauling every aspect of my life so that I can be Supergirl’s better looking older sister. I just decided to try this new idea every day in January. I even made a chart, so I could check off the days. Because checking things off makes me happy. And if, after the month was over I had succeeded in my new venture, I would give myself a reward.
Which is embarrassing. I’m thirty-two years old and I needed a reward to wash my dishes.
But you know what? It worked. Instead of getting ready to make dinner, then, being rebuffed by the stack of dirty dishes and ordering out, I could walk into my kitchen and actually make dinner. And what I walked away from this month knowing is that most of the time, it’s the little things that count.
A little remark made in conversation. A little more effort toward running my dishwashwer regularly. Little things that have changed a lot of bigger things. Now the whole house stays cleaner because I’m not overwhelmingly paralyzed by the menacing glares from the row of stinky sippy cups. Now we eat out a lot less because I can find my frying pan clean and in its rightful place instead of as a storage receptacle for old bacon grease. Now we enjoy being at home because sitting in the living room doesn’t seem to involve rearranging large piles of stuff to make a space. Isn’t that interesting?
But if I had resolved to keep the whole house clean in January (or heaven forbid, for the year), the first time I fell off the wagon, which would have been almost immediately, I would have chucked the whole idea and given up. So instead of trying to be perfect, I decided to do what I can.
Little things. They really add up. I have a lot more to say about this topic, but in the spirit of little things, I’m going to stop here and pick up where I left off another day.