Day 23: The Janitor Cap – Reality check for the neat freak

Ruthie The Janitor Cap 14 Comments

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day 23 leggo manWhen I first set up housekeeping as a young wife, I prided myself on a spotlessly clean home.

My perfectionistic tendencies went into overdrive as I polished furniture, cleaned sinks, and mopped floors – only not with a mop.

With a toothbrush.

On my knees.

I ran the sweeper every day.

Arranged 68472940 stuffed animals on my daughter’s bed.

And kept a perfectly imaculate, sanitized house.


As more kids entered the picture, I realized they were working against me.

My dream – that anyone could drop by any time and find the house clean and inviting – went up in flames.

And I stressed out.


Cleaning is perhaps the single most familiar role for the mom.

You get it by default.

It seems you either love it or hate it, but either way, it’s gotta be done.

What’s your system?  Do you divide chores, or are you a house slave?  Neat freak, or roll-with-it type gal?


1.  You don’t live in a showcase

The day finally arrived when I lowered the standards.

I remember the thought well.

“You don’t live in a showcase.  You live in a house.  With people.

Very messy people.

Who live here.  With you.”


Once I came to grips and gave grace to myself and my family, I felt a sense of relief.

I did what I could, but if the house was messy and people dropped in, I just let it go.

I decided that they probably just left a messy house.

At least that was my defense mechanism.

Why do we keep up pretense?


2.  Conduct a clean out

Once I relaxed a bit, I realized we still had a problem.

A maintenance problem.

Toys were everywhere.

The house was too small.

We were on top of each other.

You can use every excuse in the book, but the truth of the matter is:

The less stuff you have, the easier it is to keep your space clean. Click To Tweet


My friend, Missy, is the queen of this concept.

She went from 3 kids in a 3 story, 5 bedroom/finished basement home, to 5 kids in a 3 bedroom ranch.

Know how she did it?

She got rid of her STUFF and only kept what her family needed.


The good thing about moving 5 times in 7 years was that I got rid of massive amounts of stuff each time.

Because who wants to move junk?

Sad thing is, I sent a whole box full of important things to Goodwill, never to be seen again.

About 6 months after the move, I wondered as to the whereabouts of my wedding album…and the signed attendance album.  Also Jim’s dress overcoat (totally unrelated to the wedding paraphernalia, but he needed it for work.)

Too late, Margaret.

Ok, extreme case in point.

You may not view it as junk, but if it’s holding you back from staying productive, that is exactly what it is.

Remove the emotional attachments.  Your stuff’s feelings will not be hurt if you pitch it.

If you haven’t used it in the last year, chances are, it’s taking up much needed space you could be using otherwise.

Thin out your junk.  It’s a freeing experience!


3.  Enlist the troops

day 23 falling guyYou are not a slave.  You are the overseer, and the people living with you are going to make messes.

They are also going to clean them up.


Delegate chores.

Little ones can help fold towels and put them away, wash dishes and put their clothes in drawers.

Older kids can rake leaves and run the sweeper.

Everyone should be responsible for their rooms – even a toddler can learn to pick up toys.

Involve the family.


Find a system that works for you  – read books and articles on the subject of housekeeping and get busy.


Get on top of paperwork.

Purchase a file cabinet and folders.

Sort the mail when it comes, throwing away what you won’t use.

Keep one pile, but when it get a certain height, (say – 4 feet), it’s time to clear it.

(That’s a joke, by the way.  Also, a pile may grate on your nerves – that’s cool.  I’m just tossing out ideas to give grace when you’re out of options.)

(I have a pile.)


Develop a laundry system

I purchased 3 hampers for the kid’s bathroom:

1 white (whites)

1 blue (darks)

1 red (pinks/reds/oranges)

Every night when the kids took a bath, they put their clothes in the respective hampers.

On laundry day (which was actually every day), the clothes were already sorted.

Once the kids got old enough, I taught them to wash their own clothes.

While I kicked back and watched HGTV.

There’s no rule that says, “Because you are the mom, you must do all the work all of the time.”


Give yourself the gift of help. Trust me, you'll be a nicer mom. Click To Tweet


4.  Make lists

This was the shining star in my up-keep of the house.

Each kid had a list.  As they worked through it, they checked off tasks.  When they were done, they were free.

They liked this system a lot, and so did I.

Because let’s face it – when you tell a kid to do 3 things, he’ll never make it past the first one.

They don’t have the capacity to remember what you said because truthfully, they don’t want to.

Take the time to write it down – it’ll save you a headache in the long run.

They get tired of your nagging. Give it a rest.

I mean seriously – have you ever heard your own recorded voice?

This is why I don’t have a podcast.

You’re welcome.


5.  Set a timer

Do you know how long it takes to unload the dishwasher?

Or clean the bathroom sinks?

Or sweep the porch?

Time it.  Do this with the kids, too.  Not to encourage sloppy work, but more efficiency.

It’s actually kinda fun.

You’ll get more done in less time, and everyone will be happy!


6.  Get your jam on

I always worked alongside my kids when I gave out lists.  We accomplished our lists together.

And we played the music loud.

Everyone got into it, there was dancing and mayhem and laughter and silliness, and we knocked it out.

Make it fun for your kids.

Chores don’t have to be a dreaded disease that everyone hates.


7.  Worst first

day 23 cleaning productsThis was always always ALWAYS my motto.

You know what I hate doing most?

Mopping floors.

Hate.  it.

(I don’t even use a toothbrush anymore.)

But with this method, I get it done first thing in the morning.

BAM.  Overwith.

Teach your kids this too.

What chore do you loathe entirely?


***Bonus:  Best kept secret***

Keep the front room of your house clutter-free.

I found this little tip several years ago after we built our home.

I was in love with my foyer (having never had one) and wanted it to look neat and seasonally decorated.

If you don’t have an entryway, keep the first 1-2 rooms near the front door picked up.

That way, you’re not embarrassed to death if the neighbor comes calling.

(You know – the one with the messy house.)



Give your family grace to live life in their home. Every 6 months, have a clean-out of toys, clothes, and other unnecessary accumulated junk.  Hand out responsibilities for upkeep.  Make lists, set a timer, blast the music, and do the worst first.  Keep the front two rooms of the house clean.

And take time to enjoy your kids.  Remember – this is their home too.

What are your housekeeping secrets?  I’d love to know!


Day 24: The Thinking Cap!



Comments 14

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  1. Love this…and could so relate on so many levels! Now that I am retired, and only my hubby and I, you’d think keeping the apartment – yes! apartment…we moved from a 4 bedroom/ 2 bath house with a nice back yard…thing is, the whole place was in major dis-repair because of our age, health, and no finances to fix it up! So, I relate to the clutter; I have it! I relate to the “piles of paperwork”…mine hasn’t hit the ceiling yet, so it still sits! And, I would BET a lot of it could now be thrown away!

    Sorry about your wedding album and sign-in book; it would seem they’d still have it or try to find who it belonged to?! No, I guess they wouldn’t bother! Actually, when we were cleaning out stuff from our garage, my husband took it upon himself to give away some things; one of them was an iron doll bed that my grandfather had made…my daughter was going to take it; I just hadn’t gotten it to her yet. Oh, well! Gone gone gone!

    I really enjoyed yur writing and how you broke up the fonts and the highlighted areas; also the “tweet” portions; I don’t “tweet” so I don’t do that!

    Stopping by from the 5 for 5 sharing for the 31 dayers!

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      It’s hard to downsize but at least you don’t have as much stuff as before, right? Yeah and the wedding album – that was over 20 years ago so I doubt they still have it…oh well, we know we’re married and it’s on file at the court house. Going strong for 28 plus years! I’m sorry about your move and your iron doll bed. When we lose stuff like that it does hurt in the pit of your stomach, but it is just stuff and not eternal, thankfully!
      Thanks so much for your kind and supportive words, Barbara, I really enjoyed you taking the time to share your “stuff” story!

  2. Oh sister, this is perfect for me today. I am sitting here counting the number of dust bunnies accumulated from kids dust, dog dander and crumbs from my two tornadoes. “And I say to myself, it’s a wonderful life.” Not so fast, I’ve given up trying to keep it clean, dust free. When they are gone for the day, I go to it. Clean the house and sit back enjoying it till the door opens and it begins all over again. I like a clean house. Actually I need a clean house. It is my control. I’m losing that control as long as these extra 5 breathing, loud, messy people stick it out in my house. See, I’m venting. Okay, thank you for the reminder on this. This old girl needed to be put in her place. You need to turn these 31 Hats into a book. Truly.

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      Girlfriend! I feel ya. Clutter and dirt makes me nervous, especially in the main living areas of the house. You made me laugh with your “wonderful life” comment lol. You keep cleaning while they’re gone because I know that makes you feel at least somewhat better! “5 breathing, loud, messy people – LOLOLOLOL
      I love you! Hang in there, girl, we can do this!
      And yes, this is going into book form. Once I figure out how…;)

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      It was one of my better ideas of the things I tried down through the years! I was proud of myself for coming up with it on my own. Thanks for stopping by again today,Sarah!

  3. I love your posts too Ruthie. (Like the commenter above.) I think letting go of things a bit AND conquering the paper and book monsters are the most important things for me. We seem to have books and papers everywhere, so I try to use that STACK or PILE filing system you’re talking about, and go through it every couple of days to throw things out.

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      Betsy, I so appreciate you. I need to visit you as well very soon! I hear you on the books and papers. The homeschool years can make them really add up, plus your husband probably has lots of books as well in his profession. Paper work is the absolute WORST and I hate it. Always fighting the paper clutter! Yeah – the pile system. Seems to work best for me – why not? (I hide it around a corner in my kitchen.;) Thanks for stopping by to chat!

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  4. Thank you so much for these tips, they were so helpful! As a stay-at-home mom with two kids, ages one and three, I’ve found it nearly impossible to keep my house clean, so we finally gave in and now get someone to clean the living spaces in the house twice a month. That has been a HUGE load off. I really look forward to the day when the kids will actually be able to help out a little bit, and not just scatter my newly swept piles of dirt all around the kitchen!

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      Oh girl. I hear you loud and clear there. I remember that era SO WELL. You’ve done well by getting help – in fact, I’m considering that around here myself. I’m glad you found some help in this post! Just little things I learned along the mom-trail! 🙂

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