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I’ll Sweep Later: Finding the Clean House Balance

Laundry, Legos and the right amount of mess

“My house will never be clean again!” A regular mom of a one-year-old might begin here with this statement.

It’s where I planned to start anyway, inspired by this month’s issue that includes articles discussing the benefits of getting our kids involved in chores and tips on how to organize all their Legos and tiny socks like a pro, because it’s finally spring and the fresh new season seems to give the majority of us the urge to sweep out the dust, wipe the hand prints off the sliding glass door or at least clean the smashed and crusty old peas out from under the high chair seat.

Yeah, I wanted to blame this mess on the toddler, but then I looked around at the piles of folded laundry that had been waiting since last week’s laundry day to be put away, realizing then that it was laundry day again and, well…

I can’t blame this entirely on her.

I don’t think my house was ever clean.

But if I can’t blame it on the baby, then I think I can at least blame part of this mess on my husband, the carpenter, whose big money-saving-do-it-ourselves right-down-to-the-plumbing mentality has found me living in home renovation and construction zones since we were married over ten years ago.

It’s funny how a person gets used to power tools on the coffee table. And how we quickly learn to train our eyes to fill in the gaps where the baseboards will go someday, maybe when the last kid’s out of the house, or, you know, we host a retirement party here or something.

Seriously, add the sawdust from the endless house building project to the poop that tracks in on our boots from the cow pastures, mix in the giant mud puddle the spring thaw has formed in our driveway and I’d say we currently have ourselves a regular before photo in one of those Swiffer ads.

I could buy a condo in Costa Rica for the amount of money it would cost me to clean my floors with those little pads. I tried it once. I went through three just getting down the hallway…

Anyway, my never-ending battle with the laundry and the elements started to bother me a bit more since becoming a mother. At first I couldn’t put my finger on why that would be, besides the fact that mothering is much easier when you have special designated places for things like pacifiers and sippy cups. (Why can’t I ever find the sippy cup?!) But then I realized pretty quickly that 90% of mothering is just bending over and picking things up off of the floor and so, consequently, upon the birth of my first child, I became more aware of those floors.

And also, I simply spent more time in the house.

Before becoming a work-from-home mom to a baby, I didn’t realize how much of my life was spent outside, on the road, in town, in the office and away from home.

I remember looking around the house after being home with her for a few weeks and realizing how pathetic and dire our hand-me-down furniture situation actually was.

And if motherhood hasn’t completely turned me into a master housekeeper, I will say it’s helped my interior decorating skills.

But here’s the thing, I’m hesitant to be apologetic about a little (ok, sometimes a lot) of dirt on the floor. It was impossible to be raised in an overly sanitized environment out here at the ranch, and frankly, I think the age-old saying “a little dirt never hurt,” still holds true in our sometimes over-sanitized world.

And while I believe in doing the dishes after supper, putting toys away before bed and trying to get those clothes in their drawers, I’ve never been one to worry too much about inadvertent juice box squirts or pillow forts that linger too long in the living room.

Because sometimes the best times in our life make the biggest messes.

So as long as I can teach my daughter to treat her things with respect, to chip in with those dishes, and, eventually, where to find the rag when she lets the muddy dog in the house, then I think that’s the balance I need to strike to survive out here.

Oh, and a few tips on how to organize all the Legos and tiny socks wouldn’t hurt.

Happy Spring!

Written by Jessie Veeder

Jessie Veeder

Jessie is a singer/songwriter/writer and statewide columnist living on her family’s ranch near Watford City with her husband and daughter. She blogs at veederranch.com . Reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com. (facebook.com/veederranch)

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