Why do we have to train our kids to want to be tidy?
Yes, we need our kids to be polite and respectful of others’ spaces. They need to know the basics of how to clean a floor or a dish or make a bed or whatever, because some day they may be a guest in someone else’s house and when you’re in someone else’s house you need to be a good guest. But why do they need to get uneasy, unhappy, upset, etc. when a room isn’t clean? Isn’t the ability to deal with a little bit of mess a much more important skill than the need to make sure a room is clean?
Many (but not all) women I talk to can’t even comprehend this idea. They look at me like I’m nuts. Eyes narrow. Conversation gets really awkward. Cleanliness really is next to Godliness and is something we should all be striving for and God hates those who don’t clean up after themselves. Usually it’s women who are SAHM or who are WOHM but always stressed out and complaining about not having any time and having husbands who don’t help out enough that are most unable to comprehend the idea. Really, just let things go. It may even help your relationship!
(For some reason, I’ve never met a man, other than the rare case who has been formally diagnosed with OCD, who seems to have this hang-up. A pathology in men is the social norm for women. IBTP. Also: think about the implications this situation has for gender division of chores in a game theoretic framework. The person who cares is the one who does the work. The one who does the housework gets to relax less at home. And bam, you’ve just supported a Gary Becker hypothesis about wage-gender differentials.)
But I think they *can’t* let things go because having things cluttered really bothers them. It gets down deep into the craw. And yet they want their children to have the same disability. The same visceral need to have the place be spotless. As if it’s a virtue.
I don’t mind a house being clean, but I don’t mind it being messy either. Messy houses are more comfortable. Clean houses are more like places one goes to visit. Both have their virtues, but neither one bothers me. Obviously there’s a problem with broken glass, rusty nails, excrement etc… but that kind of thing is not going to be an issue with the average family (even if news reports make that kind of thing seem more common).
We don’t have a house-cleaner. We don’t need our house to be spotless. We don’t need it to be tidy. If company comes, we clean. If stuff is in the way on the floor, it gets moved out of the way. It doesn’t take that much cleaning to make sure that the kitchen and bathrooms aren’t going to be giving anyone salmonella. Things that need to be found in a hurry are organized (like spices or paperwork). But that level of cleanliness sure as heck doesn’t require the fly-lady. Or spending $80/week on a cleaner.
Disclaimer: We are NOT saying there’s something wrong with you if your house is clean. If you have the time or the money and it’s something you value, go for it. But if you don’t have either and it’s stressing you out, we feel bad for you. Sure, one solution might be to somehow find time, money or family support to get things shiny, but another is to work on being more comfortable with something less than perfection. And the ability to live with imperfection is a gift we should give all our daughters (and sons).
Does your house have to be clean? Do you need to train your kids to become neat and tidy? Does a made bed (Gretchin Rubin’s hang-up) or kitchen sink you can see your face in (flylady’s thing) make that stress you didn’t know you had go away? Are you unable to function in a cluttered environment? Do you worry about “what others must think”? Does a messy house make you feel like less of a person… less of a woman?