On Cleaning: Who Whistles While They Work?

As a writer, few things are more pleasing than when people are blessed by my words.  I am humbled by the feedback that I have gotten most recently regarding my posts about common mistakes and things I wish I’d known, etc.   Yet, somewhere in the midst of coming off as the alleged know-it-all (unintentionally, of course), there is an aspect of blogging that can go unchecked in the midst of all the praise and glory: transparency.  The apostle Paul states it so very eloquently:

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,…Philippians 3:13

Charlotte Mason speaks very plainly about home education being an ‘atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.’   As much as I believe in the power of this statement, I will confess that there are areas, like neatness, where we don’t have as much discipline or an atmosphere that I can appreciate.  Just last week, I walked by each of our children’s rooms and contemplated a wholescale reduction in the numbers of people in this house!   And now, after I have cooled down a bit, I still continue to ponder this question:

How do I get the kids to care about keeping the house clean and neat?

By User:Mysid (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commonsthen



Of course, when I consider my own perspective on neatness, I will be the first to say that I’ve never been a Flylady or other such organized type of homemaker.   I don’t dance with a broom, and I daresay that my temptation to put off sprucing up here and there in favor of work or a family outing gets annoying, even to me.  I don’t recall being able to eat off the floors when I was a kid, but my mother kept a fairly neat house.   Moreover, she had a “right way” of doing things.   So even as an adult with my own household, I still find myself making hospital corners on the beds, as she did during her nursing career.   I still fold our towels in thirds.   And thanks to my meticulous Aunt Liz, I know the proper placement of the ironing board and the placement of said item needing ironing (even if I don’t iron much–one of many blessings of being a home educating parent).   Yet, with two adults with decidedly different cleaning habits and styles in the home, I’ve not made it a priority to teach the kids those details.   I’m just happy when they get their folded clothes off the couch so that our family room is no longer their second closet.

Having said all of that, there are some foundational principles that I have about cleaning, neatness, and about a home in general:

  1. Neatness and cleanliness are two very different aspects of household management; in order for the house to look clean, it must also be neat.
  2. Being a homeschooling family means that the house is in use all day.  I should not expect our home to be museum-ready at all times.  (This was a major realization for me).
  3. However, there is a certain level of clutter and chaos in which a home is no longer functional–when items are easily lost and/or forgotten.   This is unacceptable.
  4. Homeschooling or not, this house still has purpose and function.  We should be able to eat and live without constantly having to move items about in order to do so (this speaks to beds, kitchen counters, couches, tables, etc.).  To do less is totally unacceptable.
  5. Cleanliness is not next to Godliness; yet, a significant part of my ministry to my family, and our collective ministry to those around us, is that we can offer each other a place to dwell–to be comfortable, to enjoy without the stress of clutter, and to feel at home.

So, where am I with all of my pondering?

First, I realize that I, too, didn’t “get it” when I was a kid.   There were those teenage years when I wanted my room to look a certain way, and so I cleaned my room.   Nothing else unless asked, which is right about where our son is.

Second, yes, Mom, one day I did have at least two that are just like me.   So I do as you did: sometimes ask, sometimes demand, and every now and then, reprimand.

Thankfully, Paul offers me grace in the remaining portion of his words:

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:14

(She then gets off the computer to go outside and clean coolers that have lain dormant in the kitchen floor since last week’s trip to the fish market.  Oh, boy.) 


How do you manage the kids’ attitude toward cleaning?   How have you had to change your own thinking/ training regarding your homes’ appearance?


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