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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Golden Rule of Housework

I learned the most important thing I know about housework from the Husband.

Little does the Husband know, over the years he has reinforced what I now consider the golden rule of housework. It is the key to staying on top, and most definitely, the first step to domestic peace of mind.

The Husband’s all important secret is this: “Put your stuff away.”

I’m a little embarrassed to admit the numerous times I have heard this statement (or some variation of it) from the Husband. Many times he hasn’t said anything at all, resorting instead to a more passive aggressive tactic that goes something like this: He cleans up; then I stumble in a few minutes later and find all my stuff stuffed into closets and drawers.

“Hey,” I cry in disbelief. “I had all this stuff organized into piles. It’s going to take forever to sort through it all again.”

I think this is a logical argument, but you might be able to guess his reply: “ have to put your stuff away!”

Now that I work at home, the Husband and I seldom encounter this scenario. (Maybe he’s given up on me?), but that doesn’t mean his “training” didn’t sink in.

I wish I could say, now that I’m home, all my stuff is put away, but this is not always the case.

Although I like the old proverb “a place for everything, and everything in its place,” it doesn’t always come naturally to me. When stuff slowly starts to clutter the house, I make excuses for it. That stack of papers on the kitchen counter is there because I need to sort through them. My shoes are by the back door because I’m going to wear them out tonight. The vacuum is in the living room because I intend to vacuum tomorrow. (Why should I haul it down to the basement when I’ll just have to haul it back up in the morning?)

The clutter builds, and I start to overlook it. In fact, at times I stop seeing it! And soon something else happens that I cannot see -- but I sure can feel it. I become stuck, blocked, overwhelmed by all that stuff, and it becomes so much harder to dig myself out and get back on top again.

"Jaelithe...put your stuff away!"

Every day has its own rhythm and some days that rhythm might lead me to defer picking up my stuff. Picture it, my house, a couple weeks ago: I went shopping, came home, threw the cold stuff in the fridge and left all the other purchases on the dining room table. (Remember the photo from a previous post

That stuff had to hang out on the table for a while, because as soon as I got home I had to feed the Bear lunch, put her down for a nap, start dinner, pay a few bills, etc., etc. And hey, I’m just glad I was able to take care of the shopping that day because we were running low on milk and I needed nighttime diapers and a gift for an upcoming birthday party.

What I’m trying to say through this illustration is...I try to avoid getting all bent out of shape simply because I have some stuff to pick up. Instead, I make allowances for myself and accept that sometimes a messy house is inevitable.

Nevertheless, I’ve realized that in my house clutter seems to breed more clutter, which can then make me really tired and super unmotivated. When this happens, I make it my goal to put my stuff away asap, because I know from experience that a de-cluttered house tends to energize and motivate me so much more than a cluttered one.

Sometimes I take a look around the house and imagine what the Husband would say: "Jaelithe...until you are going to look at those papers, wear those shoes, run that vacuum...put it all away!"

Truth be told...despite my best intentions, I rarely vacuum “tomorrow” as I’d planned and the vacuum has a way of cluttering up my house for days.

“Oh holy crap, just put it away!”

Stay tuned for more thoughts on stuff, where to put it, and how to convince your spouse/partner/roommate etc. that you really can stay on top of the housework after all...

(Or not. Whatever.)



  1. I try to be clutter free, but it is impossible.
    I also have a serious case of the "I'll vacuum tomorrow so I'll leave it out. Why roll up the cord?".

    I am married to a former Navy OCD anti-clutter specialist though. He's fighting a losing battle.

  2. I hate to roll up the vacuum cord! Maybe the Husband and your Navy OCD anti-clutter specialist should get in touch and develop a better strategy...My spouse, like yours is fighting a losing far!