My Friend Gave Me the Gift of a Housekeeper, but It Was So Much More

In my last post, I told you all about how my friend sent me a housekeeper last week. My husband had been working out of town for nearly 4 1/2 months, and I was overwhelmed by the mess.

Ironically, I love to organize. I love cleaning an organized space.

But if the space is cluttered, I can’t stand to look at it, much less clean it.

I had several bins of clutter sitting in my dining room from where I’d tried to condense the mess so that the housekeeper would have room to work her magic, and wow. What magic she did work.

My floors gleamed. My countertops were pristine. My dishes were washed (which she doesn’t usually do, but did it for me, which blessed me tremendously). Even the AIR smelled like it had been scrubbed to a shine.

I called my mom to gush about the housekeeper’s magic, and about how I felt fresh, fun inspiration to organize, which was the opposite of literally days ago, when I felt like my lungs were squeezed of all its oxygen.

While I yammered on and on about it (my mom is such a great listener), I told her about how the clutter being condensed to baskets and bins made the task so much simpler and easier. That’s when I announced to her that I’d like to try scrubbing my house the way the housekeeper had done … all in one go. If she can do it in two hours in an unfamiliar home, surely I could do it in the same amount of time, once per week, preferably on a Saturday morning (I don’t know why, but when I wake up on Saturday mornings, I am in a powerful cleaning mood).

That’s when I suddenly gasped into the phone like air had just been restored to a drowning body.

In that moment I was suddenly taken back to when the housekeeper had first arrived at my house. She asked me what my “goals” were for her. I spilled to her about how I used to enjoy cleaning, back when I lived by myself. I just couldn’t figure out why I hated it so much now. It changed when I got married, and the space was then shared with another person. It felt like the tasks quadrupled, and I couldn’t figure out why the joy of cleaning had been zapped from my routine. Where was the breakdown? Someone who I love more than anyone else in this world was sharing my life now … so why was it so harder?

I was still sucking air into the phone at this point.

Saying all of this out loud made me realize that this “new” way of cleaning, is actually my OLD way of cleaning, back when I used to actually enjoy it. During the week, I would clean by gathering the clutter into a pile, then putting the pile away. Then Saturday mornings I would get up, play music, and scrub each room clean. It was like a ceremony of love for the space in which I lived. To me, cleaning was a show of gratitude for my home. I specifically remember being on my knees in my bathroom, scrubbing the floors with a sponge because I hated using a mop. I placed my rubber-glove-clad hand on the wall and thanked God for my home, as if the home were an actual member of my family.

When I finished sucking air into the phone and freaking my mom out because she thought something terrible had suddenly happened, I began to shout this revelation to her.

See, when my husband moved into my apartment after we got married, it wasn’t just the space we shared. It was also the systems and routines and responsibilities. He used a mop like most other people do. His method of doing laundry was different. His way of putting away clutter was the opposite of mine. Because the systems clashed, one had to give. So I gave. I changed the way I folded laundry (do you guys realize how hard it is to force yourself to fold laundry differently??). I changed my routine to the way he did things, and because he was a naturally neat person, there was no way that his way could fail.

But it did.

By taking on someone else’s way of cleaning, my system broke down and disintegrated. I no longer enjoyed it. I quickly grew into resenting it. For eleven years of marriage now, I’ve outright hated housework.

Normal couples argue about money, or something big like that. But most of our arguments began about housework.

I saw it as the bane of my existence. When housework would pile up to epic proportions, my husband would jump up and clean house for me to relieve my overwhelm. Although I appreciated what he did, he had NO WAY of knowing that it was something I used to enjoy, and wanted to enjoy again. Having it done for me, however, made me feel even more robbed. This made him feel unappreciated, naturally, which led to resentment coming from both sides. A messy house robbed my husband of feeling peace in the space where he lived. Housework was a needle that constantly jabbed me and threaded stress into my marriage. When we had kids, housework kept me from spending more time with my kids. It kept me from having more time to write. It kept me from watching my favorite TV shows, or hiking, or <insert everything I’ve ever loved here>.

Now, here’s the great irony of all: I blamed housework for being the thing that got between me and everyone/everything I loved, when really, I had just forgotten how to enjoy the work itself.

The words that I shouted into the phone at my mom went something like this: “THAT’S HOW I USED TO DO THINGS! WAY BACK IN THE DAY WHEN I USED TO LOVE IT! COLLECT CLUTTER INTO A PILE TO PUT IT AWAY, AND SAVED THE SCRUBBING FOR SATURDAY MORNINGS! IT’S WHAT I USED TO DO! THIS ISN’T A NEW METHOD THAT I’VE DECIDED TO TRY … IT’S MY OLD WAY OF DOING THINGS! WHY DID I EVER CHANGE??”

My mom just laughed at me, and said she always knew I was a natural organizer, and that I’d always organized with pleasure since childhood.

For nearly a week now, I’ve gotten this house into order, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. All because I decided to do it simply the WAY I DO IT.

That seems to be the story of my life … I know I’m an odd person, and the way I do things isn’t conventional. But as soon as someone tells me I’m doing it wrong, I assume the “right” way must be better, so I change the way I do things, so that I can do them the “right” way. This goes for not only housework, but also exercise, dieting, writing, blogging.

It dawned on me that I created my own way of homeschooling, and it works perfectly, with no sign of burnout, and it’s my way. Not anyone else’s way.

With my new Podcast, The Simple Word, I’m doing things my way, not the way anyone else suggested.

With blogging, I’ve only just recently gone back to the way I like to do things, after YEARS of losing my love for blogging once I switched to doing things the way the experts recommended.

Even unloading the dishwasher … I HATE unloading the dishwasher because I hate pulling out each dish, trying to avoid knocking my chins against the open dishwasher door as I go put that item up, then go back and do the same. I hate it. Hate. It. But not anymore … Just this week I’ve given myself permission to unload that dang dishwasher the way I like to do it, which is taking out every single item, dabbing any extra drops of water with a towel, and stacking it on the counter in categories. Sorting is an unusual source of peace for me that I can’t explain. Then I close the dishwasher when it’s empty, and easily put away every freshly clean dish. Because of this, I’ve kept my sink and countertops free of the accumulation of dirty dishes, because I now put dirty dishes straight into the washer. Another new, weird dish-related thing I do…? I run my dishwasher every night, no matter how full (or un-full) it is. I don’t wait until I have a full load to run it. Those dishes get washed and ready for my morning dishwasher unload. It works so well for me, but makes no sense to my husband! Why would anyone want to run a half-empty dishwasher? He doesn’t care, in the end, however … as long as it works! He just shakes his head and laughs at my weirdness.

Funny. Who’ve thought that having my friend send me a housekeeper would lead to a whole new level of joy in my daily life that is now infiltrating brightness and empowerment into my whole family??

God. God thought it.

And I’m the one who gets to reap the benefits.

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