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.

My First Experience with a Housekeeper

Last week, I had someone do something amazing for me.

I have a precious friend … she’s someone who I can be completely honest with, show my true colors to, and she loves me and accepts me anyway. More than once while Kris was out of town, I called/texted her and expressed overwhelm for basically everything. The fact that I couldn’t sleep, the pounds I had gained, how difficult it was to manage the kids alone, how much I missed my husband. The emotional burden seemed to have manifested physically in the form of clutter, piles, dirty laundry, the dirt on my floor, the smudges on the counters, the dishes in the sink. I just couldn’t seem to get on top of the housework.

I was drowning.

But last week, something drastically changed. Last week my friend did something to relieve my overwhelm (as if listening to me empathetically and lovingly wasn’t enough!).

She sent a housekeeper to my home.

When she called me to tell me that she’d arranged this, I cried. Like, the high-pitched-voice-snorting-in-the-phone crying and I thanked her as if she’d just handed me six million dollars.

Because that gift was as valuable to me as a six-million-dollar wad of cash.

When the housekeeper showed up at my door, I’d already been trying to condense the clutter into baskets/bins/boxes and whatever empty container/drawer I could find. But still, stuff was everywhere. I was convinced she wouldn’t have anything to clean because there was just. so. much. stuff.

I packed a backpack and took the boys to the library where we had school in a study room. It’s a refreshing change of scenery, anyway. I tried to ignore my anxious thoughts, thinking it would take the poor girl all day to clean my house.

Two hours later, she called me to tell me she was pulling out of the driveway, all done.

“You cleaned my whole house in only two hours?”

I could hear the smile in her voice. “Girl, you talk like your house is impossible right now, but I’m serious when I say, you’ve got this. Your house is totally manageable.”

She proceeded to give me advice right off the top of her head … advice that I absorbed like a sponge, and it clicked in my heart. It made so much sense.

“Pick two rooms that are important to you in your house. Keep those two rooms clean, and be more relaxed with the rest. As far as the clutter that you told me you are drowning in … you’ve already got it into bins. Put away one pile/bin per day, and your house will be flawless in a week.”

I swallowed back the emotion and thanked her over and over.

About an hour later, we were home. I walked into the door to gleaming floors. Pristine countertops. It smelled like she’d even cleaned the air. She even WASHED MY DISHES, Y’ALL.

I took a deep breath, and tears stung my eyes.

Now here’s a side note: When I’m overwhelmed with housework, I don’t wish for someone to help me with the work, or for someone to do it for me. Instead, I find myself wishing for someone to keep the kids while I do my own housework. Because … you’ll think this is crazy … I actually ENJOY it.

Since childhood, I’ve always loved organizing. It’s like a puzzle to me, and I feel like I can breathe easier when everything is neat. It’s not just the “being organized” part that I enjoy … it’s the process of organizing, as well. It’s just something God put in me that is fun. I enjoy organizing so much that, y’all, one of my absolute favorite books is Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Even the BOOK ITSELF is so beautifully tidy.

I give you permission to sit back and give me the most epic eye roll in the history of eyeballs.

Somehow, though, this scenario was different. My friend said she felt that God led her to do this. She named a day where it was laid on her heart.

I remember that day. It was a day where I stood in my kitchen and cried because my house was such a wreck, it not only made daily life more difficult, but it also heaped stress onto my already hurting heart. I had asked God what to do, and He was silent.

He was silent to me, but He wasn’t silent to her.

My soul was in pain.

That was the day my friend decided she’d like to do this for me.

Something stirred inside of me as I looked around at my newly scrubbed house. I suddenly looked at all the piles of clutter differently. Instead of seeing it as something stealing my oxygen, I saw it as a game. A mission.

I felt the joy of organizing brewing in my spirit.

That very day, I got to work. The boys kept themselves entertained. They played. They got along.

The next day, I woke up three minutes before my alarm feeling excited … after school, the organization continued. I began to look at closets with a lens of possibility. I no longer saw the messes … I saw ideas.

I made bigger messes as I pulled things from shelves, sorted them, and put them back. I pulled open drawers and did the same. I shifted through closets. I bagged up clothes and shoes … NINE trash bags in total … and rolled them down the stairs to the garage, ready for donation.

And I enjoyed every freeing minute of it.

This endured for three solid days, and is still going each day right now.

I’m having a blast, y’all.

It’s so much more than a new inspiration to organize, though. When I called my mom yesterday, something so deep and meaningful struck me. I couldn’t help but shout in the phone at what I’d just realized.