When people find out that I coach women on home-management skills, they often jump to the assumption that my home is in perfect order all the time. Some are even surprised when they visit and see that we have random stuff scattered all over the house.
Surprise! We are a normal family!
We leave messes behind after we use a space and we procrastinate with our chores just like everybody else.
I just did a quick lap around my house just now and I saw a big batch of Legos spread out in the play area, clothes on my bedroom floor, dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, and a bunch of other stuff that I should probably put away soon.
I am not interested in having a perfectly clean house.
If you’ve ever tried to make your home spotless, you have experienced the futility. By the time you’ve cleaned one room, three other rooms have already begun to disintegrate.
The benefits simply do not outweigh the effort. Not by a long shot.
On the other hand, we can’t give up control completely, right? When a home is too messy, there’s trouble. Things get lost or broken, spaces don’t function well, and home is not a pleasant place to spend time.
Like so many other things in life, tidiness is a spectrum. Where you fall on that spectrum will inevitably be different than the next person.
The real question is: How messy is too messy for you?
In one of my video lessons on house cleaning, I help you establish your own personal Tidiness Baseline.
A Tidiness Baseline is the line between messy and too messy.
It’s the highest level of untidiness that can exist in a space while still allowing that space to be functional and comfortable.
To put it another way: When the mess makes using a space more difficult to use or less enjoyable to spend time in, you’ve crossed the line.
Most people wait until the mess is so bad that they are frustrated and annoyed. The act of cleaning takes more time and effort than they can afford to spend, and cleaning is a negative experience.
Using the baseline approach, the burden of cleaning is lightened. As you sense the mess inching closer to that limit, you can clean up before the line is crossed.
To illustrate, I’ll give you a few examples from my own home . . .
IN OUR PLAY AREA . . . I don’t mind seeing toys, but I hate stepping on them. Since children respond well to visual boundaries, that’s how we set the baseline. As long as all the toys are gathered onto the puzzle piece mat area, that’s clean enough for me. “Get everything back on the mat,” is an easy enough task that my kids don’t feel overwhelmed.
IN OUR KITCHEN . . . I just want enough clean workspace to make my morning coffee, prep lunches, and cook dinner. If I have to shift things over and work around sticky spots, these daily tasks become annoying and I don’t enjoy my day as much. Every night before bed, I take a little time to put just enough things away that I can wake up to a decent workspace.
OUR PAPERWORK . . . I tend to be forgetful. I worry about losing important documents or falling behind on deadlines. So, each day I gather all of the mail that has scattered around the house and put it in my paperwork tray. When the tray is full, I sift through it and take care of anything urgent. I don’t need the tray to be perfectly empty, I just want to make sure I haven’t missed anything crucial.
Each of these baselines aims at the same goal . . .
To make everyday life at home easier and more enjoyable.
There will always be some level of disorder in your home. But, if you set a reasonable Tidiness Baseline, and work to stay on the cleaner side of that line, your home will be clean enough for you.