My favorite battles to fight are the ones you can fight with words; anyone who has read my blog for very long knows what I mean by that, I'm sure.
But every now and again I find myself mired in a different kind of battle: the War on Dirt. I'm not alone in this battle: every mom fights it, and quite a few dads get involved in it too. Children are reluctant draftees in this war much of the time, but they can be motivated to take action against the ubiquitous foe; motivated, or sometimes bribed.
I've been fighting this battle today, which is why I haven't had time to blog. But like any commander in a protracted war against a wily and resourceful enemy, I've been pondering the need for a change in tactics.
Seasoned homeschooling moms will know what I'm talking about (and I'm sure the non-homeschooling moms have similar experiences, too). Every so often we find that our usual strategies against dirt, clutter, and so forth just aren't cutting it any more. Routines or cleaning schedules or chore charts which have worked smoothly for months or even years are suddenly ineffective. Sometimes it takes a crisis (of the sort where mom, depending on her personality and hair color, either stomps around the house shouting words like "filthy" into the unresponsive air, or stomps around the house muttering these same words in half-syllables that make her puzzled children wonder just what language she's speaking) before mom realizes that the well-oiled engine of her home-cleaning efforts has somehow broken down on the job.
That's the kind of mood I've been in today. The sudden shock of realizing that our long-time strategy of doing one big housecleaning session every Friday afternoon, supplemented by plenty of spot-cleaning and tidying during the week, was wholly inadequate to keep the house clean made me rather grumpy and irritable, I'm sorry to say. I may have fussed, rather. I may have developed a temporary martyr complex, and gone around sighing much of the evening as I swept, mopped, scrubbed, and vacuumed, turning down sincere offers of help with a somewhat put-upon air. Only my confessor will know for sure.
But if I did do any of those things, it was because I was annoyed with myself--annoyed at letting things get rather out of hand before coming to my senses and admitting that no, our long-time strategy which had become quite routine and comfortable was not enough anymore. It's way too easy to let routines get comfortable, and to fail utterly to notice when more clutter or more grime than usual starts to accumulate.
And I was especially annoyed because this is not the first time this sort of thing has happened. In fact, my cleaning efforts usually fall under two main headings: the big cleaning day with a little spot cleaning type as described above, and the "break up the big day's worth and do a little of it each day" type which worked well when my children were toddlers.
My girls are teen/preteen, not toddlers, now. And they do help, a lot, around the house. But this school year, which includes a first-year high school student who's still trying to sort out how she feels about things like algebra and Spanish and high-school level science, is becoming very time-intensive compared to previous years. We have a lot to do, and we work until fairly late in the afternoon each day--and by the time Friday rolls around, no one, including Mom, really wants to spend the hours from about 4 p.m. until dinnertime cleaning every room in the house.
So it makes sense to go back to organizing things the way I did when they were toddlers and I had to work around nap times. It would be a lot less stressful to break apart the "big clean" into daily manageable chores than to have to spend a large amount of time on one day of the week trying to get it all done. And if I'd realized that earlier, I probably could have avoided the whole "stomping around" thing.
But like many people, I'm a creature of habit. The Friday cleaning session has worked for quite some time now, and is especially efficient in the summer (which I may have to remember when next summer rolls around). It was hard to admit that it wasn't working anymore.
It was harder to clean about 3/4 of my house while sustaining an unjustified bad mood. But that's our secret.