The Heart of Household Help: Motivation to Clean House

The Heart of Household Help: Motivation to Clean House

Motivation to Clean House

Cleaning house is a drag. And the more you live in your house, the more you have to clean. And who lives in their house more than a homeschooling family?

In my reading of productivity materials, there is a lot said for working in your passion, for delegating what is not one of your “core competencies.”

That boils down to: “No one who is successful cleans their own house.” After all, anyone can do it, right? So clearly you are too important to do it yourself – you should do something more useful in the world and pay someone else to do the mundane work around the house.

A couple years ago one thing on one of my lists was to find out how much a weekly housecleaner was and make that amount a blog-income goal: Because clearly blogging is a better use of my time than cleaning my house.

motivation to clean house

As soon as it was written down on my list, I started realizing what a messed up mentality it demonstrated I had. It’s almost (not quite) as bad as “Get a job so I can afford daycare.” If I need a cleaner house, how about I cut back instead of increase blog time and actually – gasp – clean something. I didn’t want to do that because I didn’t value cleaning.

So, of course, I read a book. In fact, Willa did a book club on the book: Keeping House. In that book I became intellectually convinced that housework – not only the results, but even the work itself – was worthwhile and valuable on a number of levels.

So I began seeking the elusive goal of finding satisfaction in housework. And I am still seeking.

Good thing my life is not short on practice material.

So, as I continue to work this out in my own life, I’ll be writing about it weekly through May. Then in June and July on Mondays I want to help us use the summer to get our housecleaning habits – including the children’s – ship shape so we can start a new school year with some traction. Focusing on the daily habits in June will be a lot more helpful come October than a one-time thorough cleaning done in July.

Household Chores as Self-Improvement

motivation to clean house

So why spend all this time and energy on housekeeping? Because, though I’ve tried denying it in the past, the state of the house affects us, affects our families, affects our effectiveness.

Yes, order is foundational. God works with order. God commends order. But I think sometimes we think of this as God blessing us achieving an end-goal of a perfectly orderly house. But what does God Himself do? Bring order out of chaos. Transform. He doesn’t seem to be a fan of a static state in creation.

You know the Martin Luther quote about clean floors?

motivation to clean house

The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays — not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors.

Now, he was commenting on vocations, but it’s easy for us housewives to see the statement and think, “God loves clean floors? Then He almost never loves my home.”

After all, even when I do clean the floors daily, they never stay clean for long.

I think we need to think about it a little differently. We need to say not that God loves clean floors, but that God loves us making dirty floors clean.

See the trick? Suddenly those little footprints, the crumbs, the blowing dust, the fingerprints are not ruining our clean floor which we wanted to please God with. Rather, they are creating another opportunity to please God by working transformation from dirty to clean yet again.

It is when we bring order out of chaos, when we make dirty things clean, that we are imaging God’s work in this world, not when we accomplish ever-so-briefly a moment of attaining our ends.

Delve Deeper

My own thinking along these lines has been brought on not only by the books I’ve read, but also Rachel Jankovic’s articles at Femina and Desiring God. Specifically, “Motherhood is Application” and “The Oxen Are In” helped me immensely.

I’ve also written on this theme before in the series Poetic Housekeeping.

Next Monday I’ll develop more on how to be not only content but perhaps even joyful amidst the daily grind of never-ending housework.

15 Responses

  1. Tracy
    | Reply

    Misty- this made me laugh! I always appreciate how you share your journey toward motherhood and housekeeping and such- so mimics my own! I think we have a lot in common. Yes, I think habits are much more lasting than one-time cleaning extravaganzas. With 5 littles of my own, I have started to realize that those daily habits make such a difference. And yes, thankfully our homes are not short on practice material- ha! Looking forward to your new series!

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      Yes, I used to save most housework until it got bad enough to dedicate a few hours to it, then I’d whirlwind around and go crazy knocking it out. That’s just not feasible anymore and it really isn’t a good strategy. :) It is the daily habits now that make or break the state of our house.

  2. Lisa A
    | Reply

    I have to say up front that I actually like cleaning. I love seeing mess turned into order. When my husband mows the lawn I love to watch the untidy grass become neat and tidy. When I am in a bad mood I almost always feel better after attacking the whole house and putting this back in order (although I can’t do the whole house anymore due to all the other people living here. Now I have to stick to the kitchen when I’m crabby. At least it’s a start).

    My house is most definitely not always clean. With four little kids that’s not possible. And my standard of cleanliness is far from perfect sanitized and sterile. But one book that has helped me tremendously as a housekeeper and homemaker is the book “Home Comforts: the art and science of keeping house”. It’s a reference book, full of details about the “proper” way to take care of household things. But it’s not a snobby sort of book. It’s just a comfortable guide to homemaking written by a woman who loves the subject. So in case you haven’t encountered I thought I’d tell you about it because it’s most definitely a living book. It has helped me to embrace the rhythm and routine of housekeeping more than anything. If you take a look (or if you’ve already read it) I’d love to hear what you think.

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      Yes, with several little people, it’s just not possible for cleaning to last long. Do you have any tips for not being demoralized by that?

      I do own and really enjoy Home Comforts! I was really surprised about how approachable it is and the introduction alone is worth the price of the book, in my opinion. Her “broken windows” theory in the tidying section was very helpful to me, too.

      • Lisa A
        | Reply

        You know, after we moved into our house, I was pregnant for the second time, and I was totally overwhelmed at the idea of keeping up with a whole house rather than just a small apartment. But not long after that I encountered flylady and I think the 2 things that were SO freeing for me were the ideas that cleaning happens regularly and that I could accomplish a LOT in only 15minutes. There is a rhythm to it and as long as I do what I can right now (which is a lot, even with a time set), then, even if it’s not finished/perfect, the opportunity to come to it again will be back and I can do it then.
        One example off the top of my head is glass. Every time I clean the fingerprints and muck off the windows and mirrors they are dirty again within 5 minutes. But I don’t really mind so much anymore because I know that 1) I will do it again next week, and 2) if it gets really bad in any particular spot it will take me a very short time to clean it.
        The same goes for the mess in the house every day. We pick up at the end of the day before bed and even when the chaos gets to the point where I would previously have hyperventilated, I now feel (almost) no stress about it because I know that by the time everyone is in bed neatness will reign once more and we’ll start tomorrow fresh.

        Wow, I just realized that I have so much to say about this, so I guess I’d better stop or I’ll end up writing an essay! But I’m glad you’re writing about this because the subject is near and dear to my heart. :)

  3. Brandy Vencel
    | Reply

    I like your toenail polish. :)

  4. Gina
    | Reply

    Wow. I love the “Bringing order out of chaos” connection, and I’m looking forward to the rest of your posts!

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      Thanks, Gina! I think my house is looking forward to it, too. ;)

  5. SarahD
    | Reply

    I’ve thought about house cleaning from many angles over the years. But this idea that we’re mimicking God by making dirty things clean and bringing order out of chaos is the most compelling thought of them all. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. It’s helped me more than you know. :-) First comment, BTW.

    I envy people who love to clean. I don’t, though I do enjoy the results very much!! And I’ve had so much guilt over this and hate that I have to drag myself to the task each and every week (for the big cleaning, thought I do clean in between too). Housecleaning brings along with it a lot of psychological stuff for me, it’s not even funny. I have been able to let go of some of this.

    My mantra for a while became:

    “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be a blessing.

    Perfectionism kept me from doing many things if I didn’t think I could do them perfectly. Then I started to realize that simple meals, for instance, sometimes brought the most blessing to my family. I thought the simplified meal choices made in haste were really lame, but the others were very blessed by them. I have been able to apply that idea to many areas including housecleaning. “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be a blessing.”

    I’ve also noticed that nothing is more demoralizing to me than exhaustion and the feeling of being rush, rush, rushed (two things that often come hand in hand when it comes to housecleaning). So now, coupled with the idea that it really doesn’t have to be perfect, I really don’t have to rush and completely exhaust myself either. Whatever gets done, gets done. No rush necessary. A break between cleaning the bathrooms and vacuuming to read for 10 minutes, a quick stroll outside in the sun, or a catnap on the couch is the best thing to help me be able to keep going. Breaking it up and NOT rushing has helped me actually be more productive in this area.

    These two things have eased the mental burden cleaning has put upon me. And now my motivation is helped by your insight, Mystie. Thanks. :-)

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      Welcome, Sarah! “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be a blessing.” That is so good! I might have to steal it. :) I struggle with perfectionism, too. Thanks for sharing the tips you’ve found work for you!

  6. Sunny
    | Reply

    Hi, Mystie, this is my first post on your blog, though I emailed you after I downloaded and consumed your ebook Rejoicing in Repetition. My heart almost stopped when I read that God loves to make dirty floors clean. Your journey is my journey, sister! In other words, I’m seeing where you’re going and I want to tag along. Thank you so much!!!

  7. Sunny
    | Reply

    Ooops, I mean, God loves US to make dirty floors clean!

  8. kellyinpa
    | Reply

    I ordered the Keeping House book. A good book will always motivate me to do better:) Great topic Mystie! Looking forward to following along this journey with you. Oh, and to the poster who mentioned cleaning the glass…….when I had littles I always waited until naptime to clean the glass on my doors. It only took a few minutes and that way I had the pleasure of looking through a finger-printless window for a few hours;)

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