What I’ve often seen floating around the internet is the concept that there are more important things in life than housecleaning. Anyone can easily find quotes along the lines that a clean house is the sign of a life unlived, or that it is drudgery and boring to partake in, or some even seem altruistic with dainty poems created to emphasize how being with your family/friends is more important than cleaning up after them (or yourself) that seem to go viral every once in a while on social networking sites. Stated that way, very few could argue differently. However when you look closely at what home maintenance supports and the consequences of neglecting the chores associated with it, it is also easy to realise that devaluing such an integral part of our lives does not hold any benefits for anyone really.
Many people are aware of how teaching children to do chores is important, but sometimes those same adults forget their own responsibilities to their home maintenance and in avertedly teach their children the direct opposite: that caring for the home environment is not important. A typical complaint from many parents is that they have to cajole, beg, or even bribe their children to help out around the house, but parents themselves can be projecting negative attitudes about those activities without really being conscious of it. Perception is everything. When home maintenance is approached as a chore or as a punishment, rather than as a worthy activity, it is no wonder that people (including children) make excuses for avoiding it.
Once you realise the importance of a clean environment, the satisfaction from creating it naturally follows. Take a cue from toddlers who just LOVE to do chores around the house, and find some joy in caring for the home, some satisfaction in the process. If the running thought in our head is that it is boring and unnecessary, we are less likely to do it properly or regularly. We may even start stating that our space isn’t ‘that’ bad, or that those who express discomfort in it are just being pricks, or claim that we’re too busy to take proper care of our things, or propose a myriad of other possible excuses. The reality is that it is a necessary part of life, and it IS possible to maintain a household properly without devoting your life to housekeeping if you properly organize yourself and adopt healthy living habits. The crux of the matter is developing the skills to be organized and proactive in investing in the care of the home.
A cluttered and dirty home adds considerable stress to the family, even if it is not fully recognized. Some of the more obvious health consequences are the presence of allergens and pests which contribute to lowering immune function and promoting illnesses. The less obvious is the emotional impact the lack of organization creates in the psyche which can lead to anxiety/depression, lethargy, and stress. There is a reason why those individuals who are diagnosed with compulsive hoarding behaviours are those who also have severe anxiety/emotional issues: as it signals deeper conflicts within their psyches that manifests physically in the way they neglect their personal environments. As within; so without. That is why when these individuals take the steps towards organizing their physical environments, their emotional also benefits and are then able to make progress in their personal growth as well. One reflects the other in a complex intermingling of elements.
When a house is well cared for: organized, peaceful, and reflecting the family’s unique personalities, it creates a sense of belonging, of safety, and of welcome. It becomes a place of refuge from the world to recharge in. And when a person refuels their emotional meters, they are more capable of dealing with life’s stresses and overcoming them instead of collecting emotional baggage that clutters the mind and affects productivity and personal growth. It’s all very rational when you consider how those in cluttered spaces have to spend extra energy in locating items, finding spots to even put items, making use of items before they expire, replacing lost items and end up buying duplicates which wastes money unnecessarily, etc. It makes much more practical sense to have a designated place for items in the rooms that they are most used in so that they do not take up space elsewhere and become a an eye-sore or dangerous obstacle in some cases. A person is also more likely to even start projects if the tools are properly organized and are inviting rather than stowed away or scattered throughout the house (which is a tool implemented in daycares for example, with toys specifically placed to invite play). Otherwise it just collects dust and is useless to everyone.
There is also the important social benefit to keeping house, and that is that friends and family enjoy visiting and spending time there. Many people underestimate the power of a relaxing atmosphere and take for granted (or devalue altogether) how it affects a guest’s mood and level of enjoyment. For me personally, I limit my visits to extremely disorganized houses because it stresses me out. I do not feel relaxed and chatty when I am having to be hyper vigilant about stepping in something gross or harmful, or being concerned about my child’s safety and health. I may love the person I am visiting to death, but I do not feel free to enjoy my time with them if I am uncomfortable. The attitude of “you’re visiting me, not my house” makes no sense, because they are inseparable, and I’ve always believed a good host/hostess genuinely cares about their guest’s well-being and comfort. No one enjoys using a dirty bathroom for example, but for a guest to have to use a toilet that has noticeable urine/pubic hair from someone else plastered to it is actually disgusting. It literally takes minutes to clean and disinfect a toilet. Come on!
There is of course a difference between a house that is lived in and has some clutter, to a house that is neglected and a petri dish for bacteria. I have often seen families who claim the first when it is really the second, because they don’t like cleaning up after themselves and refuse to admit it. It is one thing to have toys strewn across the floor, and another to have three months accumulation of grime along those floors from lack of washing. There is a noticeable difference. Cooking in a dirty kitchen is not appealing for most people for example, which is why keeping regular maintenance on kitchen tools and surfaces is always a good idea (never mind being more sanitary). Would you eat in a restaurant that had noticeably dirty floors and utensils? Probably not, because it signals that other things may be neglected as well that can cause health risks. The same rules apply in homes, only with some leniency as parents ARE busy people, but the responsibilities to their environment still apply as well.
The reality is that it still needs to be done and I for one feel that we deserve to be in a clean and relaxing environment, so stop avoiding it and take care of business. Believe me it makes a difference to everyone, especially to the children who are always watching and learning from our behaviors and attitudes.