I’ve always been a bit of a restless person, a go-getter, someone who was constantly active and up to something. In other words, sitting down and ‘relaxing’ has never been my strong suit. Despite this fact, I had always been able to find a good balance between spending energy and finding rest. Always that is, until my third child was born.
Anxiety Takes Over
Suddenly, what had always been an energy used for good became energy wracked with anxiety, guilt for all the things I couldn’t do, and so very sleepless. My to-do list was always lingering in the back of my mind. I couldn’t relax but I also could barely function when you coupled my over thinking of everything with my inability to sleep. What exactly caused this shift postpartum may never fully be known. Some of it was certainly hormones, some of it was just adjusting to having three kids who were 5 and under – with the younger two only 18 months apart in age, and some of it may just be my natural tendencies.
Either way, I became miserable and with that so did the people around me. I finally had to admit that some assistance was needed to help me get back on track mentally and physically. That’s how I found myself talking with my physician and sitting across from a counselor to help me sort things out.
The Heart Of The Problem
It was during my 4th visit or so that my counselor said, “You seem to be worried a lot about your cleaning duties.”
Seemed to be? Of course I was! I had five people’s worth of laundry to do, a giant dog that shed everywhere, dishes that never seemed to be caught up, and I was convinced that I had the most dirty house on the block. (Truth bomb, I didn’t.) How could I not be worried about these duties counselor?!
“Who puts pressure on you to constantly be cleaning? Your husband? Your kids? Friends?”
“Well …no..just..me I guess.”
“Then we need to find how to lower your anxiety about this, everything seems to be coming from that. If you weren’t so worried about cleaning would you be able to rest?”
“Yeah – But..”
No buts, we were on a mission.
What Didn’t Work
Trying to change my mindset to accept mess and clutter didn’t work. That backfired almost immediately.
Making lists to help me organize my cleaning didn’t work. It turned into a tool for guilt when I didn’t get my list checked off each day.
Handing out tasks to other family members helped a little, but not enough.
Then the idea of the cleaning hour was brought up.
What is the cleaning hour?
The cleaning hour is one hour a day set aside for cleaning. Only cleaning. No multi-tasking. Multi-tasking was the pit of production doom and the start of more worries. For one hour a day I was to set a timer and focus on cleaning.
When the hour stopped, so did the cleaning. My commitment wasn’t to a list of things. It was simply to devote one hour fully to cleaning up my home during the day and then giving myself permission to move on. Permission to sit and read. Permission to go out and jump on the trampoline with my kids. Permission to do a whole lot of nothing.
I know what you are thinking.
I don’t have time for an hour every day of just cleaning. My kids would never let me clean for an hour uninterrupted. How is this helpful?
I don’t have time for an hour EVERY day either. That’s why I decided that my plan would be to do one full hours on days where I wasn’t working. If I worked, it was shortened to 1/2 an hour.
My kids do interrupt sometimes, but it is brief because to be honest I usually let them have their electronics time during my cleaning hour and I announce very clearly that cleaning hour is starting. If you bug me, I assign you a cleaning task.
To some people one hour a day might not sound like enough time.
The key here is that instead of doing things the typical American way and multitasking, I am focused on single-tasking. No Facebook, no blogging, no watching TV as I work..just cleaning. I have found when I do this an hour is more than enough time to change over the laundry, put away the folded stuff, change out the dishwasher, take out the trash, do a daily vacuum, and a few other odds and ends. This is especially true over time. Every day that you do your one hour, sets you up for a successful and productive hour the next day!
Each day I set the timer. When it beeps, I’m done.
That doesn’t mean I won’t clean the rest of the day. I can clean, but only if I WANT to and not from a feeling of HAVING to.
The Results Of Just One Hour
Visually, the results of one hour of cleaning are surprising as seen in the picture below! This is from one hour of picking up!
Mentally and emotionally, the results can’t be described. I didn’t realize how much I was letting worries about my house consume me. About how my inability to accept that when you have 5 people in one house and three of those people are tiny tornadoes the list of things to clean was never going to be all checked off, was driving me to the edge.
Now a burden is lifted.
Am I anxiety free? Nope.
Is my home – a place that should be a haven for people- the main source of that anxiety anymore? Nope.
That folks, is freeing. It’s allowed my house to be one of the eight things I’m done apologizing for.
I’m able to laugh more with my kids. I’m able to read. I’m able to blog and study and nap. Knowing I ‘did my time’ I can feel a little less worried about all the things I’m not going to accomplish in the house cleaning department, and focus instead on the things that bring me and those closest to me joy.
What stresses you out as a mom? What things do you do to relax?