What stops you from having a neat house? - Page 3 - Mothering Forums

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Old 03-09-2007, 07:17 PM
 
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Old 03-09-2007, 07:20 PM
 
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Mama to 9 so far:Mother of Joey (20), Dominick (13), Abigail (11), Angelo (8), Mylee (6), Delainey (3), Colton (2) and Baby 8 and Baby 9 coming sometime in July 2013.   If evolution were true, mothers would have three arms!

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Old 03-16-2007, 09:02 PM
 
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Gosh, I guess I would be the one mom to take this the wrong way. I'll spare you the details of my current situation or the steps I have take to try to get my house and keep my house in better shape. I just wish you would have spared me the, "my mom could keep her house clean and so could I, why can't you?".

I come to this forum for inspiration and ideas, not shaming.

~Tracy

Rockin' mama to Allison (9), Asher (5) and Alethea (3), head over heels in love with my sexy husband, Tony.

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Old 03-16-2007, 10:14 PM
 
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This has always been a struggle for me.

Part of it is we have so much stuff, and this house has no storage, so it winds up in stacks all over the place.
Part of it is that I would so much rather be doing ANYTHING than cleaning.
Part of it is that growing up we had a housekeeper who did all of the cleaning for us, so I never had to learn to do it myself.
Part of it is that contemplating the mess is just so daunting. I know everyone says to pick one spot and clean that, but what do you do with the 20 things in that spot that don't have a home? They just wind up in the next spot, and the next, and the next, and never get dealt with.
Part of it is the feeling that just because someone gave us something, we have to hang on to it, even if it's something hideous. Or the feeling that it may not be useful now but at some point it might be...
And part of it is that when I do get the motivation to get off my butt and clean, I can burn myself out in 2 hours of doing something so obscure (whatever was bugging me) that DH can't even tell I did anything, and I wind up exhausted and discouraged.

And I HATE cleaning alone.

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Old 03-17-2007, 02:58 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Tracy-So sorry you are offended. I could go through the boards looking for threads that offend me and find them. However I choose not to be that easily offended. I hope you read the entire post where I stated the thread was not intended to be judgmental. And for the record, my mother was a single mother in the 70's who got zero ZERO financial or emotional or physical help from anyone, bought a home, worked 2-3 jobs to support us and managed to maintain an orderly home. It was a statement of pride in regards to my mother, who worked her butt off and overcome her situation. Not to offend anyone. And yes I maintain a clean home because I figure if she could do it going thru what she did I can do it.
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Old 03-17-2007, 03:24 AM
 
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Hurricane Holden (13mo old) keeps me from having a neat house, that's what! Before he was born, my home was a museum. It was not kid-friendly at all and I liked it that way. We never had to entertain our friends with kids since they were even more paranoid than I was about something breaking or getting ruined by grape juice.

I do pick up his toys while he's napping or as soon as he goes to bed at night. I can't stand to see all the clutter unless it's in use at the time. Now that he's a little more independent and doesn't need me to play with him his every waking moment, I do manage to keep the place clean, just not always as tidy as I'd like.

I also have to admit that I just don't care as much anymore. I have other priorities.
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Old 03-17-2007, 03:55 AM
 
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i may have already said this before and even if *i* didn't someone probably already did, but i want to reiterate, after reading the last few posts.....

you know........... being able to maintain a relatively orderly home is a source of pride for me too. :


i'm a single mother, i work, i go to school, and i'm raising two kids all on my own with no child support or involvement from their father whatsoever, and i juggle a lot of other life issues (with regard to our health, primarily, but also court issues, etc)... and being able to come home to a (relatively! ) neat and orderly home makes me very, very happy and content. it can totally turn my day around, coming home to a place of calm and ... Zen.

YES it's a struggle, and it's never easy, *but* ..... i think it's worth it.

when i see chaos around our home, i literally have panic attacks now. i just can't deal with it, and i don't think my kids should be forced to either.
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Old 03-17-2007, 01:19 PM
 
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Originally Posted by mommaof3boz View Post
Don't get me wrong I am not saying the right after having a new baby you should have a neat/clean house. NO WAY. Trust me, I went WOHM 5 weeks after 1st child, and 6 weeks after second (and a csection to boot) and 6 weeks after third. I felt like getting myself out of bed and to work after being up at night was a feat in itself. I am talking more like once they are sleeping at night, napping during the day. I am not talking about pristine, museum houses, with no toys etc to be seen. I am talking about dirty floors, tubs needing scrubbing, piles of laundry. That sort of thing. How long does it really take to mop a floor? Or scrub a tub? Not long. If those basic things aren't getting done it would seem there is an underlying problem.
Sometimes I spend time online I should be throwing in a load of laundry or sweeping the floor. Yes this is important to me, but after taking the poll on how long you spend online a day 2 hours seem HUGE. That was more what I was getting at. Is it because of poor time management? Is it lack of concern? Family history? My house is actually clean and mostly neat. The typical toys, afghans on couch, socks on the floor to me are normal. Just interested in your thoughts. This is not a judgemental thing AT ALL!!!
But that isn't what your post title asks. You're asking about having a "neat" house, not a "clean" house. I maintain a clean house. Dishes done and put away, no gruck in the bathroom, dirty laundry kept in one place and done regularly, no thick coatings of dust or swags of cobwebs, kitty litter scooped daily, spills wiped up.

I do not maintain a neat house. Getting our houses neat and developing strategies and habits for *keeping* them neat or at least at a point where neatness can be obtained in a short period of time, is the point of the "Decluttering, Organizing, & Simplifying" forum.
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Old 03-17-2007, 01:22 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Wugmama View Post
Gosh, I guess I would be the one mom to take this the wrong way. I'll spare you the details of my current situation or the steps I have take to try to get my house and keep my house in better shape. I just wish you would have spared me the, "my mom could keep her house clean and so could I, why can't you?".

I come to this forum for inspiration and ideas, not shaming.

~Tracy


Perhaps the OP didn't realize that many on this forum have had their own mothers tell them things like "What's wrong with you, I kept a spotless house while raising three kids, why is yours so messy with only one?"
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Old 03-17-2007, 01:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Aura-being a momma who used to be a kid just like one of yours my hat is off to you. Looking back now I am amazed how my mom did it all. My mom was a hairdresser, a waitress, laundry lady, you name it. She even picked up walnuts, hundreds of pounds of them, to pay the bills. We had a garden, she canned. I have it so much easier than she did and I appreciate her more everyday because of it.

Now back to the regular thread
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Old 03-17-2007, 01:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Sapphire-perhaps you could reread as quoted in your own post I said "family history" which is where what you said would fall.

I am sorry a thread that has been going on for sometime is now causing problems when that wasn't the intent as stated many times.

MODS-let's just lock this thread before more feelings get hurt.
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Old 03-18-2007, 04:33 AM
 
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We have a clean house.
But, it would be less cluttered if I did not put emotions on objects.
Like I need to sell my sons toddler bed, he never slept in it but I have a hard time getting rid of it.. why, I dont know?!: And then stuff like his old clothing, toys and all that kind of stuff I dont want to get rid of because I have memories with each thing..

This is SO me! I was like this as a child, and I'm still like this. I remember everything, who gave it to me, how I felt about it, how sad I'll be when they're gone, etc.) I'm emotionally attached to stuffed animals I had as a child. To the kid's baby toys. To stuff I KNOW I shouldn't be keeping, but I do, because emotionally, I can't let it go.

This is where other people helping me declutter comes in. I'm always begging dh to help me get rid of stuff, because he's not attached to anything whatsoever (maybe his sports memorabilia, but it's not like that's in the way,lol). My sister is really good at helping me get rid of stuff too. But there's still more that I am holding on to that I shouldn't be. Ugh.

But anyways, it's all organized in tubs on shelves in the garage. So while my house is clean and organized, I'd have more space if it were gone!

eta...like everyone's at some point or another, there can be times where things just get a mess, like the kids can go nuts pulling toys out in their room, or there can be Mount Laundry in the living room (currently Mount Laundy is residing on the couch next to me,lol), but for the most part, I have to keep the house neat and clean and organized, it's easier to live in that way. We all feel better and it's easier to go out and have fun knowing we come home to an organized house. I grew up in chaos and mess and it drove me nuts.

~Rose~ 

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Old 03-18-2007, 01:53 PM
 
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My apologies.

I chose to allow my reaction to a few word choices dictate how I responded.

I'm not sure that Mommaof3boz will ever read this, but I recommend that everyone check out the blog in her signature. It is wonderful and her home is beautiful.
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Old 03-19-2007, 02:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Sapphire-No offense but just drop it.
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Old 03-19-2007, 02:57 PM
 
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Ok- didn't read through the whole thread-- just most of the first page and then skipped ahead. My reason-- I never was taught how to fit it into routine.
I think people w/ cleaner houses do it w/o realizing. It just makes sense to them, like if you get it out, then put it away when done.
It has taken me a long time, but I have a few routines down- like doing laundry every day. Flylady.net has helped alot.
My mom is a very clutter person, and so I don't just think of throwing things out either. Also- we have active brains- like the email on Adult Attention Deficit Disorder, where it the person went around the house doing all kinds of things halfway before seeing something else that 'needs' to be done so they go on to the next thing. That is the way my mind works. I have to really focus- ok, I'm here to clean the kitchen counter. I can't stop when I put another dish in the sink and wash them, I can't stop to pay the bill that I had to put on my desk, I can't stop and clean the garage when I am there to put the hammer away, etc.
Some people are just born organized while others have to work at it. I love schedules and lists and all that stuff-- but it takes alot of effort on my part to stick to it.
I am a messy person and I have a hard time keeping my house clean and I have a hard time w/ people who give the excuse it's because of the kids- I had 3 kids in 3 years, but I was messy before them!
I just never learned how to clean as I go, or put it away when done-
Reason for messy house:
I have no cleaning habits.

Rachel, wife to Brian, mother of 5. Lover of birth.
Blog on profile.
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Old 03-19-2007, 08:01 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Wugmama View Post
Gosh, I guess I would be the one mom to take this the wrong way. I'll spare you the details of my current situation or the steps I have take to try to get my house and keep my house in better shape. I just wish you would have spared me the, "my mom could keep her house clean and so could I, why can't you?".

I come to this forum for inspiration and ideas, not shaming.

~Tracy
I don't think you're being too sensitive.. I definitely got that impression,too

~e, wife to my sweet T , mama to my turtleman (12) , sunshine (9 ), and monkey (6)
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Old 03-19-2007, 08:09 PM
 
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I guess the reason behind OP was to get a vision of true valid reasons vs. the I just don't want to.
And who is to decide what is a "valid" reason?
I think many times it's a matter of priorities.. If I've had a hectic week, then I'd rather snuggle with baby while she takes her nap. A pile of laundry won't hurt anyone.

~e, wife to my sweet T , mama to my turtleman (12) , sunshine (9 ), and monkey (6)
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Old 03-20-2007, 12:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Sapphire-Thank you very much in regards to my blog. I only started last month but am enjoying it a lot. Apology totally accepted and sending a "virtual peace pipe" your way.

My apologies to anyone I offended by my posts because I NEVER intend to hurt anyone's feelings. If you met me IRL you would truely believe that.
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Old 03-20-2007, 05:48 PM
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This is a great question to me, b/c I think taking a hard look at this may provide me with some impetus to correcting the situation.

For example: our LR, DR, and 1st floor bathroom are generally neat...in case we have drop in visitors, who need to visit and use the bathroom.

the kitchen is generally neat...b/c safety is a concern of mine.

OTOH, the room we use as a study/computer room, is a mess, and to no fault of dh's. It's my excuse to testify to the crazy business of my life...as in: look how crazy busy I am that this room is a mess.

My office is much messier than prior to ds' birth. Much b/c my day is so hectic that I don't get a chance to tidy it, but as soon as my "work" is done, I'm out the door so I can see ds.
But actually I spend little snippets of time here and there on the web (and MDC!) when I could be sorting through a few papers right?
So the more I think about this, I think this mess (and I still know and can find whatever i need) declares:
- I'm not 100% my job, just so you know
- i kind of resent that i can't be at home with my ds right now, so this office is slightly messy.

great thread, gives me lots to think about.
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Old 01-25-2008, 03:31 AM
 
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Old 01-25-2008, 07:25 PM
 
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I live in two different places, one messy and one cleanish. I'd say that the problems behind the messy one are:

- Too much stuff. - Badly arranged storage, largely resulting from too much stuff.

- A lack of example and training in systematic housekeeping. My parents were lousy housekeepers.

So I'm learning some improving housekeeping habits, but so far those habits are very strongly dependent on "a place for everything", and with so much stuff, I don't have an easily accessed place for everything.

But you asked a general question, as to what keeps people from being able to have a neat house. Often, the causes are mental processing issues. I don't mean that people are lazy, or don't care, or any of that. I mean things that stem from good characteristics - from a good work ethic, from a desire to do a good job, from a desire not to be wasteful or sloppy - but that go too far and end up paralyzing people.

Below, I'm talking about other people having these issues. I want to emphasize that I'm not doing this from a position of superiority. I have my own housekeeping and mental/processing issues, I just don't happen to have the ones I describe below. (I think.) And I'm not saying that housekeeping issues are all about processing issues. They may be about health issues, or special needs children, or living with a stubborn or even deliberately-passive-aggressive slob, or living with a hoarder, or a bunch of other things. I'm just posting about the processing issues.

- Perfectionism. This seems to be the biggie, the one that utterly, totally paralyzes progress. Perfectionism causing a cluttered house seems counterintuitive, but it does cause it.

One reason is that it often leads to "do it perfectly or don't do it at all." Sometimes this means that every action, however small, must be done _perfectly_, without the slightest flaw or error or even the slightest chance of a flaw or error. In my mother's case, this means that she can't just go in a room, pile up the papers that are scattered over the flat surfaces, and dump them in a box to file later. It means that she has to deal with each and every sheet of paper as she picks it up. Perfectly. Without any chance whatsoever of error.

So she picks up an investment statement. That must be filed. In the file cabinet. Perfectly. In a filing system that doesn't yet exist. So she needs to create a filing system. Perfectly. One that correctly anticipates every category. One where she'll never, ever go back and say, "You know, those five categories should really go together, and this category should be split into two." It must be perfect on the first try. And to make it, she has to clear the stuff already in the filing cabinet drawers. Perfectly. Filing everything she finds. Into the filing system...that doesn't exist. This is everything that she must do before she can handle _one single sheet of paper_. Imagine that the second sheet is a recipe - now she has to reorganize her whole kitchen.

This sounds like an extreme case, but I assure you that it is true of my mother, and my mother has only a moderate case of this problem. My mother was not only unwilling to stack those papers together and move them, she had a great deal of trouble even comprehending the idea.

In the past, I've told my mother to pick up a stack of newspapers and dump them in a box that was at hand - something that should take perhaps five seconds. It took her about ten minutes, in spite of all the time pressure that I could exert, because she simply _could not_ imagine, and act on, the idea of just picking up a stack of papers and moving them without going through each one and making individual decisions about them.

In the case of the papers on the flat surfaces, I couldn't even get her to _understand_ the idea of piling up and moving the papers en masse until I told her to imagine that there was a flood and that nasty creepy unsanitary water was making its way toward the papers, that the water would engulf them in seconds. That finally caused the "click" and she was able to _try_ to snatch up the papers quickly. Even then, there were repeated protests of, "But that's the...but I should take care of that...but...". I had to tell her, over and over and over and over and over, "It doesn't matter. It's about to be soaked. Just pick it up."

You can see how a moderate case of perfectionism would utterly, totally stall my mother's housekeeping efforts. Even a very mild case can cause paralysis. If you're OK with giving the bathroom counter a quick swipe every time you brush your teeth, it'll get cleaned pretty often. If you feel that you're a total slob if you don't clean counters, floors, cabinets, and toilet every time you clean anything in the bathroom, you'll seldom clean anything. If you're OK with carrying two toys upstairs every time you go there, and leaving the other toys until the next few times you go upstairs, you may stay somewhat tidy. If you feel that every time you tidy you should put away _everything_, you'll wait until you have time, and you may never have time.

So perfectionism often doesn't allow you to perform a small task in a small amount of time and go on to another related small task later. That small task is almost always an incomplete task - imperfect. And often the small tasks aren't part of a big concrete plan, so a small task might end up being the wrong task - for example, maybe those toys that you took upstairs should really stay downstairs, because someone was coming over for a playdate. Again, imperfect. And as far as I can tell from my mother, these tiny imperfections that I would consider harmless - less than harmless, because I wouldn't even notice them - are a _big scarey deal_.

I can easily see how this would result in a total housekeeping shutdown when kids come - without kids, you'll often have time to do the whole job from start to finish, so your need to do it that way doesn't hamper you too badly, or perhaps it doesn't hamper you at all. With kids, you'd have to do everything in tiny snatches of time, so you could never do it "right" without interruption. In the past, I think that Mom often put the kids in a playpen for long periods so she could get her work done, so, again, it was possible to do it all and do it "right". These days, playpens are pretty much out of fashion, and without them, doing housework in snatches of time may be the only way to do it.

Another story about my mother: As a kid, I once heard her lamenting that she didn't have time to make her bed, so I made it for her. It wasn't perfect. She still didn't have time to make it. So she _unmade_ it, pulling all the covers out. She didn't criticize me; this wasn't a way to make me remake it perfectly. I think she was even apologetic about unmaking it. This is as clear a demonstration as I can imagine of someone who feels that it's better not to do it at all than to do it imperfectly.

It's easy to think that people with this kind of perfectionism should just 'snap out of it'. But it's just not that easy for them.

- Problems with sorting and categorizing

Some people have trouble with sorting and categorizing things. This was already mentioned in this thread, with the description of how a half-read book is different from just a book, so it doesn't belong to the same category.

As another example, let's go back to those papers, the ones that my mother must put away absolutely perfectly on the first try. Here's a bank statement. Maybe it should go with bank statements. But it's the bank statement that reflects her purchase of a computer. So maybe it should go with the paperwork from the computer. But it also reflects some small investment returns. Maybe it should go with her investment papers. But it's also this month's bank statement. Maybe it should go in "current papers". But it hasn't been balanced yet. Maybe it should go with her checkbook. But it has a really great picture of the state bird, because that's part of the bank's logo. Maybe it should go with pictures.

To me, a bank statement is a bank statement. I have no trouble assigning it a primary category, and if I want it for one of those other purposes, I'll go get it from the bank statement folder. To my mother, the primary category is not at all obvious - she doesn't know which one to pick. And since the category isn't obvious now, she knows that it won't be obvious later, so she won't know where to find it later if she wants it. The situation is full of ambiguity. No matter where she files the statement, it might be a mistake. And remember the perfectionism? A mistake is a big, hairy, scary deal. A mistake is horrible. So it's safer to just leave this bank statement right here, "where she can see it", and just put off this huge decision.

So let's move on to the recipe. It's for a birthday cake. So maybe it should go in Holidays. But it's a dessert, so maybe it should go in Desserts. But it's Aunt Jane's recipe, so maybe it should go in Family Recipes. And it's in Aunt Jane's handwriting, so it should go in Family Papers. And she made it for one of her kids' birthday parties, so maybe it should go with the cards from that birthday.

In fact, see how I originally called this thing a "recipe" and I made that a subcategory of "papers"? I assigned it a category and subcategory without even thinking about it. I don't know if my mother would call it a "recipe" - it's just a piece of paper with some information on it. Or is it even a piece of paper? Since it has family handwriting, is it a family heirloom? Can my mother even clearly distinguish a piece of paper from a coffee cup? I don't meant that she doesn't know what they are or what they're for, I mean, can she effortlessly categorize things into "papers" and "dishes", or does she get all scrambled up with "family heirlooms" and "new stuff" and "stuff I carried in my suitcase during my trip Back East in 1982"?

For the purpose of decluttering, "papers" and "dishes" are the useful, functional categories. But I think that _she doesn't know that_, not quickly and easily and effortlessly. Or maybe even if she does know that, her mind is all cluttered up with, "That's the coffee cup I used when I had Mary Rose over for lunch." When I categorize things, no details about them clutter my mind - I can effortlessly switch from "category thinking" ("let's stack up these papers") and "object thinking" ("That's that funny postcard from Cousin Sue.") I don't know if my mother can do this, or if all the object details are constantly distracting her.

Again, my mother's problem is moderate - not extreme and not mild. But, again, even a very mild case of this would be paralyzing. Cleaning the house requires _constant_ categorizing and subcategorizing and recategorizing. I usually do this effortlessly, with only an occasional realization that I've miscategorized ("These T-Shirts that I never wear but keep for sentimental reasons are souvenirs, not clothes, and shouldn't be in the main closet.") If I had to actually think about this, I'd be paralyzed too.

- Problems with decisionmaking and priorities

I think that this is sort of a version of "problems with sorting and categorizing", but relating to intangible things. Imagine that my mother's kitchen is covered with stacks of really old papers, to the point that she can't cook. In my case, I would say that those papers are old, and it's unlikely that I'll need anything from them soon. Keeping those papers really handy is a relatively low priority. On the other hand, being able to cook in my kitchen is a high priority. So I'll make the decision that I'll box up those papers and deal with them later, so that I can cook today.

Again, my mother doesn't see those priorities. She can't "sort" the high priority from the low. She has trouble seeing that cooking is more important than going through three-year-old papers, that washing the dishes is more important than cleaning behind the kitchen trashcan with a toothbrush, that getting her laundry done is more important than going through the charitable solicitations that she's received.

And in the case of the three-year-old papers, of course to even frame the facts that I'm basing the decision on, I have to be able to form categories. I've categorized the whole snowdrift as "three year old papers", while she may not even be recognizing the category "papers", but instead seeing each and every individual paper based on its own merits.

Decisionmaking and priorities is also an issue with throwing stuff out. At the most extreme, many people can't distinguish garbage from valuable items. I remember seeing a TV show about a hoarder who had to struggle, _hard_, before she could throw out a used band-aid.

Again, the extreme version of this is easy to see. But even a mild version can slow you down, and when combined with the perfectionism, which makes it a horrible big deal if you make the wrong decision or choose the wrong priority, it can again paralyze.

- "Out of sight, out of mind"

Many people, including my SO, have trouble remembering the existence of stuff that they can't see. I recently put several four-packs of drinks away, filling the available storage for that category. (Category! Again! See how handicapping a lack of categorizing would be?) They had been lined up on the counter. I know that I need to keep an eye on my SO now, because with those things out of sight, they don't exist any more, and he will think that he needs to buy more.

The same is true of bills - if he hasn't paid it yet, he wants it to stay out where he can see it. Books he's going to read - he leaves them out so he'll remember them. Clothes he's going to wear - it really annoys him when I hang up his coat. And so on. Having stuff stashed away is uncomfortable.

-----------------

Again, sometimes these traits are very strong, and they may lead to major hoarding. But even when they're mild, they would make housekeeping _much_, much more difficult. If you combine that with any other challenges, then keeping a neat house may be essentially impossible. The solution isn't will power, or working harder, the solution is more likely to be recognizing these processing issues and working directly on them.

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Old 01-25-2008, 07:41 PM
 
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I think I'm just lazy.

I don't have the energy to do even the basic things these days. it's a miracle I can get dinner cooked and us fed. and honestly? right now I don't even care.
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Old 01-25-2008, 07:55 PM
 
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I live in two different places, one messy and one cleanish. I'd say that the problems behind the messy one are:

- Too much stuff. - Badly arranged storage, largely resulting from too much stuff.

- A lack of example and training in systematic housekeeping. My parents were lousy housekeepers.

So I'm learning some improving housekeeping habits, but so far those habits are very strongly dependent on "a place for everything", and with so much stuff, I don't have an easily accessed place for everything.

But you asked a general question, as to what keeps people from being able to have a neat house. Often, the causes are mental processing issues. I don't mean that people are lazy, or don't care, or any of that. I mean things that stem from good characteristics - from a good work ethic, from a desire to do a good job, from a desire not to be wasteful or sloppy - but that go too far and end up paralyzing people.

Below, I'm talking about other people having these issues. I want to emphasize that I'm not doing this from a position of superiority. I have my own housekeeping and mental/processing issues, I just don't happen to have the ones I describe below. (I think.) And I'm not saying that housekeeping issues are all about processing issues. They may be about health issues, or special needs children, or living with a stubborn or even deliberately-passive-aggressive slob, or living with a hoarder, or a bunch of other things. I'm just posting about the processing issues.

- Perfectionism. This seems to be the biggie, the one that utterly, totally paralyzes progress. Perfectionism causing a cluttered house seems counterintuitive, but it does cause it.

One reason is that it often leads to "do it perfectly or don't do it at all." Sometimes this means that every action, however small, must be done _perfectly_, without the slightest flaw or error or even the slightest chance of a flaw or error. In my mother's case, this means that she can't just go in a room, pile up the papers that are scattered over the flat surfaces, and dump them in a box to file later. It means that she has to deal with each and every sheet of paper as she picks it up. Perfectly. Without any chance whatsoever of error.

So she picks up an investment statement. That must be filed. In the file cabinet. Perfectly. In a filing system that doesn't yet exist. So she needs to create a filing system. Perfectly. One that correctly anticipates every category. One where she'll never, ever go back and say, "You know, those five categories should really go together, and this category should be split into two." It must be perfect on the first try. And to make it, she has to clear the stuff already in the filing cabinet drawers. Perfectly. Filing everything she finds. Into the filing system...that doesn't exist. This is everything that she must do before she can handle _one single sheet of paper_. Imagine that the second sheet is a recipe - now she has to reorganize her whole kitchen.

This sounds like an extreme case, but I assure you that it is true of my mother, and my mother has only a moderate case of this problem. My mother was not only unwilling to stack those papers together and move them, she had a great deal of trouble even comprehending the idea.

In the past, I've told my mother to pick up a stack of newspapers and dump them in a box that was at hand - something that should take perhaps five seconds. It took her about ten minutes, in spite of all the time pressure that I could exert, because she simply _could not_ imagine, and act on, the idea of just picking up a stack of papers and moving them without going through each one and making individual decisions about them.

In the case of the papers on the flat surfaces, I couldn't even get her to _understand_ the idea of piling up and moving the papers en masse until I told her to imagine that there was a flood and that nasty creepy unsanitary water was making its way toward the papers, that the water would engulf them in seconds. That finally caused the "click" and she was able to _try_ to snatch up the papers quickly. Even then, there were repeated protests of, "But that's the...but I should take care of that...but...". I had to tell her, over and over and over and over and over, "It doesn't matter. It's about to be soaked. Just pick it up."

You can see how a moderate case of perfectionism would utterly, totally stall my mother's housekeeping efforts. Even a very mild case can cause paralysis. If you're OK with giving the bathroom counter a quick swipe every time you brush your teeth, it'll get cleaned pretty often. If you feel that you're a total slob if you don't clean counters, floors, cabinets, and toilet every time you clean anything in the bathroom, you'll seldom clean anything. If you're OK with carrying two toys upstairs every time you go there, and leaving the other toys until the next few times you go upstairs, you may stay somewhat tidy. If you feel that every time you tidy you should put away _everything_, you'll wait until you have time, and you may never have time.

So perfectionism often doesn't allow you to perform a small task in a small amount of time and go on to another related small task later. That small task is almost always an incomplete task - imperfect. And often the small tasks aren't part of a big concrete plan, so a small task might end up being the wrong task - for example, maybe those toys that you took upstairs should really stay downstairs, because someone was coming over for a playdate. Again, imperfect. And as far as I can tell from my mother, these tiny imperfections that I would consider harmless - less than harmless, because I wouldn't even notice them - are a _big scarey deal_.

I can easily see how this would result in a total housekeeping shutdown when kids come - without kids, you'll often have time to do the whole job from start to finish, so your need to do it that way doesn't hamper you too badly, or perhaps it doesn't hamper you at all. With kids, you'd have to do everything in tiny snatches of time, so you could never do it "right" without interruption. In the past, I think that Mom often put the kids in a playpen for long periods so she could get her work done, so, again, it was possible to do it all and do it "right". These days, playpens are pretty much out of fashion, and without them, doing housework in snatches of time may be the only way to do it.

Another story about my mother: As a kid, I once heard her lamenting that she didn't have time to make her bed, so I made it for her. It wasn't perfect. She still didn't have time to make it. So she _unmade_ it, pulling all the covers out. She didn't criticize me; this wasn't a way to make me remake it perfectly. I think she was even apologetic about unmaking it. This is as clear a demonstration as I can imagine of someone who feels that it's better not to do it at all than to do it imperfectly.

It's easy to think that people with this kind of perfectionism should just 'snap out of it'. But it's just not that easy for them.

- Problems with sorting and categorizing

Some people have trouble with sorting and categorizing things. This was already mentioned in this thread, with the description of how a half-read book is different from just a book, so it doesn't belong to the same category.

As another example, let's go back to those papers, the ones that my mother must put away absolutely perfectly on the first try. Here's a bank statement. Maybe it should go with bank statements. But it's the bank statement that reflects her purchase of a computer. So maybe it should go with the paperwork from the computer. But it also reflects some small investment returns. Maybe it should go with her investment papers. But it's also this month's bank statement. Maybe it should go in "current papers". But it hasn't been balanced yet. Maybe it should go with her checkbook. But it has a really great picture of the state bird, because that's part of the bank's logo. Maybe it should go with pictures.

To me, a bank statement is a bank statement. I have no trouble assigning it a primary category, and if I want it for one of those other purposes, I'll go get it from the bank statement folder. To my mother, the primary category is not at all obvious - she doesn't know which one to pick. And since the category isn't obvious now, she knows that it won't be obvious later, so she won't know where to find it later if she wants it. The situation is full of ambiguity. No matter where she files the statement, it might be a mistake. And remember the perfectionism? A mistake is a big, hairy, scary deal. A mistake is horrible. So it's safer to just leave this bank statement right here, "where she can see it", and just put off this huge decision.

So let's move on to the recipe. It's for a birthday cake. So maybe it should go in Holidays. But it's a dessert, so maybe it should go in Desserts. But it's Aunt Jane's recipe, so maybe it should go in Family Recipes. And it's in Aunt Jane's handwriting, so it should go in Family Papers. And she made it for one of her kids' birthday parties, so maybe it should go with the cards from that birthday.

In fact, see how I originally called this thing a "recipe" and I made that a subcategory of "papers"? I assigned it a category and subcategory without even thinking about it. I don't know if my mother would call it a "recipe" - it's just a piece of paper with some information on it. Or is it even a piece of paper? Since it has family handwriting, is it a family heirloom? Can my mother even clearly distinguish a piece of paper from a coffee cup? I don't meant that she doesn't know what they are or what they're for, I mean, can she effortlessly categorize things into "papers" and "dishes", or does she get all scrambled up with "family heirlooms" and "new stuff" and "stuff I carried in my suitcase during my trip Back East in 1982"?

For the purpose of decluttering, "papers" and "dishes" are the useful, functional categories. But I think that _she doesn't know that_, not quickly and easily and effortlessly. Or maybe even if she does know that, her mind is all cluttered up with, "That's the coffee cup I used when I had Mary Rose over for lunch." When I categorize things, no details about them clutter my mind - I can effortlessly switch from "category thinking" ("let's stack up these papers") and "object thinking" ("That's that funny postcard from Cousin Sue.") I don't know if my mother can do this, or if all the object details are constantly distracting her.

Again, my mother's problem is moderate - not extreme and not mild. But, again, even a very mild case of this would be paralyzing. Cleaning the house requires _constant_ categorizing and subcategorizing and recategorizing. I usually do this effortlessly, with only an occasional realization that I've miscategorized ("These T-Shirts that I never wear but keep for sentimental reasons are souvenirs, not clothes, and shouldn't be in the main closet.") If I had to actually think about this, I'd be paralyzed too.

- Problems with decisionmaking and priorities

I think that this is sort of a version of "problems with sorting and categorizing", but relating to intangible things. Imagine that my mother's kitchen is covered with stacks of really old papers, to the point that she can't cook. In my case, I would say that those papers are old, and it's unlikely that I'll need anything from them soon. Keeping those papers really handy is a relatively low priority. On the other hand, being able to cook in my kitchen is a high priority. So I'll make the decision that I'll box up those papers and deal with them later, so that I can cook today.

Again, my mother doesn't see those priorities. She can't "sort" the high priority from the low. She has trouble seeing that cooking is more important than going through three-year-old papers, that washing the dishes is more important than cleaning behind the kitchen trashcan with a toothbrush, that getting her laundry done is more important than going through the charitable solicitations that she's received.

And in the case of the three-year-old papers, of course to even frame the facts that I'm basing the decision on, I have to be able to form categories. I've categorized the whole snowdrift as "three year old papers", while she may not even be recognizing the category "papers", but instead seeing each and every individual paper based on its own merits.

Decisionmaking and priorities is also an issue with throwing stuff out. At the most extreme, many people can't distinguish garbage from valuable items. I remember seeing a TV show about a hoarder who had to struggle, _hard_, before she could throw out a used band-aid.

Again, the extreme version of this is easy to see. But even a mild version can slow you down, and when combined with the perfectionism, which makes it a horrible big deal if you make the wrong decision or choose the wrong priority, it can again paralyze.

- "Out of sight, out of mind"

Many people, including my SO, have trouble remembering the existence of stuff that they can't see. I recently put several four-packs of drinks away, filling the available storage for that category. (Category! Again! See how handicapping a lack of categorizing would be?) They had been lined up on the counter. I know that I need to keep an eye on my SO now, because with those things out of sight, they don't exist any more, and he will think that he needs to buy more.

The same is true of bills - if he hasn't paid it yet, he wants it to stay out where he can see it. Books he's going to read - he leaves them out so he'll remember them. Clothes he's going to wear - it really annoys him when I hang up his coat. And so on. Having stuff stashed away is uncomfortable.

-----------------

Again, sometimes these traits are very strong, and they may lead to major hoarding. But even when they're mild, they would make housekeeping _much_, much more difficult. If you combine that with any other challenges, then keeping a neat house may be essentially impossible. The solution isn't will power, or working harder, the solution is more likely to be recognizing these processing issues and working directly on them.

Crayfish
________

wow crayfish !! very well put~!~
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Old 01-25-2008, 08:25 PM
 
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So you think anyone who has small children/babies are just making excuses? Perhaps there's a chance that children are...different? Maybe your kids aren't an excuse but for many, they are.

Come to my house. Watch the trail of destruction that follows my two. They are 2 and 3-- 18 months apart and have the craziest ability to just mess things up.

I work from home. I have the two kids. I try my best, but between being tired/exhausted all the time and dealing with them...well, messy happens.

Welcome to the Real World she said to me, condescendingly, take a seat. Take your life; plot it out in black and white.
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Old 01-25-2008, 09:21 PM
 
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A combination of laziness and a three year old and a pukey cat and a husband who is a hoarder. The baby has nothing to do with it.
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Old 01-25-2008, 09:25 PM
 
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Homeschooling.

The kids are home 24/7.

The last time that I was home alone, it was November of 1999 when I had the stomach flu and my mother took my kids out for a bite to eat.
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Old 01-25-2008, 11:51 PM
 
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OK popping back in for an update ~ my house is not neat but is CLEAN, aside from a sink of dishes to wash and one load of laundry.

Still single,
still have two kids,
now with a FULL load of classes
and more hours of work
and getting things in line to transfer to a 4-year come Fall Semester.





If I had more time I'd organize better so moving wouldn't be a hassle, but I just don't have the time. It's driving me nuts, but I'd rather keep my class performance top priority rather than dedicate more time to maintaining perfect standards of neatness...
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Old 01-26-2008, 12:57 AM
 
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What stops me from having a neat house? I don't like cleaning and tidying and de cluttering. It's boring.

And I don't like our house. We never should have bought this house, my heart isn't in it.

Someone moved my effing cheese.
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Old 01-26-2008, 01:11 AM
 
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this is me-

Quote:
We have a clean house.
But, it would be less cluttered if I did not put emotions on objects
but lately Im really getting better..
My house is clean and not all that cluttered.. just a few closets are left to purge

Shelly, Mom to Sophia 5 Nicholas 3 & 2 Angels
Its a GIRL! Alyssa Ann 6/29/10 7lbs 5 oz
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Old 01-26-2008, 01:16 AM
 
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What stops me from having a neat house? I don't like cleaning and tidying and de cluttering. It's boring.

And I don't like our house. We never should have bought this house, my heart isn't in it.
_________________

OH -- that is sad ... Do you have an option to possibly sell and find a home that suits your better?

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