The Forcing Function

Sometimes, when my home gets really messy, my husband asks for us to host a dinner party as a forcing function to get us to clean the place up. It’s one of the most stressful things he says, because I immediately start to panic about the place being such a mess, and I absolutely hate to panic-clean. So lately I tend to squash that idea quick because it stresses me out, and leads to a stressful dinner party where the place is still not as clean as I’d like. It may work for him as a motivator, but for me it’s just too stressful.

I prefer to clean at my own pace.

But there is a minimum pace which must be maintained for a clean home (especially if it’s starting out messy.) It’s been said that if you want to see a dirty room you just stop cleaning it. It gets dirty on its own. So let’s say that negative clean is cleaning slower than the house is getting messy, and positive clean is cleaning fasting than the house is getting messy. Ideally, I’d like to always be in a positive clean state, so the house is getting continuously cleaner until I can maintain it more or less in top condition, and quickly recover from downtime. (Big events cause more clean-up, and illnesses mean messes can pile up.)

But only in the past year have I really moved from the negative clean into the positive clean. I’ve de-cluttered, organized, set up a nice seating area on my balcony and learned how to sew. I got the apartment to a level of clean which didn’t require dinner party as a forcing function, but let me just have one for fun!

I had some friends over for Thanksgiving, and it was so much fun! So easy to prepare food with my kitchen cleared up and organized. And then, so easy to clean up afterwards! Despite cooking way more dishes than I have ever prepared alone at a single time, it was the most successful party I’ve ever hosted,¬†a milestone on my path to happy¬†household management.

My Homemaking Baby Step

Just a few years ago, my mind boggled at all the “simple” homemaking tasks that I couldn’t do. My drawers and closets were bursting with improperly stashed linens–I didn’t even know how to fold a fitted sheet! I’m still astonished I never learned how, since I definitely remember folding flat sheets at home before. But the internet is pretty nice about things like that… Buzzfeed abounds with lists of “hacks” for the home. That’s where I first saw the pictures for folding a fitted sheet. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand what they meant, how to get from the first picture (hands at the elastic) to the second (all folded over).

And basically I didn’t care… I would just ball up the sheet and stuff it in the closet or on the shelf until it stayed put. That’s what I did until my son was born, and my mom and sister-in-law came to stay with me for a week. They were amazing, and helped clean and organize almost every room of my house! And when they were gone, I realized that… the fitted sheets had been folded! Seeing how convenient it now was to have them that way, and knowing it must be possible because someone in my own house had just done it, I decided to finally learn how.

A google search of “how to fold a fitted sheet” yields plenty of illustrations… but I still couldn’t make heads or tails of it. So I tried another route–the best way to learn anything, in my opinion. That’s youtube. I found a short video with a full demonstration, and voila! I knew how to fold a fitted sheet.

It was a simple task like that which made me feel like I couldn’t really be a homemaker, because I didn’t know how to do even simple tasks to take care of my home. But armed only with my resolve to learn, plus the internet, I mastered it in a cinch! (Okay, ‘mastered’ may be a bit of an exaggeration.) That was one of my first baby steps into homemaking, into realizing that I had what it takes.

I also learned that I could count on youtube for just about anything I needed to learn how to do.

A Worthwhile Occupation

It was pretty weird, the first time I selected “Homemaker” as my occupation. I had to come to terms with it. I asked myself, really what am I doing with myself? What do I do everyday? Why am I not working? (So I got a job for a little while… but meh.)

Nowadays, I don’t have that struggle in my mind. Now, I think of myself as doing a number of jobs that I would have to pay other people to do for me. For instance, cleaning, cooking, sewing, caring for my son.

Cleaning, from the little tasks like washing dishes, to bigger things like floors and carpets, is a job that many people actually get paid to do. And maybe one day I’ll be a rich lady who can quit cleaning and just hire a cleaning lady to stop by–or at least someone to help. For now, though, it’s one of my jobs. It’s not all-consuming, nor is it glamorous, but it does need to get done, and I’m the one who does it. Meanwhile, I’m not spending money on hiring someone to clean for me.

Cooking is an even more skilled occupation. If I weren’t cooking food at home for my family to eat (and I’ll admit… sometimes I don’t!) then I would be paying for someone else’s culinary skill. I might be paying for meals from fast food huts as well as fine dining… and all that food prepared by someone else costs more than cooking it at home. In many cases, it’s also not as healthy. So I’m saving money and taking care of my family.

Sewing is one of those odd skills–I tried to learn with my mom, and I should have when I had that chance. Right now, I’m just trying to learn the basics on my own, but now even simple things, like shortening a hem, are in my toolbox. So I don’t need to have pants dragging on the floor, I can fix them myself. I could have always taken them to a tailor, but once again there’s a job I don’t have to pay someone else to do.

But many households have a huge expense with their children–and that’s child care. What portion of a second salary goes solely to pay for day care, for parents of young children? If I were employed, then I would also have to pay someone to take care of my son during the day since I don’t have family nearby to help with that. But this is the most consuming task of my day–and it would be the most expensive to hire out. So again saving money, and also getting to have fun with my kiddo.

Taking care of my home is a responsibility, and even though undertaking it didn’t initially imbue me with pride, it’s nice to reflect on the individual tasks of my job, especially since they do overlap with a variety of professions. Now it’s time to sharpen my skills, I guess, so I’m more of a professional homemaker, than an amateur.