Sunday, September 9, 2012

I Am a Recovering Slob

I am a recovering slob, who cleans houses for extra money. I used to be a complete slob and flat broke. So what happened? Well, the key word is: MONEY.  I needed it and when I got a little extra, I liked the idea of keeping it.  Well, maybe not keeping it, but using it to supplement our income. Now before you begin to think I am being totally materialistic, let me explain.

I have already confessed to you in an earlier post, how messy I was as a child.  My teenage years were no different, and even as an adult I struggled with keeping things tidy and clean. A friend recently asked me how to clean 10 year old abused linoleum floors.  My response was, “What’s the use?” I had the same floors when my children were younger and it is part of the reason why I didn’t do floors.  And that all goes back to money.

When I was a young adult on my own, before I married my husband, I did OK.  I didn’t have a lot of “stuff” and I was never home.  There was nothing to organize and little to clean.  Having a roommate helped. It was OK for the family to know my true identity, but I didn’t want to reveal it to anyone else.  Later, when I married, it was pretty much the same thing:  Tiny apartments, sparse furnishings and both working full time. Except for the kitchen, particularly the sink, our home didn’t really get very messy.  OK, not just the sink, but the kitchen counters as well.

Add a dog and a baby and the floors started being neglected too.  But, in my defense, they were the UGLIEST floors EVER!

Our first dog in our first rented house.
The beginning of my floor cleaning avoidance.
After a couple of years, we bought our first home.  We liked the house, we loved the yard, but it was not a house we would have chosen to buy except that it fit our needs and budget. My mother was going to move in with us so we needed a house with a separate apartment. The purchase was a joint venture. It was an older house and from day one it always needed repairs.  It started with the well pump, and then the sewer system (which was an on-going headache), and continued progressing from there.  Appliances, a new roof, hurricane damage…it was always something.

The floors were ugly in this house, too.  It needed new carpet in the living areas and new flooring in the kitchen and baths. It was in the plan to update these things when we bought the house, but within a year, Mom moved out and I was laid off from work.  We were stuck with a great yard, but a house in need of repairs and updating.  Don’t get me wrong.  I grew to love that old house, but it had so many challenges and we did not have the income to meet them. Thus began my endless mission to work with what I had.

The floor wasn't in great shape. Add 10 years, a few produce stickers that always fell and stuck, and a black lab.
Get the picture?

Except for the bedrooms, there were no closets in the house.  No pantry, no laundry room.  The washer and dryer were in the main bathroom and the sink and tub were OLIVE green in that bath. With the addition of our third daughter, we had begun to accumulate all the stuff you accumulate when you have children.  Then more stuff when we started homeschooling. I played with the kids a lot and I enjoyed reading, so needless to say it was a bit of a mess.

Yucky color, cute kid, and rust stains from too much iron in our water.

Now, if you came to visit me (announced) you may not have known it.  Remember…I wanted to keep my little secret.  Had you opened my dryer you would have found quite a few things in addition to at least 3 loads of laundry.  Not all of the items would have been clothing either.  Same for the washer.  Great hiding spots, huh? I had a few more hiding spots I may reveal later.  Once I got the clutter taken care of, I could clean quickly and the house looked great.  Sometimes, I left the clutter and didn’t clean.  It depended on who was coming and my mood.  So that’s how it was.  I always had to choose.  Did I want clean, or tidy?

My husband was pretty patient and tried to help when he could, but he picked on me about it often.  His favorite thing to do while he was videotaping the kids was to pan out, get a good sweep of the room, and say, “This is how we live.” He joked, but often, when I was at church with the kids, I came home to really clean kitchen floors and counters.  That was the only time the floors were ever done right.  Besides an occasional sweeping, my idea of mopping was to throw a cup of water on it and walk around on a towel.  Then I figured out to let the kids walk around on the towel and I got out of that too!

One day at the library, I found this book: Organizing From the Inside Out. It looked interesting and I knew I needed help to organize because the dryer was beginning to be too small for all of our stuff. Really, with the exception of the Bible, if I had to say a book changed my life-this was it. I didn’t simply learn how to organize; I learned why I was having a problem in the first place.  I de-cluttered, BIG TIME. It turned out to be a blessing that I did it, because a year later we unexpectedly found out we were moving to Florida.  Isn’t God great?  He knew we’d be moving.  Had I not de-cluttered and begun to keep things tidier I would have been overwhelmed.

So, our home began to be less messy, but it still wasn’t the cleanest house on the block and I still had those ugly floors and bathroom.  We did manage to update the master bath in between major repairs, but cosmetic changes were not in the anytime soon plan because our back porch was a health hazard. We needed to build a new one soon before someone came over and broke a leg. My husband and I had a long talk and I suggested me finding part-time work cleaning houses.  He thought that was funny, but agreed it just may work.  We could hopefully get enough money to repair the porch within 2-3 months. When I found a couple of houses to clean, I started feeling a little guilty.  Here I was cleaning other people’s homes while mine was dirty.  So, I made an announcement.  We were going to start cleaning the house on a regular basis, not just when company came.  Mondays would be the day. Once we got going, we pretty much had a clean and easy to maintain house.

That was in the spring of 2007.  By the end of the summer, we were packing to move. I told you money was what motivated me to change my ways.  Money was also what helped me to keep them changed. We decided to rent long term in Florida.  We did not want to be house poor ever again.  We needed a larger house and the only way we were going to get that was to rent.  Renting requires a deposit. A deposit is returned IF YOU TAKE CARE OF THE HOUSE.

The first house we rented had brand NEW tile floors.  They were WHITE.  UGH! Turns out it was the best thing for me.  White shows dirt.  Once I could see it, I couldn’t avoid, it so I kept it clean. Also, when we moved, we basically started over as far as furnishings and stuff.  We sold 75% of our stuff in Wilmington and came to Tallahassee with a fresh start.  At the request of my husband, we made a commitment to not allow things to get out of hand ever again.  With a lot less stuff and a newer house, it was easy.  Once it became a habit, moving into an older home and accumulating lots more stuff hasn’t been too much of a problem.  It was a 2-3 year process but, I can now say, “I am a recovering slob.”  (It is a never-ending battle.)

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