Sometimes the Hardest Thing To Do Is Nothing
Last month’s post from Mr. Money Mustache on Are You Cleaning Out Your Own Wallet? really got me thinking. His point, essentially, was that excessive cleaning (not tidying up, which he’s in favor of, but actual scrubbing, spraying, wiping, mopping, etc.) of one’s abode is a waste of both time and the money spent on cleaning supplies.
Like a lot of mothers (and a smaller but growing number of fathers) of young children, I don’t find it worthwhile to work outside the home. So I have a couple of work-at-home gigs and part-time childcare, and the rest of the week, it’s me and the little dudes.
The problem with all that time at home is it gives you too much time to notice things about your house that you could clean. A spot on the kitchen floor? Better mop it. The towels have been up for a week? Better change them. The entertainment center looks dusty–better wipe it. We’re low on bread–better load up the kids and head to the grocery store. And while we’re there, let’s get yogurt, apple sauce, Goldfish crackers…
All that busy-ness made me feel like I was taking good care of my family and filling an important role. Really, though, what I was doing was consuming resources. Water, vinegar and ammonia for cleaning, laundry detergent for all that towel washing, gas for going to the store, and just as importantly, my own time.
Turns out that my towel can hang there for at least three weeks before it shows any signs of being dirty. A wet rag can get that spot on the kitchen floor, or I can just ignore it. Dust? Really? Unless the Queen is dropping by for tea, who cares? And if we’re low on bread, how about I just make oatmeal instead of sandwiches and put the store off for a few days? (Mr. FP will eventually go himself if I am patient.) Now, when we push the envelope on taking out the trash, I think, “Awesome. Look how long we made one trash bag last!”
Do I still feel important and useful with less bustle? Probably even more so. Not only am I conserving our family resources, but I’m finding more important ways to fill my time. I get a few more minutes clocked on my pay-by-the-minute work at home job, or sit down and relax with my husband, or let my kids help with simple chores, even though that makes them take longer. Or maybe instead of fussing around cleaning something in the kitchen, I just plunk myself down the floor and watch them play for a while. And if there’s granola on my pants when I get up from the rug, then I’ll vacuum… eventually.