Supermom – Not anymore!

I’m on vacation except not really going anywhere. I’m here. But I’m a little one tracked and when I’m writing, I’m not doing housework.

The dust bunnies have multiplied and formed armies. The clutter has become fortresses in every room, and the dust webs are poised for attack! Armed with trash bags, a broom, and dust pan with a long handle, I am planning to destroy the enemy.  Unfortunately the only thing that comes to mind is Pogo’s famous quote.

This is my doing! I did it to myself! I let things get out of hand. Why? I had every excuse in the book.

It’s only me here and there’s no one to care.

Dust keeps.

I’ll do it when I get to it.

It doesn’t matter.

I’ll clean up when I’d done this book.

So the same old excuses piled onto the old ones and the house has gotten worse. It got a semi-cleaning when a family member moved in with me last year. But it’s reached the point where I must stop and clean it. And truthfully, I hate having to sort through stuff.

So I am my worst enemy and I will get a grip on the mess.  I have vowed to do this and I have set August as my month to tackle it.

When my kids were little, I killed myself to keep the house clean. I scrubbed both bathrooms everyday and I did the kitchen floor. I’d run the vacuum and dust daily. Did the laundry and made beds. Many a time, I tossed the toys onto the sofa and kept cleaning.  The children’s clutter didn’t bother me. But I didn’t want them getting dirty feet or knees from my house! So I cleaned like a mad woman when they took naps.

With hardwood floors, I waxed and buffed. I had a pale gray, almost white wool rug in the dining room, foyer, and hallway. I didn’t chooseIMG_2109 them, I inherited them from a grandmother. I also inherited her pretty cherry furniture. That stuff was not child proof! I killed myself to keep things perfect.

At nineteen, I had a baby, a brand-new house on an acre of land, pretty furniture, and two cars (one new and one fairly new) in the driveway. Church mice had more money than we did, but we didn’t look it.

I had a huge garden. I had no clue what I was doing. I only knew I needed to raise food for my family as a way to stretch the budget. The first summer, I fought grass in the garden. It wouldn’t grow in the yard, but it went crazy in the garden. I fought bugs, cut worms, etc. Just when I got most of it under control, we had a drought and it was hot as blazes, then just as everything was about to be harvested, the turtles discovered it then…it rained and rained and rained! My garden turned into a mud hole and plants rotted. I cried. I was a total failure!

I learned and subsequent gardens improved considerably! I discovered Rodale Press and all the info on organic gardening.  I learned to protect things from bugs, birds, and turtles! I learned to keep the weeds at bay, cut down my watering, and how to keep the garden from turning into a swamp when we had too much rain.  And the whole time I kept the house spotless.

In a strange way, I was driven to do it. People looked at me and knew I was young. My husband was seven years older and a war vet, but no one considered that, they just looked at me toting two babies. I had to prove myself all the time.

My girls did not walk out the door without being perfectly groomed and perfectly dressed. Before my husband came home I called the girls inside and made them bathe and change into clean clothing. I’d re-braid their hair or pull it into pigtails with pretty ribbons. The table was set for dinner, and I’d run back to my room, wash my face, brush my teeth, comb my hair, and often change into cleaner clothes.  We’d scurry to tidy up because daddy was coming home!

And that is how my life as Supermom got started! We eventually wound up in a townhouse and I had a full-time job. But my role as Supermom never ended. It just changed. Gone was the garden and the big freezer – there was no place for it in the townhouse. The girls were long since capable of doing their own hair and half the time they weren’t there for meals. My attempts to keep the house spotless were constantly thwarted. I’d come home from work and they had left a mess. If they were old enough to work or do other things, they were old enough to keep their bathroom room clean and not make messes in the house! I put my foot down, and they ignored it!

I had a serious Supermom meltdown one night around 1 a.m. as I attempted to make my house perfect. My husband came and got me out of the kitchen. He took me to bed and held me until I fell asleep. The girls were a little better after that. But I have noticed that my granddaughters have never gotten away with half the stuff they did because – catch this – their mom’s work! Excuse me, what was I doing 40 hrs a week? And why was I working? So they didn’t have college loans! Oh how short the memories!

The youngest child keep boomeranging and coming home. She married and brought her spouse, got rid of him, moved out eventually, moved back, moved away, moved back, then finally she was gone, except I had the granddaughter most of the week staying here because mom worked a horrible shift. Things stayed clean. It didn’t take much to keep it clean. But I also didn’t have the same energy. Besides playing Supermom was the stupidest thing I ever did.

Finally it was just my husband and me. I slacked off. We were renovating, which means construction dust and things in places where they shouldn’t be. Then my husband died and my world collapsed. I didn’t care. I tried out of rote to keep things tidy, but slowly I gave up.

So here I am facing a mess. A mess I made, little bit by little bit. It didn’t happen overnight. I’m not talking about straightening the DSCN8855pillows on the sofa or putting a few dishes in the dishwasher. I’m talking about dirt and accumulated clutter. I’m talking about sticky, dirty dust and the overflowing pile of junk mail in the foyer. A pantry that needs to be emptied, a fireplace and several chandeliers and ceiling fans in unused rooms that are filled with dust webs, curtains/drapes that need to be washed, starched, and ironed.  Oh, the windows! And a deep and through vacuum.  The ladder is my friend in this old house because the lowest ceiling downstairs in this old house is about 12 feet or a little under 4 meters.

So hi, ho, it’s off to clean I go! I’m armed and ready. This is OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAgoing to be worse than editing!! New habit, two hours a day dedicated to cleaning my house! I want a clean house and maybe I’ll even be happier. In the meantime, the characters in my head are having a field day, for they are running a muck and enjoying total freedom.  They are speed dating without my permission!

Anyone have tricks for doing this faster or easier? I want to know. Besides I’ve never figured out how to really scrub a floor or make it sparkling clean! I need some inspiration – all advice is welcome. How do you manage?

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30 Responses to Supermom – Not anymore!

  1. susanrhughes says:

    LOL, I wish I knew how to do it. I’m sure my house is worse than yours. Whenever I try to get ahead of the mess and the grime, the kids distract me. Usually I just give up. I don’t know how you managed being Supermom at such a young age!

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    • E. Ayers says:

      I’m not sure how I managed, but I think I had a can’t-fail attitude. The bad part was I’d never cleaned anything in my life other than dishes prior to marriage, and I’d never seen anything being cleaned. I had no clue! I remember calling home and asking my mom what I was supposed to do with a pile of dirty laundry. She told me to bring it home and she’d show me how to use the washing machine. Totally clueless!

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  2. I’ve never been able to handle being a super-mom. I went from a young married woman just out of my parents’ house who didn’t have a clue about cleaning, to a working mom of an infant, to a stay-at-home mom of an infant and toddler. It took me years to get the hang of cleaning and I still have a husband and three adult sons who still live with us. But with me at home and them all working, it has gotten easier.

    As for cleaning and writing, I cut my house into sections and do a little cleaning each morning. One day I’ll concentrate on the bathroom, another the kitchen, or general living/dining room areas. That way it doesn’t pile up and I have the afternoons to sit at my desk and write. But I do remember those marathon cleaning sessions dealing with closets, clutter and all those places that get neglected. But now, those areas only need occasional cleanouts and I save that for weekends.

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  3. Tori Scott says:

    I’m bad about not doing more than a cursory cleaning occasionally until I find out company’s coming, and then I clean like a mad woman until they arrive. I do it one room at a time, working until that room shines before moving to the next. We’re getting ready to completely renovate our kitchen, tearing everything out down to the floor joists. In preparation, I’m starting tomorrow to clear out the excess. I’m going to be ruthless. Or so I hope.

    Have fun! Crank up the music, dance your way through the dusting and sweeping. And remember you aren’t alone,

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    • E. Ayers says:

      Thanks, Tori. I’ve done that down-to-floor-joist on three houses now. Coffeepot in the bathroom and mircowave in the living room! We’d work on weekends and the rest of the time, I had minor projects to handle such as refinishing the cabinets. I can cook anything on the BBQ. I’d be out there in the morning in my robe and slippers making breakfast. 🙂

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  4. I like to work in 25 minute sessions. 25 minutes cleaning, 25 minutes writing. Do that four or five times each and you get words down and your house manages to stay clean. I feel more productive that way.

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    • E. Ayers says:

      I’m really getting the feeling from everyone to just nibble several times a day at whatever needs to be done.I like that. No pressure to do it all at once.

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  5. melissakeir says:

    I work full time and write. I’m also a publisher. My day starts before I get up and ends when I crash into bed. I work weekends too! I have a routine down. I do the laundry on Sunday mornings when I change the sheets. I also do the cleanings in the bathrooms on Sunday. The rest I fit in one thing an evening. When deadlines with writing hit or late night meetings, those things have to take precedence.

    I wish you luck and enjoy you time cleaning… After all, the characters need to ruminate and plots to think through.

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    • E. Ayers says:

      My characters are having a grand time.

      When I was working, I mostly did everything on the weekends including cooking for the week. But I never had a moment to myself. And with four of us and no one helping, that laundry turned into mountains!

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  6. Kristy Tate says:

    I’m with Pepper. There’s a great book called The Slight Edge, and the principle is even 5 minutes a day can make a difference. Here’s what I do (or try to do.) I clean in the morning before my husband leaves for work for about 30 minutes. Monday-laundry, Tuesday-bathrooms, Wednesday-vacuuming, Thursday-kitchen, Friday-yard work. Larry leaves about 9 and then I spend my time writing, with an hour set aside for promotion. I write/promote for an hour, and clean for about 10-15 minutes. The spurts of cleaning aren’t really about cleaning as much as they’re about moving, getting my blood flowing, etc. I try to work as fast as I can until I sit back down at the computer. Of course, when my children are away, cleaning is a whole lot easier. I remember the first week after my girls left for college I forgot to take out the trash for the collector. In a different phase of life that would have been a disaster, but that week the trash can was completely empty!

    I love writing and sitting at the computer, but I’ve found I’m actually more productive if I take those 10-15 minutes throughout the day. Good luck!

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    • E. Ayers says:

      Sitting non-stop is not good for us!

      Another nibbler at the cleaning. And with it just being me, I could put the trash to the curb once a month because I knew it had to go and recycle went once every few months. Now with just an extra person in the house the trash goes out weekly and the recycle is bin is always full by pickup day.

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  7. jdfaver says:

    I can definitely identify with the Super Mom Syndrome. I remember laying on the kitchen floor with a toothbrush trying to clean the little grooves in the tile that was tucked way under the counters in the corners. My brain told me my babies did not have tongues long enough to reach under there, but it couldn’t stop my hand from scrubbing,.. That was a long time ago and I’ve gotten over it. I make my bed every day and sweep, mop and vacuum at least weekly. Just enough to keep from having the house condemned.
    I do the writing sprints each day. I keep in mind the ‘chores’ I have to do each day and I write for 45 minutes then get up for a bio break and to let the pup out. I try to accomplish one little thing in the breaks, such as take the recycle bin to the curb on Monday, clean out the fridge and get rid of anything growing in there. Also take the trash to the curb because the garbage and the recycle trucks roll early on Tuesday morning. Just tiny little tasks to keep things semi-organized. Good luck on your cleaning frenzy. *hugs* ~JD

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    • E. Ayers says:

      I always check the fridge the night before trash pickup. Blue food is not a good thing! And I know all about that toothbrush corner cleaning or getting into the nook and crannies of the mouldings. And in this old house there are miles of fancy decorative mouldings around windows, doors, floorboards, and crown. UGH! I don’t think I have what it takes to clean with a toothbrush anymore!

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  8. My mother LOVED cleaning, according to her. I don’t. Even after retiring, I don’t clean any more and probably less than I did when I was working. We have no kids or pets and my husband never says a word about the cleaning, so he’s perfect. 😉

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    • E. Ayers says:

      Yes, he’s perfect, Jane! My MIL loved to clean. I have no clue why. My grandmother used to recite a little poem about cleaning. I can’t remember it but the gist was that even while sleeping the dust was settling and the sheets and pajamas were getting dirty so housework is never done.

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  9. Jill James says:

    I call my husband Mr. Clean. He is the OCD, everything must be spotless guy. When the kids were young and I felt overwhelmed I discovered FLY Lady. FLY stands for Finally Loving Yourself. The basic premise is you do something, anything for 45 minutes then take a 15 minute break. It is how I clean and write throughout my day. It is also how I remember to drink water, because I’m terrible at that. 🙂 If she is still on the internet, it was http://www.flylady.net

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    • E. Ayers says:

      Oh fun! She’s still there. I need some inspiration to do this. My daughter’s SO is a clean-neat freak. He does most of the housework.

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  10. It sounds exhausting, my goodness! I know from our group that you go above and beyond, so I am not surprised in the least.
    The only way I can effectively clean is to turn on music, so I can dance and sing my way around the house. It’s the only way I can get it all done and not hate every moment, LOL! 🙂 You are indeed super!

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    • E. Ayers says:

      Hardly super at anything other than being a complete idiot for spoiling the entire family. Used to be I could turn on the radio and clean. Anyone remember what a radio was? LOL

      I came out of that generation where we were taught to spoil our husbands. I just didn’t do it in heels and an apron over my cute checked dress. (GAG!) Poor baby, he had worked hard all day. But what was I doing? I wasn’t twiddling my thumbs or painting my nails!

      When I got married, my mom passed me her everyday silverware which was silver plated. I had to polish that darn stuff! I was so stupid! At the time, I was thrilled to have a nice set of matching silverware, and it really was pretty…but it had to be polished! None of my friends even had a “set” much less two if anything that actually matched in their drawer. I had a full formal setting for 18!

      A babysitter put an end to my silver! I’d left stuff in the sink, laundry in the baskets, etc. and told her and her friend that all they had to do was play with the children until bedtime and put them in bed. After that they were free to watch TV or whatever. They decided to help me by folding all the laundry and putting it away and doing my dishes. Except they mixed dirty laundry with clean laundry and put it in the girls’ drawers. Then they did dishes but didn’t understand about silver tarnishing. and since the tines on the forks looked “dirty” they found my steel wool pads and had at it!

      They were so proud of themselves and what they had done for me. So darn cute about it and I wanted to cry! Hubby worked a bunch of overtime and said here, replace your silverware. $300 later, I was the proud owner of a beautiful set of stainless steel (no more polishing) silverware which is still in my kitchen drawer. It looks as good today as it did when I brought it home!
      🙂

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  11. Carol says:

    Jill mentioned Fly Lady. That was a site that I used once in a while also. The plan works if you stick to it. Trouble is, for years I had grown so used to starting in the back of my house and working my way through a room at a time, I gave up on Fly Lady’s suggestions. I still write for whatever time I can, then clean or do laundry or whatever for a while, then run errands, etc. Once the entire house needs an overhaul, it’s overwhelming and that makes for a bad day. We’ve been in this house over forty years and it’s time to rid it of many items I’ve held onto way too long. Take your time, E. If you have an entire week, or whatever time it takes, to clean, then I say go for it. But if not, then take chunks of time and little bites, to get it done. Good luck!

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  12. I can so empathise with your attempts to be a super mum, E. I married young, too, and I thought keeping a clean house and ironing everything (including tea towels) was the way to prove myself. Do my grown-up kids care today that their cot sheets were always wrinkle free? I don’t think so! One big thing that’s helped is getting more short-sighted with age. I never wear my glasses when I’m in the house so therefore I don’t see dust. If you’re short-sighted, there’s my handy tip! 🙂

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  13. I never had a tidy house when my kids were little. I figured when they were older they wouldn’t remember if the kitchen floor was clean, but they’d remember if I sat on it and played with them. Now that they’re grown, I have minimum standards. Dishes in the dishwasher when dirty, put away as soon as they’re done so it can be loaded up again. Bed made once a week. No one sees it but us and we just toss the covers up in the morning. It’s amazing what taking off your glasses and not inspecting dust can do for your free time. As long as I have clean clothes to wear, dishes to eat off of, and I can get to the door, I’m not too worried. And the very best way to deal with housework? Hire a maid service once a month to do the heavy stuff, and don’t worry about the rest. 🙂 Life is too short to spend it thinking about dust.

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    • E. Ayers says:

      I don’t think my kids remember that I played with them or that we went to the library at least one a week and sometimes twice a week. Or that I constantly read to them. (both entered school knowing how to read, write, count, add, subtract, and knew their money)

      I just don’t have that same energy and I’ve got a whole lot more house!

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  14. leighmorgan1 says:

    Laughing…I know I should take pride in a clean home, and I do, I just prefer someone else to do the cleaning :). Hate housework. Like gardening. My gardens look better than my house right now!

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  15. Hello, E. Ayers,
    I enjoyed this post, and I linked to it in my own post about a cluttered home leading to a cluttered mind (namely, my own!). The link to it is here, and your post appears in the “Related Articles” section at the bottom: http://www.joyfullygreen.com/2014/08/clean-house-clear-mind.html. Good luck with your cleaning project!
    Best,
    Joy

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  16. monarisk says:

    For years and years, I cleaned, and cooked, and worked and did everything while my DH traveled on business. So when I took an early retirement to write, I revolted, a quiet, silent revolt. I simply stopped doing laundry or dishes or groceries or cleaning or cooking more than once a week. Result was phenomenal. My DH started doing it all because he wanted clean socks and shirts, he wanted to eat and he couldn’t stand a dirty house. And he’s been doing it for the last ten years while I write.

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