Why Lemony?
(the “About Me” page)

September 06, 2008

Cleaning day

So... I was going to say more about cleaning. My mom reminded me today that I always kept my room neat when I was a kid. I guess I remember that but I think I became less and less motivated to clean my living space when it expanded to a whole house with several small built-in mess makers.

There's this whole Montessori approach to cleaning where messes are kept managable with very clear instruction about where each thing goes and completing the cycle of an activity by cleaning it up at the end. You are responsible for your little 'work' that is on your little mat and there are a bunch of other kids all doing the same process around you. Teaching that to the kids has been an uphill battle over the years, for at least three reasons:

1. My house is not a Montessori classroom with a neat little shelf for each thing. Far from it, although we've tried to move in that direction over the years.

2. The overall level of willingness to cooperate with clean up instructions started out very low when Georgia was little and it was just the parental will against hers. It has gradually risen as the kids all get a little older and there are three of them seeing that they are all being asked to behave the same way. It's not just some crazy grown-up thing.

3. I don't always like cleaning up each activity before I go on to another. It's way more compelling and miraculous when there's a huge mess to clean up than when just a few things are out of place. I feel like I've really accomplished something when I clean up a big mess that's been growing for weeks.

4. There are so many other things I'd rather be doing than cleaning up and, unfortunately for my long term success, trying to motivate little children to clean up is NOT one of them.

Despite the complaining though, we have recently started to get more cooperation from the kids about cleaning up, especially on Cleaning day (Saturday morning) when there is a special time for that and nothing else. It's been a long distance marathon for me trying to create and keep up with a habit like Cleaning day. I pretty much never want to do it when I wake up Saturday morning. I feel like I'm stretching and maturing as a person when I can be a good leader anyways and help the kids to do their cleaning themselves and do mine and not get grouchy. I've learned to take breaks, put on good dance music, have a treat at the end, and be sure to feed the tired cleaners well.

I've also learned that everyone has a different kind of cleaning that they like to do. I like sweeping. The whole room looks clean to me when the floor is clean, and I love being able to see hardwood floors shine. So pretty! I also like picking up impossibly enormous messes, though, of course, I don't appreciate anyone making them just for my sake.

What do you think about cleaning your house? What's your process?

P.S. In case anyone is wondering, Billy is very much an equal partner in keeping the house clean and teaching the kids to do so also. Just thought I'd mention that so noone thinks I'm being oppressed or anything.

Posted by Bahiyyih at September 6, 2008 09:28 PM

My motivation is knowing someone else will see it, i.e., having visitors. I also like to have a clean kitchen workspace. When things are less cluttered and put away, I think I feel better, happier, like I can breathe easier. That doesn't stop me from having a messy house at times. But it sure feels good to clean up!

Posted by: layli at September 15, 2008 12:50 PM

Hi, Bahiyyih! Becoming a "wife" and especially a "mom" brought up a lot of associations and emotional charge around the act of cleaning and keeping a home that I've gradually been able to disassociate myself from so that I can really do it more and more for the enjoyment of it. Learning about the montessori approach was really helpful to me too so that I could start seeing myself and acting out the role more of an educator rather than "picker-up-after-of" which I was prone to do before. At the same time I totally commiserate with your observation that 'my home is not a perfectly kept montessori school!' so it's really more of a montessori approach work in progress sort of a thing. Whenever I get down on myself for not being as consistently orderly as I'd like to be, Husayn always reminds me that life isn't really as controlled as the environment can be made to be in a Montessori classroom where the kids just go for a few hours a day. Anyway, that's where I am now. Still trying to figure out how to be more consistent with things, and balancing that with flexibility when things need to change, and not forcing too much change before it's really time.

Posted by: Suzanne at September 19, 2008 06:42 PM