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Clean and tidy obsessive - small messy children - constant tension and misery

(37 Posts)
handlemecarefully Tue 31-May-05 13:59:10

I am a real stickler for a clean and tidy house. Yes, perhaps it is almost to the point of obsession...and as a mum to a nearly 3 year old and a 13 month old struggle with this all the time.

They both make a huge mess (though mostly 13 month old) and I am perpetually tidying up. My friends say fgs leave it - but I can't. Unless everything is show house perfect at the end of the day it eats away at me and niggles, and niggles and niggles. I often don't sit down until 22.30 at night because I am tidying up until then. (Before anyone asks, I find time to post on mumsnet when I am at work for 20 hours per week - actually on the days I work life is far easier because house doesn't get trashed)

It makes me a bit miserable at times because I feel that I am always skivvying (and this is with the input of a cleaner for 6 hours per week!)

It won't help to tell me to:

get a life, there are more important things to worry about


fgs snap out of it

because it's not through conscious personal choice like I am like this.

Is anyone out there similarly afflicted by this near obsession - and what successful strategies have you used to conquer it (i.e. has anyone successfully schooled themselves to live with more mess without angst?)

oliveoil Tue 31-May-05 14:06:51

I am very tidy too but over the years I have learnt to live with the mess in the day and then when they are in bed, I do a quick run round.

I can't sit down in an untidy room, it drives dh round the bend.

Blossomhill Tue 31-May-05 14:13:14

I have been like you hmc and still am to a degree. Seriously though I have had to learn to deal with it. Nowadays I have a 5 and 7 year old and believe me they still make mess but I try and think they won't remember the mess but will remember me constantly fussing about it. That thought has always really helped.
It is like a target you can never successfully meet with small children. They make a mess and I have the sticky handprints everywhere (that drive me round the twist) to prove it!

Puff Tue 31-May-05 14:14:49

I bought one of those things that have a long handle and a pincer at the end - v easy to go round picking up the clutter and deposit it back in the right place. I can't rememember where I bought it, but I'm sure Lakeland do them. Plus a long handled dustpan and brush - from John Lewis - brilliant for a quick sweep round when I can't be bothered to get the vacuum cleaner out, or the noise of it would wake my two up. Also, ds1's job before bedtime is to tidy all the toys (he has a sticker chart as an incentive). He's nearly 4 now, but has been doing it since about 2 1/2.

I'm not obsessive about tidyness, but do like to be able to sit down in the evenings in a reasonably tidy house.

Puff Tue 31-May-05 14:16:55

The red felt tip splodges on our wooden floor and the dirty handprints and splats up the walls will have to wait though !

jampots Tue 31-May-05 14:21:48

isnt it supposed to be quite theraputic to actually make the mess yourself therefore it is a "controlled" mess. Why not have a "messy room" purely for this experiment, so you dont have to go into it and see how long it can last. Obviously no good if you live in a 2 bed, 1 lounge house though.

Failing that please feel free to come to mine anytime during this week

Bugsy2 Tue 31-May-05 15:04:02

HMC, I suffer like this too.
I have found that big clear stackable plastic storage boxes are incredibly helpful. I have loads of them in our play area. Each box has a category of toy: playmobil, small cars, big cars, train set, soft toys, dolls clothes, big dolls, drawing & painting etc etc etc
They can get one box out at a time and put stuff back when they are finished.
My children are a bit older than yours: 5.5 & 3 but I've been doing this for about 2 years now and it has made life so much easier.
They are not the most beautiful containers in the world but they keep me calm & the children a bit more tidy!

beansmum Tue 31-May-05 15:09:55

I think I'm going to have the opposite problem, I'm very messy but ds is obsessed by tidying up, if I tip his bricks out on the floor he spends ages carefully putting them back in the box. He has also taken to lining up his toys in a row on the bookshelves, strange boy.

pleaserewind Tue 31-May-05 15:15:55

so i'm not the only tidy freak phew!
it causes so many rows in our house because i am forever tidying and de- cluttering and then dp will bring his push bike IN THE HOUSE and insist it stays there all weekend which drives me to distraction! I don't have a big house and mess just turns me into a raving looney...i don't know what the cure is other than living alone
i'm getting a new kitchen next week.that will be a mess!

puddle Tue 31-May-05 15:22:24

I am the same. I feel unable to think straght when the house is a tip. But once we had two children I got into the same rut as you - somehow that extra little person tipped the house over the edge into chaos and I found myslef constantly cleaning, tidying and sorting. It's soul destroying because it's never ending.

I have started being very strict with myself about how long I spend cleaning and tidying. I set time limits and focus on one room - it's amazing what a difference you can make in half an hour. I tidy the kids stuff and sort washing while they are in the bath. I also have a (really attractive!) basket in every room and at the end of the day do a sweep round gathering up all the bits of toy/ socks/ other tat they leave in their wake throughout the day. It all gets chucked in the basket and I sort those out once a week.

I'm also embarrassed to admit I have a rota upin the kitchen now - sounds very studenty but have found it's the only way to get DP to help - he's very willing but needs to be told what to do - he actually drew it up so he knows what he's responsible for, and how often particular tasks need doing. It gets round the 'he never sees the mess' problem and it means I have had to relinquish control/ responsibility for the whole thing - ds (5) is now starting to have his own jobs to do too.

Tessiebear Tue 31-May-05 15:25:13

I allow one room to be permanently messy - conservatory / playroom - and try and limit most of the toys etc to this room - this helps to keep the rest "untrashed". - well that is the theory anyway

handlemecarefully Tue 31-May-05 15:39:29

Thanks all for the suggestions...

I agree Blossomhill, it might help to ponder how the kids might ultimately end up resenting me for spending more time fussing and cleaning up, than spending time with them / interacting with them positively. I will keep trying to tell myself this.

I think I will need a basket in each room as suggested to deposit bits in and then sort into appropriate places once per week - I like that. Better than bits and bobs strewn in various locations around the place (kitchen windowsill seems to get cluttered with bits of mega blocs, odd socks etc which aesthetically I hate).

Maybe I should do a rota with jobs on for dh. I've avoided doing that because he works hard and often doesn't get in until 20.00 / 21.00 hrs so I would feel guilty burdening him with one or two domestic chores...but then again, when he comes in he gets to sit down whilst I am still going. Am I too soft on him? Should I allocate him a few light domestic duties even though he works long hours and is under a lot of stress?

handlemecarefully Tue 31-May-05 15:41:19

I can't wait until the kids are older - I will be giving them 'performance related pocket money' linked to observing general tidyness rules!

puddle Tue 31-May-05 15:47:46

HMC one thing that I tell myself is how I felt about my Mum's house. She was (is) very very tidy and it got to the point whereI felt uncomfortable having my friends back there because a biscuit crumb on her carpet assumed the appearance of a small boulder. I want my kids tio be tidy and fairly organised but I want them to like their home and it to be a place they and their friends can relax and have fun in.

I think you should get your dp to help. When we looked at what needs to be done to keep the house clean and tidy together it was useful becase a) he could see how much work it is and b) he could give me a reality check re: cleaning the cooker x number of times a week.

Lizzylou Tue 31-May-05 15:54:02

HMC, you remind me of my Mother, she makes me feel like such a slut cos I am fairly clean and tidy, but not as much as her...when she comes round I panic. The thing is, the cleanliness gene has skipped a generation, DS (14mths) puts all his toys into piles and puts his balls back into the ball pool, the other day he found a cloth and started cleaning his highchair! He has also grabbed the dustpan and brush and "swept" under his highchair! Can't wait until he's a bit older!

handlemecarefully Tue 31-May-05 15:57:36

lol Lizzylou re. me reminding you of your mother! Now I feel really old as well as a tidy fanatic

Puddle - thanks, that helps too. Yes I want my kids to feel that they live in a homely home not a mausoleum (spelling?), so reflecting on that may well help me.

I shall be drafting a rota tonight after kids are in bed.

handlemecarefully Tue 31-May-05 15:59:12

One thing that frustrates and confuses me is that I can go to a friends home and sit amongst the mess and chaos and not be at all phased by it, and infact find it quite liberating. Why can't I do this in my own home!

Lizzylou Tue 31-May-05 16:14:18

HMC, I didn't mean in age ...she is a hot mama, tho, my mom!!!

sunchowder Tue 31-May-05 16:21:51

I also "suffer" from this. Everything has it's place in my home and I used to be driven to distraction whenit is not put back in it's 'place'. I still can't stand wasting one minute searching for anything because it was not put back where it belongs. I also thought this was my personality and very much a part of who I am, but alas....I am learning that this is not true. Apparently having things ordered makes me feel ordered inside. It is all part of my effort to have control as when I see chaos all around me, I have an irrational fear that I am going to come apart.

I went from being single, divorced to having 3 stepchildren and one of our own on the way! That was 12 years ago now. I have had to make some changes. Whatever it takes to cope, begin to do it! A basket in each room sounds great--I found that I needed to have one place in the house where I can go that is fairly organized--I have given up control over the children's rooms altogether. The only room I demand is kept clear of all clutter is our main family room. Once something is put down on a table, chair, sill, I find that area is like a magnet for attracting more clutter or somehow it means it is open season for throwing more clutter on that table or chair to the rest of the family. In the early days, tidy-up of that family room was done with the kids in a happy way, with races and can you do this quicker kind of stuff. They understand that is the one room where we don't have crap laying around. I also do not allow eating any food whatsoever in the bedrooms so that I don't have to worry about health hazards. I close their doors and that is that. I cannot even tell you how discusting I find their bedrooms, but I must close the doors, as I am clear this is my issue--it is not about their disrespect for me (which for some reason I strongly believed for some time also). I mean if you love something, you care for it and treat it well so that I will last a very long time kind of thing.

I could go on and on.....let me know if you want more!

handlemecarefully Tue 31-May-05 16:30:46

sunchowder - got to rush off and pick up kids from Day Nursery now, but have skim read what you've said and a lot of it rings true for me. Will talk more later

noddyholder Tue 31-May-05 16:51:20

Either get a cleaner or get a life Sorry!I was brought up with a mum like this and it had a really bad effect on all of us Sorry I know this isn't what you want to hear but we had a terrible time and it still affects us now.They won't be babies foreve and no one ever died of a messy house so try and enjoy them and chill out

Moomin Tue 31-May-05 16:59:44

I don't want to appear unsympathetic as I recognise that it is an issue for you, but I do think it's bit unfair to expect your dh to join in with the tidying when he gets in at 8 or 9 at night after working all day. If it were me, I'd be sitting down and letting you get on with it as well! I think maybe you need to think about the wider issues - about what your children will grow up thinking of you and your house, like others have mentioned; and also why it is that 'mess' makes you so unhappy. Do you and dh argue about it? It is a control thing - do you feel better about life if your house is in order and up to your standards? Do other aspects of your life seem out of control? Does your dh not get involved at all (even at weekends)? I think there's a difference between helping out generally with the things like hoovering and dusting, etc., which I think is perfectly reasonable at weekends, and making the house 'show-room perfect' each night after a long day's graft, which I think is a bit OTT.

I can't say I know how you feel as I'm a messy person generally. I don't wish to get all psycho-babble on you, but my mum died when I was 9 and most of the housework went out of the window for my dad with me and my brother to look after. The house was a tip, but my dad made sure we were happy and as stress-free as we could be. IMO life is much much too short to get yourself in a state about the mess that children inevitably make. I know this may not be very helpful - I think suggestions like the basket in each room is an excellent one - but try to imagine you walk out of the door one day and never come back. This is what happened with my mum. Do you want your kids to have this vision of you constantly stressed and moaning at them to be obsessively tidy? A bit drastic maybe... if so, I'm sorry. Like I said I don't wish to belittle your problem, but a happy balance surely is attainable.

TracyK Tue 31-May-05 17:01:57

Puddle - do you really have attractive baskets?? where do you get them from? I'm just using Ikea ones at the mo

Fran1 Tue 31-May-05 17:21:08

I have a 2 yr old and a messy dp. I also used to be, but not quite so now, obsessed to the level you are with tidiness and i didn't even have a cleaner to help me!

I had to put myself thru my own therapy e.g force myself to leave those crumbs on the carpet, or that smear on the window or the cobweb on the ceiling until the next day, just to retrain my brain that actually our lives do continue despite the mess and there are far more important things going on. I used to spend all evening cleaning often til midnight. Believe me ( i sound really silly now ) it was HARD to leave things a day, but i talked to dp about it and he helped me over come what i used to call my fits ( i think they were like anxiety attacks i used to have if cleaning hadn't got done). I'd tell him how i was feeling and he'd make me see sense. Eventually i realised that actually its far more enjoyable to relax in the evenings, watching tv, talking to dp or reading a book rather than doing the bloody housework!

I now have a bit of structure to my cleaning (whereas it used to be constant) I allow myself Monday's to hoover, dust, tidy around and clean windows. Then i generally try and hoover once again towards the end of the week (this is major i used to hoover everday) and allow the occasional tidying as i go around during the day. BUT absolutely no housework takes place in the evenings anymore.

ITs still hard, i see fluff on the carpet and long to get the hoover out but tell myself it can wait till tomorrow and my time would be far better spent playing with dd.

Sorry to those who don't understand, i sound sooooo sad i know, but this used to be a very big problem for me

Fran1 Tue 31-May-05 17:23:09

I meant to say also that i ensure dd is allowed to make lots and lots of mess so she doesn't turn out like me. Nearly every day we do painting/playdough etc and have toys strewn accross the floor. She loves making mess, but she is also very good at tidying away afterwards also because i want her to respect her belongings but also have the freedom and enjoyment from mess making!

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