Learning to Relax

A few weeks ago I realized it was time for a change. I was at the end of my rope, due only to self-imposed expectations. Years ago, early in our marriage, I developed a need to clean the whole house every weekend. It wasn’t so difficult when I was home all day every day, but I carried that expectation on even as I went back to work full-time. Even as our kids got involved in sports and we sometimes spent entire weekends at some gym or ball field cheering them on in tournaments.

I realized recently that no one is making me do this clean-the-whole-house-in-one-day thing. It’s just me. I’m the only one who cares. No one else looks at the house the same way that I doAnd I was making myself crazy because every weekend I would waste precious free time and beautiful days stuck inside, cleaning. And I was making everyone else crazy because I was playing the martyr, refusing to delegate tasks and generally spending my weekends in a crabby mood. I don’t know why, but I wouldn’t allow myself to do a little bit this day and another little bit that day. It all had to be done at once.

For years this went on to the point that I began to dread weekends. I would talk about this to my friend, Lori at work, and she would ask why I thought I had to clean every week. I didn’t have any good answers. I don’t judge family and friends by the state of their homes. In fact, I feel more relaxed in the homes of people where things look a little more comfortable and lived in. Lori asked why I was holding myself to a higher standard and I couldn’t give her a good reason. And what really gave me a boost is when Lori said, you should see my kitchen. It’s always cluttered unless we’re having company.

I thought a lot about what Lori said and realized that I am tired of wasting precious weekends trying to get the house in a state that isn’t going to last more than a couple of days anyway. We have people coming and going at all hours in this house. With all of our varying schedules, with all of the kids’ friends coming and going all the time, the place just isn’t going to stay pristine. And maybe that’s why the kids’ friends like to come here. They know they can relax. They know they can go to the snack cupboard and help themselves. They know they can rumple up the living room in an evening and it’s okay with me.

I still want my house clean every week. I’m just going to teach myself to do it in phases. One thing this day, a couple of things the next. I’m going to remember to delegate a few things. And if there’s a little dust on the end tables, well, no one but me is really going to notice anyway. I mentioned this new plan to my mom, and she good-naturedly teased me. “Good luck with that, Sweetie.” She can laugh, but I think I can do this. Of course I’ll still do the cleaning frenzy thing when company’s coming, but I’m really going to try hard to make more of my weekends.

So I’ve managed to get through a couple of weeks with this new plan and new attitude and you know what? Weekends are fun again. I’ve found time to be with friends and family. I’ve found time to read. I’ve found time to soak up a few rays out on the deck. And I’ve found time to cook – really cook. Not some whip-it-together kind of meal, but an all day, relaxed preparation kind of meal. I’ve realized that doing fun things on the weekends is much more fun when I’m not mentally reminding myself of all the work that awaits me at home.

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Yeah. I think this is good.

24 thoughts on “Learning to Relax

  1. I had to laugh at your mother’s “Good luck with that, Sweetie” comment. I’ve always pictured you as keeping a tidy house but I honestly don’t know how you did it with 3 kids, one dog, one loving spouse, and a full time job. It is great to keep your house in Good Housekeeping shape, but for what end? Will it help you achieve inner peace? I’m definitely no role model, but life’s too short to spend it dusting and vacuuming every weekend. I am not even going to mention our clutter. Just try keeping up with two Goldens Retrievers who are in constant shed mode. I have seriously considered given them a Chihuahua haircut if I wouldn’t be banned from the Golden Club.

    I think Lori has it down pretty well, you are holding yourself to a higher standard that the rest of us slobs. When it comes down to it, do you want your epitaph to say “She kept a clean house”? I think you are on the right track with letting some of this go. Enjoy life. It is a gift.

    And quit showing off on your food prowess. It is making me hungry.


    • And the thing is… you could come over at any given time and something would be out of place or in need of a vacuum. It’s not like all this effort was even creating a perfectly kept house. There just aren’t enough hours in a day.

      Wish I could have shared the food with you… I worked all day to make it and by the time it was done, no one was home to eat it!


  2. I figure it’s enough to just want a clean house.

    Like Agg says, I’m amazed that you cleaned your whole house every weekend with kids/dog/job! Your meal looks delicious – and very inviting on the new {cheapo} plate! I’m glad you’re learning to relax and enjoy your weekends. Keep it up, sweetie!


    • :-) I’ll keep working on just wanting a clean house and worry less about trying to achieve it regularly! ;-)

      The food was good! I bought a big pork roast and then found a recipe online and just happened to have most of the ingredients so I tried it. Mark ate some when he got off of work and went back for seconds, so I’ll mark that one as a success.


    • I was REALLY unsure about that sauce. There was SO much mustard in it. And on it’s own, I was sure I wouldn’t like it, but I continued to follow the recipe and once it was mixed in with the pork, it was just right!

      Maybe getting use to a less than perfectly kept house is something we all eventually grow into. I think it’s a good thing. Life is too short to spend so much of it cleaning.


  3. Ummm…. you made pulled pork?? My mouth’s waterin’!
    I used to be just like you, but a quite a few years ago my hubby asked me why I was so concerned about it. He didn’t care, the kids obviously didn’t care, so I quit trying to fight everyone and I quit caring too. Now, I’m too busy or exhausted to do it, but I also have a hard time relaxing without it done… so I’m in a tough place. Either way, it’s not worth giving up my free time to clean toilets or scrub floors – so I don’t. :)


    • You nailed exactly how I feel – it’s hard to relax when the house is messy. But I’m trying really hard to get over that. The first couple of weekends when I let a few things go, I relaxed. Really relaxed for a period of time each day. And I realized that’s what I was missing. I was constantly on edge before about what else needed to be done or making myself feel guilty because I wasn’t doing something more productive. I like that relaxed feeling!


  4. It’s an odd realization when we wake up to realize that all the pressure on us was put there by no one other than OURSELVES. Ugh! Been there, done that.

    I fight similar demons, Terri, but how I’ve resolved it is by doing the following … 1) prioritize 2) divide and 3) delegate. There’s 3 of us living here and there’s no reason all of the HW should fall on 1 person. Example: I cannot handle a dirty sink or floor so those 2 things are top priority to me. Hubbs hates dust in the living room so that’s priority to him. I keep windex & paper towel in the bathroom and wipe the sink/mirror down every couple of days .. it never has a chance to get “grody.”

    We make it work and the divide part comes by doing some of the chores during the week – even a 1/2 hour a day makes a big difference in keeping things picked up.

    Like you, I want to live in a comfortable home that my family enjoys being at not a showplace/museum where nothing can be touched.

    Your pulled pork looks spectacular — would you consider posting the quantities for the spices & sauces? I’d love to make it
    :) Cheers!



  5. What you are learning to do is relax. Even cooking can be relaxing if you enjoy it. Good for you for taking care of yourself and allowing yourself to enjoy your time off work on the weekends. You can easily get a couple chores done each week day and free up your time on the weekends. Your new cheerful dishes are calling to you: Have fun.


  6. I come from a long line of women somewhat obsessed with maintaining a clean house, Terri, so I totally get what you’re saying. You’re wise to recognize — right now — that having a clean house isn’t nearly as important as having a welcoming home!!


  7. ::::clapping for Terri:::: Good going Terri. I must admit, I used to do something similar. However, since I’m home writing during the week, I’d put aside writing to clean the house. Then I’d never get my writing done. Now, I split it up a little each day, so I can clean a little and then get to my writing. Enjoy your summer and relax now.


  8. Good for you! I’m very comfortable with mess. My yard often looks like a code enforcement citation; the dining table is rarely usable because I pile stuff on it and never relocate it; I might vacuum once a quarter; etc. Too many more enjoyable things to do.


  9. Good for you Terri. It is very difficult to unprogram ourselves. I’ve been struggling with that concerning my work life. On the other hand, there are those aspects of ourselves that are so difficult to let go of. I feel that way about the kitchen where you know I spend lots of time. Has to do with a love of order I guess. I someways I’d suggest that work on unprogramming yourself but on the other hand be willing to accept yourself as you are.

    How’s that for straddling the fence ;)


  10. I have a plan to do certain cleaning things every other weekend, and it works. I rotate the chores. My daughter will help without me even asking her, and my husband loves to do laundry! I know what you mean about finding time to read. I figure I’ve had a good weekend when I have time to pick up a book. I hope you can stick to your new routine!


  11. Good for you, Terri! I am always amazed by working women who also keep a neat house. My wife stays at home and spends at least a couple of hours each day just doing basic cleaning – 5 people and 2 dogs make a lot of mess!

    BTW, I am planning on a pulled pork meal next weekend…


  12. That rub is very similar to the one I use! Delicious. 6 hours of cooking time huh? Maybe I’ll try to do that at some point as I love me some pulled pork!! Two big events in my cleaning life: 1) realizing I would never live somewhere without a dishwasher and 2) having a cleaning service is worth the money!


  13. You sound very much like Muri except she has no desire to change. I think she likes to have a corner of her life that she has under control. We’ve been fortunate to be able to have a housekeeper every few weeks to keep her from doing the heavy stuff, which she would still do otherwise. Hope you can stick with your new relaxed attitude.

    It’s funny … I have a thing about close-up pictures of food. No matter whether it’s something I like of not, I don’t like close-ups. So, I’m sure whatever you made was good buy I skipped the slide show.


  14. Oh boy! If you want to see a “lived in look” in a house, you should come see mine! Then again, on second thought, I doubt anyone wants to see a place that is quite as “lived in” as this place is. It’s a total wreck the majority of the time. The last time every room in this house was neat, clean, tidy, capable of being viewed by the toughest “White glove” inspector was prior to October of 1979. That’s when my Mom -who lived her until her death then -was still in charge of keeping the house and the grounds around it as well, absolutely pristine! I am the one who admits to being a pack rat but I am not actually the only one who lives here who is a pack rat! Just the only one who admits to it -or who gets accused/blamed for being that! The downstairs is still a total wreck from having had to clear everything out of the attic about 2-3 months ago, prior to the Weatherization crew’s arrival to insulate the attic along with the rest of the house. Stuff should start being carted back up to the attic but when that will happen now is anyone’s guess! If things get too bad here, I just take my glasses off as I go through the rubble. The glasses need changed anyway so I can’t always see all the mess and without them on, I’m blind as a bat so I then am a “See nothing” person, completely!


  15. I’m glad you found a way to relax! I hate cleaning.. I clean the whole house every couple months…between then it’s just vacuuming and cleaning toilets occasionally.
    The foodie pictures look fantastic!!!


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