Changing Lives One Laundry Load at a Time

In light of changes going on in the lives around us — births, deaths, moves, illness, big plans — focusing on little things such as keeping the house picked up or going to bed on time seems rather…

(minor).

But the small things that go unheralded are a huge part of our support systems.

We don’t clean our homes just so they can be clean.

We’re not taking care of stuff, we’re taking care of people.

We’re meeting our family’s needs in a practical way, like giving someone we love a clean toilet to throw up in.

Or making food to fill tummies.

Or telling someone you’ll pray for them, and then really doing it.

We’re taking care of ourselves too, because life is better when the dishes are clean and the folded laundry is put away.

So the next time it seems like you’re picking something up for the hundredth time or why bother doing the dishes because they’re just going to get dirty again, know your job matters. It’s about more than just the stuff.

In fact, it was never about the stuff in the first place.

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. This is so very true. Thanks for the reminder.

    bright and blithe´s last post…simplifying: the laundry

  2. Thanks for the reminder that what I’m doing counts because I’m doing it out of love for my family.

    Allyson´s last post…NaturOli Soap Nuts Giveaway

  3. Last weekend I caught a really bad stomach bug that landed me in the emergency room, and this followed only one week after a terrible miscarriage. On the day that I got back from the hospital and was laid up in bed, even though he sat up all night with me and got no sleep, my husband cleaned the house. It meant the world to me.

    Kathleen´s last post…Friday Things: To Be Happy About

  4. I think about throwing up in a clean toilet, too…it makes me keep it wiped down regularly! You just never know who’s going to wake up at 2am next!

    Michelle´s last post…New Beginnings: A Ministry.

  5. Wonderful point! Whenever I clean the toilet, that is totally my motivation. Nothing worse than throwing up in a dirty toilet.

    And I think it’s wonderful for my man to wake up in the morning and have a clean kitchen to make breakfast in. (I clean the kitchen, he makes the breakfast.)

    Wendy´s last post…Joey (About 5 Years Ago)

  6. Stephanie Fallon says:

    Great timing! I sooooo need this today.

  7. Thanks for the reminder. I’ve felt a little bogged down lately with deaths of some people I love and other things in life that seem “big” and the every day stuff seems so trivial. But you said it so well. The every day stuff DOES matter.

    Lydia´s last post…Free Subscription to American Baby and Baby Talk

  8. Thank you so much for this post – I was just talking with my husband this past week about my frustration over a comment someone made that “whether or not your house is spotless or your shirts ironed won’t matter 20 years from now . . . what will matter is the people you invest in.” I get what they probably meant by that, but I think it also sets up a false dichotomy that you can either care about your house, or care about people. It seems, though, that many people don’t see what you just articulated – caring about people often means caring about your house.

    Jenni @ Life from the Roof´s last post…Favorite Frugal Recipes: Homemade Bagels

    • I agree, and whenever people tell me not to do anything around the house and just enjoy the baby, I secretly hope they’ll offer to clean my bathroom, but no one ever does.

  9. Excellent point(s)!

  10. Thanks! I needed this reminder because I have been feeling overwhelmed lately. My husband and I both work full time, but I also do all the housework. It can feel pointless, but I need to remember that I do it for myself as well as to show love for him.

  11. This is so true! It’s so easy to forget what a difference doing our chores makes to the people in our lives. I realized this especially this morning when I woke up and was able to read my Bible in a clean living room. Having a clean slate at the beginning of the day helps me get going so much better, and I usually tidy up before I go to bed each night. But I’ve been under the weather this weekend, and have let things slide. But last night, my sweet husband husband must have cleaned up the living room so I’d have a clutter-free space to start my day. Waking up to that was like a great big hug!

    Amy´s last post…Take-out Guilt

  12. Denise C. says:

    Beautiful post, something I greatly needed to read. Have a great Monday! ;)

  13. Thanks. I’m not even a mom yet and it feels like every day I’m constantly picking up the same things…glasses back on the nightstand, pajamas into the hamper, put the contact solution back in the drawer…yesterday I was getting pretty fed up with it. Thanks for the reminder :-)

    Kait Palmer´s last post…Things We’ll Miss…And Things We Won’t…

  14. There are definitely days that the laundry can wait and the kids need some undivided attention, but I also believe that part of my job as a mom is to teach my children how to clean up, do laundry, show some respect for all of our stuff. Besides, if I leave the dishes in the sink for days on end while I play with the kids, what will I use to serve them the meals they need? The trick is balance….that the elusive thing we’re all striving for. I definitely don’t have it figured out yet, but I’m getting there.

  15. Karen (Scotland) says:

    I love this post. I get so frustrated when some family members try to tell me that my children won’t remember the dust twenty years later. They will! I can remember back to which friend’s house always had dishes in the sink and the wierd sour crunchy cleaning cloth in the bathroom. (I don’t judge – I also now know that her mum had excrutiating hip pain.) Fact is, I always noticed my clothes were smelly after being at her house and I wasn’t even ten years old so kids DO notice basic environment.

    And I have REALLY appreciated the practical help of my family while pregnant this time – one auntie just comes in and grabs a pair of gloves and cleans my downstairs loo and my mum always offers to change my sheets for me. Practical, mundane, boring, womanly stuff but enough to lighten my day and my mind.
    Karen (Scotland)

    • This is awesome!!! I am so going to remember to offer to change the sheets for my pregnant friends I would so have loved someone to do that for me!!! That is just brilliant!!!

  16. some days are worse than others~~ reading this gave my soul a little nudge~~I needed it..THANKS <3

  17. I was going to say something like what Jenni said! It bugs me when “mommy-advice” blogs or books talk about lowering your housecleaning standards, etc. I guess that would help if you aimed to be Martha Stewart, but I don’t have particularly high standards to begin with – keep up with laundry and dishes, be relatively tidy, keep the floors and bathroom somewhat clean, plus any other noticeable/obvious dirt/messes. People will say things like “the laundry/dishes will still be there tomorrow”… and again, I guess that’s useful sometimes – if your child is sick or you’re completely exhausted, it’s obviously not worth worrying about getting the laundry folded. BUT, on a regular day – those laundry and dishes will still be there tomorrow, plus a whole bunch of new laundry and dishes – then you get feeling behind and overwhelmed and stressed. Plus there’s nothing that sets my day off to a bad tone more than waking up to a messy house. So while I can handle dust on my light fixtures or hairballs beneath my coach, keeping up with the regular cleaning/tidying is something I do for my own sanity. I’m not a slave to some expectation about what my house should look like or how to be a good housekeeper – but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing what you need to in order to feel calm, in control, and relaxed. And even though I’m a bit anal in this regard, I think most people agree it’s easier to relax in a relatively-mess-free environment. Not to mention it makes it easier to do things spontaneously… who wants to spontaneously make pancakes on a weekday morning in a kitchen already filled with dirty dishes? Or pull out some paints or crafts for your toddler if there’s already toys everywhere and a dirty floor?

    • Karen (Scotland) says:

      I totally agree with this and share the frustration. I find life “easier” if I am on top of the basics (mess free and hygienic – dust SO doesn’t worry me).
      I try to explain to my friends that I’m actually “advanced lazy” – I do things now so I don’t have to do them later!
      Karen

    • And that’s exactly why I do these things…for me clearing the dirt and clutter gives me the mental ease to tackle some of life’s bigger issues or to make some quiet time for myself…I am always amazed at how much of that preliminary work can be accomplished in little 3-4 minute bits!

  18. Agreed! There’s just something about a clean house…I love it! I think it creates a calming environment. Life is too chaotic by itself – if I can provide a simple, relaxing environment, it just seems to help.

  19. Thanks for this reminder!

    Wendy´s last post…She adds color

  20. Marie Jones says:

    I needed this today also. My husband’s ‘love language’ is a clean home. He had rather have that than be ‘intimate’ LOL. I now remember i’m doing it not just to keep things straightened up, but also because that’s how he feels loved.
    ~marie

  21. 3 baskets of laundry washed but left unfolded has been screaming at me for 2 days…this was the kick in the pants I needed to get my rear in gear! my hubby always teases me about how i get “stressed” about minor household chores because WE DON’T EVEN HAVE KIDS YET!! I’m definitely going to need to keep reading your blog :)

  22. This is something I’ve had to really sort though since having a baby. I wasn’t very good about keeping my house consistently clean, my husband and I would just do a big clean every couple of weeks. But I knew something would have to change when the baby came. So I signed up for Flylady. I LOVE how she says “Housework done imperfectly still blesses our family.” I don’t follow all her emails but it helped me come up with a regular cleaning schedule that works for me.
    As for the “advice” from others about “letting go” of cleaning standards after your baby comes, I found that more often than not these people were only encouraging me to do that so they could sit there holding the baby guilt free! LOL! Next time I’m at a new mama’s house I’m going to ask her if I can clean her bathtub so she can have a nice soak, because that’s what I wanted!

    Rhiannon´s last post…What kind of mama are you?

  23. Well said Rachel. Clean laundry and healthy food for my family are the two top priorities in this season of my life as well. We live in a small condo (800 sq. ft. for five of us). De-cluttering seems like a never ending daily chore but I want my children to learn the value of quality instead of quantity. I know I am not doing anything that change the the way the world turns, but to my children, my husband I are their world. Whatever we do (good and bad) they watch and copy. Living in small space has its own challenge but because we don’t have a yard to maintain, we spend a lot of time doing things and going places together on the weekends. That’s enough motivation for me (us) to do all those laundry, one load at a time.

    Ourlives´s last post…Busy Friday Part 1 :: Reagan Library

  24. Thank you for this post! This is so, so true. I just finished up a 6 week temporary job, and I only had time to get the daily stuff done — loading/unloading the dishwasher, grocery shopping, making meals. I had to let a lot of the housework slide, and by the end of the temp job, I felt EXHAUSTED because all the clutter and dirt around me was affecting me mentally and physically! And if I’m affected by it, I know my family is too. Clean houses are, simply put, a better place for people to live.

    Shannon @ AnchorMommy´s last post…Typo Patrol: A declaration of “independance”

  25. beautifully said

  26. Thank you! So needed to read this today.

  27. You’re right Rachel. If you focus on the stuff you start feeling like an unpaid maid…and that’s not what you are…you are more than that. I have been trying to do things often, instead of when they need it. Living a re-active life, instead of a pro-active life is stressful and energy draining (I am totally speaking from experience). I want to get all that “stuff” out of the way, so that I can focus more on being a mother, and capturing the smiles and have more time for cuddles, because that is the fun stuff!

    Meeks´s last post…My 5 links for the week

  28. thank you, just what I needed to hear.

  29. You just so get this right!!! Fabulous and necessary post… and as for that gorgeous little guy – wowzers!!!

  30. Thank you for these words, they are so true.
    Best wishes.

  31. agreed, 100%

  32. Wow. Thank you for this! We KNOW this but sometimes we forget!

    Jenn @ Beautiful Calling´s last post…Reno-cation by Royale (Win Your Own $100 Reno-cation Here!)

  33. what lovely insights and reminder.

    that’s so true. taking care of the home, family and oneself is not really about stuff.

    ibyang´s last post…Sunset Today

  34. Thanks for the reminder! You’ve motivated me to quit reading my favorite blogs and get busy picking up my house from the day’s usual destruction. :)

    Lisa´s last post…Kalama Beach Park

  35. It was never about the stuff…

    That’s the kind of insight that brings tears to my eyes. And I imagine a lot of people feel very depressed because they haven’t realized this yet.

  36. What a great (and beautiful) piece… sometimes I urgently need the reminding!

  37. Lovely post as always, Rachel. (And your son looks so much like Lane in that photo! :))

    Sally Parrott Ashbrook´s last post…Six Days Without Sugar

  38. Amen, sister!

    pam´s last post…Happy Birthday, baby girl!

  39. Beautiful. Thank you Rachel.

    Just yesterday, I saw where Ann Voskamp had written on her blog, “All work is good work. The work of our hands is always making the world a better place.”

    Maybe this is something that needs to be “concreted” into my head….

  40. Vermontmommy says:

    I forget this all too often. So happy to have read this and all the comments.

  41. I totally agree…but I also had to learn the hard way that sometimes it’s just better to choose to let the dusting wait and take time for yourself instead. Took me 20 years to learn to do so…

    Yasmine´s last post…I Wish I Had A Secret Double Life

  42. I agree with many others: I needed this today.

    I need to remember that, instead of being irritated when I have to pick up and put away my husband’s shoes, I can choose to use that time to be grateful he’s in my life and sharing my home.

    It’s all perspective, isn’t it?

    Meredith from Penelope Loves Lists´s last post…An embarrassment of blogging riches: five of my favorite new blogs

  43. Well said. It can be so easy to feel like I’m not accomplishing anything when I know I’ll have to do the same tasks again next week, tomorrow, or even in an hour. Thanks for the reminder that it does make a difference.

  44. You know … I was just thinking along those lines today. I was doing some extra picking up around the house to make it especially clean for when my husband came home. I thought – he won’t care if it’s picked up. I should just leave it. I didn’t though, because life is so much nicer in a clean home. I’m glad my husband doesn’t notice. It means that clean is (sort of) normal around here – and that feels good.

    Nicki at Domestic Cents´s last post…Top 5 Reasons To Spring Clean

  45. I am glad I read this and you wrote this, many days I am barely able to cook and clean and nothing else gets accomplished. Oh joy of life and parenthood !!

    Zengirl: Happy Heart and Mind´s last post…Story of stuff : Must read and Must watch : Free

  46. I too needed this reminder; thank you!

  47. Great post and it tracks perfectly with the book I am reading now: Home Comforts by Mendelson. Time spent cleaning our homes is not wasted time. Instead, it is a task that provides immediate (if temporary!) satisfaction.

    Gonnna go home and tackle the dishes and laundry tonight!

    Juice´s last post…Cecilia’s Priorities

  48. I’m saving this post in my inbox to reread when I start to lose perspective.

  49. Thanks! I needed that today.

    Dirtyhands-Beautifullife.blogspot.com

  50. Love this post! What we do does matter. Thank you!

    Rana´s last post…The Basement Clean Out Continues…

  51. Amen! Beautiful post. Thank you for the reminder :)

    Sarah @ Mum In Bloom´s last post…Send Chocolate to Soldiers

  52. I agree. When the laundry is done and something yummy is cooking in the oven I truly feel like I am taking care of all of us! Everyday doesn’t have to be elaborate to show the world that you love your life and your babies.

    Amy Lynne´s last post…It’s Still Clean!

  53. forgive the lengthy comment, but i just transcribed this quotation from barbara brown taylor’s “an alter in the world” elsewhere, so i thought i’d post it here too. it speaks to the integrity and spirituality of housework. i love these words and yours too.

    “i no longer call such tasks housework. i call them the domestic arts, paying attention to all the ways they return me to my senses. when the refrigerator has nothing in it but green onions that have turned to slime and plastic containers full of historic leftovers, i know my art is languishing. when i cannot tell whether that is a sleeping cat or an engorged dust ball under my bed, i know that i have been spending too much time thinking. it is time to get down on my knees. after i have spent a whole morning ironing shirts, folding linens, rubbing orange-scented wax into wood, and cleaning dead bugs out of the light fixtures, i can hear the whole house purring for the rest of the afternoon. i can often hear myself singing as well, satisfied with such simple, domestic purpose.

    this is my practice, not yours, so please feel free to continue calling such work utter drudgery. the point is to find something that feeds your sense of purpose, and to be willing to look low for that purpose as well as high. it may be chopping wood and it may be running a corporation. whatever it is, perhaps you will hold open the possibility that doing it is one way to learn what it means to become more fully human, as you press beyond being good to being good for something, in a world with the perfect job for someone like you.”

    themsrevolution´s last post…mothers of invention: gretchen

  54. Thanks for this. Especially when it comes to cleaning the house, I’m always asking “Why can’t I do it once and it be DONE forever?!” I appreciate your perspective.

    Kelly´s last post…Happy Easter!

  55. Such a great reminder! Thank you for this post! I have given up on reminding my husband to put away his socks or shoes or whatever he has laying around, I just pick it up. It’s the same way with him not asking me to wipe the mirrors or clean the tub or toilet, he just does it. :) He knows I don’t like doing those 3 tasks anyway. :)

    Tanya´s last post…When I was Small

  56. For those of you who enjoy uplifting poetry on this subject, get yourself a copy of Ethel Rommig Fuller’s “Kitchen Sonnets” (available from Amazon). I came across it at an estate sale 25 years ago and still read it for inspiration. “Turning Home to Heaven” became the basis for many years of seminars and small training sessions on the blessings generated from house-keeping. Those stopped when “everyone” went to work; it’s good to see another generation arising that would like to do things differently….and the little trainings have begun again. :)

  57. Just wanted to let you know I included this wonderful post in my blog’s weekly Reading Roundup. Thank you for sharing!