Posts tagged " cleaning "

When is messy too messy?

January 2nd, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 18 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan Lapin,

I am wondering if ancient Jewish wisdom applies to de-cluttering a house. I’m a mom of three with a fourth on the way, and I have never erred on the side of neatness (to put it lightly.) But I also dream of a mostly orderly house where all the spaces function so that we can have the family life we want.

I’ve concluded that personal character flaws in myself are part of the problem, but the harder I work on it, the more kids I have, and the more I am surrounded by chaos and laundry. I also think the values I learned growing up were depression-era, frugality-focused, never-waste-anything values, whereas our reality is middle-class America where things flow into our house on a daily basis, but not back out.

Plus I have a highly creative, productive little five-year-old artist for whom all her works are precious, and even with judiciously displaying art for a week or so and then either stowing it in her art box or discreetly filing it in the circular file folder, the art piles up. I’ve read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I think she has the heart of the problem by the tail, but not everything she recommends seems congruent with a growing family, or for multiple opinions within that family over what items “bring us joy.”

In the meantime, if I let up for three hours, the house starts to fall into chaos. (The other two children are twin girls, nearly two years old.) I can’t help but feel that if we had fewer things, and if everything had a place (preferably a place that could be secured against marauding toddlers) our home would be much more livable.

So to sum up: 1) Do you have a Bible-based philosophy, or advice, for the management of physical items that come into our homes and for finding a balance of livability and order? 2) How do you handle children and their desires to never throw anything away, being respectful of their feelings and also training them to help their family now and manage their own homes later? 3) How about spouses (ah-hem) who maybe still feel anxiety about throwing things away that “we might use someday”? What do we do with the never-waste-anything mentality that can be laudable, but also paralyzing?

Thank you for your time and thoughts!

Heather M. 

Dear Heather,

Your question resonated with me (Susan) partially because of what you see in the accompanying picture. 

I am in the process of culling through games discarding those that get little attention. We have no little ones left at home, but we do still have a house full of toys, games and books thanks to the blessing of grandchildren. Until a few years ago we had a house large enough to store piles of things, so most of the games you see stayed on the shelves and are now in second-generation use. In other words, we feel your pain.


The Never-Ending Closet Cleaning Saga

December 14th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings 2 comments

When I have been away from home as much as I have the last few months, I get a fierce desire to do laundry, cook and tidy. Last week, when I returned to my own house, after getting basic laundry under control and going to the supermarket, I began cleaning out THE CLOSET.

For years, when the house was filled with little children, THE CLOSET was my private domain. The door even locked! In it I kept potential birthday presents, important tax documents and other sundry items. It was the one area in the house that I alone entered.

Over many years it became a repository for all types of memorabilia. Once every year or so, I begin going through the shelves, hoping to cull things that are no longer needed. Invariably, I throw out obsolete papers and invariably I never complete the job. This past Friday, I found and discarded dental insurance papers from 1993. (If anyone reading this thinks that this was a mistake and one is supposed to keep these records longer than 17 years, please do not contact me with that information. Some things are better left unsaid.) When I throw out a stack like that I almost physically sense the house getting lighter. It is a tremendously gratifying feeling. Why then, did I not see that stack last time I reorganized THE CLOSET?

Well, each time I delve into the depths of THE CLOSET, I find treasure alongside the dross. Last time, I uncovered an envelope filled with congratulatory letters sent to my husband and me on the birth of one of our daughters. These letters were penned (or penciled) by friends of the new baby’s then five and six year old sisters. They were priceless, including one from a young boy who confided that while he was sure we liked the new baby his personal preference was for his own classmate. Another young man (the boys’ correspondence were funnier than the girls’) hoped that our baby would grow up to be useful. By the time I finished laughing and had called the three girls most closely involved and regaled them with the letters, I was out of cleaning time.

Another time, I found a two page missive painstakingly written by two of our girls in years long past. It included these lines, which are excerpted but retain the original spelling:

We are not running away we are just having a little change and adventure. We are very happy with our disicion,(we are just seeing what it is like away from home.) We will be back at around 6:00 tommorow (at night time). You do not need to worry about us, we have everything we need.

We hope you are not mad at us for doing this, and we love you very much.

P.S. Please don’t let anyone know about this. (If you would like to help us out financially please leave some money on the porch with a note. Love you very much!

Could you go back to cleaning a closet after finding that?

This time, my tidying crackdown exposed a collection of cards I received about ten years ago after my mother passed away. I sat shiva (seven days of mourning) on the east coast, and many of my west coast friends wrote to me.  I read all their notes during that emotional and exhausting period, but coming across them after all these years evoked poignant memories and also served as a reminder of the wonderful friends that have filled and continue to fill my life.

As in years past, more urgent matters will intrude and I will soon need to close THE CLOSET’s door with some of the shelves undisturbed.  Areas in daily view such as the kitchen demand priority cleaning. As always, I go back to those more necessary chores leaving behind an emptier closet and a fuller heart.

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