Too Much Do, Not Enough Don’t

Too Tired to do Anything

Last night I did something that was as stupid as it was necessary—I pushed myself way too hard. I was aware of the moment where I should’ve been content with what I had accomplished but another force pushed me way past it.

I try and set some sort of goal to accomplish at home the days I don’t have school. I try and keep it something significant but simple. Yesterday, the goal was to mop the playroom. It provides immense gratification and it doesn’t take a huge amount of labor.

I got home and the kids were at Abuela’s house, in no rush to come home. I don’t hold this against them—they get endless amounts of cookies, chocolate milk, and cable TV over there. I seized the opportunity. I moved all of the big stuff out of the playroom, grabbed my broom and swept, swept, and swept. Satisfied all the dusties and the crumblies were swept into the trash, it was time for Mop Phase One: Clorox.

I mopped, mopped, and mopped. The cat jumped and slid. I scrubbed the stubborn stains. Phase One was complete. I went back to the kitchen to prep the bucket for Mop Phase Two: Fabuloso.

I need to insert a note here before I come across as borderline psychotic. When I usually mop, I don’t go past Phase One. But when it’s Time to Mop, I do both. So back I went to the playroom and spread the yummy smelling Fabuloso everywhere. And it was so nice. The playroom was sparkly and yummy smelling. Reward! Satisfaction!

This is the moment I should have stopped. This is the point I should have been content with what I accomplished, pasted the mental gold star, and moved on to accomplishing the everyday basics plus relaxation. Not to mention the kids had gotten home as I was wrapping it up. But…

The rest of the house was chaotic. The rest of the house didn’t smell nice. The rest of the house had stains, crumblies, and dusties scattered all over with precarious piles leaning treacherously on several surfaces. So I went back to the kitchen to prep the bucket again for Mop Phase One. And I did the whole house.

And then? I prepped the bucket for Mop Phase Two and did the whole house. It was somewhere in the middle of this Daughter wandered over and breathed in happily and said something like “This is just like the cleaning lady” which left me baffled because the last time we had a cleaning lady was just after her dad and I split and that was two years ago almost, no three. Could she really remember? She had just turned three!  I asked what cleaning lady and sure enough, she remembered.

Reward! I’m the cleaning lady! How those two got twisted in my brain as a positive thing I don’t know.

I helped cook dinner, I picked up the laundry baskets in the living room, and straightened up here, there everywhere. I cleaned the kids’ bathroom up. I emptied out three drawers in Daughter’s room for Boyfriend’s Daughter (To Be Nicknamed) to put her stuff while she stays with us. I made the lunches. I cleaned the dishes. I cleaned the litter box. I put together the outfits for the Spring Portraits. I ran to Target because Eldest didn’t own an appropriate shirt and Baby didn’t own appropriate pants.  I kept going until I collapsed into bed just before midnight.

By that point, the reward elation was gone. In the final leg, the thing that was pushing me was this angry feeling that if I just waited until someone was able to help me get things done, it wouldn’t get done and it needed to get done because if it didn’t we’d be back on the slippery slope backwards we constantly find ourselves on that leads to piled clutter everywhere and things missing and strange smells in vague places and things sticking to your feet. Recently I learned that if you want something done, you’re the only one truly responsible for getting it done because you’re the one that wants it done. So I was angry no one else wanted it done.

It was the exhaustion thinking.

There’s a phrase I hear all of the time from people, “I don’t know how you do it.” You know how I do it? The same way you do it, whatever “it” is. You either do, or you don’t. Repeat.

Usually, I feel pretty good when I get stuff done, but not today.

This morning I felt my body scream against the alarm clock. The scream shook every nerve in my body despite the fact not even a moan escaped my lips. It physically hurt to lift myself from the bed. I had to force myself to not press Snooze (do or don’t). It took me ages to completely wake up as my brain clung to some level of sleep while I forced and pushed my body to move around. I can feel the bags under my eyes, heavy as can be. I don’t need a mirror to know they’re there.

I usually look forward to going home. But my house has become so overwhelming that this isn’t the case. I am very much a satisficer but my house isn’t at a level I’m ok with. Even with all of the work I put in yesterday and the past few days, it’s still not a sight for (my) sore eyes. So even though I want to go home and relax, I don’t want to go home because I know I won’t be able to relax once I get there.

There are kids to feed, bathe, mediate, and put to bed. There are lunches to prep. I’m pretty sure there are dishes to put away. There will be dishes to clean. There’s a basket of unpaired socks having a massive sock orgy which is causing the birth of more socks because the population has significantly increased in size. Baby needs socks because apparently all of his socks are fornicating in the laundry basket instead of spooning monogamously in his drawer.

Those are the Must-Dos. And then, there’s the desk. The God Damn Desk.  Every time I walk into my house, there sits the God Damn Desk.

Covered in Crap.

I have sat at this desk. I have sat and considered the Crap that covers. I have even dispatched some of it. But Crap, like the socks, reproduces. The desk taunts me. And it overwhelms me and discourages me. It also motivates me to find other things to keep busy with so that I have a Perfectly Good Reason to not attend to the God Damn Desk.

I think I might bring in the timer for this one. I think my strategy will be to get through the Must-Dos and spend only 20 minutes at the God Damn Desk. And after that, I will begin to drink wine. And I will read books with the children and maybe even do something silly with them. I will flip through a magazine. Or perhaps I will meditate on the latest Knit Picks catalog. I will get my children in bed before nine tonight.

And I will try desperately to follow suit.

14 thoughts on “Too Much Do, Not Enough Don’t

  1. Years ago a friend of mine, who had once been with a very wealthy man and was now single raising their child alone, told me she struggled for a long time to keep her house as pristine as it had been when she had much more time and money on her hands. She told me that her solution was to keep stuff by the front door: shoes, backpacks, mail. She didn’t love the way it looked, but she gave herself permission to have reasonable expectations and get out of the hosue on time.

    • I have some things at the front door but it’s one of those areas I can’t stand having piled up. I think the first thing you see when you walk in somewhere sets your mood. If it’s chaotic when I walk in, I’m going to be flustered. I’m actually trying to set aside some money so I can put in a nice bench with cubbies so I can keep shoes over there. I’ve got a hook for bags and I’ve got a couple umbrella stands. There’s a window sill that ends up holding mail but I try and clear it every day.

  2. Pushed yourself? Pulleeeze! You did not get on the roof to fix the leak, repaint the bathroom, take the car in for a brake job or fix the broken latch on the back gate. I’d say mamacita had a lazy day !

  3. I am exhausted thinking about all the work you did!! Now as for the desk just do one pile a night

    • I went ahead and did the twenty minutes and was able to clear way more than I thought I would. There actually wasn’t really very many piles, it had all collapsed on top of each other into one big pile. But it’s much better today and I even got in bed before 11.

  4. Sometimes I can’t stop myself either. If it’s cleaning the house or working on the yard or some other project and instead of falling asleep, I totally pass out. BUT I love walking downstairs in the morning to see whatever it was I did the day before. Way to be in bed before 11!!

  5. Oh I miss you! Girl I feel everything you just said. And I think it’s way worse when you stay home. As soon as one section gets picked up I turn around to another and the section that just got cleaned is now destroyed by a wild baby who counts it all joy to pull books off shelves and rip up papers the second she notices she isn’t being watched!

    • I miss you too Sarah!! I remember those days. But it pretty much works out to the same thing because I’m home when they’re home and so I’m cleaning while they’re playing and yeah…. That’s why I generally wait until bedtime but then I stay up too late and it’s a vicious cycle.

      We should be pen pals :)

  6. The desk is absolutely the last thing I touch when I organize the house. I work for home so it has work and home clutter on it. Them when I a, on the road, the laundry piles up. But you are definitely right. You are the only one who can make it better. Are the kids getting to the age where they can help too? Last night it took an hour of pouting to get my eldest to pick up the marble run he tore down. It was 56 minutes of pouting and protesting and 4 minutes of actual working. I hate stepping on marbles. we are now embarking on the battle of wills to get the kids to pick up after themselves and not just throw their coats on the ground as they walk in the door. It amazes me that this stuff has to be taught and is not intuitive to them…like what would this house look like if everyone just threw things randomly on the floor? I think inorder to reach that next level of normalcy, cleaning after themselves has to come as intuitively as taking off their shoes when they enter the house. Good luck. you will get there. I do have a cleaning lady though. I love her. She only comes 2x per month, but it is such a nice treat.

    • My kids do help actually, but there’s a limit to what kids can do. Here’s the list of things my kids do around the house:
      1) Put away their folded laundry
      2) Put their dishes and cups in the dishwasher or sink when they’re done (I have a magnet on the dishwasher that says if it’s full of dirty or clean dishes so they know where to put it)
      3) Put their clothes in the hamper after they take a bath
      4) Make their beds
      5) Put their lunch boxes in the kitchen when they come home
      6) Hang their bags on the hooks by the door

      If they’re around when I’m working on stuff, they also like chipping in so I give them little tasks like wipe down a table or hold the dust pan. I also regularly make them pick everything up off the floor in the play room and in their bedrooms.

      One day, when my debt is paid, I am getting a cleaning lady. That’s my reward.

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