It was with a wry look that Phillip turned to me on Friday and said, "We're one step away from going on Hoarders here."
He was right, almost.
Except it was mostly the kids' fault. Everything they'd touched for the last two days was lying crumpled on the floor in the exact spot where they finished using it.
I haven't felt well lately, and when you're a stay-at-home mom of 5 who doesn't feel well, the speed of the pristine-to-filthy transformation your house can undergo is shocking.
A week's worth of cleaning and tidying up is undone in a matter of hours.
If you don't feel up to following the kids around reminding them to clean up after themselves for a full day or longer, it will turn into a biochemical waste zone.
It doesn't matter that Phillip comes home at night and cleans the entire kitchen. By 9 A.M. it looks like a looted grocery store just the same. Because kids.
While I haven't felt well enough to stay on top of the mess, or on top of the kids for not cleaning up after themselves, I have made a few mental observations:
1) Mess begets mess. If some enterprising young child helps himself to breakfast and the table's already covered in Legos, pipe cleaners and dried fingerpaint, his bowl and spoon will immediately be absorbed into the mess and become one with it. It's like the clutter equivalent of a drug-resistant superbug.
2) The messiness of the house is directly proportionate to how I'm feeling that day. On low energy days, I'm pretty helpless to resist my preschooler's pleas to do incredibly messy craft projects involving glitter, paint, and possibly razor blades and blow torches. She knows this and will use it against me.
The toddler, too. His favorite trick is to get into the game cupboard, knock every game and puzzle off the bottom three shelves, and furiously mix up all the pieces. I can hardly clean that up 3 times a day when I'm feeling energetic, forget about it if I'm feeling low-energy. (He doesn't even have fun doing this, by the way. He just rips open the boxes, makes the mess joylessly in 10 seconds, and moves on. It's really rude.)
Anyway, after the Hoarders observation, Phillip and I rolled up our sleeves and got to work. First, we put a lock on the game cupboard. Then, we all spent an obscene amount of time cleaning. Even the kids — especially the kids.
(Unfortunately I have no "before" and "after" pictures to show you. This was a time that I was thinking of survival more than blogging.)
The sheer randomness of the messes, though, was overwhelming. What do you do when you look at a pile of junk, really look at it, and realize that it's made up of craft scissors, a 4T raincoat, a balled-up dirty sock, a pencil, 2 Lego people, a sippy cup, a roll of packing tape, a pair of American Girl doll tights, and 12 pieces of a My Little Pony puzzle (who knows where the other 13 went)? Each one with its own separate place in the house, to be painstakingly put away by you.
It'd be cool if it were just that one pile, but I'm talking similar heaps covering every square foot of the house.
When it comes to messes like that, I find that I can't categorize or decide the most efficient way to clean it up. I just have to grab the thing closest to me and then put it where it goes.
Over and over, a billion times.
In summary, I take two things away from this experience: one, it's hard being an adult.
Two, if the house is super messy, it probably just means you need a nap. Go easy on yourself. If worst comes to worst, we can be on Hoarders together.