Why it may be time to toss the cleaning schedule

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Let me begin this post by clearly stating this: I LOVE to-do lists, schedules, and routines. They are awesome—there is nothing quite like the feeling of accomplishment when you can check a task off your list (or scribble, I personally prefer scribbling with a vengeance). Lists, schedules, and routines can be a wonderful tool to make life so much easier, efficient, and organized. However . . .

I think there are also times and seasons of life when lists, schedules, and routines can become more of a hindrance than a help. So, without further ado, here are 5 reasons it may be time to toss the cleaning schedule:

  1. It is killing your joy.

If you glance at your list and a menacing voice in your head says “This is where joy has come to die”, it may be time to toss the cleaning schedule. Joking aside, if your cleaning schedule is consuming your life, it may be time to rethink things. Some key indicators that a cleaning schedule is killing your joy would be . . .

  • you are more focused on the tasks than the people (e.g. a child crying at your feet because he needs you is an aggravation because you must get this task done).
  • you find yourself snapping at the people you love because they are hindering your accomplishment.
  • you’re exhausted and your hubby is begging you to take a bath and just relax (ahem, not that my hubby has ever had to plead with his sometimes irrational wife to relax), but you cannot and will not until everything on the list is done.
  • you are drained and perhaps even depressed because you cannot seem to complete the tasks.
  1. It is controlling you.

Have you ever felt like a marionette puppet controlled by routines, schedules, and tasks? It goes a little like this: Want to snuggle with your 6-week old? Sorry, you ought to be doing the dishes. Beautiful day outside? Nope, you can’t enjoy it, your floors need mopped. Night away with your spouse? Ha! You haven’t finished your list all week, what makes you think you can relax? Just want to go to bed because you are running on 4 hours of sleep? In your dreams, you’ve still got things on your list. If your life has become controlled by a cleaning schedule and it is hindering your ability to enjoy life, it is time to rethink things.

  1. You cannot extend grace to yourself or receive it from someone else.

You have a newborn and an 18 month old. You’re adjusting to life all over again and learning how to be a family of four. You’ve had some good days . . . and some bad days. From the moment you came home from the hospital you’ve heaped tons of pressure on yourself. X,Y, & Z need to be done every day, on top of caring for the children (and yourself). If you can’t get it all done like a supermom, you’ve failed. No, it doesn’t matter that you have a newborn . . . there is no room for grace here.

Many times we fail to see that there are seasons of life in which we just need to survive, and that’s ok! Notice the wording there? Seasons. It’s temporary. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a drop in the bucket. You may not have the dishes done every night, you may need to settle for mopped floors once a week, laundry may feel like a revolving door for awhile, but it is temporary. And when we look back on these seasons, I don’t think we will find joy in the fact that we were stressed and worn from accomplishing all the tasks. I think joy will be found in the moments we spent loving . . . in spite of the tasks, in spite of the dishes.

To accomplish that, we sometimes need to realize that the Lord entrusted us with the love and care of our children first. In Jesus' own example, relationship comes before tasks (Luke 10:38-42).

I'll admit that I sometimes feel like Martha in this passage, running to and fro distracted by all I need to do. Then when I snap at my children or husband and I feel the Holy Spirit gently correct me, I want to exclaim with Martha "Don't you see I have work to do?!"

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,but few things are needed—or indeed only one. (Luke 10:41-42)

If you've been unable to extend or receive grace during these seasons, it may be time to rethink or toss the cleaning schedule. Turn your focus to the few things that are needed, and don't forget your relationship with your family, and especially your relationship with the One who has redeemed your soul.

  1. Your expectations are far too high.

You read about someone’s cleaning schedule and decided to adapt it for yourself. If they can get done all these tasks in a day, you can too! The problem? Your life is different. What works for someone else may not work for you.

Or, you now have a 5 year old, a 3 year old, and a 1 month old. The 1 month old is a horrible sleeper and you functioning on precious little sleep; yet, you expect yourself to complete tasks X,Y, & Z every day.

For this season, you may need to toss the cleaning schedule. You may need to be ok with surviving for a season. Make life easier (no shame in paper plates when you need them) and learn to be ok with what you can get done today. Got the dishes done? Excellent! Load of laundry? Fantastic! Cleaned the bathroom while the older kids took a bath? Great! Focus on what you can get done, not on what is unreasonable to expect to get done.

  1. Your cleaning list has ceased to be a tool in your hand.

To-do lists, routines, and schedules can be a wonderful tool to streamline your productivity and make life better. The problem comes when the schedule becomes our master rather than our servant. When this happens, our families tend to suffer. If your cleaning schedule is no longer simply a tool, it may be time to toss it and rethink some things.

Let me encourage you if you feel like you are drowning in the lists and tasks: this is a season. It's temporary. When our second was born, our life turned upside down for awhile. He had numerous, severe food intolerances. Our nights were consumed with a screaming infant . . . and our days were consumed by a screaming infant. He was in pain constantly and needed me constantly.

For four months, we survived. The dishes didn't get done every night. Laundry was always there. I mopped the floors maybe once a month. For those months, things weren't picture-perfect and I struggled with my cleaning schedule. I desperately wanted everything done. But the Lord reminded me . . .

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,but few things are needed—or indeed only one. (Luke 10:41-42)

All He had required of me was the few. He didn't expect my house to sparkle or for me to have an awesome routine. What peace this brought my heart! Knowing He had required only the few allowed me to sleep content in the fact that though my house was less than perfect, I had done all He had required of me that day.

Two months later, we had finally found a solution for him and I had time again to focus on the house. We developed a great routine for a few months. Then, life hit again and all that was required was the few.

If you are in one of these seasons momma, I invite you to seek the Lord and ask what He is requiring of you. You may find that you've been worried and upset about many things . . . but few things have been required of you . . . or indeed only One.

Do you use a cleaning schedule? How has it helped or hindered you?

Post linked at A Mama's Story, A Little R & R, Mom's Morning Coffee, The Deliberate Mom