Enough is enough
You may think that cleaning is something with an obvious end point, but I can assure you that for most of us, it is not. Do you feel like you just can't keep your home clean? Have you considered that the problem might not be your home, but rather could be your perspective?
If you've read any of my posts or emails this month or have been following my Instagram, you know that I've been working diligently on cleaning my house all month. But what you haven't seen yet is all the other work I've been doing daily - working on my mindset around what “clean enough” looks like.
What is mindset work?
Mindset is a word thrown around a lot these days, but often by people who only half understand what mindset work really means.
On a simple level, mindset work means the intentional practice of examining thoughts and beliefs that you have, and deciding if they are a) true and b) helpful. Many thoughts we take for granted as objectively True are actually just opinions based on our assumptions. Is it factual truth that that person is rude, or is it just their style of communication to use short sentences and avoid eye contact? Is it true that your mom didn't comment on your new hairstyle because she thinks it's ugly? Even if it is true, is this thought helpful for you to have in any way?
Once you've examined a thought, you can choose to keep it, or replace it. Growth mindset is one of the most common ways we see people practicing this - replacing an “I can't” thought with an “I can” thought, but there's an entirely different option available. You can replace an “I can't” thought with an “I don't need to” thought. And you can do both at the same time - this is where we can find our “good enough”!
How does this apply to cleaning? First let's go back to the opening paragraph. Do you believe that you can never keep your house clean?
Is it true?
“Clean” is not a well-defined status like one might believe. Does clean mean that all the toys are put away? Sparkling toilets? That there are no crumbs on the floor? That there's no toothpaste on the bathroom counters? That there isn't a single object out of place across the whole home? The line is not obvious.
Is it helpful?
Of course not. Especially not if you also believe that you need to keep your house clean. Believing that you have to do something that you can't do will never serve to do anything except make you hate yourself.
Clean means something different to everyone, and most of us never even examine what “clean enough” means for us. We bear the burden of having a home that is not clean enough without even knowing what “clean enough” means to us!
Let me break down exactly how I've been doing this work this month. Affirmations are a common method of trying to intentionally believe a thought, but what I do is a slight variation on that. Every day I spend 10 minutes working on my mindset. I've been doing this since February, but I started focusing almost exclusively on cleaning at the beginning of April. It's the second half of my #30toClean strategy.
I usually start with a thought ladder, and this time was no different. On the bottom of the ladder, I put my starting belief: my house is such a wreck. At the top I put my target belief: my house is beautiful. Then on each rung in the middle I put intermediary beliefs so I can take baby steps to move from one thought to the other. Sometimes I can cross thoughts off right away because I realize that I can already believe them. The belief at the top of the ladder is still too lofty though, so I don't just repeat that to myself as an affirmation because I don't believe it at all. If I say “my house is beautiful” to myself on repeat, it sounds like a joke. I have to work my way up.
So I start in the middle. I take a thought like “this is what a house with kids looks like” and I meditate on it. I sit down with it for ten minutes and I write out a page about how I live in a normal house with kids, that my kids love our house, etc… Sometimes I don't feel like writing it out again, so I read the words I already wrote, aloud, slowly, for the ten minutes. Because they're things that I can kind of believe, but are not my default thoughts, all I'm doing is reinforcing and strengthening those thoughts.
Once I practiced “I live in a normal house with kids” for a while, I realized that “my house is clean enough” didn't seem so outrageous anymore, so I added it in. The trick is that while I'm working on believing my house in clean enough, I'm also working on cleaning my house. So somewhere along the line, the actual status of my home will intersect with my mindset and at that point it will be “clean enough” for me.
My clean enough script
It can be a little bit confusing what this “meditating on a thought" can look like if you've never done it before. You can do it all in your mind, but many people with executive dysfunction have a hard time holding a single train of thought in our heads. That's why I prefer writing it out. I do a brain dump on the thought “my house is clean enough” and write every related thought that comes to my mind.
Here's one actual such page that I've been working with a while (edited for my kids' privacy):
My house is clean enough. I live in a normal house with kids. It is perfectly safe, just messy. This is the house I wanted, where the kids feel welcome and at home in every room even if they make a mess. My daughter works so hard to help keep the home clean. My son learns a lot from the messes he makes. The kids love the home we have now. Because it is a normal house with kids and a lot of love! Our house is a home as it is now. There is plenty of space, safety, and comfort as it is right now. Our house can get better every day. Our home is full of love. Everyone helps according to their ability. Our house is full of amazing possibility. Our home is wherever our family is and we are lucky that the house we are in is the place we can call home right now. Our home is clean enough.
It doesn't need to be anything extravagant, just a series of things that relate to the thought you're working on - “my house is clean enough” and feel better than your current thought - “my house is such a wreck.”