Reclaiming the Cleanliness
I have come to the realization that I have the messiest family on earth. I’m afraid I have fought the fight and lost it. No one cleans up after themselves. Dishes everywhere. Clothes everywhere. Husband is as bad as the kids. It’s embarrassing and it drives me crazy. Before I just accept this as my reality, do you have any final suggestions? Maybe there is something I haven’t done I can try in a last ditch effort.
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Don’t give up! One day you will have your house clean again. Those kids will move out and you’re likely to outlive your husband, so just hold on to that bright glimmer of hope down the road! Until then, I’ll do my best to come up with some new tricks you can try because I understand your plight. I cannot function or recharge in a messy or disorganized house. I don’t know what you may have tried in the past, but give these a whirl:
- Make the proclamation “I will only wash clothes that are in the hamper,” and stick to it. Even if your kid has school pictures the next day and all of their clothes have black tar on them, DO NOT WASH A THING that is not in the hamper. It only takes once or twice of that panic moment for your husband or kids to realize that they literally have nothing to wear to get them to start putting their clothes in the proper place.
- Tell them, “Clothes that are left lying around in the hamper get tossed.” Take all the dirty clothes that are left all over the house and toss them into the garage, or down the basement stairs, or into a closet to sit and mildew and fester and stink until someone puts them in the hamper. After a few times of the cat peeing on someone’s favorite jeans they will start picking their clothes up and putting them in the hamper. In the meantime, your house is free of clothes clutter except for that one designated area.
- Proclaim, “Dishes that are not put in the sink or dishwasher get tossed.” Go to Wal-Mart, get a few cheap plastic storage bins and place all the dirty dishes left sitting around in there. Sit it with the clothes. If it attracts ants or bugs, arrange the clothes around the bin so that the bugs have to go through the clothes to get to the dishes. That alone will freak your family’s @#%$ out and prove a point. And if that doesn’t do it, once all of the dishes are gone from the cabinet (except for the utensils and plates and cups that you use and wash and store in your own private place in your room), your family will get tired of eating dinner with their hands and having to place their food on paper towels. Especially if you’re serving dinners like country fried steak and gravy with mashed potatoes and peas. Serve things that MUST HAVE a plate and offer no alternative for dinner.
- Say, “If snack bags, wrappers, water bottles, or soda cans are left sitting around, I will no longer buy these items at the store.” Basically, anything you see laying around that wasn’t thrown away just makes it to the “Do not buy” list.
- Announce to the family, “There will be no TV or devices until the house is cleaned and straightened.” Collect all the phones and tablets, lock them in your trunk, and remove the cable box or DVR box from the TV. The same goes for gaming boxes. This causes a bit of work for you, but you’re at war! Just make sure to label the cords with Post-Its to know where they go when you are trying to reattach.
You are going to have to get creative as well as mean, and you’re going to have to stick to it! Yes, it’ll be a lot of effort, but the reward might pay off. You have to show these messy people how much they rely on you and how much better their lives are when they are organized and clean. To do that, you’re going to have to hurt them a little. It may not solve all your problems but if you can just get them to start helping with one thing, it’ll be worth it.
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Doing it on her Own
My son’s father died several years ago when he was just a baby. My own father is deceased, and I have no brothers. I think the lack of a male role model is starting to have an effect on my son, Hugh. He is combative with me and he is defiant. He isn’t dangerous like those kids you see on TV. He’s more strong willed. I think if Hugh had a man in his life, he wouldn’t be like this. He is only 7 but he acts like he is in charge. Hugh loves me and is sweet to me but he doesn’t obey me when it conflicts with what he wants. If he had a father around, I think he’d have turned out different. Do you know of anything I can do? Are there any programs out there I could utilize? Any ideas of how to teach him to respect my word more as his mother? I’m open to anything. I’m doing this all alone and could use the advice.
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I am not knowledgeable on the current programs out there these days. I know that when I was growing up, there were those “Big Brothers Big Sisters” programs. You could look into that by just Googling it and seeing if they have those in your area. Though, I would not be so quick to make this a male/female thing. I know lots of single moms who have had no trouble garnering their son’s fear and respect when called for. Yes, it’s true your son would probably benefit more had his father not died, but sometimes the fathers are wishy-washy and the moms are the strong ones. I don’t think your son’s defiant nature is because there wasn’t a man around. I think he is just the type that asserts his own strength while being able to assess his adversary’s weakness and capitalizes on it. That sounds awful but actually it’s a brilliant and highly usable gift! It doesn’t make him a bad person. It means he’s smart and knows how to make things go his way. That can take him very far in life.
He needs someone who knows what they are doing to occasionally guide him in the right direction so that he doesn’t become a bad person. Have you ever taken him to a therapist? He’s very young to have lost his father, and just that alone is cause enough to let him talk to someone about his feelings. Also have you ever enrolled him in sports? Soccer is great for getting out pent-up energy. It also teaches kids to work as a team. Karate is also great, especially for kids with aggression or trouble respecting authority–those karate teachers do not take crap from students. Respect and discipline is their main focus. Your son would not stand up to a karate instructor and defy him the way he defies you. I took my son to classes and was amazed. My son was never combative; he is just silly and doesn’t take things seriously. But that karate instructor snapped him to attention and let him know quickly that there is a time for silliness and a time for seriousness, and I sat and watched my goofball kid listen to that man in ways he never listens to me. It’s a little humbling all the way around.
If he has no interest in karate, find a sport that appeals to your son. Would he like, baseball, or swim team, or football, or basketball? If he needs a male role model, pick something with a good male coach and talk to the coach about your son’s obedience issues so that he can be watching out for that at practices. Watch how the coach handles situations on the field. You may pick up some things. But, do get Hugh some counseling. I think everyone alive could use therapy on occasion–especially a little kid that lost a parent.
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Best Friend Ditch
My best friend has started hanging out with the girlfriend of her new boyfriend’s best friend. She started dating this guy a few months ago and has steadily grown closer with his best friend’s girlfriend. The four of them do things together all the time and I am often left out. When I am included I still don’t feel included. I have a boyfriend too, so it’s not like we couldn’t do couples things too. She and I have been friends for several years. I think she’s maybe bored with me. I don’t know. I just feel tossed aside. Should I tell her how I feel?
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Dear Shut Out,
I would guess that you probably have already told her how you feel without even having to tell her. I’m sure you’ve expressed your disappointment in some way, and it doesn’t appear to alter anything. People make time for people they want to make time with–I have learned that in my 43 years of living. I also have learned that some friendships are like romances–they can have a really good run where the two people feel closer to each other than anyone else on earth, and then suddenly it’s just over. No one is mad at the other, and nothing really happened. Life just takes you each in a different direction, and you grow apart. You’d still be there for each other in times of need, but the day-to-day interactions fade.
I have several friends that I used to see every single day when I was younger. Friends that were my whole world, but my world was much smaller then. As my world (and their worlds) expanded, more and more people entered. Work, activities, kids, and life just happens and broadens your experiences, and those friendships that were once the foundation of of your existence fade into this background thing that is always there, but rarely takes center stage. Years may pass before I see any of my old friends, but that doesn’t mean that I still wouldn’t take a bullet for any one of them or be there in a moment’s notice if hardship or tragedy struck. My life course just took me away from daily interaction, and theirs did the same.
You sound like maybe you are in your twenties. When you get to your late twenties and early thirties, your adulthood will take you to new levels of life that unfortunately don’t offer a lot of time for hanging out with friends. And when you do have time, you are usually hanging out with new friends that share the world you now live in. One day, you’ll be friends with your children’s friends’ parents or the people in your church groups or committees. You will tend to “hang out” with the people that are in your closest proximity. That is what is happening to your best friend now. Her world is now primarily her boyfriend’s world, and this new friend is part of that world. She is in her closest proximity. It is only natural that they would create this exciting new friendship. Stay quiet. Stay her friend. But realize that at some point in time, you two are probably not going to be as inseparable as you once were, and other people will enter and take a piece of her for themselves. That is perfectly normal. Start trying to find your own people who will gravitate to you in that way. Once you have other options, you won’t feel so abandoned.