The last 10%
I've been thinking about cleaning lately. My house isn't disgusting; in fact it's usually about 20 minutes away from being presentable. I usually keep up on the basics, like dishes and laundry. My problem area is picking up.
My dear three-year-old Pip prefers his toys to be scattered far and wide. He gets more out from the closet before the old ones are put away. Of course he does; he's three. That's what three-year-olds do.
The rest of us (myself included) leave our belongings scattered across the living area of the house too. The big kids leave their backpacks and coats on the couches; there are always shoes and socks on the floor. The kitchen counter is a melange of school papers, mail, jars, and anything people don't want Pip to reach. The computer desk and mantel usually house recently used DVDs, pencils and paper, small electronics, and books.
All the clutter makes me feel a little bit crazy, but it's always around, so I kind of get used to it. Of course that means that normally I am operating at a low level of crazy. I feel so much more peace when things are picked up and caught up. I tell myself I can't always keep the house pristine—which is true! I have a three-year-old—but I'm afraid I currently err on the side of letting it slide a little too much. I look around the main room at night after the kids are in bed and I'm tired and I think, "What's the point? He'll just dump everything out again tomorrow."
But I have come to realize that it's the last 10% of cleaning that gives me 90% of the satisfaction. If my home is mostly caught up and reasonably sanitary underneath, I get very little pleasure out of that if the surface is covered in clutter. I get the pleasure out of putting a vase of flowers on a clear counter, or sitting down to relax in the evening when the toys are all picked up.
I need to remember this. I know I can't keep it all picked up all the time—because we live here!—but I can plan perhaps two times a day when it will be picked up. And then I will get to have the peaceful pleasure of the last 10% being done.