Friday, May 06, 2011

The Day I Didn't Check a Single Thing off my To-do List

I have to keep a strict to-do list.  I'm by nature very, very, VERY scattered.  And when it comes down to it, I don't see the housework until the place is a bomb.  All I see are the games to by played, books to be read, art to be made, playgrounds to play on, dresses to be sewn, sweaters to be knit, etc.  My creatively wired brain immediately goes to the expressive and whimsical and ignores the practical.  So I have a to-do list on my phone that syncs online so it's on the computer too and it yells at me when need to change the kitty litter or sort the socks.  It's the only way I can even get things like that to register in my mind.  It works relatively well.

It helps to have cleaning ladies too.  Seriously.  If you suffer messy house guilt, remember that there is no shame in hiring help if you can afford it.  Some of us just suck at those sorts of practical application type things.  I admire those who are able to keep dishes washed and toys off the floor, I really do.  And I've given up comparing myself to them.

Yesterday, I had plans to clean the house.  I was going to buckle down and start checking off chores as soon as I got home from taking the kids to school and hitting the gym for an hour.  Dad and Julian are arriving later today and the cleaning crew will be here this afternoon, but there is so much clutter, they don't have much to clean. But as I arrived at the school, my phone chimed with a text message from a friend.

Melissa: Scholastic warehouse sale today.  Want anything?
Charissa: That's a dangerous question, lol.
Melissa: Even more dangerous: it starts at 11. . . want to come?

I called her back and basically said, "DUH!" I mean, who passes up a chance to get really cheap books, right?  We worked out some basic plans and I went on my way to the gym.

We won't be there all afternoon, I'll still have a few hours to clean before I have to do the afternoon school pick up and I can work on dishes while I make dinner.

The phone rang again. It was my husband's cousin, Colleen and she needed a ride to an appointment.  Her car was recently totaled, but she really needed to get there.  She doesn't live too terribly far away, and the appointment was close to where I live.  After spending some time at the sale (and getting a billion books for the upcoming onslaught of birthdays this summer), I made my way over to get Colleen.  It seemed silly to go home while she as at her appointment, so I went and grabbed coffee.

Then it was time to pick up The Blonde One and The Cousin (also known as Frick and Frack) from school, The Big One from the bus stop and The Boy from his friend's house.  At that point, I already had everyone in the car and wasn't going to have much time to make anything more impressive than pancakes for dinner, so we stopped at the bank and went to pick up Tim from work.  In a moment of weakness and fatigue from the day, we just went out to eat.  Friends dropped by the messy house for a few minutes after that, I had a Bible study to get to, etc.

When I finally got home at 10pm after having hardly seen the house since 8:30am, I looked at my to-do list with dismay.  I had only checked off the very basic and necessary items like "feed the cats."  Yes, I have to put "feed the cats" on my list.  There were so many things I hadn't gotten done.

Something suddenly occurred to me.  I needed to stop thinking about what a waste of an unproductive day I'd had. While the list is a great tool for keeping a flighty person like me on task and helps me get some things done rather than letting things get way out of hand and freaking out about it when it's just too much (not that I've ever done that), I cannot let the list define what a "productive" day looks like. My house might still look like a bomb went off and there are still dirty dishes in the sink, but I got alot of important things done yesterday.

I nurtured relationships. I got to spend an hour and a half with a friend (without my kids or hers) talking, venting and just being together.  You cannot put a value on something like that.  The fish tank can wait a day to be vacuumed, but taking the time to build on a friendship is irreplaceable.

I was there when family needed help.  Colleen was going to miss an important appointment. You don't leave family high and dry. I can reschedule the laundry far more easily than she could reschedule the appointment.

I facilitated a discussion that gave some of my sisters a chance to talk about faith.  We were able to discuss and open up and grow spiritually.  So what if there are a few toys on the floor?  That has no bearing whatsoever on anyone's spiritual journey.

I may not have cared for the things in my life yesterday, but things don't matter much when it comes down to it.  People matter.  The to-do list was neglected, but I did some far more important things.  I shall stop feeling guilty for having not cleaned out the refrigerator yesterday because the refrigerator isn't going to stay clean.  My efforts went into things that are more eternal than sparkling floors and a dust-free home.

1 comment:

  1. My only question for you is why in the world do you have to put feed the cat on your too do list? I figured your cats would remind you quite loudly if you forgot. I know my cat tells me multiple times a day that no one has fed him in weeks.

    I also agree with you that a clean house is not all that important when it comes down to it. I also often hate the state of my house, but when it comes to it, the cry of "play with me" from a child is way more important than a clean kitchen.