Giving Up Clutter for Lent, Part Four: Clutter Wins. Or Does It?

A few days ago, I had about 90 minutes, maybe 2 solid hours if I was lucky, to do as I pleased. My youngest son, who requires the most hands-on care, was blissfully asleep. My 6-year-old was out of the house and my eldest was reading, which he can do for an entire afternoon when given the opportunity. So what would I do with this unusual bounty of time? My mind was spinning with how I could use it, what task I should attack, whether I could get most of it done in two hours. Before this point, I had been cleaning the kitchen from the morning aftermath, then doing non-stop loads of laundry, then feeding my kids lunch, then cleaning up that aftermath (am I the only mom for whom mealtimes result in “aftermaths”?).

Two hours. More clutter around me than could be handled in that time. But surely, I could make progress somewhere. The pantry, the laundry room, the refrigerator, the still-disastrous office. All were clamoring for my attention–I had no lack of options.

But then my oldest son came bounding down the stairs, wondering what I was doing, why I was so quiet. He is used to commotion around him when I’m in the house; for the past few minutes, I had been thinking of what to do and the stillness had surprised him. “Mom, what are you doing? Do you want to do something together?”

He is turning 10 in just a few months, undeniable evidence that I have been a parent for nearly a decade and I still can’t believe it. I took in his near-tweenage 80-lb. body, growing by the minute, his face which still held enough sweet innocence to keep the thought of impending puberty at bay.

I smiled at him as I made my split-second decision. “Let’s play something together. I challenge you to a duel. These moments don’t happen often, you-and-me time.”

His grin was wide and instant. I made no progress with the clutter that day, during those precious two hours. Instead, I played games with my son and even did some pleasure reading. It was not yet officially the Sabbath, but in the end, what I realized I needed was rest, a break from trying to impose order on a house that constantly moves towards disorder. And I needed a chance to have fun reconnecting with my son; despite constantly being around one another we don’t always manage to do so.

We can’t always choose to capitulate to the messes in our lives, but when you have a chance to challenge your 4th grade son to a game of Wii swordplay instead of beating down the clutter, then take it. Even if you lose, you win.

7 Comments on “Giving Up Clutter for Lent, Part Four: Clutter Wins. Or Does It?

  1. Helen,

    Thanks for being brave and sharing your pantry with your readers. Mine looks exactly the same and my husband just commented on it last night because it looked overstuffed! I think cleaning the house is important, but spending time with the kids is what is really important. I believe it is especially valuable that we give our kids focused one-on-one attention through family meals, games, and talking. This is why, I love that posted about putting pantry cleaning aside to play Wii with your son. I hope you have many more special moments like this with your kids!

  2. Well done! And when all is said and done he’ll remember that moment not the house mess.

    Since I too homeschool, my kids almost always take priority over other deeply held passions and loves. The first thing on the chopping block is always writing time. Am trying to find a way to incorporate daily (and utterly life-giving) writing somehow amidst the mad schedule and clamoring to-do’s. Heaven help us (seriously, Lord, we need your divine intervention)!

  3. Helen, thanks for this post. When my house is messy (90% of the time), I feel compromised and victimized. Why is this? Your post encourages me to put my children first, when that is the right thing to do (99% of the time). I’m going to miss the API Women’s Leadership Conference next week but hope to make it next year.

  4. Pingback: Giving Up Clutter for Lent, Part Four: Clutter Wins. Or Does It? | Moms of Faith- Christian Mom News Aggregator

  5. Thanks, Stacy! Appreciate you stopping by my blog! I have to check yours out too! =)

  6. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one out there with an overstuffed pantry! Try finding anything in my pantry and I’m pretty sure you’ll end up in some winter woods like the kids in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. =) Too many times, I forget your very important point that maintaining strong relationships with kids is worth letting go of the endless number of tasks clamoring for our attention. Thanks for affirming that decision, and for reminding me I really should do so more often!

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