I Stopped Cleaning Up My Family's Stuff, And Here's What Happened

by Karen Johnson
Originally Published: 
Sigrid Kolbe / Getty Images

Last weekend I took some time off. I know, I know. What does that mean? You ask. You’re a mom, right? How the hell did you get a “day off?” you might wonder. It sounds ludicrous, right? Impossible even? Well, I did. And it was glorious. Let me explain.

I had been feeling run down for a few days and was absolutely spent, mentally and physically. I still did the 961 daily things required of motherhood. I mean, you didn’t really think all the responsibilities went away, did you? I still prepared food for the children, ensured their basic safety, asked them to brush their teeth, mediated arguments over Nerf guns and Minecraft worlds and whose turn it was to get the Dory fork at dinner. I wiped at least one butt that wasn’t my own, and ensured they washed their hands.

But here’s what I didn’t do: Pick up anyone’s shit.

Because frankly, I’m tired of it. On any given day my house is a mess because everything is everywhere, and I needed a damn day off. My counters are forever covered with homework papers and halfway completed craft projects and tax documents and bills to be paid and reminders and lists and one random sock and a broken toy that someone thinks is salvageable and permission slips and a granola bar that a child swears she’ll finish later and dishes to be washed and clean dishes that are drying…

And that’s just my counters.

The couch is still there, I think. I haven’t seen it in a while. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away it was a place for humans to sit on, not a catch-all for laundry and pillows and blankets and books and toys and snacks and dolls and stuffed animals and more half-way completed craft projects…

RELATED: How To Keep Your Couch Clean And Stain-Free (Even When You Have Kids)

So you can imagine the condition of the floors.

I feel like all I do is nag. All I do is say “pick this up” and “put this away” and “this doesn’t belong here” and “what the hell even is this” 8,000 times a day. All I do is bitch and grumble as I trip over shoes and find lost library books and discover Nerf darts stuck to the bathroom mirror.

Well, I was just too tired last weekend. I let my house be a disaster. And if anyone stopped by, I couldn’t say it was trashed because we were doing an epic science project. Or starting a garden. Or cleaning out closets. It was a mess because I was tired of picking up everyone’s shit, only to see a new pile of shit re-appear in that exact same spot 11 seconds later. And more than picking it all up, I was tired of lecturing everyone else to pick it all up.

I’m out, I said. Peace!

My kids were confused at first. Who is this woman? they asked. I mean, she looks like Mommy, but she’s not spitting fire at us or threatening to throw away our epic Lego creations that we left all over the kitchen table. This is weird, they said.

And then they promptly forgot and went back to trashing my house in a blaze of glory.

So, for the whole weekend, I didn’t bug them to clean up. I gave zero shits. I knew we’d suffer the consequences in the end, but I needed a damn break from being the only person who cares that there’s a tent in my living room.

Oh, you want to set up a Nerf fun fortress? Sure, I said. Build Legos in the kitchen? Whatever. I checked out and let it all go. At the tail-end of a week-long sickness, I set up camp on my couch with a hot cup of tea and watched a “Fixer Upper” marathon. And I let them have at it.

Over the course of those two days, I heard lots of screaming and throwing of things. I saw the occasional child tear by me with food and drink in hand. And I just closed my eyes and let it be.

And you know what’s weird? It was kind of amazing.

I think they needed the break from fire-breathing Mommy as much as I did. They had fun playing together, creating forts, having marathon nerf battles, riding their bikes, and building Lego castles, without the ghost of nagging Mommy saying “Don’t make a mess!”

So I know you’re wondering: just how trashed was my house at the end of it all? Well, here’s the kicker: it was not much different than any other day. Seriously. By Sunday night after I’d had some rest, I was ready to get after it and have it all cleaned up before the week started. We all worked together—Legos were swept back into a bucket, their Nerf gun arsenal was stored back into the giant box in the corner of the basement, and all cups, bowls, and snack bags were washed or tossed in the trash.

Nothing was permanently broken or destroyed. And for two whole days, no one heard me nag (well, about that anyway. I mean, I am still me). By Monday morning we had returned to regularly scheduled programming (i.e. me barking about backpacks in the kitchen and glue sticks without caps).

But honestly, I think I’ll take another day (or whole weekend) off again real soon.

Take a break if you think you need it, girlfriends. It’s good for the soul.

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