And those articles bothered me. A lot.
At first, I thought it was because they made me feel guilty about the state of my house. To be very honest, I'm not a good housekeeper. I sweep the dining room floor a couple times a week. I sweep the other rooms once every week or two. On the main floor. Upstairs and in the basement, it's a lot less often. I clean the bathroom on the main floor every week or so. The kids' bathroom upstairs, once every month or two. Our bathroom upstairs? Probably four times a year for the whole bathroom, more often for just the toilet and the sink we use most. I do wash the table and counters after every meal, though! And the kids pick up the toys and books in the living room every night. But the toys in the basement can stay all over the floor -- we clean them up if we're going to have company staying with us, since our guest room is in the basement. And I've only made my son clean his whole room up twice. I've never had my daughters do that yet. To me, toys are meant to be played with, houses are meant to be lived in, and I would rather read a book to my kids or play with Legos with them, or write a blog post while they're playing outside and napping, than clean something that's not all that dirty (to my eyes) and will just get messed up again in a few minutes.
However, those articles made me wonder: am I doing this wrong? Is there something actually not right about how I'm raising my kids? Am I raising them to be slovenly, careless, dirty people? And why am I raising them this way? Is it laziness? Okay, yes, partly it's laziness -- it's easier to sit here in my comfy folding chair and type up this blog post than to sweep the garage out. (Besides, I swept out the garage last week, and that's good enough.)
But also, I realized that I don't place a huge emphasis on things. On stuff. We have a lot of stuff, it's true -- I have hundreds of books and movies and CDs. They have hundreds of toys scattered over three stories of house -- and I do mean scattered, except the Legos, which they conscientiously keep confined (mostly) to the Lego table I built them (and which I swear I'll post about soon, cuz it's cool). And, it's true that they don't always take the best care of their toys.
Every couple of weeks, I have to have a little talk with them about the fact that they are not treating a toy or book well. I remind them that all our possessions are blessings given to us by God. God wants us to enjoy our books and toys, but he also expects us to take care of what he's given to us and not waste our blessings. It's okay to play with a toy every single day and love it so much that it eventually breaks beyond repair, like the plastic semi truck my son loved to pieces as a toddler. Glue, bolts, and rubber bands eventually could not keep Jack Truck together any more. And that happens, toys wear out -- that's part of life in our decaying, fallen world. However, it is not okay to be careless with our toys and books, to leave a book outside to get rained on and ruined, to throw a truck down the stairs and watch it smash, to ride a bike over a toy trowel on purpose to break it. To rip books because you're mad. That is not okay -- that is not caring for the gifts God has given us.
It all comes down to what Christ warned in Matthew 6:19-21: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
I want to spend more time on teaching my children to live God-pleasing lives than keeping my house orderly. I want to teach them to enjoy and value God's earthly gifts, but not to worship them. I want my heart, and their hearts, to be bound up with heavenly treasure, not earthly things. Moth and rust and time and wear and tear will destroy our stuff. All these nice things will one day be on a trash heap, no matter how hard we work at keeping our things neat and tidy, tidy and neat. And if our hearts, our lives are bound up in those things? They could end up on a spiritual trash heap.
Should my house be cleaner? Yeah, probably. I like having friends over once a month or so because it forces me to sweep my floors and clear away some of my clutter, just so my kids and theirs can play without knocking over a pile of books or grinding too many Cheerios underfoot. Is it wrong to enjoy having a clean house? Of course not! But if it's a choice between spending time tidying my house and spending time teaching and learning from my children, well, I've made my choice.