Friday, March 14, 2014

Where Your Treasure Is

Over the past couple of months, several of my friends have linked to things on Facebook or Pinterest about how "a tidy home is a happy home" or "neatness and health go together" or "keeping a clean house shows your children you love them."  (I'm totally paraphrasing here, not quoting -- don't try googling those or anything).  And I read three or four of those articles to see if they have some kind of magically delicious tips on how to keep a house full of small children cleaner than I do.  But no, they just talked about cleaning schedules and daily routines and how important it is to teach our children to care for their things and their house, to teach them to work hard to create a clutter-free, clean, orderly, neat world.

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.

However, the emphasis on caring for our physical blessings goes too far sometimes.  I read those articles, and I got that little twinge of "that's not quite right."  Caring for God's blessings is good, yes.  Being a good steward is important.  But putting so much emphasis on taking care of these earthly objects can be dangerous.  It can turn cleaning and neatness into pietistic good works whereby we try to prove what good people we are.  A clean room is a happy room?  Does that then mean that a messy room is a sad room?  That we should feel guilty for having a stray object out of place?  I think not.  I fear that sort of thinking can, if it goes too far, elevate worldly possessions to heights of such importance that we could end up basically worshiping them.  Serving our houses and our cars and our books and toys and furniture, instead of seeing them as blessings that God intends should serve us.  Caring so much about objects, about stuff, about keeping our houses perfectly clean and tidy and neat and orderly, that they become treasures, precious to us beyond what is good.

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.


  1. For me, a clean home is a healthy home. Way back in the 90's, when my kids were the age of yours, I ran like a madwoman. I was a stay-at-home mom, but I was never home. I was always at church or some other social function. As a result of my busyness, I didn't have time to clean my house. The dust built up, and in a few months' time, both of my kids and I had developed dust allergies. Both kids ended up on allergy meds for about 3 years. And, me, well my allergy to dust led to chronic bronchitis, eventually to pneumonia, and ultimately to 5 years on an asthma inhaler. AND, the chronic, violent coughing caused me to rupture my L5 disc, and I ended up with back surgery.

    Not cleaning my bathrooms led to a mold build-up, and, you guessed it, I am allergic to mold. My immune system rebelled, and I developed auto-immune illnesses---in fact, was told that I was "looking at a lupus diagnosis."

    So, just be sure to keep on top of the dust and mold, since they can cause severe health problems.

    1. Yeah, I try to keep things relatively clean. The kids love to dust, so the dust gets dealt with pretty well, and if the bathroom gets to a particular point I'm grossed out and clean it, basically every two weeks for the most part. I'm terrified of mold, so any kind of black gunk in the shower gets exorcised as quickly as possible.

      I'm mostly talking about clutter and toys all over. These types of articles are all about how you should make your kids put away a toy as soon as they put it down and reach for another one, how everything needs to be meticulously organized, nothing can ever be messy. Dirty is one thing, and not something I like, but messy? Messy is a whole other thing and not something that I much worry about.

  2. Just about everything in life comes with an ongoing obligation -- watering a lawn, tending a friendship, doing right by a kid. My approach is to avoid acquiring the things and the obligations, but if you're going to actually experience much of life, the obligations to organize and maintain toys must be some of the least important ones on the list.

  3. I agree, that was how we lived when I was young, and it was great! I remember dusting and washing windows and such being lots of fun, and Mom always kept the bathrooms clean, and we vacuumed and mopped (another fun chore) regularly, but the floor was barely dry before toys were all over it again. We were sometimes criticized for our "clutter" but what with homeschooling 4 young kids, having a neat, tidy, showroom sort of house just wasn't on my mom's list of priorities.

    Even though we weren't required to clean up toys and be tidy when we were little, we gradually just started keeping our house neater as we've all gotten older. I've become the kind of person that just feels less stressed and burdened, and generally happier when all my STUFF is organized. And I found that it actually doesn't take me as long as I feel like it will to clean something up.

    I like teaching piano lessons, because it forces us to keep our entry way, living room and guest bathroom in order all the time. Having guests is a good, fun way to motivate a little tidying, too. =)

    1. Yeah, it's pretty much how I grew up too. And as we got older, the house got neater. When i was like 10, we started cleaning the majority of the house every Saturday -- my brother and I dusted everything, and then my parents helped me vacuum the carpeted rooms and helped my brother sweep the hard floors. And it was my chore to clean the bathrooms every week too. So I think as the kids get older, that sort of thing will naturally occur here too. Already they pick up all the toys in the living room every night and help me dust, and they like to help clean the bathroom and put laundry in the washer and dryer too.

      My wonderful husband mops my kitchen floor once a month or so with the kids' help. For some reason he is really patient with them with that chore, while I get frustrated, so it's his job with them now. And they have a blast! Even the 2-yr-old runs around in just a diaper, brandishing a sponge and scrubbing the floor at random.

  4. Thank you for sharing! I was actually just reading up on To Kill a Mockingbird yesterday and your post here reminded me of something that struck me on Wikipedia. Here's the quote: "Lee's father died before the film's release, and Lee was so impressed with Peck's performance that she gave him her father's pocketwatch, which he had with him the evening he was awarded the Oscar for best actor. Years later, he was reluctant to tell Lee that the watch was stolen out of his luggage in London Heathrow Airport. When Peck eventually did tell Lee, he said she responded, "'Well, it's only a watch.' (He said) Harper...feels deeply, but she's not a sentimental person about things." That's kind of it in a nutshell, eh?

    Btw, I am soon to be your newest follower over here, too :-) and I've also tagged you for the Sunshine Award. (But if you've already done it, no worries.) Here's the link:

    1. Wow! That is a really cool story. Good for her -- I would have been so sad. I do attach a lot of sentimental value to things, which I'm trying to break myself of, as it can lead to a lot of clutter.

      Glad to see you over here too :-) I've already done the Sunshine Award (four times in one post), so I'll answer the questions in a comment on your blog, okay?

    2. Yes, I thought it was really neat. And speaking of Mockingbird, I (might) be watching it with my brother tonight. (First time for me!)

      And no problem. Wow, four times already! (I was afraid of that. ;-) ) Thanks so much for going for a fifth!

    3. Actually, I did it 4 times in one post here, and then I think 2 other people have also nominated me besides you and those 4, so I've been answering those just in blog comments. They're fun, but I don't think I can think up many more interesting facts about myself, lol!

    4. OH! And how did you like the movie version of Mockingbird? I think it's magnificent.

    5. I loved it! I was a little nervous going into it, because, as you know, I had *cast* Peck (younger) as Cedric, the protagonist in my current WIP...and I hadn't seen much of him. He's amazing!! ...And fortunately, I think will quite fit in my brain with what Cedric will become during (and after) the story. :-)

      As to Mockingbird itself: during/just after watching, it wasn't as intense as I was expecting, but now I think it is simply magnificent... The nearest way I can describe it, is that it just seems to grow in your mind and take on towering proportions. This morning my brain is just going round and round it - and the only coherent thing it's come up with so far is a staggering *WOW*. :-)

    6. I think it wasn't until my third viewing that I could really start to think about it and not be overwhelmed by the whole movie. It's such a powerful, yet quiet film, and as close to cinematic perfection as they come. I love how it's filmed in black-and-white even though it's long after most movies were filmed in color -- really highlights the right-and-wrong aspects, the race issues, and even Scout's own coming realization that some things are absolutely wrong, some are absolutely right, and that a lot of poeple try to blend those two and create a muddy grey instead.

    7. I like that!! I love seeing all the different details that figure into what makes up the *big picture*. I haven't read the book yet...hopefully soon...but one thing I thought was interesting in the movie was the short scene where Jem is showing/telling Scout about the Egyptians. I thought it kind of highlights the whole Joseph/Potiphar's wife idea. Fairly obvious anyway, but it's neat when all the *little details* fit to make a big coherent whole. :-) What do you think?

    8. Oh my goodness, you haven't read the book yet? Wow, it's 700% better, even.

      I don't recall the Egyptians scene at all -- been about 5 years since I saw it, and probably more like 10 since I read the book.

    9. Yes, I know, frightful, isn't it??? But we do have it, and I think I'm second in line to read it... :-)


Agree or disagree? That is the question...

Comments on old posts are always welcome!

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)