Flash Friday: Am I A Mess (Or Not)..Will That Change?

Today is Flash Friday – when 40:20 Vision tackles an issue from both the 40-something and 20-something perspective. Joining me on this mission is Molly Ford of Smart Pretty and Awkward. Today’s topic is cleaning! We all know we want to keep a clean conscious but how do we keep a clean house as we go from 20 to 4o? Does a nesting or nurturing instinct take hold? Some of us who aren’t naturally clean freaks want to know!

How do you cope with keeping a clean house? Does the value you put on cleaning a home increase or decrease as you rent vs. own? If you live with other people, if you have kids? Here are the answers! As always we welcome comments and discussion…it’s all about creating conversation.

Keeping a Home Clean: The 20-Something Perspective

By Molly Ford

For most 20-somethings, a big event is finally having your own space: an apartment, a house, a condo, or something else. After living in college dorms or with parents for a few years, the thrill of having your own place is an exciting milestone (and something expensive!).

Some cleaning strategies 20-somethings use to keep a clean house include hiring a cleaning service, sharing chores with roommates, doing a little tidy-up everyday or a Sunday “deep clean,” or simply deciding that having a clean house is not super important and letting the house get a little messier.

Margaret, a 26 year old marketing manager who lives alone in an urban studio, hires a cleaning service.

“I could clean myself, and financially it would save me some money, but it honestly brings me more peace of mind to know that my apartment will be professionally cleaned every other week. It’s money I’ve budgeted for cleaning, because it’s important to me. If my job changes or I need to cut back, I’ll cancel the service, but for a small studio I can afford it for now.”

Tara, who lives in an apartment with roommates, shares duties with them. She said this arrangement was working out well (with each roommate taking the kitchen, bathroom, and living room, and rotating weekly) but that she had lived in situations in the past that were not as easy.

No 20-somethings I interviewed implied that they would put more or less effort on cleaning their home if they own it versus renting it. I would assume more money would go into home repairs if you own than if you rent, but cleaning seems to remain the same regardless of how long you plan to be in the space.

For how many physical hours a week 20-somethings spend cleaning their home, the numbers seem to average about four a week. Christine says, “3-5 hours for my tiny apartment. Allergies require a lot of vacuuming/dusting,”

Amy says, “At least four, sometimes five.” And Holly writes. “Probably about 3. I’m sure in the next ten years it’ll increase when I have my husband and kids!”

To build off of Holly’s point, most 20-somethings anticipate the number of hours they spend cleaning to increase as they age and move into a bigger space and/or add more people to their household, with either a signification other or children.

Most seemed to think that the effort they put into cleaning increases as they got older. Lindsey writes, “I’m way more concerned with how clean my house is now than 5 or 10 years ago. I don’t think I was ever a super messy person, but now if the counter aren’t clean or the bed isn’t made, it drives me crazy!”

40-somethings, does the value you put on housework decrease or increase as you age?

Keeping a Home Clean: The 40-Something Perspective

By Christina Vuleta

 For many women the attitude toward cleaning is more innate than acquired over age.

“Cleaning and organization are part of who you are, not necessarily a product of your age.  Life only gets more complicated with roommates, a boyfriend or husband, kids, pets etc.  If you are a structured and organized person, chances are you will adapt your cleaning habits accordingly.  If you are more carefree, disorganized or a procrastinator, chances are your cleaning habits will reflect that.” – 40-something, mom, business owner, fashion industry, Brooklyn, NY

I agree with the woman above. My sister (sorry my dear sis but I don’t think I’m outing you to many) has never much cared for cleaning house. She didn’t in her twenties and doesn’t in her forties and beyond. Her coping strategy – throw it all in the extra room (or your own room if you don’t have an extra room). But as messy as she can be, she is just as generous with love and caring. To add to the clutter she will always take in a stray dog or a friend in need.  Me… I have my moments. I let things build up and then clean them up before it gets too crazy. But you can teach a dog a new trick. I know do realize that when you put it away right away…it’s not so daunting to clean it up.

As the 20-somethings surmised, it is true that as you get older you acquire husbands and dirty socks… and kids and clothes that don’t stay clean longer than 5 minutes. I had a friend who after her first baby would constantly change her son’s outfit every time it got it dirty. She quickly found herself changing clothes half of her day and the laundry pile mounting. She learned she could live with a lot of dirt.

Many moms feel similarly. You can be a perfectionist …until you have kids.

“You’re wiping kids’ butts, covered in what doesn’t go in their mouth. All this crazy stuff. You’re forced into imperfection every single day and if you let it get to you, you will die.”

You don’t have time to keep a perfect house and perfect isn’t so important after all. Many moms would rather get messy with their kids than spend time keeping house, particularly when time is limited be it with work at home or away. It’s all a matter of time and prioritizing. This, as one 40-something entrepreneur shares, is the good enough principle:

“Good enough implies abandoning certain standards. That sounds negative in a way but I think it’s about picking your shots.

 My older daughter takes music lessons. I work from home on Mondays so I can attend her lessons. I want to attend it so I know what’s going on and then our Mommy-me time is around practicing. But then I barely ever cook dinner… it’s hard for me to do. I’m not that good at it. I’m running around like crazy. Having that stress is not additive in my life. So I let someone else do it. But I’m the only one that can sit with her and play piano. You pick whatever you’re committed to and commit to it.”

Also as you get older you may have more disposable income so you can afford help cleaning house. You may realize that to keep your sanity that is the one extravagance you will save to have.

“I started using a cleaner when I was 32.  Funnily enough I was on the phone with my mother and complaining about spending about 4 hours every Saturday doing laundry and cleaning my apartment.  And then I was struggling to have time to run other errands on a Saturday.  She said to me, ‘Frankly I think you have to get a cleaner.  You are a successful young woman and I don’t know why you are spending your time doing this when you work so hard during the week.’

But it took me through my 20s to feel that I was justified to spend some of my hard-earned cash on a cleaner.  And that is ultimately what will drive your decision in this area.  We all constantly make trade-offs about what we are prepared to spend our money on and what you are giving up when you make a purchase. Purchasing (or .paying for) a cleaner means giving up something.

Frankly as a well-put together woman of any age there is no reason to be a slob.  So clean the apartment yourself or give something up and get a cleaner.”

 For some, it can be a marriage saver. This woman realized it was either her husband or her sanity:

“I realized that he just didn’t see the dirt. I could either spend my life picking up after him or I could get a cleaner and make us both see eye to eye. It was really invisible to him and there were so many other things I would rather focus on and I didn’t want to constantly be annoyed by him.”

In your twenties, roommates, or perhaps living with your parents, can cause similar issues. As this woman deftly points out  the benefits of living with a little mess may outweigh the negatives.

“I grew up in a very organized and structured home. Everything had a place and I have maintained the same idea in my life. However, you cannot control other people’s cleaning habits and it can pose a problem with roommates and love interests and even kids!  Not everyone is hardwired to be neat and you need to remain adaptable to some degree.  Living with other people can be challenging on many levels, but can also be incredibly rewarding. So discuss things upfront and agree that cleaning the bathroom is something that will be done every week, etc.  Sometimes, if you are the clean freak, you may have to pick up the slack of your less neat roommate but you can balance this out if they happen to be a great cook, or pet sitter for your cat.”

Define for you, as you get older, what is important and what is a throw away. Clean is what your mind is when you don’t worry about what isn’t relevant.

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