The Obsessive Compulsive Cleaning Solution

If you struggle with OCD when it comes to clean, I have the perfect obsessive compulsive cleaning solution for you!

pots and pans in a sink with a caption of the obsessive compulsive cleaning solution
Photo by Scott Umstattd on Unsplash

Years ago, I saw a sign at Hobby Lobby which read, “An Immaculate Home is a Sign of a Wasted Life.”  Despite how obsessive compulsive I was about cleanliness, I took this as a “sign”…and a call to repentance.  At the time, I was spending far too many hours detail-cleaning the inside of my home on a daily basis.  As a result of misused time, I was usually sleep-deprived, overwhelmed, and stressed. The words, ‘not enough time,’ seemed to constantly dominate my vocabulary. 

“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.”
Harvey Mackay

That same year I asked a friend of mine, who had recently given birth to her sixth child, how she managed it all.  “How do you stay sane with so much do?” I had asked.  Her response was simple: “I lower my expectations.”  To this day, this call-to-action is the best parenting advice I have ever received.

an immaculate home is a sign of a wasted life and quote that where there are no oxen the manger is clean
Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

This Obsessive Compulsive Cleaning Solution Will Result in an Immaculate Home

Obsessive compulsive cleaning, an unfortunate symptom of OCD, will result in a beautifully immaculate home.  But let’s be honest here…. You won’t get any lasting kudos from your kids (young or old), or even from your spouse for keeping an immaculate home.  And if I’m being really honest, obsessive compulsive cleaning — and obsessively harassing the people in my life for not maintaining an unreasonable and unsustainable level of cleanliness — never brought me any real happiness. 

Don’t get me wrong; I keep an extremely organized house, and I actually really enjoy maintaining an immaculate-looking abode – most of the time.  Being able to enjoy my home and the people in it, however, has only come after letting go of perfection.  Initially, this was no easy task!  As I sought to break myself free of the obsessive compulsive need for an immaculate home, I began by creating personal challenges for myself.  

A clean house by the nature of things might just mean an empty house since children and husbands and houseguests and those neighborhood kids do not have to be in the house long before it is agonizingly messy. However, without all of those people there is no productivity… no children to care for, no friends to counsel, no hospitality to extend.
Tim Challies

Clean Me! My First “Win” Against Obsessive Compulsive Cleaning

My first “win” against obsessive compulsive cleaning involved a face-off between myself and a dirty plate.  The incident occurred while I was already running late for an appointment.  Despite serious time constraints, that dirty breakfast plate was at the forefront of my mind, pulling me towards the kitchen sink like the world’s most powerful magnet.  “Clean me!”  Balking, I almost gave in, but the motivational speaker inside of me prevailed!  Using all the will power I could muster, I literally peeled my fingers away from the sink, walked towards the door, and exited like a triumphant war hero, leaving the dirty plate festering behind me.

The Test of True Friendship: “Are you coming to see me or are you coming to see my house?

A Better Cleaning Solution for an Immaculate Home

I have things to do; goals to accomplish!  If my headstone reads, “Owner of the most immaculate home in the world,” it’s quite likely that I’ve circumvented my true purpose.  Time is precious.  But order is also important to me.  Consequently, I set out to find a better cleaning solution; one that would provide more efficiency, quality, and consistency in my life. 

Recovery from obsessive compulsive cleaning habits took time, but over the course of that time I have developed a better cleaning solution for nearly every chore in the house.  I rarely, if ever, dedicate a full day — or even a few hours — to cleaning anymore.  Rather, I’ve adopted a “clean as I go” approach. Basically, if something looks dirty…I clean it. 

woman on a chair by a window using a better cleaning solution for an immaculate home
Photo by Austrian National Library on Unsplash

Micro House Chores for an Immaculate Home

In other words, I complete “micro house chores.”  If the carpet looks sad, I vacuum it.  If I’m preparing a meal, I don’t move onto the next step until I’ve cleaned up the last step.  When I’m in the bathroom (for any reason), I scan the area.  If the sink needs a little shine, I throw some baking soda in the bowl and use my hand to scrub it…and it takes all of 30 seconds.  If one of my little men leaves me a yellow surprise, I call on them to come wipe it off with some disinfectant spray.  (It is likely due to this ‘accuracy standard’ that I rarely find yellow surprises anymore). 

clean-urinals-beneath-beatiful-window-for-a-better-cleaning-solution
Photo by Syed Umer on Unsplash

I’m not sure why…but I have a particular distaste for hair that is NOT attached to my head.  Ew. Orphaned hairs are not cute. So any stragglers get wiped up with a piece of damp tissue paper.  Watermarks on the mirror?  I have a rag sitting on the bathroom counter for that very purpose=quick and instant shine.  Alternatively, I use this rag to quickie-clean the sink area after I use it.  All of these little “micro house chores,” done intermittently throughout the day, literally take seconds.  While completing “micro house chores” offers a number of benefits, my favorite is the benefit of never having to deep-clean my bathroom, especially the shower!  This is made possible by this incredible shower cleaner recipe I developed (never clean your shower again!) 

bottle of a better cleaning solution for removing mold and cleaning glass

Work Smarter Not Harder for an Immaculate Home

When it comes to finding and maintaining a better cleaning solution, it’s important to work smarter not harder.  Focus on a cleaning solution that targets what actually needs to be cleaned, and find solutions for mitigating dirt accumulation in the house.  If you see dirty spots on the floor, just focus on those spots.  If you find that your floor is getting dirty too fast, you might consider sending the kids outside to eat, quarantining food to the kitchen area, and/or banning shoes inside the house.  A minimalistic approach to possessions, limiting countertop and/or display items that might accumulate dust, and organizing belongings into boxes, shelves, closets, and drawers also makes cleaning, in general, much easier. 

“If you do the things God tells you to do, messes will inevitably follow. But take heart: According to the wisest man who ever lived, these messes are not proof of a wasted life, but of a productive one.”
Tim Challies

Additionally, a team effort is helpful to successful home maintenance.  From the time my children were old enough to crawl, I taught them how to clean up after themselves.  Initially, this took an INSANE amount of work and effort.  All parents know that cleaning up a child’s mess is 5000% easier than painstakingly walking (or begging) our kids through that torturous processes.  In hindsight, however, I can tell you that the fruit of that labor is sweet.  Again, work smarter not harder — and an obsessive compulsive cleaning solution will be easier to obtain.

little girl smiling and showing that an obsessive compulsive cleaning solution can result in a happier life
Photo by Ekaterina Kartushina on Unsplash

A Better Cleaning Solution for a Happier Life

The bottom line: Letting go of the obsessive compulsive tendencies and perfectionism in me was extremely difficult.  I used to blame my personality! However, I have found a way to collaborate my desire for a clean house and take more time for the things in life that actually matter, like my relationships, my hobbies, my sleep, service, personal growth…and the list goes on.  Gratefully, I have also learned how to lower my expectations when life warrants that necessity, and choose a better cleaning solution for a happier life. As my dad always reminded me: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”  It is entirely possible to strive for perfection and seek elevating solutions without the burden of obsessive compulsive perfectionism.  

But what does an obsessive compulsive cleaning solution have to do with overcoming depression?

Similar to maintaining a clean home, one must apply daily, preventative maintenance so that depression — in all of its forms — does not become dominant, ugly, or unmanageable. A clean, peaceful environment allows room for a clean, peaceful mind. “All you need is a will to sweep the dust off your heart. This will improve the condition not just of your own mind but of the minds of the people around you.” -Shoukei Matsumoto

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2 thoughts on “The Obsessive Compulsive Cleaning Solution”

  1. This is a great article Jennifer. You are a good writer (perfect match for a good person:) Lots of nice quick ideas. But what struck me is that right from the start of your article you got me thinking about a sign that our daughter put on her bedroom door decades ago … it reads “If a cluttered desk signifies a cluttered mind, what does an empty desk signify?” And though that seems “funny”, it has a hidden meaning … that our living area should look lived in… and livable! Thanks for sharing your wisdom Jennifer.

    Reply
    • Love this! You made me giggle. When I was in high school my desk was the only messy part of my bedroom and I called it my “messy desk.” Such a creative name, I know! 😛 So I’ll take your comment as a good sign I was doing something right.

      Reply

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