I grew up in a very tidy home. Our toys were organized in the toy box. Our clothes were neatly folded inside our drawers. If you got something out, you put it away as soon as you were done with it. Generally speaking, my family (parents and sisters) believes in the “A place for everything and everything in its place” mentality.
In many ways, this has carried through in how my sisters and I live as adults. My closet is color coordinated, with all like colors grouped together in the same order they appear in the rainbow. Cassie is the master of organizing her children’s toys and my younger sister, Alisha, is constantly cleaning up after the kids whenever she’s around – even if they’re still playing with those very toys! You do not rest if there’s a mess.
You take your shoes off when you walk into the house. You eat over a plate so you don’t get crumbs on the floor. You put your plate in the dishwasher or wash it by hand when you’re done with it. All day long, you tidy up after yourself. We believe that preventing messes is far better than cleaning messes.
When there’s a project to be done, you work until it’s completed. There are no mid-day coffee breaks. If you’re expecting company tomorrow, you get ready for them today. If you have plans for the afternoon, you get all your housework and meal prep done in the morning. Before you go to bed, you make sure everything is in its place so you have a clean, fresh start in the morning.
This is the way I was raised. This is what I like. This is life as I prefer it.
When I got married, I thought it would be pretty easy to maintain this. Dirty clothes would go in the laundry basket and clean clothes would be neatly placed in drawers. Shoes would be lined up at the door but not worn in the house. Dishes would be loaded into the dishwasher immediately after they’re used.
But that’s not the life my husband prefers. He’s not messy, but he does things different. He likes to wear his shoes in the house. He’ll put the dishes away at the end of the day. He’ll take a break when working on a day-long project to rest and recharge. I guess you could say that when it comes to accomplishing day-to-day tasks, he is the tortoise and I am the hare.
In the early years of our marriage, this bothered me. I didn’t want to take a break. I wanted to get the project done and over with. I didn’t want to sweep the floor again after having already done it once. I didn’t want to sort through a pile of clothes, wondering which were clean and which were dirty. I didn’t want stuff to pile up. It’s stressful!
We had a few arguments over this, always initiated by me. Sometimes he would listen and wonder why I was making such a big deal out of something so small. Sometimes I would wonder why it was so hard to take the extra few seconds to just do it right now.
But I learned an extremely valuable lesson through this: Preferences are just preferences. Most of the time, it’s not about right and wrong. It’s about me getting what I want, the way I want it, when I want it. And, when that happens, loving the other person is all but forgotten.
Mark and I have been married about nine years now (October 3, baby!). Over this time, we’ve been able to work through a lot of those pre-set notions and ideas about how our home should operate. It’s less about his way vs. my way and more about doing it our way.
He thoroughly cleans up after dinner each night. I don’t mind that he wears his shoes in the house. If he’s walked through rain or mud or something yucky, he takes them off. I wash the clothes in the laundry basket and don’t worry about the rest. We both insist on the kids cleaning up their toys and putting them away immediately after they’re done playing with them. He makes the bed every morning.
As I look back, I can see something else that Mark has taught me. Something that has always been difficult for me. Something I still struggle with but try hard to improve on. Something that forces me to look past the mess at times.
He has taught me to rest.
It’s OK to not be moving all the time. It’s OK to take a break from the project to enjoy a moment with the family. It’s OK to be less than perfect. It’s OK if my house is less than perfect.
Now, when I think about how ridgid I was about certain things when we first got married, I see how silly it all was. I see that when it comes to doing life, we are far better together than I ever was on my own.
In what ways have you learned to compromise or let go of your own preferences?