How Cleaning Your House Like Crazy Connects to Your Body Image

I caught this slightly crazy but totally funny video on For Every Mom late last year. (You’ll get the gist after the first fifteen seconds.)

Why is it so funny? Because it’s true . . .at least for me it was.

A few years ago, we planted a church in our house. Yes. Our church met inside our home. Every. Sunday. Evening.

Look out how clean that space is. . .

Look out how clean everything was for church. . .

Sundays between 10am and when church started at 5:30pm were not shining moments for me.

I was pregnant with child four. (Yes, I already had three children ages three and under.) Yet, somehow I thought I could magically transform our mess of diapers, stuffed lovies, and electronic-toys-singing-the-alphabet-song into a sacred worship space. A perfectly clean, sacred worship space.

Sure. I can do that. I’m an over achiever. 

Compounding my compulsion to have our house look perfect was this crazy pressure I felt as the “pastor’s wife” to have a well-kept home. I’d pace every square inch of that house making sure toys were put away. Closets locked (you’ve gotta have some place to hide your junk). Bathrooms sparkled. Carpet fibers stood at attention. It was as if we were expecting prospective buyers, not our small church family.

This is how the "pastor's family" should always look, right? (Only when going to a wedding, like we were. . .)

This is how the “pastor’s family” should always look, right? (Only when going to a wedding – as we were in this photo!)

The truth: I wanted everyone to see how clean I kept my house.

Deeper truth: I believed this would be a sign to our tiny church body that I was a fantastic wife and homemaker.

They needed to know this about me . . . so they would like me more, of course. 

One Sunday evening, two minutes before our first attendee would arrive, my husband and I frantically finished last minute cleaning details when our four- year-old decided he needed a drink. He reached up high to the counter that stood a good six inches higher than his head. He grabbed my glass of water, took a sip, and then tried to return it. Only instead of sitting it on the counter, he dropped the glass on our tile floor. Glass shards everywhere. Water everywhere.

(Children have a way of ruining our plans for perfection. (Or, at least ripping down the facade of perfection and revealing our true brokenness!))

Overwhelmed with frustration, I scurried to clean it up. They would be here any minute! We didn’t have time for accidents like this. Get to work people! Who has the Dust Buster? They’ll be here any minute!

{Ding Dong}

The first family arrived. I apologized profusely for everything being a mess and their inability to walk through the kitchen until the glass was cleaned up. Their response to my disheveled tizzy, “Oh, our daughter broke a glass right before we left. Can we help?”

{Sigh} Perhaps it’s okay for others to know we are human.

Maybe you aren’t as insane as I was back then. (It’s likely you aren’t trying to have church in your house, either.) But do you struggle with feeling like your home must be PERFECT before anyone from the “outside world” sees it?

I get it. I’ve frantically scrubbed, vacuumed, straightened and hidden junk before company arrived.

But, you know what I’ve learned? As God has worked with me on my body image issues he’s also worked to change my need to have a perfectly clean and presentable house for guests.Cleaning Supplies Compared to Who

The connection? I believe it has to do with recognizing real value and becoming brave enough to let others see the real me.

Recognizing Real Value

For those of us who battle body image–one of our biggest struggles is to believe that we are valuable no matter what the shape of our bodies. It’s tough to dispel the lie that says if we looked more “perfect” then we would be loved more and feel more contentment.

The same applies to our homes.

We falsely believe people need to see what great homemakers we are . . . then they will love (or admire) us more.

But just as our real value isn’t determined by the tag in our jeans or the number on that bathroom scale, our value isn’t determined by our ability (or complete inability) to keep a house impeccably clean.

We must free ourselves of the pressure to impress others.

Why do we stress-clean? It’s often not for ourselves or for our families. Rather, it’s image management. The burden of making sure others think well of us is way too much to carry.

So how do we be like Elsa and just “Let it go?”

We get brave.

Becoming Brave Enough to Let Others See the Real Me

It’s easy to say, in theory, “Yes. I know my value is not tied to how clean I keep my house.” But, to actually let someone in–to let someone see that your private space looks more like a day-after-Christmas sale than an HGTV showcase home. That’s another story.

Now, to be clear: Just as I would encourage you to not show up at work wearing pajamas without your hair or teeth brushed, some house cleaning and straightening may be necessary before you entertain guests. (Germs kill people. I don’t advocate being gross.)

Clean sink compared to who

But the broader point is this: We need to be real with ourselves and with others.

Real takes courage. It takes guts to show your piles of laundry. It takes a brave housewife to show the neighbor-who-stops-by how her sink spills over with dirty dishes. Likewise, it takes a certain amount of confidence to not fret, “What do they think of me now? They saw my messy house . . .”

Getting real means accepting the mess–admitting that we don’t have it all together. Saying, “Okay. I need help!”

As a follower of Jesus though, this should be nothing new. Didn’t we all have to stop and say, “Hey, God, I don’t have it all together. I need you!” before we accepted his free gift of salvation?

But, that getting real–it puts us on a new path. Just like the start of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, once we can say, “Hi, my name is Heather. And, I have a problem. . .” we place ourselves on a new trajectory to find hope. We get one step closer to tasting the freedom that comes from not worrying about what other people think of us or our homes. We get a few inches further away from our tendency to obsess over what others think. We then derive our confidence from Jesus and his acceptance, not from feeling like others approve of us.

Surrendering our need to be perfect, to look perfect, to pretend that we have it all together takes guts. But, Jesus is faithful to remind us that he is strong where we are weak. He already knows our imperfections. His opinion is the only one that really matters. And the freedom that comes from believing this truth feels better than wearing that mask of perfection while cleaning your house. Any day.

 

 

6 Comments
  • Brandi
    February 4, 2016

    OUCH! This one hit home. When my older kids first saw this video they immediately said, “that’s you!” Well, it use to be me— every time cleaning occurred. Now, with therapists in our home multiple times a week for years, I have learned to accept the difference between untidy and dirty. Admittedly, dirty still throws me in a panic, but I now know sometimes untidy is simply good enough.
    This also reminded me of an article you wrote about the clearance section. It wasn’t until the last couple of years that I decided my weight didn’t determine my value, as that value was determined by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. No body size or dirty house can take away the value of that love and sacrifice.

  • Amanda Wihebrink
    February 4, 2016

    I am like this except instead of freaking out about a dirty house I worry what people will think about the fact that (as my husband says) our house looks like an “upscale crack house”; like we sold all our furniture for drugs, lol! We haven’t been together that long and just bought our house 6 months ago, so it’s still super bare and what we do have is hand me downs. I get so embarrassed about it because I feel like we should be better than that….silly I know!

  • Kia Milano
    April 24, 2016

    I sell clothing through a direct sales company and had a party today in my home, so this was me just hours ago. Thank you for the truth I needed to hear & helping me confess it. I hate who I become in that frantic cleaning. May God help me overcome this & work on me and my self-image. He created me & he doesn’t make mistakes!

    • Heather Creekmore
      April 24, 2016

      Thanks for sharing that Kia! 🙂 I echo your prayer for all of us!! Thousands of women have pinned this post so I have a feeling it’s a hot topic for a lot of us! 🙂

  • Elaine Mingus
    April 24, 2016

    OMGOODNESS. We are soul sisters. Did you read my email I just sent out?

    I dig this post, no wonder it’s going crazy!

    • Heather Creekmore
      April 24, 2016

      LOL! I wrote it last year (I think?) and somehow it’s just now getting a Pinterest buzz!!!

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