Where have all the cleaning fairies gone?

This post is sponsored by Clorox and The Motherhood.

I just don’t understand. I wait and I wait. I leave food out. I even ask nicely. And still, the cleaning fairies don’t come to my house.

They don’t visit. They don’t call. And they certainly don’t empty my dishwasher or fold my laundry.

It doesn’t make sense. I’ve seen those commercials – the ones with the bubbles? The bubbles that talk AND CLEAN YOUR BATHTUB WHILE YOU’RE GONE? It turns out those animated bubbles aren’t real. Yeah. I know. The shock, it is unbearable.

I’ve tried some fancy cleaning products. You know what happens when I spray my bathtub and walk away? White streaks appear in my otherwise Not White tub. Granted, the bathroom briefly smells lovely, but my porcelain (and plastic) is certainly not sparkling.

So, in case you’re just now joining us, my house is being visited by neither cleaning fairies nor magical cartoon bubbles. And since that leaves the cleaning business to me, my house is kind of filthy.

Not messy. At least, not always. I can usually keep the clutter at least tamed, if not permanently eliminated. But actual cleaning? The kind that requires spray bottles and sponges and rags and brooms? Yeahhhh, I hate it. And so I haven’t been doing it.

Last fall, I thought I had a solution. A friend told me about the woman who cleaned her house, and I decided that I could scrape enough money out of our budget to have her clean my house, too.

Unfortunately, the woman who cleaned my friend’s house is allergic to cats. Which is kind of ironic – or annoying; I always question my use of the word “ironic,” thank you Alanis Morrissette – considering my cats create a solid majority of the dirt in my house.

Not to worry, she recommended another cleaning lady, who I promptly called and scheduled. She was super duper nice, but alas, didn’t clean my house the way I wanted.

Which is ironic – or ridiculous [side note: I really need to learn the proper usage of the word "ironic."] – considering I’M not cleaning my house the way I want, either.

So, now I’m back to cleaning my own house (or not cleaning it…).

I’m not happy about that, but I will tell you one thing: Cleaning products that actually do what they promise – especially if they make cleaning easier! – help me hate this situation a little bit less.

Enter: Clorox and SMART TUBE® TECHNOLOGY.

The new SMART TUBE® TECHNOLOGY is a built-in tube that reaches all the way to the bottom of the bottle, putting an end to the frustration of wasting the last little bit of cleaning product you paid good money for! Clorox also points out that this technology gives consumers the satisfaction of spraying every last drop.

Well, I cannot argue with that! If I ever get to the end of a bottle of cleaning product (especially one like Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner + Bleach or Formula 409 Cleaner that actually gets my house CLEAN), I will definitely feel satisfied. And, you know, like I finally conquered my aversion to cleaning!

The new Clorox spray bottles equipped with SMART TUBE® TECHNOLOGY also feature a new and improved trigger that makes it easier to spray to your heart’s content.

Here’s the real good news. [No, I’m not sending actual cleaning fairies your way. Sorry.] Clorox is giving away five bottles of cleaning product with this fancy, handy new technology to one lucky Giving Up on Perfect reader.

To enter the giveaway: Leave a comment telling me one thing that would make cleaning easier for you. And do it now, because this giveaway will close at midnight (CST) on Tuesday, April 9.

This post is brought to you by Clorox and The Motherhood, and I’ve been compensated for my time. However, all opinions [and aversions to cleaning] are my own.

Keepin’ it real.

I posted this picture on instagram last week – and was surprised to get a larger than normal amount of likes and comments. One friend even gushed, “I love you for this!”

Much as I appreciated the sentiment, I had to wonder why. Why is posting a picture of my messy kitchen such a big deal? Why do more people like a photo of dirty dishes than one of my cute daughter wearing a boa and princess jammies? Why is admitting our weaknesses, our failures, our messy real lives rare enough to be noticeable?

Is a kitchen counter full of dishes a rare find? Not in my house.

What about overflowing laundry baskets – or answering, “Is this clean?” with a suggestion to use the sniff test? Yep, it happens.

How about yelling at your daughter to close your mouth and eat your dinner – then glaring at your husband when his face starts twitching at the irony of that command? Or finding your to-do list from two months ago and realizing that nope, you never got around to 9 – scratch that, 14 – of those Very Important Tasks? Or forgetting your first parent-teacher conference, cancelling the lunch with a friend you haven’t seen in months [again], or shedding actual tears over the disappearance of your email’s Very Organized Folder System?

True stories, all of them.

This is real life. This is MY life. It’s not polished or perfect or color-coordinated or organized or efficient or even clean. [My bathroom? So. Not. Clean. As in, if you come over, please don't ask to use my bathroom - and if you do, don't you dare open the shower curtain!]

I remembered on Saturday afternoon that I’d signed up to take snacks to our small group on Sunday. So I opened my Pinterest app and scrolled through the recipes I’d pinned recently. I didn’t find much that the [annoyingly picky] other two people in my house could agree on, so later that night I clicked around to find something to make.

I ended up making rice krispy treats – so obviously I didn’t find that amazing-looking, but super-easy-to-make recipe I was hoping for. What I did find, unintentionally, was several new-to-me blogs with titles like, “Super Fun Mommy” or “Confessions of a Super Mom.”

Now, while I have thoughts on super moms, I’ll save that for another post. For today, though, I just thought I’d take a minute to remind you – and me – that THIS blog is called Giving Up on Perfect. Because perfect isn’t real, and my life is Super Real.

Will you tell us about YOUR real life in the comments? What’s behind the smile, the cute skirt, the slip-covered couches and the perfectly plated appetizers?

Come on, keep it real with me today.

10 Resolutions We Can Keep


You wanna know what’s awesome about five-year-olds?

“Hey, Mommy, how big were you at your Weight Watchers meeting?”
“Hey, Mommy, I thought you said we weren’t going to McDonald’s anymore.”
“Hey, Mommy, why are you giving away that pretty dress? Doesn’t it fit?”

Busted. By a kid who needs help wiping her nose and asked me if she had to use her fork with her green beans tonight.

January is [more than] half over, and if I look at my list of usual resolutions, they’re almost all broken to pieces.

Stay within my Weight Watchers points (my version of “eat better”)? Nope.
Exercise three times a week? No, ma’am. No, sir.
Declutter my entire house in January? No way, no how.
Get up 30 minutes early every single day for a quiet time? Not happening.
Floss? Heh. I gave this one up two years ago.

I know lots of you have given up on this type of resolutions, avoiding the stringent rules and changes that more often than not end up disappointing us. And some of you choose to focus on one word each year. I’ve done that, too, but just like my reading of the One Year Bible, I’m taking two years on my word {obey}. Some of you even shared your attainable goals and resolutions on my Facebook page:

Read one book a month.
Have people over once a month.
Declutter house, one room at a time.
Stop making resolutions.

Haha! I’ve sworn to stop making resolutions, too – about as many times as I’ve sworn to shave my head because my hair is so uncooperative and difficult. But honestly, I love setting goals – especially the kind I can actually meet. Let’s do that today.

Let’s give up on perfect (which, honestly, I wouldn’t be even if I did manage to keep all my “regular” resolutions) and get on with life by making progress with better resolutions.

10 Resolutions We Can Keep

1. Try something new. Try a new recipe, listen to a new band, sit in a different spot on the couch. Just do one thing that’s new to you.

2. Try something old. What did you love to do as a child? As a single person? As a college student? What’s that thing you gave up when life became too busy, too hard, too whatever? Do it again. Just give it a try. Whatever it is – drawing, eating cold pizza, volunteering – might not fit perfectly into your life today . . . but it might. It might be fun to do once, or maybe it’s a hobby or habit you pick back up again. You’ll never know unless you try!

3. Say yes. Sometimes it’s easier to turn down invitations, suggestions, offers or requests, isn’t it? We’re busy, we’re nervous, we’re in a rut routine. But what would happen if, just once this year, we said YES to something we normally would brush off or turn down?

4. Say no. And then there are the times we need to say no, but it’s so hard! We don’t want to hurt feelings or let people down. We don’t want to miss out. But what would happen if, just once this year, we said NO to something and created a little margin in our lives? What if we opened up a little space for God to move, for life to surprise us?

5. Eat the rainbow. Now look, I am not saying you need to count calories or points. I’m not guilting you into buying vegetables you will never eat and will find three weeks later in the corner of your fridge, cursing me as you throw the soggy produce bag in your trash. Please. I would never. But how about we try to mix it up – just a little bit – this year? Try a new food – or a new food combination (pomegranate seeds and dark chocolate is on my list). Introduce a tiny bit of variety to your plate with colors and textures, and yes, eat the rainbow. (I do not mean Skittles. Ahem.)

6. Put your inner critic in time out. Nobody needs Simon Cowell or your mother-in-law or your mother or your high school basketball coach whispering (or shouting) in her ear or her heart. Negative self talk is toxic; we all know this. But keeping That Jerk (what I lovely call my critical inner voice) squashed is hard . . . and sometimes she sneaks back in. And before you know it, the mean girl from 7th grade is asking you, “Really? You’re wearing THAT?”

So maybe the first step in beating a critical inner voice is to just take a short break. Tell your critic, your judge, your jerk to take a hike for the afternoon, for the day, for the week. Who knows? You might enjoy the peace and quiet so much you might kick that voice off the island for good.

7. Reach out and touch someone. No, not literally. And not in the creepy sense. I simply mean to reconnect with someone who used to be a part of your life but hasn’t been for a while. Perhaps it’s a friend who moved across town, or maybe it’s your grandma who doesn’t get out often and you’re just so busy that it’s hard to visit. Whoever it is, whoever you’ve been missing, why not reach out and reconnect this year? Send an email, mail that card, or even – gasp! – pick up the phone. [Unless you're missing your ex-boyfriend who recently sent you a friend request. That one I'd steer clear of.]

8. Create something. I mentioned Annalyn’s sadness about our lack of Halloween decorations, so I’m already making plans to make one fun Valentine craft. I’m not pinning a thousand projects and expecting myself to finish them. I’m not assuming that this will be the year I learn to sew. I’m simply looking for one simple project that my kiddo and I can start and finish in less than an hour. I know from past projects that we will feel more satisfaction over that little project than a million good intentions and bright ideas. Just make something. A cake, a card, a mix tape – anything that lets you feed your creative parts and feel that sense of accomplishment will do.

9. Take one brave step. Make the call. Submit the article. Audition. Sign up. Apply. Enroll. Whatever your big dream is, take one step toward it. You can do it. I know you can. One step, that’s all. I won’t be surprised if your one step leads to two or three or an entire 5K. But it’s okay if your one step is all you can manage for now, too. But don’t stand still. Take that step. Be brave. You are brave.

10. Eat more chocolate. Seriously. Let’s make 2013 the year we are kinder to ourselves, the year we get on with life and leave fluffy ideas of perfection in the wind. And let’s do it with a bite (or two) of chocolate.

What resolutions have you made that you can actually keep?

This post will be linked to Works for Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family and Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings. Also, this post contains affiliate links, which do not change the price of anything you purchase but do support this site.

When Seizing the Day is Too Hard

I have a friend who often jokes that he eats – and enjoys – every meal like it might be his last. And my mom ingrained in me throughout my childhood to “just try” – in other words, try to use the bathroom every chance you get.

Now as anyone who’s met any member of my family will tell you, my mom’s advice was based more on the desire to be prepared than to seize the day. And one look at my Weight Watchers record is all the reminder I need to never [again] eat a meal like its my last.

Still, everywhere I turn, the Advice of the Day seems to be “live in the moment” or “the years are short” or “you’re gonna miss this” or “act like tomorrow might never come.” And it’s true. Sometimes tomorrow doesn’t come.

But I’m only human. And my days only have 24 hours in them. And sometimes carping the diem is too much, too hard. When it takes everything I’ve got to make it through the day, seizing it is about the last thing I want to do.

I’ve had a lot of those days lately – and by “lately,” I mean over the past nine months. Going back to work has wrecked any semblance of order my life had . . . and it didn’t have a whole lot to start with!

A question we ask often at my church is, “What are your challenges?” Mine has been, consistently since starting to work for that same church, balance. Time management. Figuring out – and sticking to – my priorities. Dealing with the fact that I’ve taken on too much but am stubbornly unwilling to give up any of it.

This challenge was most apparent over the holidays. Even after taking a three-week break from this blog, I struggled to find time to do the things that were most important to me and to my family, because it seemed every waking moment was filled with the things that were most urgent. Or, if I’m honest about my mediocre-at-best time management skills, avoiding or feeling guilty about the things that were most urgent.

During a season that’s supposed to be filled with family and fun and experience-sharing and memory-making, I felt good when, day after day, I fed my family and moved the laundry and told my kiddo I loved her.

We didn’t bake cookies.
We didn’t drive around to look at Christmas lights.
We didn’t do Truth in the Tinsel, and I ate all the candy I put in our advent boxes.
We didn’t work through a list of random acts of kindness or even fill a shoebox.
We didn’t carve pumpkins or decorate for fall or tear links off a countdown chain.

I know life isn’t about the things we do or parties we throw or the craft projects we complete. It’s not about checking things off a list, and you can’t prove your love with homemade cookies or elegantly wrapped gifts. But sometimes, when I can’t check a single thing off my list or give a single homemade gift all season, it feels bad . . . and makes me want to tell Robin Williams (or the latest unlucky person to offer the advice) where to shove his “carpe diem.”

But even though a rough year and a less-than-festive holiday season brings out my worst perfectionist, pessimistic tendencies, I decided not to lose any more sleep over it this time.

That’s why, over the past few months, I finally had to accept that this year? This year wasn’t going to be the best in terms of projects and parties and field trips and road trips. This year, we were going to be content to be together. Because we’d learned in new, hard ways that tomorrow might not come and things change and sometimes life stinks. And being together is a big deal. And even though we want to live in the moment, I just have to believe that there will be another Christmas.

Wait, what?

I know. It doesn’t make sense. How can I say in one breath that we aren’t promised tomorrow while, in the next, lean on the belief that I’ll get another chance at festive holidays? I’m not sure how it works. Logically, I suppose it doesn’t. But as my family came to the close of a darned difficult year, it was the best I could do.

And you know what? We made it. We made it through the holidays, and on Christmas day, as I lay on the couch and my husband crashed on our bed, both of us sick with an awful sinus infection, my daughter played with her new toys (most of which I’d bought at Walmart on Christmas Eve, no joke) and declared, “Mommy, this is The Best Christmas Ever!”

I couldn’t help it. I asked her why. She informed me it was the best because she’d gotten her very own sleeping bag, and I suspect the mix tape CD I made her with a Justin Bieber song (among others, thankyouverymuch) didn’t hurt.

Yeah, she’s the same kid who, two months later, is reminding me that we never carved a pumpkin. And I’m not sure I’m forgiven yet for the advent box debacle (more the fact that I ate the Hershey’s kisses than the fact that we didn’t make nativity ornaments, but still). But what really matters is what we DID do, not what we didn’t – and doing it together matters most of all.

Have you ever felt like seizing the day was too hard? Have you felt the tension between living in the moment and letting yourself off the hook for a season? Have you struggled with putting the important over the urgent – or vice versa?

Cleaning out my fridge

Thanks to everyone who joined me for last night’s Facebook chat! If you missed it, don’t worry – we’ll meet up in the same place, at the same time next week.

I was looking for an onion. I found one, but I also found a squishy tomato and an oozing jalapeno. So much for that pico I was planning to make two weeks ago.

Luckily, this discovery happened the night before trash day, so I took the opportunity to toss a few more things from the fridge into the garbage. Sweet potatoes that I bought, even though I’m the only one who likes them? Growing spots. Whole wheat buns that I’d frozen back . . . a while ago? More stale than a bag of croutons. And then there was the frozen lettuce, the mystery leftovers and the many, many expired bottles of salad dressing.

A couple months ago, a friend mentioned how her mom is terrible about never throwing things – like expired food – away. I confessed that I had years-old boxes of bread mix in my pantry, and she yelled at me. “Mary! Go home right now and THROW IT AWAY!”

So I did. But even though we’d talked about salad dressings, too, I looked at my rows of colorful bottles and just couldn’t deal with it. Until this week. I finally found a spurt of motivation when I happened to have the fridge open and started chucking bottles.

I felt so organized after that! So accomplished. So responsible and together. I really do feel better about life in general when my pantry and refrigerator are somewhat organized. Like foods go together, things we use most often at the front and so on. I especially like it when I come home with bags of groceries to an organized kitchen. It makes putting them away a tiny bit less annoying.

Even though cleaning out my fridge was satisfying (and, you know, healthy), it’s not likely I’ll do it again for several weeks. And if you think that I scrubbed down every surface of the fridge after I tossed the bad veggies, leftovers and condiments, you are mistaken. Probably sadly. You are probably sadly mistaken, but most definitely mistaken.

See, that’s the thing about giving up on perfect and getting on with life. I’m not going to let my refrigerator – or any part of my home or life – spiral into total chaos. Or, if I do, it won’t stay that way for long. I’m going to do what must be done, but honestly? I’m not going to obsess over it. My house has cobwebs and cat hair and scuff marks. Not in the fridge – just to be clear – but you get my point.

Nothing here is perfect. But it’s not disastrous either. I’m trying to find that balance, and for me, that means tossing the rotten food but leaving the dishes for the morning.

How often do you clean out your fridge?