clean house

There was once a very great American surgeon named Halsted. He was married to a nurse. He loved her– immeasurably. One day Halsted noticed that his wife’s hands were chapped and red when she came back from surgery. And so he invented rubber gloves. For her. It is one of the great love stories in medicine. The difference between inspired medicine and uninspired medicine is love.


When I met Ana, I knew:
I loved her to the point of invention.

—  The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl
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HAIM sisters on Clean House S5E7 in 2006

Watchin’ today’s Minecraft LP when…

Huh, wonder what Jeremy was doing down there all by himself. Probably nothing that important, anyway.

Oh wow. That’s a lot of swords. That’s a little curious.

Then later.

Uh wait. What?

Uh… You okay there Lil J?

The Day I Stopped Caring About a Perfectly Clean House

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When I was pregnant with Felix, I remember having a chat with a wise friend of mine. I brought up how I just couldn’t get around to housework and how I was so tired and on and on and she said “we don’t spend good days on cleaning… we’ll do that later.”

Growing up, every Saturday morning was reserved for cleaning the house as a family. For at least two hours, we would vacuum under the couches, polish the wooden furniture and dust behind the picture frames. In short - it was like spring cleaning once a week. And it wasn’t as if we didn’t do housework through the week as well! We rotated between the kids on dish night and we swept the floors, put away laundry and kept our rooms clean too. There was no ‘later’ for cleaning up a mess. If you see it, put it away. Clean it up now. Clean. Clean! Clean!!

As you can imagine, having a very clean home was something ingrained into me as a kid and I went on to believe that you couldn’t really rest or relax until your house was spotless.


I’ll be the first to admit I have some obsessive qualities and creating order at home was important to me. But to what end?


When I lived on my own after college, I maintained the same sort of structure. On Saturday mornings (pending I wasn’t massively hung over), I’d do the same routine on my 400 square foot Brooklyn apartment.  Four years later when I moved in with Adam, I was appalled that he didn’t see all of that dust on the floors when the sunlight came through the windows!!! Or the streak left on the counter tops! WERE WE LIVING IN A BARN? 

It wasn’t until I was pregnant with Felix that Adam sat me down and told me that something has to give. I’ll be the first to admit I have some obsessive qualities and creating order at home was important to me. But to what end? I was massively exhausted we both agreed that the state of tidiness in our home wasn’t where we wanted to expend our energy. 

So we hired a cleaning lady to help us out twice a month with bathrooms and mopping, something neither of us care for much. Slowly by surely, I changed my expectations of what my house needs to look like day in, day out. It’s not photo shoot ready, but it’s clean enough

For me, the best my house is ever going to look is right before I have company over. Or right before I take photos of a re-decorated room for the blog. The clutter will be off the counters, the toys in their bins, the pillows fluffed, the massively overflowing coat rack thinned out.  And while my main floor looks tidy and cute, you better believe half of that crap is shoved into my junk room (which is currently my sewing room upstairs). Rest assured that no one’s home really looks like a Pinterest page. 


Taking care of the stuff in my life is never going to be as important than taking care of the people in my life (including myself!) 


Having a toddler in the house is messy. There’s a blueberry stain I won’t get out of the rug. There are crackers crammed into the couch. Little toy trucks and cars hiding under chairs. And it’s not freaking me out like it would have a few years ago. Those kinds of things do not matter.  I’m not going to spend my Saturday mornings rattling off lists of what needs organized and cleaned. Because it’ll get done later. When I have a little extra energy, or when I’m tired of seeing a pile of stuff. On a rainy day next week or on a snowy day 6 months from now. 

Obviously we don’t live in filth. We wash our dishes and put away our toys. We clean the litter boxes and take out the trash. But getting the cat hair off a chair no one sits in, in a room we rarely use, will not take priority over playing blocks. Or walking to the library. Or honestly, watching the Bee Movie for the 48th time. My children will take away playtime memories more dearly than visions of an organized kitchen. Taking care of the stuff in my life is never going to be as important than taking care of the people in my life (including myself!) The day I figured that out, was the day I stopped caring about a perfectly clean house. 

Ask a Therapist: What are good treatment plans or good goals for therapy?

What are good treatment plans or good goals for therapy? I’m not a professional here. I need material for my maladaptive daydreaming fantasy where I’m a therapist.

The best goal for therapy is hands down the thing that the client wants to work on - whatever that is. Often times it’s increased coping skills, improved communication, or even just feeling better.

Perhaps for your daydreaming (btw, there’s nothing wrong with fantasy and day dreams) you pick something you actually want to work on in your life now? Then maybe your day dreams can even be “productive”? I often use the format of a treatment plan to set out my personal or professional goals. I guess that’s just how it’s easiest for me to conceptualize change.

So, to make your treatment plan:

Treatment plans are made up of 3 parts - goals, objectives and interventions. The goals section is pretty much what you would imagine it to be. I suggest that my clinicians not list more than 1 maybe 2 goals at a time - any more than that and you’re being pulled in too many directions at once.

Let’s say your goal is to clean your house. Then you decide on your objectives - the ways that you are going to get to your goal. I would suggest having 2-3 objectives per goal. Objectives are also SMART -  Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. 

So now your treatment plan looks like: (caveat - I’m pulling this out of my bum. My real treatment plans look more professional)

Goal: Client will clean their house to increase feelings of control and positive outlook

  • Objective 1: Client will complete 3 loads of laundry per week for 1 month as evidenced by self report during session
  • Objective 2: Client will clean the kitchen daily for one week as as indicated by self report through tracking worksheets

  • Objective 3: Client will cleanse household floors once a week for a month as observed by clinician during sessions

Last bit are the interventions. I typically aim to have 3-4 interventions for each objective. Interventions are the things you are going to do to meet that objective in service of meeting your goal. So for instance: 

Goal: Client will clean their house to increase feelings of control and positive outlook

  • Objective 1: Client will complete 3 loads of laundry per week for 1 month as evidenced by self report during session
    • Intervention: Sort dirty clothes into piles by color
    • Intervention: Wash and dry laundry
    • Intervention: Fold laundry and deposit into drawers
  • Objective 2: Client will clean the kitchen daily for one week as as indicated by self report through tracking worksheets
    • Intervention: Wash dishes
    • Intervention: Disinfect counter tops
    • Intervention: Clean out refrigerator
  • Objective 3: Client will cleanse household floors once a week for a month as observed by clinician during sessions
    • Intervention: Remove all items and trash from floor
    • Intervention: Vacuum carpeted floors
    • Intervention: Mop linoleum floors

And there you have it! A treatment plan to clean your house :-)