Why Can’t I Keep My House Clean? Grief and Everyday Responsiblities

I freely admit I was never a housecleaning fanatic.

With a busy family, a small farm and mountains of paper, pencils and books scattered around I was content if the most obvious dirt was swept up and the sink free of dishes.

But, I DID have a routine.  I DID clean my bathrooms and wash clothes and make beds and vacuum the rugs on a regular basis.

Not anymore.

Even all this time after Dominic ran ahead to heaven, I have not reestablished any kind of rhythm to keeping house, making meals or doing the most basic, necessary chores.

And I don’t really know why.

I’m not overly busy.  I’m not doing other things that keep me away from the necessary things.  

In fact, sometimes I actually sit down for what I think will be a few minutes only to find a couple hours have raced by while I was doing nothing.  That NEVER happened before.

Literally, never.

I was a dynamo from the time I woke in the morning until evening-moving, moving, moving.  I certainly still have plenty I COULD do, but not so much that I WANT to do.

I’ve pondered, “Why?” and only been able to come up with a single answer: Grief is WORK.  And apparently I only have so much energy to divide between what I need to do (grief work) and what I’d like to do (clean my house, etc.).

The hours I spend “doing nothing” are actually hours spent working through feelings, thoughts, spiritual conundrums and rediscovering who I am in light of what has happened.

So I’m learning to cut corners and give myself a break.  Because it doesn’t appear that my get-up-and-go is coming back anytime soon.

Here are some practical things I’ve been doing to make daily life work:

I’ve adjusted my standards.  I have a minimal acceptable standard and apply that to my home and myself instead of trying to live up to “what others want me to do/be”. For me, it means no germy surfaces, clutter free places to sit and eat, wiped down bathrooms and clean clothes for the day.  

Anything over that is a bonus!

I take shortcuts.  Paper goods for meals to cut down on dishes.  Easy menus for dinners (lots of crockpot recipes).  I keep paper towels and cleaner in each bathroom and wipe down when I’m in there for something else instead of making “clean the bathrooms” a separate chore.  

I have baskets to catch wayward items and carry them upstairs all at once or just leave them in the baskets.  I wash clothes but don’t worry if I get them folded.  I bought more underwear and socks so washing isn’t an emergency.

I don’t apologize when someone stops by and things aren’t as tidy as they used to be or I wish they were. 

I won’t waste emotional energy on worrying about what they think.  

And when I find that I’m sitting down, pondering some aspect of loss or life or love, I lean in and do it.  I grab my computer or a journal and write out what’s running through my head.  

Because that’s the more important work right now.  

Author: Melanie

I am a shepherd, wife and mother of four amazing children, three that walk the earth with me and one who lives with Jesus. This is a record of my grief journey and a look into the life I didn't choose. If you are interested in joining a community of bereaved parents leaning on the promises of God in Christ, please like the public Facebook page, "Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child" and join the conversation.

14 thoughts on “Why Can’t I Keep My House Clean? Grief and Everyday Responsiblities”

  1. 11 years, and I finally read an article from someone that isn’t afraid to be brutally honest about grief and ALL that changes, in specifically a parent’s life. Thank you so much.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. My Meagan was killed in May 2020 in a car accident. I have never been a white glove housekeeper either and I have always felt so much shame. I did have a routine though. It was kept up. But since she left us, I am so overwhelmed. I get NO help from my other 2 boys who are 16 and 21. My husband helps with dishes and laundry and vacuuming. We inherited my daughter’s fur-babies and her dog his a lab so she sheds, let me rephrase that…she sets off hair bombs all over the place. I work from home and I’m just physically and emotionally exhausted after work to literally do anything. I feel so much shame. I wish I could afford a housekeeper, but I’d feel so incredibly embarrassed. I’d be afraid pics of my house would go on social media. But I need help. I don’t know where to start. My parents are close by, but even they don’t help. All my mom does is judge me bc I can’t keep a clean house. So she doesn’t even come over anymore. I feel so alone.


    1. Hire a housekeeper. They’ve seen worse!! I finally did it when I was 48, and it is like magic. If you find a private party, not like Merry Maids, they are cheaper and more likely to be trustable. Just try it once. Who cares if your house ends up on social media. If anyone comes over, they see it anyways. Just my little plug for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This transition is hard for me. I realize my capacity is reduced and that I just can’t get to the chores I once could. But it makes me feel terrible. I see failure everywhere

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I too have adjusted my standards and do as I go along. Windows, what windows? If the window I am looking through isn’t clear, I clean it…the other seven across the room can wait, I’m not looking through them. 😉 We all seem to get fed, the dish washer gets emptied and the clothes get washed. Life gets lived at the pace we can manage.

    Very true, grief is work. Some days very much more so than others.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for sharing! Two years ago my wonderful husband of 42 years died from Cancer after 10 grueling months of treatment. This new world that I did not choose is strange and unfamiliar and lonesome and overwhelming. Developing a routine even for eating or resting is a struggle. Some days are filled with what absolutely needs to be done today only. You described my struggle so well. I am so thankful that He carries me when I am not able to carry on.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I can really relate to this. I too used to have a ‘routine’ for cleaning house. It was more or less to have it done before the weekend when I worked. I retired early and sometimes I wonder if that was good or not (I know it was best for my mental health at the time). I have more time now to do nothing. Sit and read news or grief articles, etc. I don’t have a routine for anything now, and sleep late most everyday. Maybe one day….

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My son died eight years ago. I think I seriously, just gave up! I have piles everywhere! I thought I could get stuff done this year. But, nope! I definitely need some help!😢

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I agree with you. plus there are alot of things now that are just not important. dont sweat the small stuff has taken on a whole new meaning for me since my Lydia took her life

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for writing this. Everything you have said I beat up on myself for five years. Will no more! Others have also felt this way grief is hard work, and takes so much energy. You are do right.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: