How Do I Shop Being a Neat Freak?

Updated on July 07, 2011
J.G. asks from Beverly Hills, CA
19 answers

Hello! I am having trouble "relaxing" and not having to have my house perfect all the time. I'm a mother of 3 ages 2, 6 and 11 plus a hubby and a dog. My laundry is usually done and dishes are washed, but what drives me nuts is things out of place and crumbs and dog hair on the floor. My dog sheds alot and I will sweep up the floors and within 5 minutes, it's full of hair again. It really makes me irritable and cranky and my family knows it :( The dog hair is on the sofa, our clothes, everything (and giving her away isn't an option). If things are not in place (the sofa cushions for example) I'm just losing it in my head. I wish I could look around at things out of place and the dog hair on the floor and just be okay with it. I'm happy when my home is clean (to my standards) and then its not at my standards, I'm stressed and unhappy. I can't relax and enjoy life unless my house is PERFECT which is impossible with my family. When I was single and didn't have kids it was great because it always was clean and now I'm trying to still have that lifestyle with a family which is making me crazy. How can I change my standards and not look at dirt and disorder without going nuts?

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for replying :) I've taken many things you've all said and lumped them together and tried to come up with a plan. Since posting this, I have limited my sweeping to once per day (and I'm going to invest in a hard floor vaccum) I was sweeping 2-3 times per day. I've been saving most of my cleaning for at the end of the day when all the kids are in bed and my dog is sleeping for the evening on the sofa. I have asked my hubby about shaving her, but he isn't really liking that idea. She is short hair, but she sheds quite a bit. What's been helping me to relax is just letting the kids be kids and hubby be hubby until the end of the day... there is no point doing and severe cleaning up when they are going to mess it up again in 5 minutes lol. It's been hard because my eyes move towards the dirt all the time, but I've just made myself let it go. It's a process and I'm sure it will get easier as I keep practicing it :) I've also been telling myself that when all the kids are gone and the dog is in doggy heaven, I will be able to have my immaculate home then :)

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answers from Los Angeles on

Will you ever look back and say, I wish I had a cleaner house? Or will you look back and say, I wish I was less stressed and had more time just to play and make memories with my kids?

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answers from Dallas on

I need some of what you have as well....

There was a super neat freak mom who had a little boy in my daughter's preschool class years ago. Our children are 16 now. Anyway, the class project was where the children fillled in the blank about their parents. Scary, I know.

These papers were on display in the hallway for all parents to see on parent night. Parents were reading all of them..... Examples...1 question was what does your mother do all the time.... there were various answers, some funny as in "my mommy laughs a lot" but this 1 little boy said "my mommy vaccums all the time". It was a that point, this mom realized she was neglecting her children she cherished and loved in order to have a perfect house.

Things changed after that. She was so upset, we tried to console her and say hey we wish we all had a perfect house but she couldn't shake the thought from her head that all her son could think of regarding her was her cleaning... not her hugs, laughing with him, playing with him, etc.

Think about a scenerio like that and maybe you can tone down the neat freak in you. There is nothing wrong with being a neat freak until you allow it to consume you. Good luck

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

Actually, I need a little bit of what you have! Can you put some in an envelope and send it to me?

You're right, though. Dirt and disorder are not welcome guests in any home, but you don't want them to drive you nuts, either. You end up paying more attention to the mess than to the people you love. And you are already aware that your standards are controlling you. "Perfect" shows up on magazine covers, but that's about all. In real life, what you need is balance.

I don't think it's your high standards per se that are the problem, though. I think it's something else.

Think about this: what would result, in your mind, if your house were not perfect once in a while? What is the worst thing that would happen? Would your family get sick? Would someone point a finger at you? Would you worry about being embarrassed? Would the board of health knock on your front door? Would your relatives knock on the front door? Would you feel like a failure? Would you feel like somebody else you know? Would your children grow up to be slobs?

Suppose you got sick and were in the hospital for two weeks. Would your house fall down? Would you worry more about the untidy house or about your family?

When you clean, or clean up, or straighten, what are you feeling inside? Where are you between the two extremes of "This is more important than anything and anyone" and "Man, I really hate what my family forces me to do"? (Since you have organizing/neatening abilities, you probably really want it to fall somewhere in the area of "I love to clean, and I love my family and friends even more.")

If you like to journal, this would be a great thing to record about for a week or so. Then read over what you've written, and decide if you need to talk to a counselor to work out a solution. I don't think you're any more nuts than a super-slob, but sometimes an impartial person's help is great.

Something else you might do is to take just one job (let's make it the sofa cushions) and write down this resolution: "Today I rearranged the sofa cushions ten times. Tomorrow, I will rearrange them only four times: at 8 a.m., 12 noon, 4 p.m., and 8 p.m." Then try to do that, and record how you succeed. You can still straighten, but you're disciplining yourself in how often you do it and how long you wait. Set a timer if you need to! Once you've worked on that for a while, start on the dog hair. Sweep it up... but only at specified times. Train your mind and heart to focus on other things than a pin-neat environment.

You want to teach your children how to keep their own things orderly, and when *they* do it they won't be anywhere near perfect! But I bet you know that. Your focus will need to be not on their doing a *perfect* job, but rather on their just learning the procedures, just learning how to work. As with math or reading, you'll want to encourage them to do what they can, and you'll just have to disregard what isn't perfect, because they're learning. "Perfect or nothing" is not a successful teaching method.

Think about how to teach your children without their ending up feeling as pressured as you are right now (or learning to hate to work). This is something that will get you thinking about the good balance you need yourself.

Hope this helps a bit. You may decide that what you really want is a home clean and neat enough to be healthy, and *just* dirty and messy enough to be happy. ( I apologize for this being so long! Maybe I need a counselor myself.)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

It looks like your problem is really the dog hair... You can shave your dog or you can give your dog away or you can live with the hair. We limit the dog to the kitchen and family room only. He's not allowed anywhere else -- he's not a shedding machine, but I don't want him all over the place...
You need to lower your standards a little bit. You need to ask for help from your family -- give everyone a chore to do and then let them do it to the best of their ability -- do not follow them around and re-do it. You need to just enjoy your children because before you know it, they'll be out the door...
My mom used to clean for 2 hours - 9am - 11am every day. After that she was ours. If it didn't get done in that time frame, it waited...
I think she is a genius.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

This saying that I read somewhere has helped me- "don't let the things that don't matter get in the way of the things that do." I will ask myself, does this really matter right now? And is it keeping me from doing something more important (like relaxing with my kids?)

On the other hand, we bought a Roomba and it really helps the daily clean up. I don't have a pet but lots of people say in the reviews that it's great for pet hair. Not sure if this would help you or just contribute to the pressure!

Good luck!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Thanks for writing about this. I'm the same way except I can't have any pets. I love a clean house, but it's hard to keep up when you have a family. I'm a little OCD about cleaning. The only thing that works for me is to clean the house and take the kids out of it. Take them outside and make some memories. I always remember that it's true what they say that on your deathbed, you won't regret that your house is cleaner, you'll wish that you had spent more time with your family. I have also been put on antidepressants to control the OCD--it has helped.

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answers from Atlanta on

I understand-my husband makes fun of me and says I am OCD. I wouldn't say my house is immaculate but I would have to say that is mainly because of the kids and others won't name any names can't seem to remember to pick up after themselves. I have a dog as well and although he is a short-haired dog the breed tends to shed a lot and because the hair is so short it actually gets weaved into the fabric of the sofa so getting it loose is like a nightmare! Have you thought about shaving the dog!!?? The dog looks quite funny because he isn't supposed to be shaved but I'm telling you it makes a world of a difference! Plus I think he actually enjoys it-lol! I do mine myself or you could pay someone else to do it. Also your kids could help participate too. I had to learn to delegate certain things to my kids because I was only one person trying to take care of a house that 3 other people lived in as well-they live there too so its only fair that they participate. Delegate....although I should practice what I preach more often because there are certain task that my kids could do just not the way I do them but because of my OCD sometimes its so much easier for me to do it myself rather than ask someone else and have to go back behind them and do it again myself because it wasn't up to my standards so to say or they didn't do it the right way-or what I consider to be the right way. I hate that about myself and I really am trying to change that but baby steps is all I can say-baby steps.

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answers from Phoenix on

My husband is like you and I am so NOT! But I will just gently say to him "babes, sit down, you don't need to do that right now". And he is finally getting it but it took some time. Maybe your husband can help you like that? When he notices you focusing on something that really doesn't need to be done maybe he can say to you to come over and sit with him and watch a movie or something? And maybe a schedule for cleaning will work for you? Like sweep, vaccuum, whatever on Mon, Wed, Fri. only. It can't get THAT bad so fast, right???? Anyway, I hope you find something that helps you and I wish you could bottle some of yourself and I could sprinkle it on me! Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Richmond on

how do you stop being a neat freak ??
have a child !!
that will cure ya !!
it cured me !
K. h.


how do you stop being a neat freak ??
have a child !!
that will cure ya !!
it cured me !
K. h.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

start with the dog: shave it, wash it weekly, have the kids brush it daily. You really should NOT have so much dog hair floating around, & there has to be answers to this problem. Talk to the whatever you have to do to get the hair under control. BUT also be very aware that you may be part of the issue....& maybe, just maybe, it doesn't look as bad as you think!

Next: clean the house, top to bottom. Vacuum the vents, cold air returns, drapery, furniture, etc. Make sure you have all of the dog hair out of the house. & then if you keep up with the daily brushings.....then you should be back in control.

Daily cleaning: make a chart for yourself & the kids....even the 2yo. Everybody does their share in the A.M.....& then NO more cleaning for the rest of the day....until before dinner time. One more quick round & then you're done until the bedtime final pickup. Make it a game with the kids, make it fun for everyone......& then maybe you'll be able to relax.

With my daycare, I breeze thru in the A.M.....just making sure all is okay. Vacuuming is either 1st in the morning or before bedtime. (I prefer 1st in the morning since I have 2 80lb inside dogs.....that way I know there's no dog hair on the floor when the kids arrive.) The daycare kids have pickup time 1/2way thru the A.M. , before lunch, & then before Mom time. All activities are put away as soon as the event is over...before anything else is brought out.

When the kids leave, my teenage son & I do "floor patrol". We make sure everything is up & put away properly...& then the hounds are released! (the dogs are in/out all day....if they're in, then they're in my sons' bedrooms with a gate between the 2 rooms so they can have more freedom. My older son's room has a glass door leading outside....which means the dogs never have to go thru the daycare kids to get in/out. Works perfect for us!)

My actual cleaning time is on the weekends, very few evenings. It's either Sat morning before I run around.....or Sun night after dinner. It all depends on the weekend plans. With having a houseful of kids 50+ hours/week, there simply is no time to be a neat freak. I vacuum daily, sweep as needed, & dust once a week. The bathrooms are cleaned regularly (as needed), laundry is done 2x week....I always try to do a laundry push before/after the weekend.

With having this daycare, I have learned to live with chaos. It's my own form of chaos, & that's okay. There's nothing wrong with having a pile of clean laundry, a stack of papers/magazines, & a few dishes waiting for the dishwasher! Some people consider that's what makes a house a home! If that's true, then I've achieved that goal!

My recommendations will help you share the chores, make it fun for the kids, & may help you relax. My next thought would be: if you see something that needs to be done (in your mind!), then walk away from it & hug one of your kids. Learn to break your cycle/need to clean.....& put that time/effort into your kids! By doing this, not only will you break that neatnik habit......but your kids will benefit, too! Peace.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

do you think people will talk about you if it's messy? It doesn't sound like you are really facing up to what about a messy house is making your crazy. I love my family and my pets and wouldn't give them up just to be perfect.

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answers from Norfolk on

The problem is on some level you still believe perfection is possible, so you see no reason why you should not be able to attain it.
You try.
You fail.
And the failure galls at you.
Get comfortable with 'good enough'.
I can guarantee you your house is way better than mine.
Talk to your doctor about it.
What you are feeling could be the beginnings of depression and there is help for that.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

with kids and a dog - if you can keep your house PERFECT, YOU GO!!!!

However, I'd rather have some dog hair and happy memories with my kids while they are young instead of cleaning...

My home is not perfect - it's clean but cluttered (in certain rooms) however, like you, I do go crazy when things are wrong - blankets on the floor, shoes in the middle of the floor, cups on tables or worse, on the floor - but dog hair?nope!!

it's OKAY to relax! it's OKAY to have fun!!! Take a deep breath. Make a list and ask family to help out so it will go faster so you can have FUN!!!

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answers from Kansas City on

If you are having these feelings it's really not about being a neat freak. You need to go to the Lord and figure out what's making you restless. Keeping your house clean is the right thing to do all the time. We can do that and still find time for other things. In fact, the cleaner the house is the less difficult it is to keep it that way.

I share your frustration sometimes. But I realize that I am displacing my feelings and there are other things that are bothering me.

Take the dog hair on the sofa... I love to buy those sticky tape rollers and while I'm watching tv I clean the cat hair off the sofa. I actually like it. I know that I am keeping my house clean, it's fun to see the hair and other debri all over those rollers and fun to see how many pieces of tape it takes to make the couch look nice again.

It's all in the mind. Listen to music, teaching tapes, and do nice things for yourself while you clean your house. Take pride in it because God appreciates a homemaker that cares for her home. The Bible says we can't have more until we take care of what we have.

I can be absolutely relaxed while cleaning when my mind is right with God and I am keeping a good attitude.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Is shaving the dog a possibility? It might be nice for Fido to get a break from the heat. :)
Also, I too am a neat freak. I bought a cordless hard floor vaccuum and keep it plugged in in the hard floor areas. I limit my vaccuuming to once a day. That seems to keep things somewhat neat and orderly. Just make a rule for yourself that you can live with and be content that you are doing the best you can.

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answers from San Diego on

Hello, I used to be just like you. When my four kids were young, I wanted everything to be perfect for them. I was doing fulltime licensed daycare in my home and later went to work at the elementary school and ran my daycare parttime. Well, I suddenly realized that I was driving myself crazy trying to keep everything perfect around our home. I decided to leave a mess in the middle of my living room floor overnight. Sure enough, when I got up in the morning, there it was and my home DID NOT fall apart because of it. I decided to relax and just make sure that everything was picked up when my husband came through the door after work each day. What happened before and after wasn't such a concern anymore. Now that they are grown, my son and his family moved in with me (after my husband's death). It is hard to let some of their messes go and I end up picking up after them occasionally, but better that than saying something I will regret. Don't get me wrong, they don't leave alot of messes in the common areas, but once in a while they will leave one (mostly the 12 year old). I like things to be orderly, but realize that that isn't always possible. Especially, when I am babysitting my 2 1/2 year old granddaughter.
Good luck with your precious family.
K. K.

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answers from Las Vegas on

Two things to consider, maybe it's not that you are so neat, but rather.. others are so messy :) additionally, this isn't so much about neatness , it's about CONTROL issues... I gather that when your house , let alone other things aren't neat, perhaps you might feel out of control... my opinion, conquer the control aspect and the neat freak aspect will also correct itself. I suspect there is some anxiety going on here.. Have you ever tried EFT, << emotional , freedom , techniques.. there is a website called, < <it's free.. Those folks, counselors and the like... you can log on and check it out.. and see what you think..

best of luck

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answers from Dallas on

We have a daily and weekly list. It's real simple, nothing fancy. Just the list of "do or die" chores that HAVE to happen every day, bottles, pick up toys, that sort of thing. Then we pick one day a weekend and do HALF of our really-should-happen chores, like cleaning up the dog's backyard leavings, etc.

But, at the end of it all, my husband and I decided to plan for a maid to come in a few times a year and help us hit the "reset" button. I know it SEEMS extravagant and, of course, we all want to do it ourselves, but I have two babies under 2 years old, a dog, and very busy husband and I really, really, really hate how behind I get on the house. So that $100 every once in a while is completely worth it for us.


answers from Richmond on

Maybe make yourself clean only certain rooms on certain days. Like Monday, do the kitchen, Tuesday, the bathroom, Wednesday, the living room, etc. Ignore every bit of dirt and disorder in the other rooms on those days; just focus on one specific room per day. This way, you're not going to freak out that the bathroom is dirty on Monday, because you know you'll get to it on Tuesday.... you're not NOT going to clean it, just not on Monday. That may calm you a bit, knowing you'll eventually clean it. Plus, you're freeing yourself up so once you clean the designated room on that particular day, you get to PLAY PLAY PLAY!! :)

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