There's a phenomenon at our house that, despite our best efforts to ward it off, appears most weeks. We call it...Thursday house.
Thursday house is dirty dishes at the sink, baskets of laundry waiting to be folded, and the boys in-progress art projects laying across the breakfast table. It's a package that needs to be returned parked on our dresser and looking in the fridge to find few options for packing a school lunch. The boys' dirty clothes are in the bathroom, looking like they stepped right out of them and into the bath, which is exactly what they did. My computer and podcasting equipment is probably on the dining room table and no shoes are put away in the closet. Thursday house is the urge to say "Ahhhhhh!" everywhere you turn. It's the messy, unorganized cousin of the Sunday home. No one likes a Thursday house.
Although we certainly aren't immune from finding ourselves in a Thursday house on a Wednesday or some other day of the week, it's called Thursday house for a reason. We usually give the house a reset over the weekend and on Mondays the house is tidy and running efficiently. We are a world away from sidestepping clothes on the floor and an overflowing recycling bin. Who would even live like that?! On Tuesday the house still looks great. Maybe one load of laundry doesn't get folded or a few toys migrate out of kid bedrooms but that's okay, we can get to it on Wednesday. But then on Wednesday Maeve doesn't take a great afternoon nap, and it's early pick up for the boys so my day at home is cut short. If Chris has a lot of meetings then he doesn't do his usual mid-day kitchen tidy and you know where this is heading. Despite our best intentions we wake up on Thursday to find that once again we have a Thursday house.
After identifying and naming the phenomenon (Chris, always clever, gets credit for the name) I've been reflecting on Thursday house and what to do about it. I've decided there are three approaches to a Thursday house: you can prevent it, you can address it, or you can accept it. There's no right answer! And you can vary week to week.
+ Prevent it. We should all be so lucky! There are some weeks where the stars align and we skip over Thursday house all together. We stay on top of the dishes, we tidy things away at the end of the day, and head into Thursday like it's Monday. It's a rare occurrence but it does happen which calls for a celebration. The best way to prevent Thursday house is on Sunday. If you can head into Monday with a clean house, empty laundry baskets, and the fridge stocked then you're on your way. A clean house is easier to keep clean because one mess or load of laundry at a time is manageable and then the house is reset. It's the accumulation of all the messes and all the laundry that becomes overwhelming.
Daily things that I can do – if I have time and energy – to prevent Thursday house include cleaning up any kitchen messes after I make them, doing one load of laundry through to putting it away each day, and keeping horizontal surfaces clear. The daily tidying is also much more likely on weeks when Chris's meeting schedule is less demanding and he has more bandwidth for housework.
+ Address it. An untidy house can overwhelm me but Chris is amazing at doing the 30 minute power tidy. When I'm looking at all that needs to be done I try to remind myself how quickly the house can look so much better with a little effort. But the thing about Thursday house is that it happens on a Thursday, when we've already lived through the week and no longer have that Monday energy. But all is not lost! By mustering up whatever energy we have and being strategic we can sometimes reclaim, or partially reclaim, our house from Thursday. The great room, with kitchen, breakfast table, and living room, is not only the heart of our home but the heart of Thursday house. If Chris can power-clean the kitchen (one of his superpowers) and we straighten books, toys, and art supplies the house feels significantly calmer. Or even doing just one of those things helps. If we don't have energy to fold and put away laundry we might be able to manage making our bed and addressing clothes we've left on the dresser or chair. A Thursday house makes me feel out of sorts but a little effort can go a long way to a calmer house and headspace.
+ Accept it. Here's the thing about Thursday house: it's not the result of being disorganized or untidy. A house's tidiness exists on a spectrum; Thursday house is just part of the cycle. I remind Chris of this every time he declares, "This house is clean!" or "The laundry is done!" as if the house and laundry will now exist in those states in perpetuity. In reality, as soon as we've hit the clean end of the spectrum we're just heading back towards untidy. At first this might seem deflating but I find it liberating. If the house is all a mess that just means we're at one end but we'll reset it to the other when we have more energy. What I also remind myself is that Thursday house is simply evidence that five people, including three young children, have been living in our home for the past week. What are dishes and laundry and random things all about but evidence of living? Homes are for living after all! I try to see all the mess and clutter as evidence of a full family life being lived. I remember that eventually we do get back to the other end of the tidiness spectrum.
While I don't love to find myself in a Thursday house, they bother me less than they used to. A Thursday house doesn't last forever and one day we probably won't have them at all. For now, I remember they're a normal part of this season with three young kids. And I bet that one day I'll look back at all the untidiness of a weekly Thursday house and think how sweet this time of life was, messes and all. I doubt that what I'll remember about this time of life is that I wish we had a cleaner house.