Before this, I lived in fear each day. Seriously.
Fear of disobeying any of my mom’s 1000 laws of orderliness and cleanliness.
Many find it amazing that despite being 30 years old, my house maintains an order and cleanliness that’s exceptional. In fact, there’s minimal wear and tear, and the house looks almost brand new. I’ve come to realise that it’s all thanks to mom – and her 1001 laws of orderliness and cleanliness.
There’s a rebel in every one of us, I’m sure. Still, as I grew older, I realised that all the laws and rules I’ve despised in my childhood actually developed important life skills that are useful both at work and in life.
So here goes, the life skills Mom taught me and why they still matter.
1. Never leave even a droplet of water on the kitchen counter
It’s not enough that the kitchen counter needs to be wiped clean. There shouldn’t be a single water droplet, much less dirt or crumbs. That’s Mom’s standard. Whenever I complain that she shouldn’t set such a high bar, she answers, “Why would you settle for less?”
But I understood why later on. Leaving droplets of water around the kitchen sink may cause leaks in the long-term, due to cracks at the sides of the sink.
Everything she did had purpose – to prevent long-term damage and repair costs to the house.
What I learnt: Never make a mess, and/or clean up after your own. We’re not perfect, and we make mistakes at work or school. But it shouldn’t stop there – make effort to rectify your own mistake so that it won’t cause problems for others.
2. Put everything back exactly where you took them from
Before you say, “Duh, that’s what everyone does”, wait till you find out the level of detail my mom expected from her children.
From left to right, this is the order of toiletries on the first rack: Mom’s body shampoo, my body shampoo, our conditioner (we don’t share some toiletries). Second rack, from left to right: Mom’s shampoo, my shampoo. Don’t you dare switch the order even slightly, or Mom will be screaming after your name.
This applies to literally everything in the house – the way the nail clipper should be placed in the box, the way the hem of your clothing should NEVER be caught in between the closet doors, the way I need to park my car at exactly x distance away from the outdoor laundry line so that she has space to stand and hang the laundry comfortably… you get the idea.
What I learnt: While this borders on being obsessive, I learnt a lot about consistency from my mom. It helped me be a better employee at the workplace. It taught me how to be consistent – whether it was working hours, meeting deadlines, or anything I committed myself to – I had to apply the same level and care for everything. Being consistent makes you dependable, a highly sought-after quality at the workplace.
3. Switching the lights on and off when appropriate
This probably sounds common, except that for me, the rules were vague. Generally, turn off the lights as the morning gets brighter, but also be sensitive to a rainy, cloudy morning where lights (at certain areas of the house only) should be left on.
It’s getting the hang of the different combinations and rules which makes it tricky.
Mom’s reason for this is of course, to avoid wastage. But she also didn’t want the house to be so dark that it becomes difficult to see things. Thieves also tend to break into dark houses at night, assuming that no one’s home.
Oh yes, the lighting rules also work together with curtain rules. Like how when lights are on, the curtains need to be pulled, or that curtains should be pulled halfway at 7:30 p.m., and all the way only by 9:30 p.m.
Yep, that’s my mom.
What I learnt: Besides learning to avoid wastage, I also learnt how to be sensitive to different people. Although Mom’s light-and-curtain formula was difficult, you do pick it up after a while.
In my case, I learnt how to cater to her whims and fancies (although the scolding did speed up the learning process). It taught me that getting along with people is like that – it’s difficult and doesn’t make sense sometimes. But it also taught me to let go of differences, learn how to compromise, and in the end, I realised, hey, it’s not too bad. I’ve met a few challenging people, and I’ve found that when you take time to understand why they do what they do, it really changes things for the better.
4. Hangers facing out, all the time
I sometimes wish someone out there will tell me, “I can totally relate!” as I hear my mom nag me for the 99th time that hangers should face outward, not inward.
Yes, it matters that she can always lift the laundry up from the laundry lines in one load, rather than wasting her time to turn some hangers out before taking in the laundry. All she really wants is efficiency and productivity.
I do wonder, sometimes, what harm can one inward-facing hanger do. Although I think Mom is probably thinking, “What harm is there for you to do it the right way?”
What I learnt: Order brings productivity and efficiency, when done correctly. Of course, some start-ups thrive in chaos, but I doubt that any company strives to be unproductive and inefficient.
Because my mom made me do things the right way every single day, I’ve learnt to be orderly in creating workflows. I now have a habit of making lists every day, so that nothing is ever forgotten or left out. I have a list for everything – birthday lists, to-do lists, shopping lists, Christmas lists, prayer lists, job lists – you name it.
The conclusion? Thanks, Mom 🙂