I experienced an unintentional experiment these last two weeks. Last week I slacked off completely on chores. I spent any free time ("free time" = five minutes here, five minutes there...) reading, facebook stalking, or just sitting on my butt staring into space. This week I literally had no "free" time. I was feeling good so I decided to take advantage of that fact and try to actually keep my house in order. Between my kids not sleeping, out of town guests, and my sudden obsessive compulsive cleaning spree, my bum barely hit a seat before I was jumping up to get something for someone, pick something up, let the dog out, put baby to bed, change a load of laundry, sweep, change a diaper, vacuum, let the dog in, feed the dog, feed the kids (not an after thought, I promise), clean something else up, change a diaper, put baby to bed, play a game, change a diaper, put something away, sweep again, change another friggin' diaper... I could go on but I'll spare you. I was on a mission to get and keep my house clean each and every day because I function much better in a clean and orderly house and I thought it might keep me happy. So what was the difference between the week I did next to nothing, and the week I tried my hardest to do everything? NOTHING. Except I was a lot more tired by the end of the day, and a lot more annoyed with my kids (in particular the one who never stops talking). Each night I would still look around my house, every flat surface covered in items that didn't belong, kitchen a mess, floor in need of another sweeping. Seriously, despite my efforts I noticed no difference in the appearance of my house from the days I did nothing! I started feeling like a crazy person.
Conclusion: clean only when necessary. Necessary may not be as often as one might think.