Irritable & Messy VS Irritable & Clean

To say that I'm not the tidiest person is a laughable understatement.  I've actually gotten cleaner and more organized since children, perhaps an evolution of survival.  But I'm still queen of "cleaning" the kitchen in such a way that it appears much cleaner than it is.  (i.e.  cleverly stacking the dirty dishes and only wiping down the obvious counter spills or sweeping the floor if absolutely necessary).  There are some weeks that the laundry gets completely done and put away- there are other weeks where my husband is getting dressed every morning, asking if (for the love of domesticity), there are any clean clothes in the dryer.  Don't get me started on the gets cleaned only when it reaches a level 4 bacteria crisis, which is usually after a stomach bug hits.  

But even not-so-tidy people have their breaking points.  Eventually, dealing with piled up dishes, a living room floor that is so cluttered with toys as to be embarrassed for itself, and bedrooms of material mayhem- it breaks you down.  I start to get a little claustrophobic in the mess- a little bit like a crazy person who can no longer think because there aren't enough spaces on the counters and floors to offer the mind a happy place to rest in.  

And that's where we were at today.

But then I start catching up on housework and I remember why the stupid house doesn't get cleaned much anyway.  See, because I finished washing dishes before lunch or dinner.  I tried to wash a few extra things after, but the motivation was quickly fading.  

Then, somehow I managed to motivate the kids to put away puzzle pieces, duplos, and dress up clothes.  But every time I would turn around there would be more toys out, and it turns out my biggest problem is a pint-sized 19 months old.  The little time the kids were actually cleaning, the lad was running behind them undoing things.  And now it isn't just the fact that I have to reclean a room.... its that I can't blame either of the competent children for it.  But even though its not their fault, they end up with the brunt of my frustration, because frankly, I have no where good to put it.  Not a great parenting excuse.  

In the meantime, what do you do with the children after you've cleaned everything?  Well, obviously you run around after them barking orders to "pick that up when you're done" and "please please pleeeeease don't play with the pans right now" and "Mommy just cleaned all this up so don't make a mess!"  Translation: why don't we all hold our breaths and sit around doing nothing but making air paintings with our fingers?  And even then, let's try not to stir up any dust lest someone should sneeze on the clean table.  

So here we are at the end of the day, most of my chores only partially done, some of my chores untouched entirely, the children dragged through my cycle of irritability.  My happiest moment I think was the few (and only) minutes of the day that I spent outside, laying on the driveway looking at the sky while my boys ran around.  At least I get brownie points with my husband for today. it worse to be irritable because nothing seems clean, or because you are trying unsuccessfully to clean?

Or, and I'm hoping one of you has the answer, is there a third non-irritable option?  (I have a sneaking suspicion your advice is going to have to do with my expectations and attitude.  *sigh* those are harder to clean up than my house.)