Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The (dis)order of things........

I've come to the conclusion that it's virtually impossible to keep a house clean. Oh sure, you can CLEAN a house, but can you KEEP it clean? Not with kids and dogs and a kitten. I thought having one child away at college would surely cut down on the mess. And while the bedroom stays clean (but only because I spent three days, three precious days that I will NEVER get back, of my life cleaning it), and there are fewer ice-cream bowls and cups next to the computer, the general orderliness, or lack thereof, of the house is frightful.

For instance: at this very moment there are swim goggles on my bathroom counter. One of those large packaging tape dispensers is on the kitchen counter. The family room floor contains these items: a jacket, a pair of socks, candy wrappers, a large clump of dog hair, a video game and a stuffed monkey. Tonight I sorted socks and came up with five pairs and a basket of mismatched socks the size of a six-quart crockpot. From where I'm sitting I can see a blue feather boa, a pair of coveralls, a textbook, a bag full of bags (you know, the reusable variety? They are ever so useful when they are sitting in the entryway of my house and not with me at the store.), a Halloween skull, a bag of tealights, and a coupon for a free pizza. Within my arm's reach, I see a Victoria's secret bag, a gift bag, a coupon insert from the paper, a notepad, two bills, a bank statement and a Target bag full of candy (mostly wrappers) from trick-or-treating.

Sometimes I wish I were Amish. They don't have a lot of crap. We are the exact opposite of Amish. While the Amish favor a simple life with few material goods, we favor a life of chaos filled with crap. How much better my life would be if I simply had to choose between the blue and the brown dress each day. Instead, I have a dresser drawer with at least ten pairs of jeans in that don't even fit me! The really scary part is that I regularly "purge" stuff - clothes, household goods, craft items, even food. I always have a few large bags to give away when the donation trucks roll into the neighborhood. And we still have more.

George Carlin says we need "a place for our stuff". We get more stuff, and we buy a bigger place. I'm stopping at this house. This is the biggest house I ever hope to live in - from here I wish to continue to downsize until all I have left is a double-wide trailer and a toaster oven. Ok, not really. I still need shoes. But the point is, we all seem to have too much stuff. And that creates disorder and chaos and general discontent. Take my daughter's room, for instance (not the college daughter - her room is clean, remember?). My other daughter. Who is in high school. Who has a lot of clothes. And crap. And does not have any sense of order or organization. She is content to spend her days trodding upon her clean clothing, throwing candy wrappers on the floor and never dusting her room. Once I cleaned her room and found a spider in a pile of stuffed animals. I told her she would have spiders crawling on her while she slept (she was much younger then, so what? Scaring is a great parenting tactic!). That did not entice her to change her ways. Not at all. In fact, I'm certain she has spiders crawling in her room on a regular basis but does she care? She does not. Her room is a dark cave of despair. And she loves it. She crawls into her bed overflowing with Pillow Pets and a down comforter that "snows" feathers every time it moves and cocoons herself in her own disorder.

I get a little crazy when things get too bad. I grew up the worst of all pack rats. I could not bear to part with anything, ever. My room looked......well, like my daughter's room. I would spend a whole day about four times a year cleaning my room and then I'd be so proud, I'd make my whole family come and look at it. Once, in an attempt to win me over with humor, my mom posted a different poem each day, outlining how to clean my room, to my door. I laughed but did not get the hint. It wasn't until I was in my own apartment with roommates that I began to care at all what my room looked like. I like order and neatness as much as the next person, but I've found that my efforts are erased within minutes. I'll wipe off the kitchen counter and my husband will set his icky lunch box on it. Or a dog hair appears. And another. And another. The other day one of my kids put their SHOES on the kitchen table! Their shoes, with their sticky, germy, bacteria-ridden soles touching the place where we EAT! Who DOES that?

I honestly don't know how other people do it. I walk into their houses and see things in order, the white carpets neatly vacuumed with perfect vacuum lines, nary a dog hair on the counter. Do they walk around with Lysol wipes and attack every indiscretion as it happens? Do they restrict their kids from touching anything, having any clothes or toys, throw away all their artwork? Do they have dogs that simply never get muddy feet?

I would say "I give up" but I can't. I mean, I don't want anyone to report me to CPS or feature me on an episode of "Hoarders". But I really do not know how to keep a house clean when children, animals and a husband live in it. I told my husband last week that I wanted my own apartment. I don't think he bought it. I mean, I'm actually fantasizing about a new vacuum. My old one isn't working so well and the cheap replacement I bought is no match for our filth. I NEED the latest version of my old one. I actually get giddy when I go into the cleaning aisle at the grocery store. Today I bought antibacterial wipes and toilet bowl cleaners. I yearn for a clean and sparkling house that actually smells like "spring breeze" and not "dog breath". And yet, given the choice to clean my bathroom or waste an hour on Facebook, I'll choose the latter. I WANT a clean house, I just don't want to do it myself! Because I know no matter how much effort I put in, it will be ruined in a matter of minutes, hours or days. And who has time for that?

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