When I was a kid, we'd always ask my mom what she wanted for her birthday, or mother's day or any other gift-giving occasion. She'd almost always reply "A clean house!" I remember thinking, wow, moms are SO boring if all they want is a clean house! Not toys? Not new clothes? Not a nice dinner out?
Well, now that I'm grown up - and my kids are (or nearly) grown, I can vouch for the fact that a clean house is the BEST gift. There's nothing like walking into a house that is in order, who's surfaces are dust-free, who's floor is not strewn with dog-hair tumbleweeds, who's bathroom surfaces are free from spittle drops on the chrome, who's kitchen sink is empty instead of teetering with dishes, and who's carpets have fresh vacuum marks. Ahhhhh..........nirvana!
It takes a lot of work to get a house that way. I don't know about you, but I know people who vacuum every day! I know, right? Who the hell has time for that? Or people who clean their bathrooms on a schedule or (gasp!) employ a cleaning service! Not this mama. I've never paid anyone to clean my house, and while that sounds heavenly, it also sounds like a lot of work on my part to pick up and organize so someone who lives outside my home doesn't see the real chaos and filth we live in daily.
Ok, maybe not filth. I mean, we're not hoarders and there's no mouse poop on the surfaces or months' worth of dog hair collecting in the corners. But there are piles of papers, half-finished projects and dishes where they shouldn't be on the daily. It's a never-ending cycle and it's never easy to get anyone to willingly clean.
Today, though, I did ask my son to clean his room. He announced to his sister that I was "holding them hostage" until the cleaning was done. While not quite that dramatic, I appreciated that he did a passable job of cleaning (although he left the house with no sheets on his bed so that means he'll likely sleep on the floor in front of the fireplace for several more nights until he's forced to put clean sheets on the bed). He even helped me with "the high stuff" which was taking down the Valentine decorations from the ceiling. And he did it without complaining. Seriously, if there was a Hallmark card that read "Thank you for not being an asshole about cleaning up the house I let you live in for free" I'd totally buy that card for him.
And I've done the dishes and wiped down the counters and vacuumed the upstairs and tackled a pile of filing six months in the making. But the thing is? I REALLY hate cleaning. I almost hate it as much as cooking. Sure, I love the end results of both, but I figure I have four kids and a husband so why should I EVER have to run the vacuum or wash a dish? Still, I do it. Because, as the mom, I'm the only one who will pick up the wrapper that dropped on the floor days ago, or actually MOP a floor on my hands and knees (ok, like once a year, but STILL), or wipe out that little plastic tray that sits in the fridge under the water dispenser and grows pink with mold unless I clean it. Maybe I just notice it more?
But, ah, the days when the house is clean! This usually happens just before a party or event we're hosting at our house. Everything is vacuumed, dusted, bathrooms sparkle, and we light candles. And I look around and think "Wow, this is MY house!" And then I sit down with an adult beverage and soak it all in. Ok, not really, but that's how I envision it. Even better is when I come home and one of my darling children (ok, just Arlie) has done the dishes and picked up and I don't feel like I immediately have to fix something before I can sit down. That doesn't happen often, but when it does? Those are the best days!
And I make plenty of messes on my own. My office is a disaster. How I long for some type of organizational system that stays organized. But I just have so many PROJECTS I want to do, and I start them, and I run out of time or motivation and then things get pushed aside for more interesting pursuits. I'm not sure I could function in a perfectly clean and organized office. A bit of chaos seems to unleash the creative process for me.
People often say our home feels so "comfortable" - that you can "just be" in our house. I think what they're really saying is "You don't have any nice shit so we can't mess anything up." Because it's true. Sure, we have things we treasure, but our 15-year-old flattish carpet has had plenty of stains, our walls are full of pinholes because we hang decorations up for every holiday and event, and our furniture wasn't all that special or expensive even when it WAS new. It's good that people feel comfortable here. We don't bother to take off our shoes (anymore), and sometimes we go to bed and leave teriyaki containers on the coffee table which results in the dog eating styrofoam all morning. That actually happened this morning and the dog's stomach is making weird noises as I type this so who knows? There might be a pile of dog barf in my future. No worries, we have a carpet cleaner!
And I know I make things harder for myself. For example, when the kids have a pile of friends over and everyone is snuggling and watching movies and using every blanket in the house, I find it necessary to wash ALL the blankets, even though they'll probably repeat the process again the next night. I'll spend WAY too much time organizing the art cabinet even though no one really uses it anymore. And how do things get so messy anyway? Like those crumbs that collect in your silverware drawer? Seriously, how?
So, I'd rather do anything (like blog, scroll through Facebook, eat a bowl of Lucky Charms, pluck my chin hairs, fold laundry) than clean my house. I'm avoiding it right now, in fact. But my husband just texted me that he's going to be home in a couple of hours, so I'm going to do a super fast clean so it looks like I've been cleaning all day. My aunt once told me all she had to do was fold the blanket on the back of the sofa and her husband would remark that the house was nice and clean. I figure if most of the surfaces can be uncluttered and the wind doesn't blow dog-hair tufts down the hall when the door opens, it's all good. And no amount of vacuuming is going to bring the pile of my carpet back to its original fluffiness. The hardwoods don't shine like they used to.
But it's home. And I like it here.