Last year, around this time, I had a psychotic break with reality and decided we needed another dog. A puppy. A golden retriever puppy. He’s really cute. And really smart. And unbelievably destructive. He makes large messes of paper, because he likes to shred things. A lot.
Last December, my lawn guy stopped by unannounced in the middle of the day to follow up on some work we had discussed. I was still dressed in my pajamas (T-shirt, no bra, and scrub pants, so not as embarrassing as my moose jammies, but still obviously not dressed for the day), and my house was a holy mess. I had been pulling out boxes of decorating stuff to get ready for Christmas, but hadn’t gotten to the decorating stage yet, so there were boxes of stuff spilling out all over the living room. Winston, my afore-mentioned puppy, had had a field day with some of the wrapping, so there was also shredded paper pretty much all over the living room and in the play room. There were also muddy footprints on my kitchen floor, and toys/clothes strewn about the playroom (because my kids have failed to master the difficult “put your dirty socks in the hamper when you take them off” paradigm, and my 6 year old is inexplicably opposed to both wearing her underwear AND putting it in the hamper. Guess what she takes off first thing when she gets home…). I tried to stop my lawn guy from coming through the house to get to the backyard, but was unsuccessful. He pulled his colleague through my disgusting home, discussed the backyard, and left.
And, seeing as the lawn guy and I are friends (our kids went to preschool together), he then mocked me for the state of my house for months.
“I never thought a college grad would live in such squalor.”
“I bet it took you 3 days to clean that up” (in response to a text message I sent to him with a picture of the living room, clean and properly bedecked with boughs of holly)
“Where did you put all that STUFF? Did you have to have somebody haul it out?”
The truth is, however, that if you came over to my house unannounced, you are more likely to find it in the state I just described than not. I’m not a cluttery person, and I’m not a hoarder by any stretch, but I’m good at stepping over messes, and if the dinner dishes wait until morning to get done, it doesn’t bother me too much (although they can’t sit for much more than overnight. Living in an area crawling with cockroaches and ants will cause a gal to get those dishes done right quick, I tell you what.). I currently have 3 baskets of laundry to fold (it’s all clean!) and while I did spend the morning sweeping and mopping the downstairs, you pretty much can’t see the floor in my daughter’s bedroom.
One night, a few friends called and said they had to stop by, and that they’d be there in about 20 minutes. I raced around, putting things away and did a quick vacuum over where the dogs sleep (white carpet+2 dogs=bad juju). In a few minutes, I had the house presentable, but it did take a few minutes. When they got there, we chatted for a bit, and the topic of housekeeping came up. I confessed that I relate to another friend of mine who constantly struggles with her house. One friend piped up and said, “No way, look at your house!” I shrugged and said nothing, but thought, heh, fooled another one.
I’ve tried all the organizing tricks, I’ve done FlyLady, I set my timers, and I really have discovered that a clean home is like anything else—there are no shortcuts, you just have to roll up your sleeves and get it done. And that sometimes, I just don’t feel like rolling up my sleeves and getting it done.
I feel tremendous amounts of guilt about this, which baffles my husband. He feels no stress if our closets are a mess, or if something is amiss. To him, there is no emotional attachment about the state of the house—it’s either clean, or it’s messy. If it’s messy, then we should clean it. If it’s clean, well, how pleasant!
Not so with me, and not so with other women I’ve known. It’s like somehow women have some bizarre self worth connection with the cleanliness of their home. If it’s clean, we’re good people. If it’s a mess, we’re losers. I don’t think it’s a Mormon thing (although a lot of our rhetoric about mothers in the home includes exhortation about good housekeeping), I think it’s a woman thing. Or a mother thing? I dunno.
Please tell me I’m not the only one who has all kinds of emotional hang ups about being a poor housekeeper. And please tell me that I’m not the only Mormon woman who needs just a few minutes heads up before you pop by with some treats. If you do give that’s heads up, I promise we’ll both be happier for it. It’ll give me time to pick up the shredded toilet paper in the hallway.