Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Messy and Unashamed

I've been thinking about this topic for quite some time, but hadn't gotten a chance to write about it. Today provided the perfect inspiration...

The other day, my friend, Julie, and I arranged to go to Ikea today. (The D____ household has been losing breakables by the day and I needed to replenish.) Julie suggested I come pick her up so I could see her home. She loves her home and is so proud of it.

"Well," she clarified on the phone. "It's messy, so if you don't mind, you're welcome to come over."

"Like I care!" was my response.

So this morning, I got the grand tour of Julie's house. She was right -- it was messy. But it didn't matter in the least! She wasn't embarrassed and I certainly didn't care. So in my mind, I will always think of her as Amazing Julie.

I have to say that being invited into chaos was a pleasure. Wives and mothers (not to be exclusionary, but I really don't think husbands/dads have this issue) almost always insist the house be spotless before any adult can come over. We all know that kids don't care, so other people's kids can safely enter. But when a parent comes to pick up that kid, sorry, but it's the foyer and only the foyer you get to see.

Here's a little side story of my own personal cleaning neuroses... For years, I was best friends with my college roommate. We'd lived together, so she knew that while I wasn't crazy messy, I also didn't see the need to sterilize everything. Thus, I didn't feel the need to clean everything when she came over. I'd hoped that not cleaning was in the definition of best friends. But it wasn't. She was a neat freak and had a tendency to clean my house when she came over. She saw it as helping. I saw it as a personal affront to my housekeeping skills. So as years passed, I tried harder and harder to make my home absolutely perfect before she came. Now imagine me 7 months pregnant with Emma, on the floor cleaning, actually scrubbing, the baseboards! Even I realized I was going too far to please her. She shouldn't have cared. I shouldn't have cared.

Why exactly do we care so much? Honestly, all our homes get messy. It's called living in them. Why are we so ashamed that the laundry went from the dryer to the couch three days ago? That there's a pot in the sink everyone's trying to ignore? That there are fingerprints on the windows, toothpaste globs in the bathroom sink and dirty socks on the stairs?

Maybe it is the mindset of unfailing and absolute cleanliness that previous generations held so dear. I can't imagine my Grandma K. even thinking about dumping her load of freshly dried whites on the couch.

Maybe we're just plain embarrassed. After all, messiness equals imperfection and a certain sense of laissez faire, even laziness. No one ever wants to be labeled as lazy.

Seriously, though, can wives and mothers ever be considered lazy? With all that we do, with all that we accomplish, the word "lazy" should be deleted from the dictionary of our lives. We're not being lazy when the beds are unmade or a pile of laundry sits on the floor in front of the washer for a few days. Such things are simply not the highest priority.

Nor should they be. Let's think about that...

"Kids, should I play Monopoly with you or dust the house?"

"Hey, everyone! The floors didn't get scrubbed today, so let's do that instead of cooking and eating dinner!"

"I think I'll sweep the front porch instead of heading out to buy milk and toilet paper this afternoon."

Or perhaps we refuse to admit to our messiness because of guilt. If we don't put every dish in the dishwasher right after we use it, put the clothes away as soon as we fold them or scrub the toilets before the water ring starts growing, we women feel inadequate as wives and mothers -- that we're not doing the best we should be.

And, of course, there's the ever present feeling of inferiority. You know the vicious cycle I'm talking about. I visit Sally's house which she has just spotlessly cleaned because I was coming over. I automatically assume that this is the way she always lives. Her house must always be this clean! Why can't I keep my house so tidy? I wonder how she does it? But do I ever ask! No way, Jose! That's admitting to an imperfect home. And if I did ask, she'd never admit that she just spent hours and hours excavating the furniture from under all the dust.

Let's stop this cycle! Let's admit to each other that our houses are not clean! And that, unless someone is actually coming over, we generally don't care! That's not to say we should never clean, just not for guests!

Let's all follow Amazing Julie's lead and stop worrying about what our homes look like. Let's show our true selves (and homes) to other people. Can you even imagine how much stress will be eliminated? I'm almost giddy just thinking about it!

But the question remains... Do I have what it takes to not clean next time I'm expecting company?


Mandajuice said...

Hey didn't you get to see my filthy house when you dropped off the table for Genoa? Because that's pretty much how we always live.

I ONLY clean for company.

And while I totally agree with you - that I shouldn't care and that in a way it's almost demeaning to the women I invite in because it implies you might judge me for my dirty house and honestly, I KNOW you'd never do that - I'm going to keep cleaning my house for company.

Because if I stop doing that? My house will never EVER be clean again. Inviting friends over is the only cleaning schedule I have!

I just washed the kitchen cabinets FOR MY BROTHER who arrives today. Because my 26 year old BROTHER is going care!? How silly! (But I'm glad I did it because at least it got done!)

Anonymous said...

This is a good one, Kate. You raise some good points--most importantly, the one not to judge a friend for the condition of their house. Much more important to have that door always open for a friend, regardless of what is behind it.