Monday, April 14, 2008

Keeping the house clean

In the interest of keeping my valued readers occupied and to help any “blank page syndrome” I may experience in the upcoming days, I have decided to start a series of related columns all falling under the category, “Things I Suck At.” There is nothing like a bit of self-deprecating humor to keep the finger-pointers away. So every few days I’ll write an entry based on the list I’ve put in the sidebar. That way, when I’m on #7, you’ll know which ones I’ve hit and which ones I still have to go. When I told my husband I was going to do a blog about things I suck at, he said to me, “Be careful. You might not quit writing.”
Ha ha.
Be careful, I retorted. I might put, “Picking my husband” on that list.
But I realized he is correct, in that I thought they would all fit into one blog, and after starting, they are all clearly each a blog of their own. So you know, they aren’t in hierarchical order. I suck at them all pretty equally.

#1- Keeping my house clean
When I got married I had these visions of how I wanted to be. How I wanted my house, how I would act and behave, how I would rule my little domestic paradise. My home would be organized and clean, well decorated and cozy, full of indirect light and honey colored walls that made you want to snuggle up with a good book and a warm cup of tea. I would deep sigh at my lovely abode, my immaculate carpet and revel at how very much my home looked like those pristine sets in the Pottery Barn catalogue.

I think it was about day four of my marriage when that image started tilting and I found myself hanging onto the magazine page as I raced around trying to pick up and keep organizingorganizingorganizing, looking at the page and then my house and then the page and then my house, and now the page has faded and I realized I was holding the wrong magazine.

Every now and then you have those little revelations—the clouds clear and that heavenly glow illuminates the darkness—when you realize things you previously had not known, or perhaps would have liked to ignore. I had one of those epiphanies the other day, as I walked into my house after being gone in Arizona for a week.

I realized that I am one of THOSE PEOPLE who live in one of THOSE HOUSES.

There is nothing like being gone from your home to make you aware of the true state of things upon your return. I ascended the five steps to the upper level and briefly scanned the living room. Pile upon pile of domestic clutter greeted me. Toys, papers, computer bags, duffel bags and books. There were piles on the mantel. There were piles next to the couch, on the couch and under the couch. Clean laundry, dirty laundry, too small clothes, out of season clothes, and these-do-not-belong-to-us-clothes. Piles on the excersaucer. Piles on every available surface in the kitchen. Old food, empty cereal boxes, clean cups, dirty cups and measuring spoons the baby plays with. I deep sighed and headed toward my bedroom. As I high-stepped my way over the laundry, I realized there are probably more clothes on the floor of the hallway than in all the drawers in my house combined. I dropped off my suitcase, which by the way was full of more crap to put away and more dirty laundry, and went to use the restroom.

My bathroom smelled like pee. It’s difficult to admit, but I turned to verify I was actually in my bathroom and that the doorway didn’t go all Narnia on me and send me reeling into a nursing home. The opening of the toilet bowl is 10 inches (I’ve measured) but that is clearly too small an opening for a 1 cm stream of urine, because inside the bowl is never where the urine ends up. There was more hair on my bathroom floor and in the corners of the bathtub than are currently growing on my head. That linty-dusty-black-film covered the corners of my floors especially behind the door, and for the life of me, I cannot find where this originates. After lining the seat in my own home—afraid of catching some new disease—I used the restroom and left, shutting the door behind me. God forbid my latest baby ends up sucking on that toilet seat like her sister. Visions of e-coli poisoning dancing through my head, I high stepped back to the bedroom to lay down for a respite and realized I couldn't do that either.

My bed looked like a homeless doll shelter. There were more babies, stuffed animals, doll blankets, and miniature pillows on my bed than reside in FAO Shwartz. The bed has not been made since I got married in 1998. As I tried to butt-slide onto the mattress, the air from my movement caused a small dust-surge from my side table, which glistened beautifully in the light streaming through my cobweb covered windows. This was not restful. This was not respite. And believe it or not, this was not the epiphany.

The epiphany came when I high-stepped back through the hallway into the kitchen littered with last week's old dishes and dirty saucepans, opened the refrigerator to be greeted by cancer-causing molded food and a painters pallet of doorway condiments, closed the refrigerator in disgust, wiped crumbs-and-chunks off my bare feet from the kitchen floor while cursing and realized:

We live like this more than we don’t live like this.

Which makes me one of THOSE people. THOSE people who live in filth and squalor, whose houses you are afraid to go into because you’re never sure what you’ll be sitting on or what you’ll be breathing. There isn't fecal matter on the walls currently, but give me time: the baby hasn't figured that one out yet. I’m one of THOSE mothers who just can’t get it together enough to keep her house clean (read: What does she do all day, she stays home after all), and lives in one of THOSE houses (read: It’s sooo pretty on the outside) and I’m pretty sure that CPS would have some ammunition if it weren’t for the way I wipe everyone’s noses before sending them to school. (I can at least pretend I have a good game.) I’m one of THOSE people who apologize up and down for the current state of their house and how busy it’s been, how it was clean last week, while the guests nod and offer up, Oh don’t worry about it, Puh-lease, I’m not concerned at all, I totally understand, but what they are really thinking is, This is disgusting. How does she live like this? I’ve got three kids and my house looks WAY better. How does her husband put up with her slovenly nature?

This epiphany hits me and I realize I’m not only sooo not Pottery Barn, but that my house really belongs in an episode of “Storm Stories: The Aftermath,” and what I’d really like to do is stand on top of my life’s roof and exclaim at the top of my lungs, “I CAN KEEP A CLEAN HOUSE, REALLY I CAN, IF IT WEREN’T FOR THIS FAMILY THAT LIVES HERE WITH ME,” if for no other reason than it might give people pause before they nod their heads muttering under their breath, “Poor wretched woman… Poor wretched family…”

After this epiphany I did what any good mother—heck good woman—does when faced with a truth of this proportion: I grabbed my gardening book and sat on the front steps and read about planting vegetables. There’s no way this house is gonna change, say before the kids go to college, so why bother? What’s my hurry?

I have decided it is easier to hand people a hospital mask and latex-free gloves than to try and dig myself out of the hole that has become my home. My two hands simply do not work as fast as the 6 other hands working against me. I have decided to be a positive thinker and find the sliver lining. At least my children will have a strong and healthy immune system. My guests will have such low expectations that the slightest bit of straightening will elicit oohs and ahhs. I will be able to read those poems about old age and regrets and never be able to relate to the one that says, “I would have cleaned less and played more.” I suppose sucking at house cleaning does have its advantages.


brandie said...

lol. I too live in one of THOSE houses. I fight it, but it is what it is. Yea for the slovenly!

Lizzie said...

This made me laugh. Perhaps I should make a "things I suck at" list, but I fear it would be too long.

Anonymous said...

We with "those houses" must stick together! Dust Bunnies are people too!


Anonymous said...

Rachel.....Your house is nothing like that. I have been there and know that you do keep a clean house as much as you can with 3 children, 1 husband, and the 6 friends of the children that do not take their shoes off. That my sil is what Nashoba is for:)