11 May 2009

Keeping House

I have learned that housekeeping means making your home look great for guests. Stack magazines, stuff clothes in drawers, wipe down the bathroom sink and toilet rim. Don't so many of us joke the only reason we invite people over is to clean up? I also straighten for the women who clean our home twice a month. Our house is truly clean for five hours, then everyone gets home and it's down hill from there. Today I cleaned for the babysitter- which was happily a pre-clean for the cleaner, who comes tomorrow.

I remember the first time I realized that not everyone cleans for guests or lives in a perpetually clean house (which is what I truly imagined). I was fully 25 years old, in midwifery school, going to the house of a classmate for a study group. She had three kids and a working husband. There was toothpaste on the bathroom sink. Kids' underwear on the floor. Dishes on the counter. Mail was strewn on the table. Her home was not in total disarray, but it was so clear that she had done nothing to prepare for our visit. I was shocked- and then moved by her vulnerability. She wasn't worried about us. She believed we would love her just as she was. Or maybe she hadn't the time to worry about us- but I was childless and had no concept of the magnitude of chores in her life. In any case, it was a revelation.

I am not neat. Why was I making a fake clean world for everyone in my life? I don't know why I wrote "was," because I still am cleaning for the architect, neighbor, friend, but now I am aware of the behavior. Cleanliness is one of my fantasies, like being tall or graceful or witty. I do not leave food crusted on the counter or let the trash overflow, but the papers stack up and the clothes don't return to the closet on their own.

As much as I think that I am in recovery since that fateful study group, the fantasy of a neat, clutter free life is full force in our house remodel. We will have a bay view, a beautiful kitchen, an elegant front entry. I am probably the most excited about the mudroom. This "drop zone" should replace the entry or kitchen or dining room table. All family members who enter from the driveway will pass through this vestibule first and have a place for backpacks, shoes, mail, lunch boxes, etc. I am convinced that my home will finally look neat all the time- because of the mudroom. I know this is not true, but I am like the girl who eats a half gallon of fudge ripple while paging through Vogue and complaining about her body. I stay up nights hunched over the laptop searching flickr or houzz for images of open floor plans, kitchen islands, and fireplaces while boxes remain unpacked and stacked in the corner of the living room. All of these homes are beautiful because they have nothing personal in them.

What is my real life like? Is it neat? Orderly? Um... I came home from my first hospital shift to shrieks in the bathroom. Apparently, Otto had just removed his shit filled diaper, got it on his hands, and rubbed it on his head. He was screaming because he was standing in the shower spray while his father stared at him. Tonight I came home from an evening clinic to low lights, the babysitter in the living room. She stopped me in my tracks and turned on the light. The dog had puked foamy, slimy yellow puke in ten spots on the rug.

But have no doubt, the mudroom will put an end to my pre-cleaning fits and my surprise bodily fluid nights.

Mark my words.

1 comment:

Katie said...

I'm glad to know I am not alone. Even at 36 years of age, I still believe that most mothers out there are organized, and I am one of the embarrassed unlucky ones. I miss the days when therapists came to the house three times a week for my son in Early Intervention before the school system ate him. Then at least I knew my house would be vacuumed and tidied on a regular basis. And a mudroom with lockers...just the thought of one makes me wistful.