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What’s the point? November 9, 2012

Filed under: Chapter Books — Kristi @ 1:05 am
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I don’t think she has very much fun, and what’s the point in being that clean if it means you never get to have any fun? (from Ellray Jakes is NOT a chicken! by Sally Warner)

I have always said the best way to get my house clean is to invite people over. If I know someone is coming, historically, I clean in a frenzy and make it perfect because I want people to believe I am some sort of superior housekeeper and that it always looks like this. And, for a long time, I went around feeling somewhat inadequate in the housekeeping department because every house I went to was spotless and I believed these houses remained in a permanent state of cleanliness that I had been woefully unable to achieve in my own. Not so, reader. Not so.

About a year ago, a friend invited my son and me to her house for a play date and when we got there I was struck by how messy her house was. I don’t mean that to sound rude. When I say it was messy, I mean that there were scattered toys, junk mail was on the table in a careless heap, dishes were in and around the sink, and I could tell the counter top had not been freshly wiped. When I say it was messy, I mean that it was exactly like my  house most of the time. It was normal. It was just their home the way they actually live in it. I couldn’t fathom the kind of confidence she must have had, to be able to invite people over in such a relaxed way, with no fresh smell of Lemon Clorox greeting friends at the door. When I got home I just felt so blessedly normal.

So I don’t clean my house for play dates anymore either. And, as a result, I have people over a lot more. Which means I have more fun. I no longer see the state of my home as a barrier to hospitality. You know what? We have a messy desk. There is pureed pumpkin stuck to the kitchen floor. There are whisker hairs on the bathroom sink and I can see a sock peeking out from under a toy peeking out from under the couch. It is what it is and what it is, is normal. I bet you have a junk mail pile too. So why stuff it in a drawer or cabinet before I come over? So I will think you are the type of magical person who has no paper pile? I am not relaxed around those magical people. I am relaxed around people who make me feel normal.

I worked a charity tour of homes once when I was in high school and the house I was helping give tours in was one of those that you can very briefly describe and everyone in town knows which house it is. (Oh, the big stone house on Bennett that always has a limo out front? I know that house!) It literally had an elevator in it. And one of the bedrooms had leopard print carpet. One of the bathrooms had a mural of the home owner painted on the tile. One of the bedrooms had a ceiling raised several feet to accommodate a piece of furniture. Anyway. It was that kind of house. Just before the tour, the home owner (as gorgeous and strange as her house) showed me around and gave me the spiel. When we entered one of the bathrooms, she said, “Ooops! I forgot to move these!” and hid the toothbrushes in a cabinet. I thought that was so funny–to hide your toothbrushes–to make it look like a house in a magazine spread that no one really lives in. And the truth is, I have tried and tried to imagine someone relaxing there and I can’t. It’s just too perfect.

Do I want to create an environment that people want to tour and photograph or one where people want to live and breathe and have a good time? Well, I might put the gnarly, twisted toothpaste tube in the bathroom cabinet, but our toothbrushes are out for the world to see.

 

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3 Responses to “What’s the point?”

  1. Amber Says:

    Gotta throw in my 2 cents here. Messy is normal for some people, but clean is also normal for others. Some people can’t relax in a clean house, and some people can’t relax in a messy house. Either way, it doesn’t mean you aren’t fun. If you don’t want people to judge your messy house, then don’t judge their clean one- just sayin’ 😉 Just because you can’t imagine someone having a good time and relaxing in a clean house doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. Love you, sister, and love our differences 🙂

  2. Kristi Says:

    The house I was describing wasn’t hard to relax in because it was clean but because it was extremely formal and, for the purposes of the tour, had no evidence of actual human occupancy. I’m clearly not judging clean houses. I’m saying that we shouldn’t rush around in a panic to make something look different than it really is or hide our own normal. We do prefer to have the house clean, but I have been guilty in the past of not opening up my home to new friends for fear of what they would think of the cluttered desk or the ugly carpet or hand-me-down furniture. I’ve used emotional energy because I was worried about what people would think. The goal is to be relaxed and hospitable in your own normal. Your home, for example, is very welcoming and relaxing but I don’t imagine you rushing around frantically trying to get it looking that way an hour or two before we arrive. Before I had kids, it was a lot easier to keep my home clean–doing a little every day. Now, with two small children, while I am cleaning one part of the house, another part is getting messed up. I just felt relieved when I realized I wasn’t the only mom struggling with this and that it would be okay to have moms of other toddlers over and just leave the mess because that’s probably what their houses look like too. When we have other people over, we do try to clean up more but I’m not shying away from play dates anymore because of the junk mail pile or the laundry pile. I have never passed harsh judgement on someone’s house for being clean and I’m sorry if that’s how the post came across to you. It certainly wasn’t the goal.

  3. Amber Says:

    I think we all know people with kids that keep a clean house and people without kids that keep a messy house, and that’s normal too. What I particularly like is your idea that the state of our homes should not be a barrier to hospitality and that we should not try to hide (of be ashamed of) our own normal. At the same time, I don’t want to get so comfortable in my own normal that I make others uncomfortable. It’s a hard balance sometimes. A silly example for me would be that it is more normal and comfortable for me to have my dog wander around freely when guests come instead of locking him in a room and having to listen to him cry. But some guests hate dogs, have a huge fear, or could get injured by his massive excited tail- so away he goes. Sometimes hospitality means being uncomfortable so others can be more comfortable. Just my rambling thoughts this morning…
    Oh- and I’m super excited that not having a junk mail pile makes me a magical person (unless my recycle bin counts- then I’m doomed!)


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