20 January 2010

A New Standard

Growing up, my family lived down a mile long dirt driveway. We had a horde of dogs. (One with only three legs. Oh - but that's another story.) The dogs let us know, loudly and with gusto, when a car was approaching the olde homestead. When we saw the vehicle pull in by the mailbox we had at least five minutes, maybe ten if it was Fred Iraggi driving his shiny red sports car. In those fleeting moments, a lot of action occurred behind closed doors. Mom ran around and scooped up mostly invisible dirt, we kids shut doors and followed commands and my dad made sure he was wearing pants. (That sounds far worse than it actually was.)

My mom's house was always clean. As in, spotless. And that was quite the miracle given the situation: one irresponsible daughter, three sons who believed cleaning was a woman's job, a husband who maybe just believed the same thing and a stinking dairy farm full of cows and their waste products outside her kitchen door. Sadly, I was not very impressed with her mad housekeeping skills back then. But only because I had no clue. Absolutely. No. Clue.

So when I acquired a husband, a house and a load of dirty little children myself, I assumed my mom's way was the only way.

And it did not take very long for me to realize something. I could never measure up. My home would never be as shiny. The toys would never all find their correct bins. I could never keep the dustballs from forming colonies and reproducing en mass. I would not achieve perfection in the domestic department.

And it took a long time (I mean, an exceptionally long time) before I finally (at long last) came to another realization.

It's okay.

It's really okay.

Our home is not as clean as I would like it to be. I sometimes let Magnus in on purpose to serve as a moving brown broom. Dishes do not always get washed before I go to bed. Beds are not always made and I don't keep a record of how frequently I sweep the living room floor.

And I am so glad.

Because now when people drop in for unexpected visits (and they do here since we no longer live in rural rural Virginia), I can welcome them with open arms. As we are. Without a stressful two minute clean up. Without explaining that our house is perhaps a bit untidy. Instead of worrying about the pressure to live up to an impossible standard, I have decided to focus on those lives walking into our two-toned, half-painted house.

And I find that I love our visitors.

I love our always evolving array of friends and family and framily that enter and exit through our bright sunroom that is continually littered with Kid Art. I love that our home always has space, albeit messy space, for a pal to make her first from-scratch chocolate chip cookies. (And they were delicious Rachael. Delicious. I know - because I ate way too many after you left. And if you can make edible anything with the busiest, rowdiest helpers on the planet, then you should be well on your way to the next Top Chef.)

And I trust that all those drop-in, wonderful surprise and old faithful visitors will embrace us in return - our family - and excuse the mess that surrounds us.


  1. I found myself cleaning, I mean really cleaning, for a gathering i was having at my house one night. The whole family pitched in and everything was put away, scrubbed, dusted, spotless. Well, at least the parts where the guests were to be. (The kids bedrooms are another matter altogether.) The house looked great, I felt like a pulled together housewife, and it was nice...for the two or three days that it lasted. Then the untidy, unkept, lived in look crept back. Someone spilled juice on the floor and it was sticky and the dishes piled up again. I was glad, and it made me realize that to expect to keep a house spotless was not fair to myself or the inhabitants. And the effort it would take was much better spent, as you said, keeping the inhabitants. Whew, didn't mean to be so long winded, in short I AMEN your housekeeping style.

  2. This is something that I have wondered for quite some time..... and I like your housekeeping philosophy. :)
    The picture of Rachael is great!!
    I too had a 3 legged dog, well 3 1/2 legs... lol
    I also grew up way out in the middle of nowhere
    And I love reading your blog

  3. All I have to say is AMEN SISTA! :) I figure if you are coming to visit then you should not mind my mess!!!! Even though I do catch myself tiding up a bit here and there. Love ya! And I really liked this post!!! I give it a 10! BUT you are always a 10! :)

  4. I believe I coined the phrase "Our House is Lived In". Because it most certainly is.
    The phrase is now copyrighted in the U.S. and in South America. If you say it, you have to pay me 10 cents per usage.
    Thank you in advance.

  5. you're brothers were right. and just maybe your dad, too.