We used to host two big gatherings every year: a huge cookout Memorial Day weekend and a “both sides of the family along with anyone who didn’t have anywhere else to go” Thanksgiving feast.
The first and foremost reason for these events was because I love to entertain and truly believe the more the merrier.
But the secondary reason had its own merits as well. By opening our home to throngs of people, the whole house got a good cleaning every six months.
You know, twice a year, whether it needed it or not.
I bet even with only this tiny bit of information your keen powers of deduction have revealed two truths:
• Writing is not the only thing that works better for me with a deadline.
• I hate housework.
And thanks to the latest media craze, there is a third truth:
I am not enamored of Marie Kondo, and have no plans to quench my thirst for self-improvement with any flavor of her Tidying Up Kool-Aid.
In case you aren’t aware of Marie Kondo:
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I confess I have not watched so much as the trailer for her Netflix show, much less an episode. I have a friend who says, “I don’t like anchovies. I’ve never had them, but I know I don’t like them.” It’s kind of like that.
Besides, I’m not in her key demographic anyway. I strongly suspect that most of the people who worship at her well-organized, highly-polished altar were already sitting in a fairly clutter-free home when they tuned in. They need lessons on organizing and purging like I need lessons on wasting time on my phone and maintaining my Rubenesque physique.
Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that my disinterest in Ms. Kondo should not be interpreted to mean that I’m a pig who lives in squalor. There’s a difference between an unmade bed and letting garbage pile up until it attracts vermin.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that I’m not even a slob.
Sure, there’s plenty of clutter around my home office, and rather than a schedule, I feel housework should be done on an “as-needed” basis. For example, why in the world would I do laundry when I still have clean underwear? I mean, really.
But here’s the thing. When you’re a slob (or worse, a pig), you sit in the midst of the mess and don’t even notice. I, on the other hand, recognize what needs to be done, and, when necessary, do it.
In other words, when company is coming over. After all, we can’t let people know we live like this.
Society and culture deserve some of the blame for my laissez-faire attitude toward housework.
Tell the truth. Isn’t Oscar more lovable than Felix?
We all know a messy desk is the sign of a genius.
And is there a new mother on the face of the earth who didn’t get the following Ruth Hulbert Hamilton poem on a greeting card, plaque or sampler?
The cleaning and scrubbing
can wait til tomorrow,
But children grow up
I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs;
dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby
and babies don’t keep.
For 34 years that’s been my story and I’m sticking to it.
Sure, there’s that old “cleanliness is next to godliness” saying, but be realistic. He’s got the whole world in His hands. Do you really think He cares if your toothbrushes are all facing the same direction?
I never hesitate to give due credit to my mother for helping shape me into the person I am today… and today’s topic is no exception. Because, of course, the mismatched sock doesn’t fall far from the basket of unfolded laundry.
My mom didn’t teach me to be a bad housekeeper. She taught me that other things — making time for your kids, having your own interests so you stay sane, maintaining friendships, helping others, reading, putting your marriage first — took precedence, because you could always throw it into high gear and get the house presentable if need be.
One of those regular occasions was when our cousins were due for a visit. Mom would get out the figurative whip and try to guilt us into cleaning our rooms.
“I bet your Aunt Grace doesn’t have to yell at the kids to get their rooms clean,” she’d lecture.
Never was I so happy as the day we dropped in at their house unannounced. I immediately went to my cousin’s room… and it was just as big a mess as my own.
“See?” I declared to my mom. “They only clean up when we’re coming over, too!”
Fast forward 25 years or so. One afternoon I suggested to my own offspring, “Hey, let’s get to work and clean up the house.”
One of my own daughters, in all sincerity and innocence, looked me square in the eyes and said, “Who’s coming over?”
Once again, Mom, your legacy lives on.
Laurie O’Connor Stephans admits to occasionally doing housework on a voluntary basis, but usually as a way to stall when she should be writing. Happily, the technique worked in reverse this time. Check out similar observations on everyday life in Laurie’s blog, We B Late, now in its fifth year. It is part of her author’s website, http://laurieoconnorstephans.com
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