I thought about what she had said as I was scrubbing down a bathroom and the top of the gas stove. I thought about her reaction, my reaction, and the reactions of the ladies around me as I scrubbed the walls. I wondered about the fine line between being realistic and being respectable as #4 ran up and down the hallway.
It's the same old adage, isn't it? We complain that we don't have time to clean, or we don't take the time to clean, or we do it and begrudge it. We agonize over visitors and die internally when we think they will have to use less-than-bleached-perfect toilets. Then we fall over ourselves apologizing when our house is a mess, or if the dishes aren't done, or if there are left-over apple cores and sandwiches behind the couch. However, if we realize we're too good for apologies, we make a joke out of it. "Welcome to the chaos!" is my favorite. I've also used "Please ignore our wallowing in filth" or "It's my day off."
I know we're supposed to be all "it doesn't matter what my house looks like because what matters is if I'm doing the things that matter like feeding and clothing the children," but it doesn't always work that way. I think a lot of us still --whether we admit it or not --cringe with embarrassment when our house is less than stellar. Or at least less than our own standards of clean (and trust you me, there are a lot of standards out there. Which is okay by me!). Where does this guilt come from? Religion? Our mothers? Society? Personally, for me, I think the desire to have a clean and organized home comes from a much bigger place: My health.
That may sound kind of dumb, but stay with me. It has taken me years to come to this conclusion (which may or may not be correct; the jury's still out), but as I was cleaning my friend's house, I realized a few things about my cleaning habits:
1. When my house is clean and organized, my stress level is way low. Waaaaaaay low. Like practically non-existent. I breathe better. I relax more. I smile more.
2. Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Absolutely. A sweet-smelling, comfortable, clean home invites the Spirit more easily than a cesspool of poop and vomit. Go figure.
3. Cleaning my home gives me a sense of purpose. One that I hated for years because cleaning a house somehow meant I was a suppressed housewife and the world told me I needed to have something "better" and "more validating" and "more important than taking care of my home and family because where would that get me??" But finally, I have embraced it! I love doing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen before bed now, something I have rebelled against forever. I love teaching the kids how to clean up. I enjoy it when we actually work together without fighting to get something (like cleaning the playroom) done --which is rare, of course. Not the cleaning --the doing it without fighting. I love that cleaning the house (once again, to me) proves that I actually like my family. And I want to take care of them and show my love to them.
4. Although my cleaning skills have improved over the last decade, I truly believe it has been my desire that has improved the most. I think I was rebelling against my parents for always making us clean the house (our house was pretty dang clean growing up) or something. But as my desire for a clean house has improved, the house has gotten a little bit cleaner. Go figure.
5. Clean bathrooms, clean clothes, clean bedsheets, and clean kitchens are safer. Less germs. Less bacteria. And again --less stress.
All of that equals health. Emotional, mental, and --most definitely --physical.
I think that's why I apologize to my friends and family when they see my messy house. See, I may preach that clean houses are the bomb, and I don't think any of us will disagree with that, but I am realistic. I have five small children, for pete's sake! There is going to be dirt and fingerprints and bugs and messy diapers. I mean, we may not agree that we all need a white-glove test (I wouldn't), but still, having a clean and orderly home is a good thing. A nice thing. A gift, really, to our children and our friends and ourselves. So, I apologize because I know it could be better. I make jokes because in reality, I don't care what THEY think of my house, I care what I think. And what I think really matters the most, because I'm the Queen of my Castle. And I want it fairly clean.
So the next time you come to my house, and if it's not perfect, and I apologize, you can know it's because I'm trying to be all healthier and what-not. Not because I somehow believe I should be just as good as you or Sister fancy-pants or my mother (whom I love) --but because I like me some clean. It's good for me. Clean is pretty awesome. And I want my home to reflect that --at least a little bit!
Why do you clean your house? Or why do you NOT clean your house?