A Clean Home

by Tanya Doyle
Originally Published: 

Our household is what I like to call “love rich/cash poor.” Back in the days when we were love rich/cash rich, we had help with the house, but those days are long gone. Now, keeping the house clean is a task left solely to us. As a result, the house is a mess. Step into any room, and you’ll see any combination of dust, socks, toys, wrappers, and plain old dirt. We do our best, but in the bigger picture, a messy house has been easier to deal with than starving children, bad report cards, and unemployment. So, for the most part, we’ve learned to live with blinders and radar: blinders to ignore the visual ugliness and radar to avoid the Lego’s and action figures on the floor at night. We also tend to gravitate towards those those families who display a similar (or worse) level of house-keeping-ness. It makes us feel better about ourselves, and it feels great not be judged.

There are certain times when we will devote a weekend to a proper housecleaning. You guessed it: birthday parties, holiday get-togethers, and any event that brings non-regulars. Other than that, family and close friends generate a basic scramble of wiping down the bathroom and sweeping the floor. You know, to give the semblance of a clean home. We like these visits to be in the evening, for obvious reasons. Mood lighting is the best at hiding both wrinkles and dirt alike. We have a local restaurant, The Old Spaghetti Factory, that does a great job with this tactic (have you ever see that place in broad daylight? All I can say is yuck.)

. I don’t want to mislead you; it’s not like we have rats climbing the curtains. The kids aren’t embarrassed to have friends over yet, and we can still see plenty of floor underneath all the toys. It’s just that no one would ever classify us as neat freaks. . As lax as we are with all this stuff, I am still capable of being disgusted by the different ways “dirtiness” shows up in our home. Like the time we sold our house, and, on moving day, we removed the bunk beds to discover a wall of dried up, crusty, nose pickings (yes, boogers) along L’s bed. Aside from the sheer disgustingness of this discovery, we were completely floored that it was L’s nasty habit. Years later, P gleefully admitted that it was he who planted the evidence on L’s wall.


Not nearly as stomach-turning, I still cringed when I noticed the latest overlooked dirty spot. By the looks of it, this must’ve been growing for months, unnoticed by us. I’m talking about the kitchenette bannister that overlooks our sunken living room. From where I sit at my computer in the living room (facing the kitchenette), I can look straight out and see the entire span of floor that makes up our kitchen. I don’t usually extend my gaze upwards at the banister, which is where my 5 year old likes to lean over to watch tv while he eats. And, um, use the banister as a tissue. . Sigh. It’s these little discoveries that drive me nuts. For a moment, I stop to daydream about what life would be like if the kids would pick up their toys, put their dirty clothes in the hamper, wash their hands every time they were dirty, and empty the sand from their shoes in the trashcan, instead of on the floor. And then I remember that these kids of mine are so much fun precisely because they don’t do all these things. How would someone who is concerned with cleaning up after himself be capable of attempting a go-cart out of a coca-cola wall tin and a tennis ball hopper? Is the kid who keeps the sand out of the house the same one that dresses up like Zorro for 3 months straight? I doubt it. . So with resigned acceptance, I get out the magic eraser and head over to the banister. But not without first dragging M over to show him what our house looks like with dirty hands all over it. He gazes at it with his big brown eyes and solemnly promises to do his best to wash his hands next time…with soap.

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