I’ve lived with roommates, lived with just my husband, and now live with my husband and two small children. Over that time, one thing has remained constant: I am a shitty housekeeper.
We don’t live in filth, but my home is always just a little messy. I don’t have that OCD “drive to clean all the things all the time.” If I’m walking barefoot in my house and step on a crumb, I don’t immediately run for the broom. I want to live in a clean house that sparkles. I want to have people come over and say, “Your house is so clean! How do you do it?”
But here’s the thing. Even though I want a home that shines, I also have kids. And trying to keep a clean house when you have kids is absolute bullshit.
It is impossible to keep a home spic and span when you have small children. They are clean-destroying machines. They wake up in the morning with dirty hands. I don’t care if you bathed them and then they fell asleep while you put them in their pajamas. Once their eyes open, their pores ooze dirt and that dirt will be all over hell and gone by the time they sit down to breakfast. Everything they touch from Point A to Point B — walls, the toilet, the light switch — all of it will have dirty fingerprints all over it within minutes of them emerging from their room.
But I try, dammit. I try to keep a clean house. I keep wipes on the counter and I wipe it all down as soon as I can. I have a schedule for what needs to be clean on what day so that theoretically my house is never dirty. My kids don’t give a damn about my plans and charts and schedules, though. In fact, I think they’re on to me. They know that on Mondays I clean the bathroom, so you know what happens on Tuesday morning? Everybody has to poop several times! Sometimes they even have diarrhea! And then they take a bath. And then get the dirty water all over the mopped floor. They know. They know and they don’t like it.
Maybe your housemates don’t have weekly diarrhea bouts. Maybe they’re just food wanderers. You know, when your kid asks sweetly for an orange while you’re in the middle of doing something? Heaven forbid they ask when you don’t have your head in the washing machine. So you tell them yes, they can have an orange but they have to eat it at the table.
Hahaha! As if kids sit still while eating fruit.
Nope, they take a bite and then decide they have to wash their hands, thus getting the orange mess on the countertop. Then they take another bite and squirt orange juice all over the kitchen table and floor (because it’s Thursday and they know you just mopped last night before you went to bed). Then their siblings or the dog comes through and bam! Everyone is covered in sugar water, and outside you can even hear the ants calling in the troops because suddenly — even though I tried — the ants know dinner is at my house, on my floor.
Even in a utopia where there wasn’t a food or feces-related mess everywhere I looked, there would still be toys everywhere, like those classic wooden blocks that grandparents buy their toddler grandchildren. They’re great for learning motor skills, imagination play, and stepping on at 3 a.m. even though I tried to pick them all up. I always miss one, and the one I miss is inevitably the one that will attempt to embed itself in my foot.
I’ve never been a great housekeeper, but I’ve always tried. I’ve always made the attempt. But now with kids, it’s impossible. I’m done trying. I’ll clean the house when they move out. Until then, always wear shoes when you come over and just tell yourself the wet spot you sat in on the couch is water. It’s what I do.