'The Neverending Story' Is A Mom Who Cleans, But Still Has A Messy House

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
My House Is A Wreck No Matter How Much I Clean It
Scary Mommy and Cavan Images/Getty

Welcome to the pandemic, where everything is a perpetual wreck.

Try following four people and three dogs around, one of whom is a chewy little puppy, and picking up after them. They play board games and drift away, leaving Sharkopoly in their wake. “Clean up your game!” I shout.

“We aren’t done playing!” they yell back.

Three days later, Sharkopoly properties, Great White and Mako and Dusky and Dogfish, are scattered through my guest bedroom and trampled, and along with teensy shark pieces and houses and hotels. I should’ve known better, but I’m a sucker because my kids were neither on their tablets.

The LEGOs have taken over the playroom and the living room by now. The younger boys have built this island/imaginary land/sacred temple called “Blubbie Island” that involves tiny pieces called “Blubbies” who have different, obscure functions not readily apparent to the naked eye. They will, however, be glad to enlighten you. Have you heard the Good News about Blubbies?

They will scream if you touch Blubbie Island.

Blubbie Island alone hogs half of my formal living room. But again, it’s LEGOs. They are building, learning and working cooperatively. So, I leave their Blubbie Island alone.

No Really, My House Is A Wreck

Sharkopoly and Blubbie Island aside, though, my house is generally a wreck. I simply can’t keep it clean. I try. I clean and clean and clean. My husband cleans and cleans and cleans. But we did something in March that showed both grand foresight and portended great messiness. We bought a goddamn above-ground pool. We knew we were home for the long haul, and we knew we wanted the kids to have a pool over the summer.

Bathing suits? F*ck bathing suits. My three boys think underwear counts as a bathing suit. And they will cajole any available adult (who is desperately relieved to be free of cleaning duties) to watch them while they splash. All day: in and out, in and out. Every time, they need new underwear. Every time, they need a new towel. Every time, that underwear and that towel hit the ground wherever they drop them and they stay there, no matter how much I yell and plead and beg and tear my hair. They can create a load of pool laundry in a day.

But first I have to find it.

And their room is destroyed, because we theoretically believe in something called Personal Responsibility but we never manage to enforce it because they scream. And during the pandemic, I have only so much tolerance for screaming. So we resort to five-minute clean-ups, which may:

  1. remove all the books from the floor
  2. remove all the stuffies from the floor
  3. remove all the clothes from the floor

You can’t have it all, my friends.

Then There Are The Dogs

Okay, I love all the dogs. But straight talk: They track mud all over the floor after cavorting through whatever water they can locate.

They–well not my dog, but one of our dogs–steals stuffies, eviscerates them, and leaves their innards around the house as a warning to others. She steals trash all of stripes and shreds it.

She throws all the pillows off the couches and burrows into them with glee. Then I have to wash the pillows.

She throws all the blankets off the couch and rolls in them. Then I have to wash all the blankets.

She tracks her muddy-ass paws all over my sheets, and then I have to wash my sheets, and my husband says I’m dog-prejudiced because she’s his darling baby. She is a walking, barking omen of disaster and havoc that makes my house a total wreck. But she is loved, so she’s here to stay.

My Bathroom Is A Wreck


Remember all those towels and underwear-bathing-suits? Where do you think they go? Oh, right. The bathroom floor, if I’m lucky. The bathroom: the room where three boys brush their teeth and leave toothpaste in the sink. The bathroom, the room where three boys pee and can’t manage to hit the pot. The bathroom, where no one but me ever throws out any empty shampoo bottles. The bathroom, where for some bizarre reason no one throws away the trash generated when you open a Band-Aid. The bathroom, where no one flushes. The bathroom, always a wreck.

My husband cleaned it this week. It smelled like Clorox and love and I nearly cried.

Then There’s The Wreck of the S.S. Laundry

Someone sing the first bars of the theme song from The Neverending Story. They generate two loads a day at least. As my husband has said, “Time that the dishwasher and the washer are not running is time that we’re wasting.” I almost cried, because 1) he understood, and 2) he was right. But clean isn’t the end. Clean means dumped on the guest bed. Clean means folding and sorting. Clean means putting away.

I put everyone’s clothes in drawers except my own, because I don’t have time for that shit. I have lived out of a wreck of clothes baskets since this pandemic began. I know that because sometimes I dig down to the very bottom and find sweaters. I live in the deep South and it is the middle of the summer.

Every Extra Chore Is Undone

Global pandemics are exhausting. I don’t have the energy to wipe down my cabinet faces or wash my windows or dust things no one touches. My friend told me she was getting new windows and doors, and I was astounded, and then remembered that she didn’t have kids, so she had time to clean the old ones so no one would judge her.

Fingerprints dot my TV. I should wipe down my computer screen. I should do that thing where you airblow in between your keys and all the gunk comes out. I lost the letter “o” and replaced it with the | key. I should buy another letter “o.” I should scrub the dog’s water tower out and actually recycle things and and and …

But pandemic.

But exhaustion.

But my house will never be clean.

It will always be a wreck, because five people and three dogs live here 24/7, no breaks. And who am I trying to impress, anyway? The goddamn terrier? Nobody is seeing it but us.

Whatever. It’s a wreck. It will always be a wreck. I clean and clean and it’s still a wreck somehow, somewhere. Today I give up. Today I give in. Let it go, let it go, says Elsa. Trample Sharkopoly. Hear the Good News about Blubbie Island. Strip your underwear at the back door. Drop your towel there, too. The shoes will always be lost and a stuffie will always be shredded. It’s a pandemic. I’m running myself ragged for nothing.

A wreck it shall be. And saner I’ll be for it.

This article was originally published on