Have you ever been to one of those homes that are so clean and tidy, that when you enter, for a second you feel like you have died and gone to heaven? Then as you start to process the extent of orderliness, your overwhelmed brain starts to wonder if you have died and gone to hell. That this might be a special way in hell to torture you by reminding you of the gaping shortcomings in your housekeeping abilities.
This kind of home seems so perfect that you are afraid to sit on the couch. You sit on that couch anyway, gingerly placing your behind on that spotless and wrinkle-free fabric. You make small talk with the host, but are actually taking in the room and its well ordered contents. Everything seems to have a place, a well-curated spot. The cushions on the couches have all been positioned exactly at the same angle- little rhombuses just waiting to provide that perfect lumbar support to guests. The magazines are placed just so on the side table, the newspaper on another. It’s today’s newspaper too, not yesterday’s or from the day before. Those have probably been carefully picked up and carefully placed in their carefully thought out storage place. The flowers in the vase are in perfect bloom, not a petal loose, not a leaf dry. All the remotes sit on the left hand corner of the TV console- lined up, parallel, and exactly a finger width away from each other. The keys are neatly hung on pegs behind the door. The pictures and curios are all spotless, no frame chipped, no trace of dust.
You remind yourself that you had dropped by only on a five minute notice- they could not possibly have had the time to clean up. Maybe today was their cleaning day. Or better still, maybe they had picked up all the stuff and thrown it into one of the bedrooms in those five minutes. Your brain is thrilled at this vicarious thought. You want to dwell in this fantasy. You want to jump onto your feet, and conduct a surprise survey of the entire house- which one is the dump bedroom, which one is the dump closet? Or are things hidden behind drawn curtains?
Your thoughts are interrupted by the host offering water, tea and biscuits. These have arrived in the most orderly fashion on a tray. You thank the host. You eat quietly, willing yourself to chew as softly as possible, so as not to disturb this pristine environment of organizational genius. While you eat, the host delicately sets two coasters on the center table, one for your water glass, one for your teacup.
Suddenly, your eye catches something under the chair across the couch you are sitting on. You almost choke on your biscuit. Could it be? You may have found it- that one speck of dirt that would redeem the host’s human status! You pretend to scratch your toe, so you can get a closer look. Ahh…you can almost feel it…the sigh of relief you are going to breathe. But…dammit!! It’s just light…reflecting off what probably is a super scrubbed tile floor.
Teeth gritting, you think of your pre-dog, pre-kid, pre-husband days. How you were clean and organized once. How you may have judged people that were not. And how you evolved on the issue much like Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. Anything to stay afloat, right? The host however also has kids and a husband. More teeth gritting as you thank the host for a wonderful meeting and leave.
As you drive back, you think of your own home on its cleanest day. The picture frames still hang crooked, that lump of dog hair swirls somewhere in the corner, and that Lego piece is wedged inconspicuously between the couch cushions waiting to poke guests in highly inconvenient places.
You grin at the thought of the Lego piece, at the fact that it has been there for two weeks now. That everyone in your family actually knows about it, and instead of picking it up, just does a good job of avoiding it while using the couch.
Yes, that’s your home in all its disheveled glory. But your collective family conscience has a different way of looking at it. You are, and proudly so, messy enough to be fun, clean enough to be healthy.