I had a great conversation with a friend the other day about all the different ways we procrastinate before diving into housework (ironic, eh?). I wistfully thought aloud about how amazing it would be to have someone come in and take care of my Arch-Nemesis of Daily Tasks: the dishes.
"Well," she said, "I've worked for people before who have someone come in and clean once a week...but they clean up beforehand."
"Yeah! They would ask me on those days to empty and load the dishwasher and clean off the counters, otherwise she wouldn't fully clean the kitchen."
I am still reeling over this tidbit of information. What the hell is the point of paying someone to clean when you are going to clean so they will have a clean enough area to perform their daily or weekly cleaning?! I can only imagine the contract. "I hereby authorize Mary Poppins to come in and sing a song, snap her fingers, and give off the appearance that she has tidied up the nursery, when really I will take care of everything no less than one hour before her arrival."
But, truthfully, the more I think about it, the more I realize that I would do the exact. same. thing. Honestly, I don't even think I would hire someone to come in and clean. Even now, while I'm looking in at my kitchen with a pile of dishes resting in the sink and the baby's bottles hanging out on the sidelines just waiting to be washed, I know I would never ask someone to come in and straighten up for a small fee.
Side story: When I was a high school student, I had a small group of friends that I hung out with on darn near a daily basis. Since I was almost always over my friends' homes, their parents became another set of parental figures for me. Now, please note - this was "back in the day" where my friends' parents had no hesitation in telling me to stop acting like a teenage asshole if I was getting out of line. They asked me to help with dinner prep and clean-up, take care of some yard work, and so on (as did my parents when my friends came over).
These people also served as a much-needed set of mentors for me. Let's face it: even for me (the disgustingly well-behaved honor roll student whose idea of rebellion was to stay out an hour past drama rehearsal), getting along with my parents wasn't in the cards for a few years. So, to have a couple of other people on the sidelines who would guide me in any way, shape or form - even if it was the same, exact guidance that my own parents would have given me - was so incredibly helpful in forming the young, working mom that I am today.
One of these parents had a "moment" with me and my friends when we left an unnecessary mess in the living room and didn't even think to pick up before we ran out the door for the remainder of the afternoon. After we were told off when we got back, we all quickly picked up and put everything back in its proper place. Me, being the goody-goody that I referenced earlier, went up to the mom and apologized profusely. She smiled sweetly and said "It's fine, but you guys just have to learn that a home is a reflection of the woman's heart."
I've never forgotten that. Truthfully, as I get older, that saying imprints itself more and more on the forefront of my brain.
There was a time in my life where I felt so insecure about who I was that I would go on massive cleaning sprees, dusting and Swiffer-ing every square inch of my home. I would work at 5 AM, go to class until 10:30 PM, and come home and clean for another hour before collapsing into bed. I didn't do it because I'm only comfortable in a clean home. I did it only because I was terrified that someone would pop in and it would look like I actually cooked in my kitchen, ate at my table, and studied on my couch.
Then, there was a period of time where I couldn't care less about my home. "Exhaustion" doesn't even come close to explaining what I felt during that portion of my life. I was perpetually giving to my work, my studies, my family, my significant other...but I wasn't giving myself any time to decompress and just be. So, my house reflected that. Tumbleweeds of cat hair drifted down the hallways, our downstairs area was littered with paperwork from my four college courses, and I don't even want to get into what our bathroom looked like.
I've had moments where I swing the pendulum back and forth between these two extremes. I will get into a rut where all I want to do is sit on the couch and zone out. Thankfully, my husband helps out around the house quite a bit, so we don't "self destruct," but the reality is it takes two to manage the daily tasks. So, we'll live out of laundry baskets and just barely manage to do the dishes. Then, something will light a fire under my hindquarters and I will realize that I would be ashamed for anyone to see my home in that kind of a state, so I'll clean with an unhindered frenzy until I break a sweat.
I've learned now, though, that I'm comfortable in clutter and a little bit of chaos.
I want books to be littered across my tables. Not because I'm too lazy to pick them up, but because I love reading with every ounce of my being, and I want my daughter to learn how to become engrossed in a book as soon as humanly possible.
I want toys to be scattered around the living room throughout the day. My daughter is too active and engaged for me to constantly be putting stuff away! I have no desire to raise her in a museum.
Sure, I'll dust and vacuum once a week, the bathrooms will get wiped down over the weekend, and I'll keep the laundry baskets tucked away until the minute I plan on folding anything, because I still do harbor that typical fear of someone walking in and seeing my home for all it usually is. But, the fact of the matter is: my home is imperfect and lived-in, but it's well-loved and comfortable.
If the home is a reflection of the woman's heart...why in the world would I want my home to be anything other than this?