The ying and yang of a clean house

About once every other week I go on a cleaning spree in my house. It is not that my house is necessarily dirty, it's just that it gets cluttered: with mail, with my children's belongings, with papers and notes and reminders, with work and photos, with things to do now and things to get to later, it all reaches a critical mass that sets me on a tear. And it's not that I'm a neat-freak, not really by any stretch of the imagination, but I do like order. "A place for everything and everything in its place" could be my motto. If only I could follow it. If only I could get my kids to do the same.

Whenever my grandmother would lose something (say, for instance, her car keys) she would yell out to her apartment, "Talk to me car keys!!" and she would stop, and think and walk to the kitchen table, and look under the newspapers, and there would be the car keys. Did they actually talk to her? I don't think so, but sometimes, I think, by laughing a little and yelling out her frustration, she would get a moment of clarity about just where the damn car keys were hiding. I yell out sometimes too.... "Talk to me cell phone!" "Talk to me wallet!", "Talk to me gloves!" but mostly my yelling is just frustration and usually I have to hunt and search at least 10 minutes more, but always the yelling brings me back to my grandmother and that gives me some comfort.

And I think it's the comfort that I search for when I'm cleaning my house. It's making order of the clutter that gives me peace. It's taking the time to move objects and clean beneath them, the smell of Pine Sol and Murphy's Oil Soap. The feeling of crisp order and clean surfaces, the feeling that I can sit back and know that everything is where it belongs, that the surfaces are shining, that the house is put back together, it's just at that time that I feel most calm and rested. Because there is nothing to do but enjoy. There is nothing to find that is lost. All is together and all smells fresh and all is right with the world.... at least for a few moments.

But then the clutter creeps back in. My daughters rush in from school and drop their coats and drop their books and drop their bags in a rush to go play, in a rush to come home, in a rush to find their peace. It's the clutter and the disorder that makes them feel most at home and I cherish that as well. Having once lived in a house where nothing could be out of place, I understand and embrace that children are messy and sometimes it's the mess that makes a home most warm. So I remind myself that my children's disorder and my own disorder that follows a full work day is not wrong or unwanted. It's a sign that this house is a home, that those who live here are free, that the mess we bring inside is just a reminder of the comfort we feel. And so I let it go on... until I can't stand it one minute more... and the cycle begins again.

This is the life.


  1. Ha! Allison, I am the same way. I can look at those piles for about five days and then I have to shift them around. I too do a thorough cleaning every two weeks. It does make the world seem right, if only for a while.

  2. I agree! I used to be such an organized person....I'm not quite sure when or how that ended...but it did. I think it was when I started writing. Nothing else mattered as much...BUT, I am definitely in a cleaning-up-mood now that Christmas is over. Hopefully, the mood..and the will power....will see me through! :)


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