Not Cleaning

Dear Friend;

I would be happy if your house was messy. Clothes drying in the living room. Coffee cups, unopened mail and stacks of books falling over. Dog hair poking out from behind the couch.

I would smile at the faint smell of pee in the bathroom. Knowing for sure that you had been digging dirt, or paddling waves, songs flowing from your uninterrupted thoughts. Riding your bike to the market to buy fresh raspberries. Laughing on the phone with your sister.

Something you wanted to do alone that took all day.

I would love to know you had just eaten bacon and gourmet ice cream. Openly, with glee. Having forever banished the word lazy from your vocabulary.

We would remember the pact we made when the kids were small that we wouldn’t clean up for each other’s visits at all. How I secretly cleaned, just the toilet, a quick tidy. Husband and children shaking their heads, they don’t understand. It’s women who get judged, not them.

Remembering the mom who stayed for play dates and played. Little Pony voices, Polly Pockets. Can’t we just drink wine outside? Is she really suggesting hide and seek? In the house? Throughout the house! Humiliation, finding her crouched in the basement, behind the cat litter, cobwebs and piles of baby clothes.

No fresh baked banana bread makes up for that.

More shame sliding off each time we tell it, laugh, exaggerate it, give love to it.

I would tell you about my marvelous mother in law who stopped me from scrubbing the black roasting pan. “Oh who has time for that? Let’s pick cherries instead.”

My grandmother, checking herself into the psych ward to get a break.

Old now, we would wonder why we cared so much. We would sigh at the hours added up. Leaning into each other’s smell and mess as we tell our daughters this,

“Please don’t clean up for us”.

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12 thoughts on “Not Cleaning

  1. Holly

    Hi Karen,
    How nice to read a poem you’ve written – good to be reminded of the importance of being present for the moments that matter & being clear about what that is. I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts! Holly

    1. Kim

      Thanks Karen for another touching and insightful look at how we look at and judge ourselves. I am always relieved when I spend time with a friend that didn’t tidy before we arrived for our play date. Of course this is coming from me, who has two cats, that can never seem to find the litter box, but they can always find that corner in behind the woodstove; and a dog that can hit the ceiling fan with drool rom one shake of his head. Lets not forget the kid, husband plus my own droppings that trail from the front door through the livingroom past the kitchen into the bathroom and all the way up the stairs to the bedrooms. Ah life….

  2. Sarah

    What a lovely reflection. It took my grandma a good 60 years to realize the time she wasted cleaning. Now go have some bacon and icecream 🙂

  3. Nila

    I am going to stop worrying about whether the apartment smells of bacon, or curry, fish, garlic……..etc. I love your blogs! Keep them coming.

  4. Sista Sandy

    This is awesome!!
    I clean .. Used to be auntie Javex remember? Haha! I’m more relaxed now, but will still check the toilet seat for josh and Lou’s sprinkles…clean the gobs of toxic toothpaste out of the sink and yummy left over dinner that has been flung with the floss onto my mirror. .. I MUST Vacuum the bathroom floor .. Those aren’t really pubs, it’s the hairy Italian beast I live with that rips half the hair out of his back (yes back) as he towel dries, but a visitor will think it is a pubic hair rescue I am running in the bathroom. (It’s Disney over here 🙂 beauty and the beast, haha!!) Oh, while I have the vacuum running, I might as well vacuum the main floor, oh look at the stairs, what’s another 5 minutes of vacuuming. Then I will spot clean this and that and when you walk in the door I’ll say oh my gosh, excuse the mess! I’ve been so busy I haven’t had any time to clean … Hahahaha! Us women are hilarious! Why can’t we give ourselves permission to blame the men and pets for the dust, items out of place and the lack of dusting? Seriously speaking, we take pride in our homes, want it to be homey and welcoming for those that come to visit. Personally for me, when my home is tidy, I feel relaxed. Also with it tidy, as weird as it is, I can sit and enjoy my tea with a friend, (wish it was my sister as well) have some much needed laughs and enjoy the company I am with, not worrying about her walking past the couch to fast and stirring up the fur-family living under there.

    Cheers to all us fabulous women!!

    1. We are fabulous and complex! Of course, we grew up in a culture that judges us constantly and then tells us to relax. I’m looking forward to a messy tea with you one day! You are hilarious by the way – gotta start a blog yourself I think:)

  5. Mel

    This is so lovely. I relate to this in the sense that I ALWAYS feel the push to race around and wear myself thin to clean and prep for company. As if the image of the clean/organized perfection of my home represents me. I guess thats how we feel… It provides a sense of control and the image of a caring homemaker, a provider of comfort and safety. Seems stupid and silly and competitive. I wish it was ‘Sure, come over when you’re ready, I’ll be sipping Sangria out back with the sun in my hair.’ Haha and why shouldn’t it be? Who should decide when/how I’ve earned the time for peace of mind? Excited I found your blog, it’s great 🙂

    1. Thanks Mel and thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. It’s really hard to shake those social messages we grew up with. I struggle because on the one hand I love things tidy and organized but then I don’t want mess to stop me from having friends over and connecting with people. I’m trying to be ok with things as they are and accept that mess is part of life!

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