Enough Said

Enough Said
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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Time with family trumps cleaning

Time with family trumps cleaning

Published 08/22/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 08/19/2013 04:21 PM

Years ago I remember driving home from my grandmother's house in New Jersey and listening to a discussion between my mom and dad about how Nana wasn't keeping her house as pristine as she used to.
Back and forth they went about her diminishing cleaning habits, until they finally came to the consensus that she either needed new glasses or she was just too old to care about maintaining a spotless home. She was 10 years younger than I am now.
I don't think age or eyesight had anything to do with her new lived-in look, it was about finally letting go of preconceived female obligation.
To me a sink full of dishes is not that important unless you run out of something to place your food on; isn't that what paper plates are for? I'd rather play gin rummy with my daughter than vacuum, and go for a ride with my husband instead of scrubbing the microwave.
When our daughters were little if they wanted to read a book, play a board game or share time with me, the dishes sat, the laundry piled up and dog hair tumbleweeds gathered in the corner. Spending time with family trumped cleaning for two reasons: I was a perfect mother and I didn't care if I had to vault over the pile of shoes in the front hall as long as I could open the door.
When our oldest was a toddler she woke up one night upset because she believed monsters could get in through her bedroom window. Explaining that no one was coming in her window because it was on the second floor did not allay her fears. So I told her I had sprinkled special fairy dust on the window sills which would keep the monsters out.
"Oh no you deh-ent," she said in that way little kids speak when they think you are lying to them.
"Oh yes, I did." She ran her hand along the sill, palm coated in dust, she smiled.
"It's everywhere," I whispered. She went back to bed.
The next day she checked every window sill and never feared monsters again.
There were times when the detritus of everyday life became so overwhelming I would rant and rave and play drill-sergeant until the house shone. Those moments were a direct result of hormone levels which at my current age no longer drive the need to elicit control.
With our empty nest temporarily very full I am amazed how relaxed I am with the exercise bike and camping gear in the upstairs hallway. That our spare bedroom/office is stacked with my daughter's still boxed wedding gifts does not faze me. Living with stuff out of place is about as upsetting to me as raking leaves - if they don't kill the lawn I'm fine with them.
I did recently replace my 10-year-old mop. It was one of those attach-a-cleaning pad and spray models. It didn't wear out, the cleaning solution was discontinued ... three years ago.
It's not like we live knee-deep in a hoarder's paradise, it's just that cleaning has always been low on my life-list along with sky diving, motorcycles and lima beans. A spotless home isn't lived in, messy homes are an anthem to activity.
When our daughters were away at college, graduated and living elsewhere, our house stayed clean. Was it nice? Yes. Was it quiet? Yes. But it was way too quiet - I'll have eternity for quiet. Now I opt for camping gear, dog hair and a pile of shoes in the hall, which though formidable, still allows me to open the door.
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  1. Wishing I had learned this earlier in life when the kids were small.

    1. There's a lesson here. Both of my daughters always have a sink full of dishes and piles of laundry...but they are active and sooooo happy.