I always liked things neat, clean and tidy. I just never liked what I had to do to keep things that way. I admire people who really like to do great housework. I wish one lived at my house.
My mother took her job as homemaker very seriously, and she was really good at it. I’m sure that even as a child I was a definite thorn in her side. I remember the last time she first suggested, and finally ordered me to put my room in order.
I politely explained to her my room was in order and it was clean. It just was not neat and tidy. She told me it would be impossible to find anything in there. I suggested she name any object, and I would hand it to her immediately. She did, and I did. So she gave up and let me live in my mess as long as I kept the door shut.
She probably felt sorry for Bill when we got married, but I became a good housewife. In our first apartment I scrubbed the kitchen floor just because it was Friday, and not because it actually needed to be scrubbed.
Even after the first few babies I managed to keep the housework up by sticking to a grueling schedule. I think it was around the fifth baby when I realized I was doing a heck of a lot of work with very little appreciation. Not only that, but I was constantly doing the same work over and over, forever going in circles.
By the time I got one room cleaned, the one I cleaned before needed it again. I found a sign which proclaimed, “My house is clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy!” I bought it and hung it high where it could be seen by anyone entering the door.
My mother sighed when she saw it, but was content with the idea I was a good mother and my children were more important to me than the house.
I decided anyone discomfited by a messy house didn’t need to come to our house. But just in case they did, I left the vacuum cleaner in an obvious place so when the clean freaks came I could grab it as I answered the door and claim I was just ready to start cleaning, but I’d much rather sit and talk with them for a while. It’s interesting to note none of them ever offered to help me with the housework as we chatted. But then, they probably had no idea where to start on such an overwhelming task.
By the time I went back to teaching full time, I had better control over the housework, probably because the kids were older and better helpers. My kids, of course, thought the order in the house was due to the slave labor they provided.
One method I used to enlist their aid was first to order them to put all their stuff away and straighten up the room. They would just go on going on. So I would grab the broom and sweep everything up in a pile in the middle of the room.
By then I’d have their attention. I would order, “Pick up this room!”
One time when I did this, the four oldest children each ran to one corner of the rug (which was before wall-to-wall carpet) and began to tug and groan as if they were really trying to pick up the whole room. This was definitely one of their best attempts to avoid housework. We all had a good laugh, and then they picked up the room.
Several times as our live-in family diminished we even hired a weekly cleaning lady, but we decided it was more of a hassle to clean up the clutter so she could clean the house than it was to just do the house ourselves.
Now things are easier, probably because there are only two of us here to mess up the house. But I still don’t like to do housework.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate May 1, 2002.