Don’t get me wrong. I love a clean house. Empty, crumb-free floors; the vague scent of lavender in the air, and the special way my feet make squeaking sounds on the ground as I walk. It’s not sticky, there aren’t socks under the kitchen table, and everything is put away.
It’s the stuff of dreams, people.
But, when my husband comes home to a clean house, he’s suspicious and immediately asks what’s wrong. Because, my dear readers, when the house is clean, I’m miserable.
I pride myself on the fact that, when I don’t have a job or task to do, I’m a pretty good housewife. I organise the bills, have all the receipts for tax deductibles neatly filed, do the groceries regularly, and ensure that the bathroom is well-stocked with TP. The house is spick and span from top to bottom, and I hate it.
I mean, I’m in it all day, and the only thing I have to show for my existence is the absence of other things.
This is why I’m doing my PhD, and why I could never be happy without something to do. Write a book, a paper, or a thesis. Anything.
This could be me, but I’d rather stay off antidepressants and booze.
When the house is clean, it’s because I have nothing better to do than scrub the floor, or vacuum the carpet. When the house is messy I’m somewhat proud, because it means I was so busy doing other things I didn’t have time to wipe down the table or neatly hang the apron up. Sure, I don’t yet have kids to blame this mess on, but I assure you when they do arrive, they will become my scapegoat for every housekeeping misgiving I have.
Sure, they’ll eventually learn that they’re not actually untidy, mama just likes saying that they are so people stop asking ‘why do you have a year’s worth of medical magazines sprawled over a broken chair?‘ and ‘what are you keeping that wrapping paper for? You opened the gift that it was wrapped around over a year ago!’.
(The magazines are on the broken chair so nobody sits on that broken chair until I can throw it out on Kerbside collection in 2 months’ time; the wrapping paper is really pretty and it seems a shame to throw it away)
Now, before you accuse me of being a total slob; I draw the line at hygiene. The house may be messy, yes, but not dirty. Food crumbs are vacuumed semi-regularly, spills are immediately attended to, and all food preparation surfaces are meticulously wiped down and sanitised. I refuse to give anyone food poisoning because of careless food handling, and stepping on an errant M&M is not on my to-do list.
But having a house that’s showroom-ready – to me – scrubs it of it’s ‘home’ factor. You can’t live in a showroom. If your house is too perfect, I’ll wonder if you actually live there instead of just inviting me to an empty display home to save me from the REAL horrors of your existence. My in-laws are awful at interior design, and sprinkle their lovely house plants and artworks with peeling paint, water stains from a ceiling leak 5 years ago, and a garden that’s thriving amidst borderline neglect of the bricks used as makeshift pavement. Thing is – I love that. I love that the yard could use a proper do-over, and that there are bees EVERYWHERE. I love that stray cats make sun-nests in overgrown patches of weeds, and that every artwork in the house was bought with spare change from a community market ‘because it looks nice’. I love the lack of consistency, the too-many-boxes-of-junk in the upper rooms, and the feeling that if I dropped a whole bag of popcorn on the living room floor, I’d get laughs instead of a scolding.
Because that home is lived in, and my in-laws know that sometimes…popcorn happens.
I love a neat house, and sometimes sit in perfect living rooms wistfully imagining my life with a home pre-cleaned for me. Alas that is not the reality of my existence, and I continue on with life that is wonderfully imperfect. My clean recycling basket overflows because I’m really good at recycling and forget to take it all to the bin. I have house plants in every room, each perfectly situated to get the amount of sun they all need, and none of them intentionally put there for decoration. I have an orchid that’s awkwardly situated in its pot, shoes piled up next to the vacuum cleaner, and a poorly-organised dry food cupboard. I don’t own a spice rack, spices are just around; meat-spices near the stove, and sweet-spices next to the flour. I regularly find socks under the couch, and occasionally remember to dust the window ledges. And, if I’m feeling particularly tidy, I’ll even remember to sprinkle some carpet de-odouriser before I vacuum.
That’s the life that makes me happy. I’m still aghast if visitors pop over unannounced and see the way I live, because I expect them to be displeased with it, but I’d much rather show them a mess and tell them about my life’s work, than to have a perfect home and nothing to say.
Because when the house is messy, I’m fulfilled.