This is the fourth installment in a series on the mildly disturbing and deeply compelling subject of Home Management – how we’re all doing it (shoddily or adroitly) and why it should spread your mustard as much as it does mine.
For Part 1 of the series, click here.
For Part 2 of the series, click here.
For Part 3 of the series, click here.
So far, we’ve looked at what Home Management is, and why it’s something we’re all doing – whether skillfully or woefully.
We’ve considered ways of bringing Home Management into our own lives – to tailor a seemingly complex beast into a useful tool for making life better instead of a bigger pain in the ass.
And we’ve explored a few options for systems to make Home Management more of a vague reality, rather than a pipe dream haunted by the Spirit of Martha Stewart.
Myself? I needed to go through this whole journey to figure out how to tame the mythical beast of HOUSECLEANING in my mind. I know. Believe it.
Cleaning my home was something I’d do maybe once a month, right about the point I’d have to start brushing Floor Goodies off my feet at night before crawling into bed. I’d attack it with a vengeance (after mustering the energy and motivation to feel vengeful about it) – scouring the kitchen floor on hands and knees, getting all up in the miniblinds with a Q-Tip, hunching along scouring my baseboards, scuzzy rags flying in my wake.
And it was exhausting. Which meant I never wanted to do it. Because it took the determination and focus of a college sophomore on Adderall to cut through the first layers of built-up yuck. And then I could not stop. There was no piece of furniture left unmoved, no figurine unpolished, no couch cushion unturned. I was a cleaning maniac. For eight straight hours. After which, I’d collapse on the couch for the next 30 days, unable to bring myself to participate in the madness again until the Floor Goodies would drive me to the brink.
I noticed that the only times I would revisit cleaning my house before the Floor Goodies stage was when someone was scheduled to come over to my house. And by scheduled, I do mean a mutually agreed-upon date for visiting penciled-in and circled on the calendar, with confirmation prior to arrival, and alarms set on my phone so I know when to turn off Real Housewives and arrange a dish towel casually over my shoulder for the front door greeting. Anyway, I noticed whenever these cleanings would happen back-to-back, the second one was stupid easy. I know this seems like the most bloody obvious thing in the goddamn world. But I have some sort of psychological block with this shit. Bear with me.
In September of 2014, my husband and I looked up from over a year of some intense Parenting Life, noted the truly haggard state of each others’ faces and overall spirits, and decided that we needed to intentionally build community around us. We chose the open invitation dinner model described here to do just that. We would host on Sunday, call it Sunday Dinner, and dedicate every single Sunday to breaking bread with whomever had the time and inclination to come over. That way, there’d be an agreed-upon date for visiting penciled-in and circled on the calendar, and I’d just naturally have the dish towel over my shoulder. Because I’d be using one. To, like, wipe my hands on. While cooking, or whatever.
We invited everyone we knew to join us at the table, get reacquainted after years of child-induced seclusion, nosh on spaghetti with a killer meat sauce, get half-mauled by my asshole dog, and read a board book to a footie-jammied baby or two. I did a Facebook blast to announce our plan, and in it I made an off-hand comment about how perhaps the threat of people entering my home on the reg would force me to dust more frequently.
As it so happens, someone might just know herself.
My house stayed gloriously company-ready for 12 solid weeks. My stove stayed white. Dust bunnies were evicted from beneath the living room furniture. My baseboards stopped mocking me. My rugs were vacuumed and free of unholy amounts of dog fur and assorted rubbish. Our porch looked almost inviting. I got rubber-gloves-deep with my toilet bowl. And all of this without breaking a real sweat. I was maintaining my home. I was starting to feel like a full-fledged grown up with standards and eyeballs in my head that actually registered dirt and disarray. I very nearly didn’t recognize myself anymore.
Then in January 2015, Sunday dinners were put on hiatus while my husband began what would be more than 3 months of 70+-hour work weeks in his new start up. Orchestrating the dinners was an impossibility without Mr. Dude around to help wrangle babies and contend with yard work. And, in all honesty, I was in a bummed-out place. I have a very unhealthy habit of hermiting up in my house when I feel shitty, instead of making the infinitely healthier choice of reaching out to people for support. So Sunday Dinners were on pause, I felt like ass, and my house started its predictable downward spiral. If a dust bunny lives under a couch, and no one visits my house to see it, does it get vacuumed? No. No it doesn’t. I feel a hell of a lot better these days but, sans Sunday Dinners, my home has returned to being more or less a shit-hole.
So this is how I discovered my secret weapon for keeping my domestic shit together. As it so happens, I must suffer the threat of harsh and unrelenting judgement from people whose opinion I care about to keep my housekeeping in check. I simply won’t do it for myself. I won’t even do it so my kids have a decent place to thoroughly and methodically destroy. I need scheduled cleaning inspections* in the form of Sunday Dinners to force me to stop being a barnyard-raised adolescent and clean my damn room(s).
Those 12 weeks of Sunday Dinners were magical. My house was sparkling, my self-esteem was getting all skip-hoppy, my fridge was packed with leftovers. I was getting caught up with people I cared about, and there were more encounters on the horizon to look forward to. A weekly social gathering is a seriously impactful and awesome thing. Even for a closet introvert like me. Practice was truly bringing me closer to perfection, as I worked the kinks out of my recipe, and began to master the preparation schedule. I cannot recommend weekly dinners enough. And I can’t wait for their return to my life. Soon… very soon.
In the interim, I’ll rest easy in my currently dusty domicile, knowing not only that I’ve discovered my secret weapon, but that it possesses benefits far beyond just a shiny house. We all go through phases of relative dysfunction, where nothing seems to be on track and life keeps weaving over to the more unpleasant side of reality. Living through various phases of life has taught me that weathering these gloomier times frequently means forgiving myself for not meeting my own standards and being patient enough to sit in peace while I wait for my more functional side to arrive and get the Sunday Dinners started again. Because she always does.
Thanks for following along with this series to the bitter end. Next, I plan on poking around the world of automotive maintenance. What’s up with cars? There’s an engine thingy and wheels on it, yes, but how do they work and why does it matter if we are familiar with them? And what do you do if you really don’t give a crap about any of this stuff, but you still live in Southern California where open season on pedestrians and bicyclists is all the seasons, and public transportation equates to waking up 2 hours earlier than necessary in the morning and punching yourself in the crotch repeatedly to get to work? Let’s explore all these things, together. Until then, drop me a comment below and let me know your thoughts.
*Look, these “cleaning inspections” are in my mind, okay? If you come over for Sunday Dinner, I promise you’ll be eating yourself uncomfortable, getting head-butted in the groin by a toddler, and drinking high-calorie beer; not white-gloving my knick-knacks. If you know what I mean.