|Now, To Commence with Freaking Out, Part 1
||[Jul. 18th, 2013|09:54 am]
So, my parents are finally coming into town. It’s been nearly five years since they were last down and the last time was really just a drive-by, in town for a reunion and just stopping by for a couple of hours before they got back on the road.
I am freaking out.
I have two reasons, let’s talk about the first: I grew up in a near spotless house. Despite chickens and horses and dogs and cats, ferrets and gerbils and hamsters, snakes, tarantulas, and toads, our house was always clean. Everything was always put away where it should be….with the exception of my room, my brother’s room and my father’s desk. Because genes will out. When she went back to work full time, I suppose you might say standards slipped a bit, but really only in comparison to what it was before – she might not have vacuumed every single day. Still neater, cleaner than almost all of my friends’ homes. I’ve spent my whole life trying to live up to that and failing miserably.
I’ve come to terms that it’s not a moral failing on my part. I grew up in a house maintained by someone who was on one side of the bell curve, married to someone on the other side of the bell curve and, as women in my family are known for, refused to let that other side of the bell curve drag her over to looser standards. There is no question that I inherited the sloppy side of the bell curve genes. I want my house to be clean. I really, really do. I want to put things away properly and right away. But it is, and will always be, an aspirational behavior for me. It’s always work and will likely never come naturally to me. Yet I also can't let go of the desire, which is sometimes so intense that it makes me want to pull out my own fur.
Oh, I’ve managed to get the kitchen thing down – but that’s more a professional, it must be clean for safety and it must be clean in order to perform in it kind of a thing. Ditto the bathroom. (Er, safety, health, not performance on the bathroom. Any bathroom performance is entirely unintentional and can be explained by wet feet hitting that spot of bath oil I failed to clean up right away.)
Clearly there’s no compelling reason at my current job to have a clean, neat area, because other than the file holders for my current book of work, almost every surface is covered in near chaos – samples, catalogs, micrometers, office supplies, four pairs of reading glasses, everything strewn about. It's tiny, so wherever I've put the stapler now, it's just a slow spin around in my chair to get it again. People who say that a tiny space is easier to keep clean are full of expletive, for the record. I periodically clean it up, but then it’s just a slow boat to entropy.
I’ve learned tricks and tips – removing barriers to cleaning like having duplicates of all cleaning items up and downstairs, so that having to go downstairs for paper towels or carpet cleaner never trips me up. I’ve reached an solid understanding of certain principles, which is that if you reorganize a closet, drawer, bookshelf, whatever, you must leave it with free space or you’re doomed. Reorganize it neatly, but leave it full? The very first time you have a new thing that should go there….you don’t have room and you don’t have time to reorganize, so you put it where it doesn’t belong and THAT, my friends, is the beginning of the end.
(Please note that I understand, EMBRACE, this principle, but am still struggling to make it a reality. Because of course, in order to make room, you have to get rid of stuff, and while that’s ongoing, it’s nearly Sisyphean in my house. My father was smart and hooked up with the opposite side of the bell curve. I'm an idiot and though they had many other fine qualities, in terms of neat, clean, put away? My partners have always been freaking ANCHORS on the chaotic, can't throw anything away, STUFF side of the neatness curve.)
But I will never meet my own aspirational standards and I will certainly not meet my mother’s. And she will judge. As we do. But she loves me and she will try very, very hard not to say anything…but she’s just not strong enough to resist the family heritage. And that will scrape open a wound…hell, it’s not so much a wound anymore as a gnarled arthritic joint that you whack against a corner as you pass by the coffee table, sending a bolt of excruciating and lingering pain.
No, but seriously, I will make myself nuts trying to avoid the moment for the next week, week and a half, and then I will reach a saturation point of bugnutty anxiety, throw up my hands and say/believe “hey, it IS what it IS, let’s face it, I’m not going to get it to where I want it to be, so I’m just throwing in the towel and dealing with the consequences.”
I realize that I could do that right now, yes, thank you very much. Oh, look at YOU, healthy, balanced sane person! Aren’t YOU all well-adjusted? Look, I don’t have time to run through all of the fake expletives for you, but seriously, before you even twitch in the direction of telling me what to do here, just remember, that in addition to judging, my people are also elephantine in our ability to remember and then later punish. You’ll have a twitch of the irrational five years from now and I’m going to come down on you like that locomotive came down on Jumbo (go ahead, your search terms are Jumbo, Barnum, locomotive, elephant) except I’ll leave you feeling like you maybe should be considering Inpatient. Instead of a pile of big giant dead elephant. Although it may feel like that too. I dunno. That's future, and I have no idea what kind of mood I'm in. Although if a single one of you offers me advice, hints or tips right now, consider yourself my next Fiji Mermaid.
And maybe right now you’re nervously tucking that dust bunny underneath the couch and worrying about the last time I was at your house. I mean, after all this “judging” talk and all. I won’t lie. I totally noticed. To the extent that someone my age can, who needs reading glasses and really needs to get distance glasses, but on the other hand, not being able to see in fine detail also means my house looks cleaner. But do you know what I thought when I saw your dust, or cobwebs, or Q-tip that missed the bathroom trash can, or spot of sauce on your stove? Oh, thank goodness, here’s someone I can relax with and can have over for dinner without Herculean cleaning efforts, and don’t have to anxiety-vomit at the thought of them just stopping by without advance notice and frantic neatening/cleaning. Although I’m probably not going to bring my mother to your house, because I love you, and no one needs that.
Anyway. Part of me is looking forward to that moment of “aw, expletive it, that’s enough” but most of me is just laser-focused on “let’s get this expletive DONE.” Well, the part of me that isn’t, “Oh, go out for dinner? Squirrel! Sure, that would be fun, I can clean later.” Because there's always later.
Here's why you don't need to give me any tip/trick to having a clean, neat house: the only way I can really make a leap forward in getting it together? Invite company over. Done.