My house isn’t clean by some standards. In fact, it’s pretty dirty by some standards.
- My windows are especially dirty because heights freak me out. But mostly because cleaning windows, especially really dirty ones, takes a really long time…longer than I feel like doing right now.
- My carpets are rarely vacuumed, let alone washed. Right now, I can see the faint 1 1/2 meter long line where B recently spilled his entire glass of RED wine in the living room. We ‘cleaned’ it with club soda right away, but it’s still kinda there. It blends in with all the other splots of wine and food because yep, I let everyone eat in the living room…often…so you can picture what my carpet looks like. And we have a dog…
- My kitchen table is constantly covered in things like Magic the Gathering cards, spilled salt, someone’s empty water bottle, nectarines in a paper bag, a cool sculpture my son made that reminds me of one of those little dippy bird thingys that people keep on their desks and coupons that I keep forgetting to take with me to the store.
- Books are piled in various places throughout the house, in different phases of being read. Some from the library, some purchased by B, some by me, some by her. There’s also singing bowls and tarot cards and candles and incense lying around without a ‘home’ because they are constantly moved from one place to another.
I know how to clean a house. In fact, I’m actually really good at it. My mother taught me well. I even recently cleaned her house – thoroughly – for her while she was away. I can do it. I used to do it all the time.
I have videos of the kids on a Saturday morning that has occasional glimpses of a woman in frumpy, over-sized clothes, without a shower, frantically cleaning everything in one day. She often ended up yelling at someone that day or she was full of resentment and the feeling of being alone in the struggle of perfection. And she never seemed to be able to get it perfect.
Worst of all, in those videos are moments she missed:
- The little boy playing a board game with his “evil” twin because no one had time to play. That grown man is too busy for a board game, even when she asks him to play and tries to bribe him to come over for his favorite food.
- The baby girl dancing in the living room to music only she can hear. She doesn’t even like her mama to see her practice at dance class, let alone find her dancing at home.
- The quiet little boy creating worlds only he knows the story of. She wishes she could write those stories down, but they’re gone now.
- The chance to curl up with him and the 3 of them in bed, reading it “just one more time” because they used to love the sound of her voice and their favorite book
Yes, there are moments that she didn’t miss, but not as many as she’d like.
She doesn’t live here anymore. She has been replaced by a “sometimes-cleaning” lady. This lady is happier. She doesn’t miss as many moments that are so quickly disappearing. There is less stuff, more time but she the sometimes-cleaning lady doesn’t use that time for cleaning very much. I use the time for non-cleaning things.
- I don’t need to look out the dirty windows because I’m “out there” a lot more than I used to be. My skin is no longer pale and hidden from the sun. I am in my garden, snacking on a lettuce leaf or a strawberry. Or on a walk with whoever will go with me, enjoying being outside. My feet are dirty from walking barefoot in the grass, reconnecting with Earth.
- The dirty carpets show that we live here. The time spent not washing them is time reading a book or watching a movie. Popcorn and wine and spots of food ignored. It’s time spent showing our kids that you’re never too old to learn or try something new. You can see the carpet now that we have fewer things covering them up, stains and all.
- My kitchen table is quick to clear when I need to. For now, I will enjoy the bird and find the coupons when I need them. I’ll grab a juicy nectarine just because it’s summer. The sea salt makes my real food taste even better and the Magic the Gathering cards will be needed again when we all go play again this Friday. And I’ll need my water bottle for yoga later.
- The books are being read; the cards are too. The incense and candles fill our home with peace and tranquility as we are learning to be more connected with ourselves instead of all those things that we used to try to fill our home with. We are together more in these quieter moments without a vacuum cleaner filling the house with noise.
I do not have a perfectly clean house. I’ll have plenty of time for that some other time.
Right now, this moment, I will let the dust sit on the shelf and the crumbs on the floor while I write a little. I will leave the dishes in the sink while I visit a friend I have missed. I will wash the floor another day because tomorrow, I’m going for a pedicure with my mom, sister and my daughter. This is what I choose to clean up – my life; my time with the people I care about and my love of myself. This is what a “clean house” is. The temple of me.
To you: I challenge you to allow yourself to ‘waste time’. As the Dixie Chicks say in this song, “Tomorrow, there’ll be so much to do. So tonight, I’ll drift in a dream with you”. Forever is never enough time with them. Clean the right house.