When the snow was falling on Sunday, it was beautiful and serene (other than the four times we had to shovel, that is). With a fire burning merrily away in the fireplace, football blaring on the TV, the newspaper in my lap and the kids off at the sledding hill, I was reminded why I love Minnesota.
Not so much now. It isn't the cold or the endless gray sky days. It is the fact that as soon as the snow comes, it becomes impossible to keep my floors clean. Even if I insist that everyone walking into the house take off their shoes before getting past the foyer, the floors still are covered in nasty dirt brought in by my dogs and/or husband (or, admittedly, me sometimes) who don't have the capacity to be trained to wipe their feet or choose to walk wearing giant, snow covered boots directly into my kitchen in order to refresh a mug of coffee. I've tried covering the bare floors with numerous rugs or putting slippers near the door to entice new behavior, but those measures always fail. My floors are only clean for about five minutes after they've been swept and mopped in the winter months. Add the dirty floors to my family's penchant for leaving whatever is in their hands on any available surface and you have a recipe for absolute chaos in a charming Tudor-style suburban home. (Add to that the "hidden" candy wrappers constantly discovered behind the couch when a garbage is two feet from said couch and there's a recipe for a parent's head to explode.)
It's not that we're inherently dirty people. Generally speaking, the kids are decently dressed in mostly clean, neat clothes. They're bathed (or bath themselves) on a regular basis (although in the summer a dip in the pool sometimes substitutes for a bath), their hair is brushed, their teeth are clean (the little ones are required to give me a "breath test" if I think they haven't properly brushed) and usually, their clothes pretty much match. (Although I did let Buttercup leave the house yesterday in a rosy-red sweater paired with a hot pink leopard print skort and black and white leopard print leggings; I figured that I couldn't wear that outfit, but at six? Who's going to complain?) But we have a problem with clutter. The usual clutter that accumulates in any family: school papers, newspapers, random mail, receipts, toys, electronics, knick-knacks, etc., seems to cover much too much of the available space in our home. (If I really want to scare myself, I watch "Hoarders" and freak out with the fear that eventually we'll be carving pathways from the bathroom to the living room and eating on our beds because we can't find the dining room table or kitchen island.)
When I visit my friends' homes, jealousy flows through me as I gaze in awe at their well-ordered rooms. The craziest thing I ever saw in one friend's home was when she and her husband decided to buy a bunch of ammo and it was stacked on her dining room table. This wouldn't be an unusual sight at my BFF from Up North's home: they're hunters and her husband is a taxidermist. But in one of the "best" neighborhoods in my city, in a very beautiful expensive home, encountering a dining room table loaded with ammo was pretty surprising (and very entertaining!). Another friend of mine has a house that looks like it could be a model home, it's so clean and beautiful. She has two kids and a husband (who works from home) and other than the dozens of family photographs hanging on the walls, you wouldn't know that a family lived there. I'm totally jealous by the motivation it takes to keep one's house in such cleanliness. (For all the spotless beauty of both these homes, they are by no means cold in any way - always cozy, warm and welcoming are my friends and their homes.)
I have the desire to have a spotless, orderly home. I regularly dream of a home where I'm not freaking out if someone calls to tell me they're stopping by in a few minutes and worrying that I'll die of embarrassment when they arrive and see the state my house is in. However, I don't seem to have the attention span to do what it takes to get the house spotless or to keep it that way. That actually is a big part of the problem: I can get the house clean (especially if I have some empty totes in which to shove all the crap covering the counters), but I can't seem to get it to stay that way. This I blame on my family's inability to put anything back where it belongs or to actually get their shoes into the boot box in the foyer (or to hang up their coats or put their backpacks someplace other than in the middle of the hall or to wipe up the eyeliner shavings from the foyer bathroom's counter...). Considering that I am the one home alone most of the day, though, it probably isn't fair that I put the blame all on them. And supposedly, since I am home all day, it is my job to clean up the house and keep it nice along with doing the finances and making sure that everyone has what they need every day. That's what being a "Home Executive" is, right? And if I didn't have the option of being a home executive, then I would have a job and STILL be dealing with every one else's crap when I got home from the job.
In order to combat the disorder of my house, I make lists of all the "projects" I need to complete so that I can have the joy of marking each one off the list. The problem is, making the list usually overwhelms me, so by the time I finish the list I'm already feeling defeated and discouraged. The current list is as follows:
1. Clean the floors.
2. Clean off the kitchen counters, get rid of the newspapers and other random papers.
3. Clean - ok, CLEAN EVERYTHING. (That actually takes up a big a chunk of the list.)
4. Sort and toss the crap in the multitude of bins in the house, beginning with the ones in master bedroom.
5. Clean out and organize the "sun porch" (which is what it would be if it didn't end up being a place where everything without a real home gets tossed).
6. Dust all surfaces and wash windows and patio doors.
7. Bathrooms=disgusting. Git r dun.
8. Buttercup's bedroom, painted in September, still hasn't been put completely back together and organized. Get that done.
9. File all "keeper" paperwork. Clean out "office-area" bookshelf, replace bookshelf with one that has shelves that aren't constantly threatening to dump contents onto floor.
10. Clean out three (yes, THREE!) junk drawers and one misc. cupboard in kitchen.
11. Finish putting up inside Christmas decorations (no, the stockings cannot just stay on chaise lounge in front of the tree).
12. Declutter Declutter Declutter.
13. Organize and find home for all crafting supplies.
14. Finish Christmas craft gifts (time is counting down).
15. Design and order Christmas cards.
16. Send Senior Portrait into Yearbook company so SwimGirl is not excluded from her Senior Year Yearbook. (This also includes scanning in SwimGirl's baby picture and getting her to send me her 60 word quote. Hard to do when she isn't currently allowed on the computer.)
17. Clean the floors. (Again.)
18. When list is completed, start all over again.
Number 18 defines the real problem: keeping a house clean with four kids, two dogs and a non-inside-an-office working husband is a gross example of the guy who got stuck pushing the boulder up the hill in Greek Mythology: the house can be cleaned, sparkling and beautiful, all clutter stowed or tossed away, the floors shiny and dog-hair free, the bathrooms sanitary and smelling of lavender, but it only lasts about a day. Then we're back to the same old behavior that puts us into the house of chaotic mess. Frankly, I get BORED with doing the same thing day after day, cleaning and cooking and driving them to and fro. Am I grateful to be able to stay home and maybe work on writing? Absolutely. But seriously, is it too much to ask to have them put their darn shoes in the boot box and hang up their coats and not drop candy wrappers behind the couch? Is it too much to ask the man to take off his flipping boots already before he stomps across my kitchen floor?
After several years of "just" being a home executive, I'm more understanding of the housewives in the '50s who turned to Valium and speed to get through their days. At least nowadays, I'm not also required to wear a dress and pearls while I vacuum the floor for the 80th time that week. (If I met my husband at the door with a kiss and was wearing something other than my cozy fleece pants, he'd wonder where I'd been that day or where I was planning on going later.) Now, instead of Valium, we have Facebook, Words with Friends and Angry Birds to numb our brains and RockStar and Red Bull to get us moving out of the video-gaming induced haze.
I have to believe that I am not the only woman (or stay at home dad) that feels this way. When people talk about "Angry Housewives" they usually seem to be referring to the women who go off and cheat on their husbands for lack of something better to do or as revenge for whatever slight they're feeling at that moment. In my honest opinion, that's exactly the dumbest thing any woman could do: Why on earth would you want to add one more person to the list of people who already are asking for everything from you in the first place? Good grief, I have trouble keeping one man and four kids happy as it is. Why would I add another man to that group? If anything, I want A WIFE. Not like "Sister Wives" (although, seriously? Other than having to get over the whole jealousy "I-am-going-to-freak-out-on-you-if-you-touch-my-husband" thing, how bad would it be to be able to say "No, honey, not tonight. Go ask one of the sister wives..."?) where there was sharing of one man going on, but someone who actually enjoys cleaning and cooking and driving duties and could do those things so I could write all day. I guess that is also called a "Housekeeper" and/or "Nanny", isn't it? Unless we win the lottery, that'll not be happening anytime soon.
Off to clean the floors.