Friday, June 5, 2009

The Haphazard Homemaker

No one has ever accused me of being a natural homemaker. If there are people who are biologically predisposed to enjoy domestic chores (I hear they exist), I share nothing of their DNA. I’m not a slob, exactly. But I’m not not a slob, either.

It’s all relative, really. I’ve been to friends’ houses (you know the type; maybe you are the type) who immediately say, “Don’t mind the mess,” as I strain to see even a paper out of place. Witnessing my struggle, they explain. “I had to rush out the door this morning and just left my cereal bowl in the sink.” And you let visitors in here? I’ve got five cereal bowls in my sink and I haven’t eaten cereal in a week (and it’s not like the cereal bowls are alone in there).

At my house, chaos and mess are the norm. I have two vacuums, and until recently, neither of them worked (the only reason I now have one working vacuum is that a kind-hearted and handy friend discovered I’d put it together wrong and fixed it). The broom is often in plain sight and yet I rarely feel inclined to sweep. I’ve come to think of dust bunnies as good company for the dog.

My fridge is another adventure altogether, an experiment for only the boldest scientist or psychoanalyst. I am grateful for best before dates that give me permission to turf without hesitation. More often than not, I leave the “I wonder if these are still good” items in there until they are clearly toxic and deserving of garbage status. I’m trying to do better, but am clearly a work in progress.

It’s not that I don’t value tidiness. I have great admiration for those who are relentlessly neat and organized. In fact, on the rare occasions that my house is in good order (most often when I’m expecting company), I feel a wonderful sense of accomplishment and ease. But in the busy-ness of life, I seem unable to sustain this state for long, quickly returning to the land of “where did I put the…?” Perhaps, if I’m honest, I’ll admit there’s a bit of comfort in the familiarity of a path well worn.

In my more pitiful states, I’ve actually considered charging admission to my home. Not because I’m proud of the mess, but because I know it would make others feel better about themselves, and therefore could be a lucrative venture. (“Look – her dishes are piled right up to the faucet. I’ve never been that bad.” Or “Good luck trying to open the door of her freezer without being hit by a bag of frozen fruit or a pork chop. She’s crossed the line from messy to hazardous.”) Really, what’s five bucks for a feeling of superiority?

I recently had a friend stay with me from out of town. As I mentioned, I normally have a certain standard of tidiness for guests, but it had been an especially hectic week and I decided a real friend wouldn’t judge. And she didn’t. She did, however, offer to come back another weekend and help me de-clutter. While some might decline the offer, too proud to drag a friend into the filth of their dirty little secrets, not me. I now have an organized home office and a plan to tackle my kitchen and bedroom.

For now, though, the dishes sit stacked in my kitchen sink and the floor begs to be washed. The clean laundry sits piled on top of the dryer (folded, at least. Well, most of it). The dirty laundry has overflowed the hamper and is beginning to overtake my bedroom floor, providing a comfortable napping place for the dog. If I were to go into the living room right now, I’m pretty sure I’d find a stray pine needle or three left over from Christmas, making a home behind the TV stand (Just checked. Confirmed. And yes, it’s June.)

I do aspire to be more organized, tidier, more diligent about cleaning, and I will continue to work at it. But if my tendency to leave the cleaning for another day in favour of spending time with friends, watching a good movie, going outside to enjoy the sun - or hell - just lazing on the sofa, is seen by some as a weakness, I view it as a strength. Because if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that the mess will still be there tomorrow.


  1. Margaret - I quite enjoy your musings! And this one I can definitely relate to (though the hair one had some similarities). My whole goal this mat leave is to declutter and work on developing the "system" that works for us.

  2. Oh Margaret, I'm so glad real friends don't judge. And if you're feeling really bad one day, come see my room of shame.

  3. Hallelujah! I am not alone!! Thank you for this.

  4. Margaret, thank you for making me feel somewhat normal. The only reason my house is half decent is because it's for sale. Otherwise, I'm afraid i am part of your club. Janane