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The Real Mrs. Clean

Okay, so a little last-minute unexpected drop-by company—-someone I haven’t seen since the dawn of mankind—-got me thinking about this piece I wrote quite a few years back. We might be out of the legos-all-over-the-floor-stage, but the mess? Well, let’s just say it’s better than it used to be and leave it at that...

I love this lady--it looks almost like me with a broom. 'Cept I'd be frowning LOL
I love this lady--it looks almost like me with a broom. 'Cept I'd be frowning LOL

Housekeeping is not my bag. You might never know this, if you didn’t come for a visit. From the curb, my quiet, unassuming abode looks just like any other house around (except that I haven’t mulched or weeded in a year). But step foot inside, and if you’re lucky you might be able to travel two feet before stumbling upon something left in the wrong place and destined to cause you to do a Dick Van Dyke flip over the ottoman right onto your behind.

Dishes are stacked to eyeball level in the kitchen, waiting to be washed once we run out of utensils. In the bedroom, you’ll find piles of unread magazines decorating the perimeter of the unvacuumed carpet. Catalogues that will never be used (but you just never know) rest peacefully in a corner, secure in the knowledge that they are not bound for the recycling bin for at least 6 more months. Half-finished projects lie unattended, detritus of dashed ambitions.

Throughout the house at any given time you are likely to find strewn about the floor: backpacks, lunchboxes (day-old leftovers intact therein), pens and pencils, dirty socks and undies (always turned inside out), hair elastics, twisted beyond repair, mangled dog toys, heel-piercing lego bits, and the occasional spot of parrot doo doo (lucky for us, our bird has projectile capabilities).

To my great relief, my house has not gotten this disastrous. Yet.
To my great relief, my house has not gotten this disastrous. Yet.

For some reason I have found over the years that just when I think I’m gonna grab the bull by the horns and make something of my mess, it all just seems to snowball further out of control. Carpe diem, schmiem. With 3 kids, 2 dogs, a cat, a parrot, and the commensurate tumbleweeds of fur, feathers and food that migrate across my floor, I’m lucky that I’m not raising a family of asthmatics by now. So let me just warn you right off the bat: you cannot eat off of these floors. Unless you’re looking to get pinworms or something.

This non-neatnik problem has weighed heavily on my mind for a while. I think I hit an all-time low several years ago when I contemplated entering a contest on a national television show: Why I need The View to Come Help Me Clean Up and Organize My House. When you think about it, you’ve gotta be feeling a bit desperate about things to resort to a contest in the first place. To then shamelessly videotape your mess of a house in the hopes that you are chosen, so that the entire nation can then see your untidy ways, is really rather pathetic. But honey, this little lemming (or is that salmon?) is not swimming successfully against the tide.

You want to know the worst thing about that contest? I never got around to sending off the application in time; it got lost in a pile of papers on top of my messy desk. As my then 9-year old son said, “irony rears its ugly head!”

Truthfully, I found I was limited by the constraints of the application. I’m a wordy girl; the limit was around 50 words, and I just couldn’t whittle it down. But in case you’re interested in my plea for salvation, here goes.

Top Ten Reasons to Help Jen Get Organized:

7) Great visuals, touring pigsty;

6) Audience will laugh out loud at the slob;

5) Prevents basement’s spontaneous combustion;

4) Her kids won’t think she’s a hypocrite;

3) Husband will stop threatening to run away;

2) Frees up time for therapy sessions; and

1) Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Now maybe if I had some spiffy Mr. Clean boxer-briefs I'd be motivated to clean more...Not that I wear boxer-briefs!

Now maybe if I had some spiffy Mr. Clean boxer-briefs I’d be motivated to clean more. (Not that I’d wear boxer-briefs!)

I find that being organized for a family of five is an onerous task for someone like me. I mean, I can’t recall a time when organizational skills were a hallmark of my personality to begin with. When I was single, my idea of being organized was wearing the same color bra and panties at the same time. But now, trying to keep one step ahead of a houseful of mess-makers has me weary. I’m sick and tired of having my house look like it’s been ransacked by burglars. Ironic, considering we don’t really own anything terribly burgle-worthy anyhow.

So to make myself feel better, I’ve decided to attribute these shortcomings to genetics. One of the beauties of having children is when they pick up all your bad habits, you’re able to rationalize that these are genetic traits that cannot be helped. I had a father who abandoned his nice, organized briefcase in favor of hauling his paperwork to and from work in cardboard boxes. Rather than periodically cleaning out his brief-box, he just kept dumping all the contents into bigger and bigger containers. Eventually he had to see an orthopedic surgeon due to his back problems. No doubt from schlepping his heavy cargo.

So my kids are doomed to repeat these slovenly ways. When my son brings home notes from teachers lamenting that his locker is so cluttered it won’t close all the way, I heave a sigh and throw my hands up in dismay. When my girls misconstrue the notion of picking up their rooms, and simply shove everything along the wall, my consternation is supplanted by resignation. Thank heavens my husband likes to file and sort things, otherwise my whole family might one day end up buried alive beneath of mountain of life’s debris.

Lucky for us, we occasionally do get houseguests, though. And about the only thing that lights the match under my behind to get things sparklingly clean around here is the threat of outsiders seeing the true me. So if you’re planning to visit our house any time soon, have no fear. I’ll be armed and ready with my mop, vacuum, dust rags and trash bin (if only I could find them!). And if you’re really lucky, you might actually be able to eat off the floor.

Categories: News, Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, women's fiction

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