SOL March 17th Not A Good Housekeeper

I grew up in a house full of stuff; mostly print material that morphed into sturdy stacks positioned conveniently (or inconveniently, depending on your perspective) between chair and recliner, couch and stereo. The living room had a reddish, burnt orange colored carpeting with a peculiar pattern that made for bumpy vacuuming. I was accustomed to dust. As a family we had a fairly high dust threshold.

My mother was not particularly pressed about household appearances. We had friends and family over after church all the time. If folks had to move a stack of newspapers from couch to floor, it was no biggie. When we did clear things out a bit, the term used was “straighten up,” not “clean.” That distinction was never lost on me.

My father was a carpenter and had fashioned the cabinets and the round table in the kitchen with his own hands, I found out later. He built the structures; my mother filled and covered them. That seemed to be the agreement. Neither of them ever seemed particularly concerned about creating a particular impression with our household. My mother often joked about how “lived in” our house was. The kitchen table was usually covered with stuff – mail, dishes, cereal and other boxes  – and yet I remember that we often ate there as a family of four. We moved junk from the table onto the extra chair, said grace and ate before “Hogan’s Heroes” came on at 7:30, my dad’s favorite show.

All this to say that I did not come from a family of ardent housekeepers. No, I hail from homeowners whose aim was to live comfortably on their own terms. We did not have specific rituals of cleaning or clearing; merely impulses – sometimes holiday-driven or special-guest related – which drove us to sweep more thoroughly, to wipe down the stairs a second time, to run the vacuum all the way back into that hard-to-reach corner. I have seen and visited remarkably well appointed homes that fit the description ‘spic-and-span’. I have marveled at these temples of cleanliness both as a child and as an adult, knowing that these were not realities that I would ever think to pursue for myself. I’m often weak just imagining the time commitment!

At any rate, here I am in middle age fully cognizant that my dust tolerance has hardly shifted since childhood. I am not the pack rat my mother was but I am her child when it comes to keeping house in that loose and open-ended way. Perhaps to the chagrin of my partner. But I’d rather be writing, reading, creating, thinking. Which is what I do while the dust congregates in the corners.

8 thoughts on “SOL March 17th Not A Good Housekeeper

  1. This sums my life up perfectly. That was also how I grew up, and when I look around my house, that’s pretty much how we live now. I have gotten better at keeping things picked up, but clean? I share your awe of “spic and span” houses knowing that it’s not my current reality.

    I’d love to picture myself as someone who can keep such a clean home, but alas…that’s not my current reality either.

    Here’s to ignoring the dust bunnies in the corner and enjoying a creative pursuit or two!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I hear you 100% I keep my kitchen neat, and over all I am an organized person. But I have been known to take a big deep breath and blow that dust off those delicate figurines rather than the laborious “correct” way to dust them! Hahaha! I also have way too many other things I would rather do! Thanks for this post.

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  3. I liked reading your domestic slice. My mom’s home is always impeccably clean. My tolerance for dust is much higher than my moms. And my teenager seems to be completely oblivious to mess and dust around her.

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  4. Well said. I have never been germaphobic or a neatnik. Things get cleaned over time. But, boy oh boy, do I have a ritual with the bleach wipes right now — round the doorknobs, light switches, and other places we touch regularly. I don’t want my immuno-suppressed mom who lives with me to have to battle the virus. It feels weird, but I do it. 🙂

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  5. I grew up the opposite. We didn’t use rooms in our house because we might make footprints on the carpet. It was more of a museum than a lived in space. I feel like I’ve settled somewhere in between, like you. But I am my mother’s daughter and I have to catch myself sometimes… great slice. I pictured your childhood home, especially the situating to sit at the table for dinner.

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  6. My grandmother was an incredibly thorough housekeeper; my mother and yours would probably have gotten along. I chortled when you wrote “As a family we had a fairly high dust threshold.” Oh yes. I still have a reasonably high dust threshold – and I long ago decided that I would rather have friends over to a messy house than no friends over to a clean one. When we’re not renovating (a state which currently seems unattainable), I like to think of my house as “comfortable” – no one would say “spic-n-span” – so I loved your description here.

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