Wednesday, June 10, 2009


con·ta·gion Pronunciation: \kən-ˈtā-jən\ noun a: rapid communication of an influence (as a doctrine or emotional state) b: an influence that spreads rapidly.

The state of my house (as in cleanliness, neatness and organization) usually is abominable. Despite my best intentions, the state of the house is so bad that when I hear the doorbell, I am palpably relieved when it is the Jehovah's Witnesses seeking to convert me. At least it's not someone stopping by for coffee and I will be exposed as a fraudulent grown-up.
And I do take ownership of the problem. Husband makes efforts, more than me many weeks. I work halftime so more of the responsibility fairly rests on my shoulder.
If ever we have people over (and we often purposefully invite people over to force us to clean up around here) it's an all out sprint to get the house ready. We start with the critical areas: living room /dining room which is usually the main entertainment zone. Of course the powder room must be clean. And the kitchen and attached family room must be tidied.

At the time draws near for the social gathering, we do our trademark "stash and dash". Husband and I pick up armfuls of stuff we don't have time to properly sort and put away and stash it from public view. Laundry room, the kitchen pantry, closets, the playroom and sadly the master bedroom are frequent stashing points (and I trust those of you who might actually be invited to our home will not use this insider information for evil).
One might think that, post-party, with the main floor largely in good shape, we could just revisit the stashed piles and get those put away and the house would be in top shape. The problem is we are bloody exhausted from the arduous sprint to get ready, adding to the fatigue from making the meal and cleaning up. We have nothing left in the tank.
No problem. We will just try to maintain what we have.
The problem is contagion: the influence spreads rapidly.
The mess in the laundry room seeps out to the hall the next time I want to do laundry. I need room to sort dirty and clean piles. The over-crowded mess in the pantry, which houses many of our appliances, migrates to the kitchen counters. The mess in the master bedroom is sometimes overwhelming and seeps into the upstairs hallway.
Soon the whole house is again in abysmal shape. The kitchen table becomes covered and when I need to find library books and field trip notices, I shuffle through the piles and make it an even bigger mess. (Lest you think we have no organizational system at all, let it be known the the dining room table is where the important stuff goes. Bills to be paid, things that must be done urgently. The kitchen table is for constant deluge of kid stuff that arrives from school and activities.)
And of course, when one walks around the house and sees gargantuan mountains of work in every room of the house, it makes one want to just wave the white flag. The task seems too large to confront and so the accumulation grows.
But this past week, we are reversing the tide. J Boy put his boredness to good use and cleaned and organized his room. It was a vision of beauty with clean dresser tops, no stray dirty clothes strewn from wall to wall and books all tucked neatly onto their shelves. A place for everything and everything in its place.
Contagion started working in our favour.

It did not seem right that only J's room was so spic and span. So S and I spent THREE hours in her room bringing it up to scratch. Three hours? You ask, how could one spend three hours in one room? Well, I did belatedly organized her drawers from winter wardrobe to summer. But I also had to confront the girlie goo's pack rat tendencies. I started on the floor. I spotted the lid of an old shoe box in which I find:

1 marble
2 pony tail holders
1 Tupperware container
2 socks (unmatched)
4 pieces of Lego
1 scrap of paper
1 golf tee
1 pen
2 scrunched up tissues
1 Pokeman card
1 Stethoscope from the doctor kit
1 toy from Happy meal
It took me 10 minutes to create piles to sort out this treasure collection.
Then I picked up a plastic bag and find another collection of things, virtually none of which actually belongs in her room. Then I found a bowl, a drawer and Dora the Explorer bag revealing yet more crap. Don't even get me started on the under-the-bed zone.
The good news was after making the 3 hour investment, S's room matched J's in its pristine presentation. Unfortunately the hallway had mounds and mounds of stuff to be repatriated to other rooms in the house. We took a break to go see a movie and after the clean-room influence spreads to the kids' bathroom. A quick tidy of the counter and Husband set to killing a little bacteria. I settled in to purge the bath toys. We have every bath toy we've ever bought or been given since J was a baby. So I purged 7.5 years of accumulated bath toys.
And so the rest of the weekend goes. Room by room we faced the challenges head on. Monday morning, Husband headed to work (lucky so-and-so). I felt compelled to continue the project. I actually spent almost the whole morning cleaning, sorting and doing the occasional load of laundry.
The most amazing thing about this, is how I feel. I feel happier, not weighed down by feeling like slacker hausfrau. I sleep better, I feel ... accomplished, on top of my game, and perceive that maybe this balance thing of which people speak, is actually attainable. I can be a Mom, work and maintain a well-ordered house. It has taken me 7.5 years, but I think I'm getting the hang of it.
Also, I think I have more of a healthy glow, I am having better hair days, and look less fat. All I need is a unicorn to lead me to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and the fairy tale will be complete.
One small thing, I can't seem to stop my kids from messing up the house without my yelling:
So much for balance.

1 comment:

Ellie said...

Oh, I can so relate to this. I was feeling scrunched up and tense today, with more than a vague sense of uneasiness following me everywhere. I couldn't put my finger on it, until I realized that it was because my house is a complete and total chaotic cesspool. I don't even know where to begin. I do feel better after my occasional cleaning binges (if I don't look in the laundry room or open any closets). And we have an "important" pile, too. I rarely look through it, but at least I know where it is.

Great post!