Let me start by saying that there are two versions of me. There is the version that exists in my head, and there is the version that actually lives my life. The version in my head is mildly obsessive. I walk through the house, I see that something is out of place, and it triggers discontent. I have a plan in my head of how the pantry should be organized. And I understand that if I do all the dishes at night, I will have a better morning.
But the version of me that lives this life is at war with the other me. The me that lives in reality is often completely exhausted by 9:00pm, even if the clothes aren’t folded or the dishes aren’t put away. This me knows that I should remind the kids to put away the clutter before bed, but sometimes just cannot muster up the energy to give one more instruction.
Because of this duplicity, my house is just not as clean as I’d like. Ever. Don’t get me wrong, the kids are healthy and no one will be nominating us for an episode of Hoarders. But it’s not what I would have expected my home to look like before I had children. The funny thing is, I go into homes far worse than mine regularly and somehow I am extending grace, feeling understanding that housekeeping is grinding work, and not really concerning myself with whatever messes are there. But try as I might, I just do not ever expect that I will receive that same grace myself. Maybe that’s true or maybe I’m the problem. I’m not sure. But this is where I am.
Let’s Have a Party!
So how do I deal? Do I just close the curtains and hope no one drops by, never inviting anyone inside the embodiment of my failure? Actually it’s quite the opposite. About once a month, I take the proverbial tiger by the tail and I schedule a party. Family gathering, kid’s birthday, direct sales party, bible study — it doesn’t matter. Just something on the calendar to force a whole house clean up.
The whole thing is a wave of optimism, motivation, exhaustion, desperation, a second wind, and finally, delusional satisfaction. I start out excited and ready to tackle everything. We WILL clean all the things! I tell the older kids, “There’s going to be a party so everyone needs to help!” They are 11 and 9 so at this stage, they know the drill. I can see the look in their eyes as they respectfully say, “Yes ma’am” while thinking, “Ughhh, here we go.” They clean their rooms while I give the kitchen an overhaul. Dad gets his after-work chore lists, which mainly include outdoor duties and small repairs.
As the event gets closer, I become more tired, having mopped, vacuumed, cleaned, shampooed, scrubbed, decluttered and maybe even stripped and refinished an entire piece of furniture, just to make it interesting. The kids are looking at me and I can see them mentally calculating whether it may be worthwhile to just forfeit parties for the rest of their childhoods. Exhaustion officially sets in.
The Day of the Party
On the day of the party, exhaustion turns to desperation. Somewhere between wiping down the baseboards and dusting the light fixtures, I reach threat level midnight.
“Who left this single crumb on the counter!! Seriously, are you trying to make me crazy?” I yell at no one in particular.
“Mom, where can we pee?” my youngest son asks, the tiniest smirk visible on his charmingly handsome face. He knows the drill. I’m not sure if he respects my rules or is mocking me. I don’t really care at this point as long as he stays out of the hall bathroom.
“The hall bathroom has been cleared for company and you are no longer allowed to use it until further notice,” I tell him. “Go in mine.”
At about 90 minutes before party time, I go into my room to shower and dress. I can feel the exhaustion in my feet, my back and my hands. But somewhere between the shower and the makeup, I begin to catch that second wind. Friends are coming!! And the house looks AH-MAY-ZINGGGGGG!
The party is a hit. I am in my element. I am part Joanna Gaines, part Ree Drummond. In my exhilaration, my fantastical thinking reaches its peak. I start thinking, “This was so worth it! Now that the house is clean, we can just keep it up and never go back to the way it way before!”
At the end of the night, after all the guests have left, I survey the damage. It’s not too bad. A few cups here and there, the floors need sweeping, but for the most part, things are still intact. “I’ll take care of that in the morning,” I tell myself. And then I’m asleep before I know what happened.
Back to Reality
By the next day, real life has set in again. I trudge into the bathroom upon waking and notice that I look like death. The kids are leaving shoes and cups around, knowing that their real mom is back. My house has turned back into a pumpkin, and I’m Cinderella. By about the third day, no one even remembers what we had done all that cleaning for. I find a pair of sunglasses someone left on the foyer table. It’s my glass slipper.
Is it crazy? Maybe. But whether it’s losing weight for your class reunion, getting a new outfit for an interview, or cleaning for a party, we all need motivation sometimes. In some cases the motivation arises organically and sometimes we have to manufacture it. Either way, I’m not going to feel guilty about it. My mom did it the same way, and we turned out just fine.