Housekeeping Hell

In the hilarious and painfully honest book, “I Do. I Did. Now What?!” author Jenny Lee describes the moment when her newlywed bliss evaporated:

"On this very first morning [in our first apartment] … I was sort of humming and looking out the window, feeling very Disney movie-like, when I noticed that someone had left the bread bag open on the counter. Sitting next to the bread was a jar of mustard with the top off, and next to the bread was a mustard-covered knife lying on a clean kitchen towel … Now, I’m no Mrs. Clean, mind you, and I’ve been known to leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight, okay for a few nights even, BUT I WOULD NEVER, EVER PUT A MUSTARD-COVERED KNIFE ON A CLEAN KITCHEN TOWEL."

Lee goes on to describe more of her new hubby’s sloppy habits -- leaving orange juice glasses on the back of the toilet, unidentifiable sticky spots on the kitchen floor, and wet towels wherever they happen to fall. Reading this, I started to wonder, “Are she and I married to the same person?!” I, too, have scratched my head over the dirty-knife-on-a-clean-towel conundrum. Is it not 10 times easier to wipe off a counter –- or, dare I suggest, place the soiled utensil directly into the dishwasher -– than it is to wash, dry, and fold a dishtowel?

Lee, a braver woman than I, decided to conduct an experiment. Instead of cleaning up after her husband, she would leave his mess exactly as he left it. And to do him one better, she’d stop cleaning up after herself as well. An ice cream bowl left on the top of the TV grew green fur before her husband noticed it -– and that’s AFTER she tied a red ribbon to the spoon to draw his eye upward and catch his attention. (I laughed so hard at this I think I wet myself a little.)

Lee was starting to enjoy her newfound slovenliness when her husband finally noticed something was amiss. To her surprise, he spent two hours on a Saturday cleaning the apartment from top to bottom himself. Then, after realizing how much work it was, he vowed to change his untidy ways.

Yippee for Lee. Too bad for me. See, my husband wouldn’t even notice the house was a mess if he tripped over a petrified bagel on the kitchen floor, fell into a pile of dirty sippy cups, and a tower of year-old newspapers and wet towels fell on top of him. Sadly, it wouldn’t even take that long for such a mess to accumulate. If I let things slide even one day, the floors are covered with the remains of my son’s meals, assorted socks and toys, and tumbleweeds of dog hair. It’s disgusting, people.

Dog hair is such a common presence in our home that Miles has taken to regularly making a yucky face, spitting into his hand, and wailing, “Dog hair in my mouf!!” Get used to it, buddy.

I have a dream of one day living in a house so clean you can walk around in white socks and have the bottoms not turn black. I will be able to easily lift jars out of the fridge because they will not be stuck to the shelves by mysterious substances. I would never be embarrassed by the unscheduled drop-by because visitors or no, my home would be immaculate at all times. Then a stray dog hair tickles my nose and I wake up.

TIP O’ THE WEEK: Housecleaning tips from Real Simple and from Merry Maids. I’ve used the fabric softener sheet trick. It works.

RETRACTION O’ THE WEEK: After I wrote this post (but to his credit, before my husband had read it) he willingly and of his own accord cleaned the kitchen twice, folded a basket of laundry, and made dinner. Knock me over with a feather!!


thewritermama said...

My husband--bless his heart!--leaves a trail wherever he goes. After eight years of marriage, I am sorry to say, that like Lee, I was initially aghast, it has been easier to join him, not try and beat him.

My solution is to expect the steady decline during the week (we both work full time, after all) and then insist on clean up on the weekends. (We are still working on our daughter to help more.)

I think Lee took the right strategy. However, for me, meeting in the middle and leaving my fanatical housecleaning habits in the dust has lead to a happier union...and a messier home.

Surprisingly I swear I am happier this way. It's not the way I was raised, but my creativity and productivity have soared, so I'm not complaining too much when my husband leaves a trail (just a little).

I hope that by sharing this "dirty little secret," others will feel like they can leave the dishes a bit longer and go work on their novel or personal essay instead.

Elizabeth said...

that book looks hilarious! another touch of "real" to my week...it seems "be real"..."be authentic" is screaming at me from every angle.

come over to my place a join in with Feel Good Friday a new weekly "bloggy event." :-)

Kelli said...

I have always wanted to do that very experiment, but after 2 or 3 days of the unfolded laundry still in the basket, or the trash can that is spilling over in the bathroom, I just can't stand it anymore.

And the floors???? I think I sweep at least 3 times a day after each meal and then some!

I should give my husband a little credit though...he's pretty good about loading and emptying the diswasher and every once in awhile he'll do a load of laundry, but he helps quite a bit with the kids when he's home...and that is always a good thing!

P.S. Thanks for adding me to your blogroll! Very cool! Sorry I've been a little wishy washy with my blog title, but I've settled on "Writing the Waves of Motherhood". I just never expected to get so into this whole blogging thing! If I had known I would have picked a different address too, but oh well!

P.P.S. This probably isn't the right place to ask you about this, but I was looking into the class you are teaching for "Writers On the Rise". Is there still room to sign up? Feel free to email me if you'd like or just leave a comment on my blog if you get a chance. Thanks so much!

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