I am not a good housekeeper.
Don’t worry. This deficiency rarely keeps me up at night. I consider myself a good wife, good mom, good daughter and good friend, although of course I could improve in every one of those areas every single day.
In my previous life, I was a good journalist. I’m a good traveler, and I used to throw very good Oscar parties, and I will again someday. I’m good at writing thank you notes, and I make a good guest at cocktail parties and weddings. And I’ve boasted enough about how good I am at the laundry.
But when it comes to keeping a house clean and organized, I have to admit there is a lot of room for improvement.
It’s not for want of good role models. My mom keeps a lovely house. She rarely goes to bed with even a dirty cup in the sink, and she takes on seasonal projects like cleaning out her china cabinet and closets. My mother-in-law is a good housekeeper, too, and a great cook, to boot.
My house isn’t a nightmare or anything. It’s just … perpetually out of sorts. There are orphaned papers in piles, and toys that should be put away. The stovetop almost always has a pot or skillet on top that needs scrubbed by hand. There are too many shoes by our backdoor, and bags, too. There isn’t any kind of regular schedule for cleaning the bathrooms or the floors. The master bedroom seems to be the dropping point for everything that doesn’t have a home, the linen closet is overflowing and there needs to be a lot more dusting around here. A lot more.
My husband and I lived in apartments for a long time, and we used to chalk up our housekeeping problems to not having enough space. Or just not caring because it was a rental in which we didn’t spend much time. We worked a lot, and liked to go out. When we met up with friends, it was usually at restaurants or bars or theaters. We promised everything would be different when we bought a house.
Well, we bought a house. It’s on the small side, but plenty big for our family of three. We spend a lot of time at home now. And while we’re still not hosting formal dinner parties, I like to have friends over for coffee and playdates.
I’ve given up on that pipe dream of keeping the kind of home that would be featured in the pages of a magazine. (“Real Simple” — natch.) In fact, I wouldn’t even want that kind of place – when I think of friends’ homes I admire, they are warm, welcoming places where you feel comfortable right away. And I’m happy in the knowledge that when I get wheeled into a nursing home in 50 years, I won’t be wishing that I spent more time playing with my daughter and less time washing my floors on my hands and knees.
I just want to maintain a home that doesn’t require “cleaning frenzies” when I’m about to have family stay overnight. The kind of home where if a friend drops by unexpectedly, I’m not embarrassed to open the door. I am confident there must be some middle ground between a house that looks like a museum and well, our home.
I’ve been giving some thought about what I need to do to make that a reality, and I’ve been researching some websites and systems that might help me tackle projects around here without feeling overwhelmed. I’ll write about those next week.
But I’d also love to hear from Go West readers: Do you ever feel like your home is just not how you envisioned? Do you not know where to start cleaning, or feel like you’ll never have enough time and energy to get it organized? Or for those of you are happy with the way you keep your house, are there any secrets you can share with us?
Tara Burghart is the editor and founder of Go West Young Mom. Most Mondays she writes a column called “Simple, Really?” examining why simplifying her life seems to be a complex undertaking. She now thinks she needs to purchase a feather duster, and a snazzy yellow cleaning apron, too.