The other day my friend Dianna commented on a video I posted somewhere of my kids doing something or the other, "How the HECK is your house so clean?"
I laughed hysterically when I read it, mainly because I have mastered the skill of carefully editing out what I don't want the world to see about the cleanliness level of my little house.
The truth is, I'm a self-proclaimed mediocre housekeeper, and I'm (mostly) ok with that. Nobody is going to stand over my grave discussing what a fine house I kept or how my curtains smelled like fabric softener and my glasses sparkled in the sun. It's important to me to be comfortable in my house. But that's it.
I did recently realize, however, that I have a different set of standards for housekeeping based on who is likely to see them.
LEVEL 1: The "OH SHIT WHY DID I SPEND THE WHOLE WEEK READING MYSTERIES AND WATCHING ER RERUNS AND PLAYING MAHJONG ONLINE?" level.
This one doesn't come around that often. Usually it hits me a couple times a year, typically in winter when I'm in the throes of feeling sorry for myself because it's winter and I can't see the sun and I can't go outside. It also occasionally comes around in times of sickness, either mine or the boys', and it consists of zero housework. The laundry piles up. Every flat surface in my house is covered in... stuff. Dishes are left in the sink. Everything smells weird. The floor is littered with crumbs of unknown origin. Most surfaces are sticky with... I'm not sure I want to know what.
Luckily it only gets this bad a few times a year because really, I can't stand it for very long. It makes me depressed. And since it is usually brought on by some sort of sunshineless induced depression, it's an ugly cycle, so all I can do is drag my ass up off the couch and clean it up. The funny thing is, once I start cleaning it up, I usually start to feel better. It's like magic.
LEVEL 2: The "WE LIVE HERE" level.
This is the cleanliness level of my house about 80% of the time. The laundry stays caught up, because it smells funny when it sits around too long. Zachary does his own laundry (mostly by himself) and I do about a load a day, 4-5 days a week. The dishes are clean if not necessarily put away since I don't have a dishwasher to hide clean and/or dirty dishes in, which, by the way, is totally my choice. When we were building our house, our builder, our realtor, and everyone else who came through our house-in-progress would say "Where's the dishwasher?" or "Where will the dishwasher go?" and nobody believed me when I said I really didn't want one. See, my particular brand of crazy makes me believe that dishes washed in a dishwasher have a weird smell, so I don't like to eat off them. I could write a whole book on all the things I think smell weird. I probably have a brain tumor that causes this. Note to self: Google "brain tumors that cause weird smells."
Anyway, the toys are picked up, because I make the kids do that. I run the vacuum enough to get the crumbs up, and I occasionally wipe down the kitchen counters and appliances. It's kinda dusty, and I see cobwebs in corners, the boys pee all over everything so the bathrooms are usually in a pretty bad state.
LEVEL 3: The "MY FAMILY MIGHT STOP BY" level.
This is pretty much exactly like level 2, except I wipe off the toilet seats in case anybody needs to pee. Well, I usually do, anyway. Like, most of the time. In the downstairs bathroom, anyway.
LEVEL 4: The "THE STRANGERS ARE COMING! THE STRANGERS ARE COMING!" level.
Truth be told, I'm pretty territorial about my house. I have, over the years, created my own little world here. I picked out every single thing that is in this house, from the light fixtures and flooring to the pictures on the walls and the throw pillows. And it makes me twitch to have to occasionally open it up to strangers, whether it's a friend of a friend or the guy who's here to fix the fridge. And it makes me go into full-blown panic mode. What?!?!?! The cable guy's coming tomorrow?!?!? I have to dust the ceiling fans RIGHT NOW!!! Someone is stopping by to drop off something?!?!? Time to wash the curtains!!!
In other words, I clean and clean and clean in preparation for these kinds of visits. I guess I just want my house to look it's best whenever someone gets a first look at it.
Or maybe I'm just bat-shit crazy.
Which bring us to...
LEVEL 5: The "MY IN-LAWS ARE COMING OVER!" level.
Once upon a time, my mother-in-law walked into my (fairly clean at the time) house, looked around, shook her head and said "The kids must keep you pretty busy, huh?"
When I know that they are coming, I break out the white gloves and give the place a thorough, top-to-bottom, behind the bookcases, under the couch cushions, inside the drawers in the fridge kind of cleaning.
The problem is that the entire time they are here, I keep getting distracted by errant crumbs, or spots on the floor that just show up at a certain angle. So in the middle of a sentence I will often jump up from my seat, get down on my hands and knees and pick up a speck, or possibly run to the kitchen for a paper towel to wipe the floor under their feet with.
I'm pretty sure they suspect a) drug use or b) some wacky version of OCD or ADD that makes me do random things at inopportune times.
I guess it's a good thing we only see them a few times a year, or I would have to spend every waking hour of every single day doing things like deep cleaning light switches or detail cleaning the crevices around my windows.
And let me tell you, ain't nobody got time for that.