People are basically kind, so when I apologize for the mess that is my house (or my car), they invariably wave dismissively and say, “Oh, my house is just as bad.”
It’s very nice of them, but it’s just not true. No one’s house is as messy as mine.
Sometimes my house kind of sort of looks okay on the surface, but if you start poking into corners, you’ll find containers of things–dog toys tangled up with headphones, old tennis balls crushing once-good sunglasses, cards old batteries cookies scarves candles leggings coffee-pods-stolen-from-hotels picture-frames stickers timers broken-ipods puzzle-pieces hard-candies shoes soap cell-phones plastic-containers bubble-wands kids-make-up bandaids . . . you get the idea–all of that stuff is just tossed in together and when I peer into one of these bags or boxes and see what’s in there and how it all has to be sorted out and dealt with in some way, my heart sinks and I can’t face it so I shove it back into place.
And then there are the three million books spread out all over the house, and the papers from school, and the mail, dear lord the MAIL, which builds and builds and builds until sometimes I think they’ll find us desperately trying to claw out way out of our house through piles and piles of white envelopes, the way the Ingalls clan always had to claw their way through huge snowdrifts piled against the walls and doors and windows outside their little house in the prairie or woods or whatever stupid place to build a house they chose that year.
So our house is basically a pigsty and I live with it and deal with it most of the time, satisfied with knowing that the bathrooms and kitchen are basically sort of clean, but when someone new comes over, I look over the house and see it with her eyes and feel sick.
I was rushing around cleaning the house today for a new guest and losing it. Freaking out. Grumbling at the mess and at the kids for not helping enough and feeling sorry for myself that I can’t ever dig myself out from under the detritus of my life. And as I vented all my rage at my 12-year daughter–“I’ve cleaned this table five times today already–I am so sick and tired of this house always being such a mess!”–she smiled and said brightly, “Look at it this way, Mom. Back when you and Dad were first born, maybe there was a good fairy who looked at both of you. And she said, ‘I’m going to make sure you find each other and have four wonderful children together.’ And then there was another good fairy and she said, ‘And I’m going to see that you always have enough money to buy food and keep a roof over your heads.’ And a third good fairy said, ‘Your lives will always be filled with love.’ And then there was an evil fairy and she said, ‘But their house will always be messy!’ And the other fairies shrugged and said, ‘Eh, since we gave you all that other stuff, that’s not really all that bad, right?'”
I opened my mouth and then closed it again. And I really thought about what she said. And then all I said was, “Good point.”