As autumn air blows in, cleansing the air and driving away the humidity from summer – you can almost feel the holidays lurking around the corner. And this means that your home, will be turned upside down as company makes their way in and out of your life and your space. For so many people, the thought of company coming – even if for just a short while can turn them into Martha Stewart on speed – as they essentially clean, organize and redecorate the house like a mad person to accommodate people they only see a few times a year. You know this is you, when your children plop down on the couch to catch some relaxation after school and you worry that they are un-plumping the pillows you have just bought to make a good impression on your guests. Cleaning the house for company can turn the best of us, into monsters.
The funny thing is, that when company is coming – even long before they are set to arise, you suddenly feel compelled and impulsive about getting to all those petty chores and tasks that you have put off for so long. You know, like organizing the medicine cabinet, cleaning out the dead spiders and broken toys from under the beds, dusting picture frames and using borax soap and brillo pads to shiny up the bottoms of your pots. This cleaning frenzy sort of throws out the idea that we always save the best for our own families and makes your family miserable in the mean time. The questions must be asked…why is it we are so afraid for other people to see how we really live? And worse, whose expectations are we trying to meet when we clean our house so furiously that we barely enjoy our visit with the people we cleaned for?
The dirty truth is that all of us are probably slobs in our own rights. The keeping up with the Jones’s mentality is definitely in place when we decide to scrub the grout in the bathroom after leaving it dirty for several years. Is the biggest fear that we have as a society, allowing people to walk into our house and see our dirty socks, undone dishes and unmade beds with mismatched sheets? These things don’t seem to bother us until the mother in law is coming and certainly aren’t on the priority list 7 days out of the regular week, so why now? Is it because we want to make an impression on other people and impress them with our cleanliness and order – or is to save ourselves from some embarrassment? Chances are that these people, visiting OUR houses have left their own house in such disarray that they don’t want to go home. And, when they do go home, they will feel obligated to try and match your high standards of décor and cleanliness. If you take things full circle, then you realize that it only takes one person to break the change of pretentious house cleaning involved in cleaning the house for company to make things easier for the rest of us. So, who will it be? Will it be you who knows your in-laws are coming and leaves the moldy shower in tact? Would you be that brave?
The disappointing reality of our situation is that we worry deeply about what other people will think. When you consider that you work 7 days a week, are constantly trying to keep things clean enough to just survive and get by – and fit in carting the kids all over God’s creation as well as thousands of other things in your 24 hour day, there is no time for obsessive compulsive cleaning. If our extended family and friends who love us enough to come and stay at our homes really cared – they would come to help us clean. Then, instead of you panicking and spending hundreds of dollars on credit cards you shouldn’t be using to gussy up the living room – you would simply return the favor when you come and visit them. The happy result would be that we all live in our pigsties with our families year round only to look forward to company coming to help us clean it up. And then, we can visit them – feel validated that we are not the only family who has no time to clean the house from top to bottom and help them get their house in order as well. See, everyone wins! And best – either people would stop visiting you because of the workload or they would no longer complain to other relatives (that have to tell you) that your beds were made with stale sheets and green stuff was growing on the cheese in your refrigerator.
The whole thing is ridiculous. Sure, we want our houses to be presentable which is the opposite of your teenager’s room. But making your entire family miserable in the meantime as you clean your house for company subtracts from the enjoyment of having your company. And if these people love and respect you, then you certainly shouldn’t feel judged by them when they come to your home. They have to know you are busy and consumed with much more valuable things than surveying your home with a microscope looking for filth and germs.
For some of the people that come – no matter how hard you try, your efforts are in vain anyways. That certain someone in particular, dare we say her name (the MIL) will not think you are keeping the house well enough regardless of how high your standards are. She will turn her nose up at the food on the table, run her fingers along the mantelpiece, balk at the use of color in your rooms, and give you all sorts of seasoned advice about decorating with doilies, no matter what. And if she loves your home and cannot believe how amazingly you keep it, she isn’t going to admit it anyways. Your best bet may be to agree to disagree (or ignore) her opinions.
Let’s face it. In our real lives – the ones we live with our family, we are all somewhat dysfunctional with all sorts of cobwebs (literally) hiding in the closets and corners. And you know what, that’s okay! But as you prepare for company, running around like a crazy person trying to make an impression on people – remind yourself that by just being yourself, and shoving all the clutter under the bed rather than renovating your laundry room, you make it easier for other people and succinctly begin to break the chain of false pretenses and silly expectations that we all live by when it comes to sharing our homes with others. The bottom line is that it is your heart that counts, not the state of your home.