Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Pre-Visit Moment of Doubt

My in-laws will be here in a few hours. I never know exactly when they will arrive; they usually call when they are 30 minutes or so from my house. They are coming to celebrate Thanksgiving with us, as well as our oldest daughter's 8th birthday. When I say "my in-laws," I mean my mom-in-law, my husband's brother, and his wife.

They are kind people who love my children and make few demands as guests. I will enjoy their visit, and I will be sorry to see them go. But right now, I am at the difficult part of a visit: the hours before they arrive. During this time, I want to get my house clean, even though I know I can't. There is too much. I tried to have more realistic goals this time: I would merely make sure that the stacks of things we are giving to Goodwill actually make it to Goodwill before they come.

Nope. The stacks are still there. The time of day that Goodwill accepts donations are times when I  have my children with me, and I would rather give birth again than listen to them scream and cry or beg to help me or run outside the door and away as I carry box after box to the van. Goodwill errands with children are even worse than post office errands with children.

So I am anxious and feeling like a failure. Which I probably shouldn't, because I have actually accomplished a lot this month. This year I have been determined to simplify our lives in the house, and I have cleaned out all the upstairs closets (hence the Goodwill stacks). I want to have a home where an emergency does not send me into a housekeeping tailspin. I want to stop feeling like I am almost drowning.

So my bedroom is the cleanest it has been in years. The upstairs closets have some shelves that are  BARE.  Currently I am in the kitchen, where I have given the coffeemakers their semi-annual thorough scouring and put them in storage for the week (we will use the party 40-cup coffeemaker while family visits, and it is still spankin' clean from last time I put it away).  The bar stools that always have piles of stuff on them are, in fact, clean. I am sitting on one right now.

But the children have already demolished the living room that was clean two days ago. And I look around and I wonder - where do other people put their junk? I walk into houses that don't have cannisters of pencils and rubber bands on the little shelf under the light switch. Where do they keep them? What do you do with the stacks of papers that you can't throw out but have no immediate use for?

I have worked harder at housekeeping in the last month than I ever have in my life, and you would never know it by looking around my house.


  1. I have decided in my own head that I will not stress out about the state of my house until my youngest is in sixth grade. If all my kids are over the age of 12 and I STILL can't keep the house clean, then we know we've got a problem.

    Of course, that resolution goes right out the window when company's coming... *sigh* I know just how you feel.

  2. Why can't you throw the papers out? Toss 'em, file 'em, or scan 'em.
    Ugh, I hate piles but they seem to breed!!

  3. It sounds like a huge accomplishment to get stuff cleared out. Well done!! :) If you have stacks of boxes, sometimes charities will arrange a home collection for you. Might be worth ringing them up.

  4. Linda B.11/23/2011

    While it won't help you for this weekend, Goodwill does home pick ups. I don't know if they require a certain volume before they will pick up, but it is worth a call...

  5. Anonymous11/24/2011

    Another post I could have written. I'm beginning to get concerned that I am just a figment of your imagination.

  6. Ah, but Coralie, I am the one with a pseudonym, so it makes much more sense that I am a figment of yours.

  7. My house is a total sty all the time and I have no excuses beyond the simple fact that I am terrible at housekeeping. I have other glowing personality traits, but they all seem to dim in light of my sub-par cleaning skills. So. I understand.

  8. We've moved a lot. It's forced me to come to terms with The Stuff. A few years ago, when I knew we were moving from a house to a townhouse, essentially cutting our square footage by 65%, I made myself go through every drawer, every shelf, every box and ruthlessly get rid of things I don't use or like. That project took me six months, and that was only because I had a moving day deadline.

    I say: Cut yourself some slack. Keep plowing forward. You'll make progress, slowly at first, but then it will pick up speed.

    And maybe keep that 40-cup coffee maker out for a while, because wow. That much caffeine could really add some zip.

  9. Oh, laws. My own sainted mother (who is an excellent housekeeper, of course) is coming to help me with my new baby tomorrow. She will uncomplainingly set about restoring my house to the order that it should have been in the first place. I have been SO BUSY (and so TIRED) trying to get it clean before she comes so that my shame is less, but it still looks like I sit on the couch and read novels all day.

    Probably because in the normal course of things, I do.

  10. I have a junk drawer that lives up to its name quite well. We put stuff in our laundry room sometimes when we are having guests just for an evening or whatever. I will forever lament my lack of motivation to get my house as ordered as it should/could be.

  11. Hello there. I check in here now and then (through friends, you know how it goes...) and feel the need to chime in tonight.
    1) My daughter still laments the demise of two cottonwood trees that the neighbors had removed when she was THREE. She is eight now and still remembers it. I don't think this is a bad thing. How wonderful to have loved a tree.
    2) Can't wait to hear about this trip. I am intrigued and tempted to copy such an idea.
    3) I love recreating magical things that were rare in my childhood. Even if it doesn't taste the same as a grown up.
    4) I am glad you write. Under whichever name. But would like to read your published work, so just come on out and point us to

  12. They put them in the dryer before company arrives, and get them out after. Or at least that's what happens at my friend's house. Me? I put them places and then forget about them for months, proving to myself that I truly didn't need them to start with. Only then the next time I throw them out really quickly I really DID need's hard.