Good Housekeeping: Totally Slobtastic Slackermom Edition

March 20, 2009

If you were ever to visit my neighborhood, I would love for you to drop by. I’d be thrilled to see you, and I would totally invite you onto my verandah, and I would fix us up a nice pot of coffee and we would sit outside and eat cupcakes – fresh from the bakery down the street – and drink our coffee and chat. Or maybe it would be, like, late afternoon or evening and I would bust out the wine and the cheese and we would sit outside and enjoy the sunset and it would be lovely, really, just perfectly lovely. But I’d really hope that you wouldn’t ask to use the bathroom. Because I’d really kind of rather you not come in my house.

It’s not that I have anything against you, or that I have weird bathroom issues. It’s just that, you know, if you’d just dropped by? And I hadn’t had enough notice to do a total sweep of the house in advance of your visit? I just would totally not want you to come inside. Because, really, it usually looks something like this:

That’s what it looks like, all the time. Worse even. That room at the back? That’s supposed to be the dining room. Needless to say, we don’t do a lot of dining there. We actually moved the table out so that there’d be more room for things like, say, easels and chalkboards and paints. Also, giant stuffed cows and little plastic grocery carts. The piano is there, just off to the right, and it does get played, but it also functions as a toy shelf and Dora puzzle storage unit.

Oh, we try to keep it tidy. Two or three times a day I shove toys and books and miscellaneous child crap into the various baskets that you see strewn about. Then I vacuum. And then the room looks clean for about fifteen minutes before Jasper and/or Emilia begin upturning baskets and flinging toys everywhere again.

And then it looks something like this:

And this isn’t even the worst room. If I, in a fit of transparency, let you in the front door, I still wouldn’t let you up the stairs. That’s where I hide the real mess: the piles of laundry, the unpacked suitcases (seriously), the random pieces of barely used baby equipment, the children. The bathroom is also upstairs, which is why, if you mentioned a need to use the facilities, I might suddenly suggest that we head to the cafe around the corner. For cookies! They make the best cookies! Also, their restroom doesn’t have childrens’ toothpaste smeared across the vanity mirror, and they probably actually put the toilet paper on the roll.

It’s a losing battle for me, keeping house. I just can’t do it. I have a ten-month old baby who is just starting to walk and using his newfound mobility to seek out things to scatter and destroy, and a three-year old who loves nothing more than to mark her territory by spreading toys and books as far as she can see. And I have a husband who has trouble figuring out the relationship between socks and sock drawers and two cats who have an enthusiastic affection for dragging miscellaneous crap underneath sofas and leaving it there to collect dust. It is Sisyphean, I tell you, the work of managing a household while tending to two very small children and a tidiness-challenged husband. It is impossible, and unavoidable, and necessary, and it causes me no end of stress.

Derrida and Bukowski get tossed and stomped. Not shown: destruction of the lesser post-modernists and later dirty realists.

I can look at pictures, in magazines, of skinny mom-celebs – the Gwyneths, the Angelinas – and it doesn’t bother me, because, please. I know the work of a trainer and a private chef when I see it. But I see images of tidy homes – homes that are ostensibly occupied by families, by people with children – and it makes me a little bit crazy. Because even though I know that images in magazines are set-decorated and fluffed and faked, it still worries me, the idea that somewhere out there, other parents are keeping their homes tidy. I do not, and cannot, keep my own home in a state that even approximates something that even resembles a simulation of ‘tidy.’ And I have no idea how to change that. If I really wanted to lose my muffin-top, I would join a gym or do that shred thing and I would have some reasonable expectation of having some success. But getting my house organized? And keeping it that way? Figuring out the alchemical formula for turning cat turds into gold seem seems a more attainable goal for me.

So I’m trying to come to terms with it, in the same way that I have been trying to come to terms with the muffin-top. Embrace my outer slob, as it were. And it would really, really help if somebody – anybody – out there would stand up and to admit to some slobbiness, too. You don’t have to post photographic evidence (although if you wanted to do that, I’d be really impressed. And grateful.) (Here’s a Flickr group to post to, if you’re so inclined.) Even just a show of hands? Anyone else out there losing the battle of the mess? Anybody else pretty much just ready to surrender?

If not, that’s fine. You’re still welcome to come visit me. Just make sure that you pee before you get here.

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    Mr Lady March 20, 2009 at 12:11 am

    Oh my god, my house. ALL THE TIME. I’ve actually posted pictures of it before.

    I think it may be a health hazard to crawling children.

    Amy March 20, 2009 at 12:12 am

    Your house and my house could be best friends. And I don’t even have kids yet! I am full of housekeeping fail.

    Jessica March 20, 2009 at 12:16 am

    We live in constant chaos. I don’t know what’s worse: the anxiety or the shame. Thanks for making me feel a little more normal.

    Karen March 20, 2009 at 12:17 am

    Hey thats not bad. I don’t have the guts to post a pic of my house..If only i could show you a pic of my sisters. She has even said the kids have claimed the downstairs. It takes 4 people to clean it to be able to see the floor. Its terrible..

    Debs March 20, 2009 at 12:19 am

    OMG, you snuck into my house and took pics! Oh wait, that is way to clean to be my house. One would think that when most of the children became teenagers that some of the mess would stop. But it doesn’t. It becomes worse.

    Viv March 20, 2009 at 12:25 am

    Okay…picture this. Six months pregnant, five children, two dogs, two cats, one townhouse bursting at the seams. I am guilty, oh so guilty, of pretending I don’t hear the bell if someone that I’m not expecting happens to just drop by. I fight the good fight all day long. I pick up toys, I toss in loads of laundry, I do dishes. It is all to no avail. Nine bodies (including the furry) mess making as fast as they can vs. one Mommy that has trouble bending over. The scales are not tipped in my favor.

    Mandy March 20, 2009 at 12:44 am

    About 10 months ago, Jakey started pulling everything off shelves and out of drawers. He hasn’t stopped. Add that to a dog that tracks in every leaf and twig known to the forest, a husband who hasn’t picked up after himself since, um, 1985, and another 4 year old child.

    I used to weep tears of desperation. Now I just drink a lot of red wine.

    Kelley March 20, 2009 at 12:52 am

    My kids are older. I was you. But I learned a lesson. While I love a tidy home with clear surfaces, my family does not care for such a thing.

    So I have learnt to live with knowing that my house is CLEAN. While it is not tidy for anything longer than 5 minutes I know that it is clean.

    That means something.

    Oh and I have a cupboard. WAAAAAAAY up high, where I store my wine glasses. It is PERFECTION. All the glasses are lined up and sparkling. I go to that cupboard and soak up the tidy when the crap all over the place just gets all too much.

    Do that. It helps. You are welcome.

    (oh and right now, my house is a TIP. My husband has been doing the housework. Nuff said)

    JCK March 20, 2009 at 1:37 am

    Oh, the shame. The shame…at my house of O’Dirty.

    Gry March 20, 2009 at 1:41 am

    Hell yeah! It’s the same, if not worse, at our house.

    All Things BD March 20, 2009 at 1:44 am

    Good Lord, the mess. It’s everywhere, and my kids are in school for 7 hours a day! What is my excuse? I think I just suck. Every few months, I purposefully invite people over so that I am force to actually vacuum. That’s right. The dustbuster is the only thing to touch my carpet on a semiregular basis. So sad.

    livinginagirlsworld March 20, 2009 at 2:22 am

    Total chaos here. I’m always impressed when you can see more than a few inches of carpet at a time. Glad there are more real people out there who get this. In my house there are 3 kids doing the damage. Some days it is just painful to look at…but I’m usually too damn exhausted to do anything about it.

    Anonymous March 20, 2009 at 2:38 am

    We have hygeine. Food safety-type hygeine. what we do not have, however, is any tidiness whatsoever. We have CLUTTER. A lot of clutter. Maddening, piled-up, can’t find anything in my office clutter. Then there’s the living room. Which has a train table for a coffee table. Toys and art stuff and children’s books and baby clothes pile up there. And around there. And on the couch. And on the floor. too many toys. Very few played with. Can’t seem to get rid of any. Had to hire a new p/t nanny. That’s stressful. Know what’s more stressful? Having her come over and see how we REALLY live, not just when I’d cleaned up prior to the interviews. Ugh.

    Veronica March 20, 2009 at 2:42 am

    I know how you feel. I make a point of telling everyone to FREAKING RING ME before they drop in. At least that way I can hide most of the mess and vacuum the crud from underneath the piles of toys.

    I posted a photo once. On a not to bad a day.

    Veronica March 20, 2009 at 2:43 am

    I meant to add:

    Admittedly that was over 12 months ago now and the kid has gotten taller AND we’ve added another baby to the mix.

    Doc Anne March 20, 2009 at 2:54 am

    My sister once asked me what my decorating style know, like contemporary, traditional, etc. I said Early Childhood. My kids are grown now with kids (well, kid) of their own. My house is neat and tidy. It echoes with silence. What I would give to have toys underfoot and chaos and the sound of kids laughing.
    Relax. Nobody cares what your house looks like if your kids are happy.

    Backpacking Dad March 20, 2009 at 3:06 am

    Posted a picture of my clean dining room.

    Mrs. Vladdevlor March 20, 2009 at 5:00 am

    We used to joke about it and call our house a biohazard site but I think there’s a point there… And the baby is crawling everywhere… We can’t really keep up with her and she’s not even walking yet! I would give anything for someone to come around once a day and clean it…

    EliandMe March 20, 2009 at 5:18 am

    You know that mental list we all keep, ‘what I would do if I won the lottery’? Well mine has one solitary item on it – a team of cleaners.

    Elisabeth March 20, 2009 at 6:11 am

    I have a beautifully tidy house, an 18 month old son and I work three days a week too. Irritating superwoman? Nah – my house is beautifully tidy because of the combined efforts of my wonderful cleaner and my even more wonderful nanny. It’s always possible to cheat in any aspect of your life with enough money to throw at the problem so next time you seee a tidy family house bear that in mind!

    Stacy March 20, 2009 at 6:50 am

    Me too! I would rather be out playing with my 2 yr old than cleaning my house while he watches TV.
    also, me too! on the muffin top but I can hot accept mine and its driving me crazy.

    myrelish March 20, 2009 at 6:52 am

    I did read somewhere that it is important to let kids have their own mess, a space that is their own. I am sticking to that theory – the whole house is their space and by having it messy I am merely nurturing their souls. Of course I can’t document the source of this knowledge – the book is likely to buried in toys somewhere.

    MrsEmbers March 20, 2009 at 7:12 am

    I know your pain- almost. My husband is a fairly tidy person (except when it comes to the kitchen), but I can’t keep on top of the mess from the 1-year old, the 3-year old and the 2 cats.

    Then again, I COULD be cleaning instead of reading blogs, etc… Nah.

    TeacherMommy March 20, 2009 at 7:39 am

    Dear God. The chaos. The mess. It never ends and as much as I feel better when the place is clean, I cannot seem to get going on it ever or keep up if by some miracle some cleanliness is obtained! If I ever win the lottery with those tickets I don’t buy, one of the first things I’ll do is employ a maid service.

    Because let me tell you, I’d be unemployed in a jiffy if I was an actual maid.

    Lisa March 20, 2009 at 7:51 am

    I have a three year old who must have 14 Thomas trains spread about whatever space he is currently occupying. I have a rock star 16 month old who can trash a room in seconds–he doesn’t want to play with the toys, just dump them onto the floor. (Every single toy under a four foot high radius is now on the floor? My work here is done.) And you know if you drop clothes onto the floor or leave dishes on the table, they magically clean themselves and put themselves away. I do laundry every single day. I am puzzled as to how a man who dry cleans his entire wardrobe, a woman who spends most of her time in pajamas, and two small children can create 20+ loads of laundry per week. And I’m adding a new baby to this. Aaaiiieeee.

    Nonnash March 20, 2009 at 7:53 am

    My house is the exact same way. I just keep buying bigger baskets and bins to throw things in, but once an hour they all seems to explode like a geyser. It is a never ending, fruitless battle

    RetroKali March 20, 2009 at 7:54 am

    Boring women have clean houses, right? That is what I have always heard. Looking at your house ( which closely resembles mine), it looks like you LIVE there, not stay there. You are LIVING. At least this is what I tell myself when I look around the smeared mirrors, curdled milk bottles, and toys toys toys. You aren’t alone!

    Motherhood Uncensored March 20, 2009 at 8:01 am

    Keep in mind, I live with Mr. Clean, so the messes are few and far between. In fact, I have to tell him to LET them make messes before he starts cleaning them up.

    That being said, we’ve had our fair share of messes.

    Rayne of Terror March 20, 2009 at 8:09 am

    What did Ann Richards say? Something along the lines of, Do I want my gravestone to say She kept a clean house. NO. I used to clean and rage. I gave that up for being relaxed in the mess. Right now the dryer is going because I was out of underpants. And that’s okay.

    Jaden Paige March 20, 2009 at 8:26 am

    OMG it’s not just me?! YAY!!!!

    Anonymous March 20, 2009 at 8:31 am

    I have a little sign at the door that says “this home is not under construction Kids just live here!” Thank you for this post. Makes me feel a little bit better about my own messy home!

    Nikki March 20, 2009 at 8:32 am

    Thank you for posting this. I have three sons, an exhusband and a fiancee and well, I just had a complete tantrum yesterday because I have out of towners coming and and of course, it only lasted ten minutes.

    Just as visual proof that I am a slob too, see a previous post: (what I didn’t say in the video is that I ALWAYs have some project that keeps me from taking care of things the way I should):

    tutugirl1345 March 20, 2009 at 8:34 am

    I think you need to chalk up other people’s clean houses to professionals as well. Growing up, my parents house was fairly tidy. Because we had a full time housekeeper/nanny. Every time we didn’t have a housekeeper? The house looked 100 times worse than those pictures you posted.

    Lesha March 20, 2009 at 8:36 am

    The only reason my house isn’t overrun with dog-fur-bunnies is because I’ve paid someone to come clean it weekly for me. I hate cleaning and with a baby and then toddler I just never got around to the big stuff. I can put the toys away at the end of the day, but during the day, what’s the point, they just come right back out. And it’s not that my husband is tidily challenged, he likes things tidy and knows where things go. He just doesn’t seem to want to DO it.

    But now, I’m living with my parents while we transition to another state. I have my room and the rest of the house is tidy and clean because my mom is a machine. My room is piled high with boxes and laundry and diapers and everything that might fit into two or three rooms in a regular house is in my one little room.


    Joy March 20, 2009 at 8:38 am

    My house looks just like that!! It’s the remnants of a F5 9mo tornado. What’s really sad is that my house is for sale and I’m supposed to be keeping it in tip top shape! HA! Instead I go into OMG mode and start yelling at everyone to stay out of my way while I try to clean it all up.

    Syko March 20, 2009 at 8:42 am

    We’re all like that when the kids are small. Heh. I’m like that now to some extent – I moved three weeks ago and the suitcases of my clothes are still piled in my bedroom, rummaged through but not unpacked, and may never be unpacked now because to hang them up might require IRONING and I don’t do a lot of that either.

    Our toilet paper isn’t on the roll either, but that’s the cat’s fault because he likes to unroll them.

    But remember this:

    Cleaning and scrubbing can wait ’till tomorrow,
    for babies grow up, much to our sorrow.
    So quiet down cobweb-dust, go to sleep.
    I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

    Anonymous March 20, 2009 at 8:52 am

    I pay someone to come in every 2 weeks and make my house presentable. It has saved my sanity and probably my marriage. Besides, I have so many other things I’d rather be doing!

    Jen March 20, 2009 at 8:53 am

    I am soooo here with you. I have three kids 5, 3, and 18 mos plus a husband that leaves random piles of crap and broken bits of computer around the house. We are ankle deep in toys and paper 99% of the time. We would be drowning in laundry too, but that pile is in the basement. (I call it Mount Washmore). I know my house is clean under the mess, but it is NEVER tidy.
    Every two weeks I have professional cleaners come. For the five minutes after they leave my house is clean and tidy.

    Full confession time: I have regular respite care because one of my kids has special needs. I am pretty sure one of the workers reported me to CFS because of my mess–a social worker showed up on my doorstep one day for a surprise inspection because they were told my kids were living in unhygenic conditions. I passed inspection, but as we were chatting, my baby was emptying cupboards in front of the worker. So there. So messy the Feds came.

    Laural Dawn March 20, 2009 at 8:53 am

    If I weren’t at work, I’d take a picture and post it for you.
    Our house is always a mess.
    What my husband and I agree on is that no matter what we make sure that we clean up anything that could get moldy. So, we make sure the dishes are washed.
    Toys/magazines/books/clothes, etc are not the end of the world. That’s just stuff. As long as we aren’t attracting mice I figure we’re doing well.

    Dorene March 20, 2009 at 8:57 am

    My house is usually a disaster. Toys EVERYWHERE. My youngest like to turn his toy bins upside down and dump everything in the middle of the room. He then uses the bins to boost himself up and empty shelves. I’m not sure why I bother folding clothes because they just end up in a pile on the floor.

    I’d like to say the clutter is just the kids’ fault but one look around and you will also see unread magazines, boxes that have not been opened, and other things that do not yet have a proper home. I would need a few kid free days (or weeks) to get the place in order.

    Eva March 20, 2009 at 9:06 am

    Those pictures? Your house is not dirty, not scandalous, just the regular kind of kid-clutter everyone has. Wait till you have bulimic, long-haired cats, and humongous indoor/outdoor dogs with long fur. Do you have a smushed cherry tomato mating with your floor? Then you can say your house is dirty. Don’t worry about it. Also, with my best friends I don’t even feel the need to clean for them, at least if I’m tired or something. And your house is not dirty, I repeat.

    Canadian Lawyerista March 20, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Clearly, you are not the only one. My kids are 3 and 5, so it is getting better. But, there is clutter all over the rest of our house, piles of stuff I have to “go through”. We moved in July and I still have not unpacked.
    I don’t even pretend that I am interested in having a clean house. The cleaning lady comes on Fridays and piles the stuff and cleans around it so we have the appearance of a clean house until, say, Saturday morning.
    When people come over, invited or not, I just say “please excuse the mess, but if we waited until the house was clean, no one would ever come over”.
    Oh yes, and we have been renovating and everything is covered in drywall dust.

    Michelle March 20, 2009 at 9:19 am

    I’ll fess up. My house is clean but rarely organized or neat. I am organizationally challenged. I try, I go on fits of going through papers and organizing and then I have no idea where to put it all. It’s maddening. BUT, my house HAS to be clean… that’s where I draw the line. If that means I remove all the downstairs rugs so that I can more easily vacuum and mop the hardwood floor, so be it. Trust me when I say it’s not exactly a decorator’s dream.
    But my dirty little secret to keeping up with it all? Hire someone. I need it for my sanity. This incredible, amazing woman comes once a week and does all the really dirty jobs that I never have time for any more because I’m too busy picking up toys, doing dishes, doing laundry and cleaning spills (among other things). She keeps me sane. Without her I don’t know what I’d do.

    Her Bad Mother March 20, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Eva – true. But you haven’t seen my kitchen.

    RHW March 20, 2009 at 9:21 am

    You are not alone! Our house is an untidy disaster zone. We have a guest bedroom where you can’t even see the floor and don’t get me started on the basement (there’s a path to the laundry room and that’s about it).

    We too have resorted to inviting people over from time to time so that we actually do *some* cleaning. Generally, though, we invite other parents (they at least have a sympathetic frame of reference)

    Sandy Jenney March 20, 2009 at 9:24 am

    I think you house is more normal than you think. We have so much going on in our lives and so much stuff in the world that have to come into our homes everyday…it is a battle to keep them picked up.
    Don’t beat yourself up. Its a battle for most.

    ginabad March 20, 2009 at 9:25 am

    You are DEFINITELY not alone! You should see my kitchen floor, no really, it is GROSS. My walls? This house is 2 years old but if you looked even UNDER all the pencil/pen/marker on my white walls, you’d see splashed applesauce, tomato sauce and something unrecognizable. Small spashes of it, just dots, but ewwww. And it’s done in that paint you can’t clean, and we dont have time/money to paint now.

    As for the kitchen / dining nook floor, oy! I scrubbed it the other day, and I mean I HAD TO scrub, hands and knees. 24 hours later, right back where I started. You think, what’s the point???

    anyway, I’d come in. We can discuss strategies on how to get our kids cleaning their OWN messes…
    take care,

    gurukarm (@karma_musings) March 20, 2009 at 9:26 am

    Oh sweetie, you are SO not alone! It’s only the OCD amongst us who keep things under control – I have a friend who is one, who came into my house once when I actually had it tidied up, and asked me if I was expecting company! (No, I actually DO clean for us, once in awhile!)

    Even with kids older (one gone, even), it’s nigh unto impossible – although I do claim sufferage for a full-time job that comes with a 3-hr-a-day commute – does that count? You’d think that would mean less messiness, not more – no one home to make the mess all day, right? You haven’t met hubs… Sigh.

    Tricia March 20, 2009 at 9:26 am

    I have no kids so I can’t even blame them. My house gets cluttered with mail, and useless junk, shoes, and books. The dog scatters his toys all around, the cats deposit their hair all over the furniture. I work full time and am gone from the house from 7:30am until 6:30pm most days and the last thing I want to do is spend my weekend vacuuming and cleaning toilets and showers. I spent a decade doing this but last year I hired a housekeeper. Every 2 weeks she comes and cleans up my house, the bathrooms are clean, the furniture gets dusted, the kitchens given a good once over, the floors get mopped and I get my weekend back for me.

    Best decision I ever made! :)

    Oh and my sister – she has an 18 month old boy and a 5 year old boy. Her house resembles your photos because let’s face it kids are enough work in themselves and cleaning up after their little tornados of terror is just not reasonable every day! :) I don’t judge her for it at all – I love going to her house and plop down in the mess of toys and play with my nephews.

    Don’t sweat it! And if you can afford the occasional household helper I highly recommend it!

    cutiepiescustomcreations March 20, 2009 at 9:27 am

    WOW! You made my day. THANK YOU. Seriously. I have 3 little kids & my house is in a state of perma-kid chaos/clutter. Doesnt help that my neatfreak mom lives down the street & visits often…& that anytime we visit someone elses house with kids, its neat and non cluttered & my husband asks why our house cannot look that way. The other day I had a moment of complete bliss when I realized that at some point they will all be in school (which I am dreading otherwise, letting go) but I realized my house would have fewer hours in the day with kids to pull things out!!

    OH, & lastly, I leave you with this: I have two signs I have seen that I want for my house: Excuse the mess, We are busy making memories. AND trying to clean a house with kids is like trying to shovel snow during a snowstorm.

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