Living with my mom meant living with clutter. She couldn’t bear to part with anything even remotely sentimental and she was an incurable collector: china, antiques, pill boxes, books, sheet music…anything. It wasn’t so bad when I was a kid, but as I got older and her health started to decline the clutter really started to build up; she couldn’t clean and organize the way she once could. Every once and a while I’d go on a huge cleaning spree and throw out a bunch of crap only to have her get pissed off because I threw out a scrap of paper from the seventies.
Her house was packed from stem to stern with stuff. One could barely move around without knocking something off of the wall or sending a stack of books to topple to the floor. There were things jammed in every corner, piled under furniture, shoved in closets; her house was a claustrophobic’s nightmare. After she died the task of cleaning it out fell on mine and Dave’s shoulders and lemmie tell ya, it made me physically ill when I thought of the amount of work that lay ahead of us. We ended up having a one-ton garbage bin dropped in the driveway, which we filled and had dumped five times. We threw out five tons of crap, and by crap I mean teaching curriculum from the sixties, every card my grandparents received on their fiftieth wedding anniversary, receipts from gifts purchased in 1984, boxes upon boxes of sheet music and broken furniture. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
So I think living in that kind of environment is a huge part of the reason why I like my house to be clean. I remember being embarrassed by the state of our house when I was a teenager and I vowed to be better organized and keep things clean once I got my own house. I’m no neat freak, but my house, for the most part, is fairly tidy and organized…just don’t look in the storage closet in the basement, okay?
Usually, whenever we have people coming over for holidays and parties I go a bit berserk and clean like crazy, which is what Dave was expecting yesterday morning when we started getting ready for Julia’s party. But you know what? I just wasn’t up for The Big Clean. I didn’t feel like it and to be honest, I didn’t care. Which is big for me, because usually, I care. A lot.
The party was great. Over the course of the day, there were ten kids and thirty adults here; the last guests trickled out at 6.30. The weather was perfect, the food was good, the cakes were amazing, Julia got awesome presents and everyone had a good time. The remaining stragglers helped with clean-up and not once did I overhear anyone hissing, “God, you’d think she would have cleaned up a little before the party.”
So not only did I celebrate with friends and family that three years ago come Monday I was foaming at the mouth and screaming for drugs, sweet Jesus, someone get me a goddamn epidural right fucking now, I had an epiphany: screw the cleaning. People aren’t coming to hang out at Martha Stewart’s pad. They know I have two kids and a husband who blow through this place like a tornado. They’re not expecting a spotless house. They’re coming to have fun and be comfortable, eat yummy barbecued food, drink a few beers and eat cake.
And from now on, that’s what they’ll get.