Published January 16 2011
Swift: ‘Drop by’ guests shouldn’t expect domestic paradiseThere are four kinds of housekeepers in the world:
- Those who live in a messy house and don’t want anyone to know it.
- Those who live in a clean house and want everyone to know it.
- Those who live in a clean house and don’t want anyone to know it, lest visitors come over and track dirt on their alabaster area rugs.
- Those who live in a messy house and don’t care who knows it.
I, unfortunately, belong in the most vulnerable and insecure of the lot.
I am the lousy housekeeper with the guilt complex.
Truth is, I know how to clean a house. In fact, I grew up dusting and Windex-ing under the watchful eye of my mother, the ultimate German hausfrau.
The problem is that I loathe housework. I find it unfulfilling, fruitless and boring.
And so I try to live the lie. I labor like a sweatshop worker before company comes just so I can pretend like we live in a much nicer house than we do.
In short, I’ll be able to present the façade that we live in the “fake house,” a place where the couch cushions are always vacuumed, the furniture is always Swiffered, and the guest bath is always stocked with color-coordinated towels.
But I am only able to maintain this sham for short periods of time.
Before you know it, I’ve let a few minor details – a smattering of pet hair, a sprinkling of dust, a teensy bat colony in the hall closet – slide.
For that reason, I’ve grown to fear the “drop by” visitor. I don’t do well if someone calls to announce they are in the neighborhood and plan to drop by in five minutes.
How does this give me enough time to summon forth the fake house? How will I be able to dust the house, vacuum the dogs and hide the dishes in the garage in such a slender allotment of time?
As a general guide, I offer this brief outline of what visitors can expect from my housekeeping, based on the amount of advance notice I receive.
- Mom’s visit (a week’s notice): Few things drum up more childhood insecurities than the sight of Mom gasping audibly when she opens the fridge. That’s why Mom visits call for cleaning areas you’ve neglected for years: the top of the fridge, the heavy planter you never sweep behind and the ledge behind the toilet seat that reads “Universal Rundle.”
- Mom’s visit (half a day’s notice): This simply isn’t enough time to get rid of the catbox-and-rotten-oranges smell. Instead, you may want to tell your mother that you just had the house exterminated, which means everyone will have to stay in a hotel. (Woo-hoo! Maid service!)
- Old-friend visit (any notice): These are the friends who have seen every possible unflattering side of you. But, for some reason, they like you anyway, so you don’t need to disguise the fact that the tub is growing what looks like shag carpeting and the vegetable crisper contains liquid broccoli.
- New-friend visit (one-week notice): These are the people who are so new that you could still conceivably scare them away with the reality of your life. For that reason, please see “Mom’s visit (a week’s notice),” and follow those guidelines.
- New-friend visit (drop by): You can keep them from entering your house by letting off a smoke bomb in the foyer and cracking open the door to scream, “Save yourself! Oh, the humanity!”
- Any other drop-by guest: The drop-by guest has no right to judge a dirty house, even if that means dead weasels are stacked up like cordwood in the living room. If possible, you will want to “train” drop-by guests so that they always give you at least a week’s advance notice.
Come on, people.
Help me out here.
Help me live the lie.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525 or firstname.lastname@example.org