Cleaning time

Tomorrow my dad and stepmom arrive for a week-long visit, and because we love them very much and hope they never figure out what complete and total pigs we are, we’ve been tidying up the house in preparation for their arrival.

Um. Wait. I think maybe they read this blog. Oh hey, look over there! RIBEYES, POPSICLES AND A FUNNY MOVIE WITH STEVE CARELL!

(Okay, we should be good for about an hour and forty minutes, now.)

ANYWAY, as I was saying, my family is disgusting. Well, everyone except Otto. Otto is probably the tidiest of the lot of us, because he is part robot. (Otto’s mother is lovely, and clearly NOT a robot, but his father supposedly passed away a long time ago. I think what his family means is that he ran out of batteries.) So the cleaning thing, um, it’s been slow going.

As is generally the case with these things, it started a few weeks ago.

“Oh my God,” I would groan, while either sitting at my computer or slumped on the couch watching terrible television, “the house is disgusting. We have to clean. Seriously.”

“I’ll take care of it,” Otto said. And actually, he did—when we had his students over for a barbecue, he dusted and vacuumed the common areas and cleaned the bathroom in the office. It was lovely.

But, you know, that’s only part of the house. And that was a few weeks ago. So about a week ago I started in again.

“Oh my God,” I would whine to the children, while putting them to bed and beholding the carnage that is the top floor of our house. “You two are pigs. PIGS! What happened up here? Did the game shelf EXPLODE? Did one of your dolls lob a grenade? ARE THE BAKUGAN TAKING OVER WITH TINY SCRAPS OF PAPER AS THEIR WEAPONS? WHAT??”

And they would scurry around and pick up one or two things and assure me that soon, very soon, it would all be tidy.

This past weekend I did the kids’ laundry, and then—as I always do—I sorted and folded everything but the pajamas, socks and underwear, put it all back in the basket, and gave it to them to take upstairs and put away. (I do not yet trust them to fold their other clothing, although feel free to tell me if expecting 9- and 11-year-olds to take PRE-FOLDED stacks and simply PLACE them in the correct drawers is too much, because I’m beginning to think my kids are either more “special” than we ever assumed previously or that my expectations are out of whack.)

“Please put away your laundry,” I said on Saturday.

“Okay, Mama!” they said.

“Is your laundry all put away?” I asked on Saturday night, when the basket still had not been returned to the kitchen.

“Almost, Mama!” they said.

“Please put away your laundry,” I said on Sunday. Then, for good measure, I added, “Please don’t make me ask again. It’s Mother’s Day. Consider it your gift to me.”

“Okay, Mama!” they said.

Sunday night, the basket still hadn’t returned.

Yesterday afternoon, I made the mistake of going upstairs. My head exploded. I may have yelled a little. Or a lot. It wasn’t pretty; their rooms OR my behavior.

I came downstairs FUMING. “Happy bleeping family day!” I may have ranted to Otto. “The laundry is still in the basket. Papers are all over the floor. Toys are everywhere. Chickadee’s room looks like a bomb hit it. NO ONE EVER LISTENS TO ME!” And then I slumped down into my desk chair.

Which was conveniently parked at my desk. At least, I think it was. It’s kind of hard to tell, seeing as how my desk was overflowing with stacks and stacks of paper and books and other detritus. I spun my chair around—eager to escape this reproach—only to face an towering, collapsing stack of books from Scholastic waiting to be put on my bookcase… which is also buckling under the weight of the various things I have haplessly rammed onto its shelves over the last few months.

I surveyed the room. I looked at Otto. I may have muttered something about reaping what I’ve sown.

I went and got a trash bag.

The children cleaned upstairs. I cleaned the office. Otto disappeared outside, and when he was done cleaning the garage I complimented him profusely and suggested we just spend the entire visit out there, where the concrete is now clean enough to eat off of. Yes, the GARAGE is now the cleanest room in the house.

I finished digging out my office and then went upstairs to assist the children. To my great surprise, they’d actually been cleaning. I credit excellent upbringing, and that throbbing vein in my temple. We got the common areas downright organized. Monkey’s room is still a little scary, and Chickadee’s room needs a few more licks before it’s ready for her eviction so that my folks have someplace to sleep, but we’re close. Almost there.

At one point I asked Monkey to pick up a toy of his, and when he did, it became clear that it was broken. I launched into my standard rigmarole about how things that are BROKEN are GARBAGE and we don’t SAVE those things, we THROW THEM AWAY. He quietly replied that he still plays with it, he just doesn’t use that piece, and I stood there with the garbage bag as he slowly reached out to deposit the toy, looking crestfallen.

It’s something his dad bought him. When he was just about to put it in the bag, I pulled it shut, instead. “You know what, buddy? You did a great job sorting through a lot of stuff today. You can keep that a while longer until you’re ready to get rid of it, okay?” He hugged me and ran off to put it on a shelf. We’ll probably throw it away during the next culling session, but I’d had enough being mean for one day.

We went downstairs and had dinner, and afterward, there was pie for dessert. (Well, not for weirdo-elimination-diet me, but for everyone else.) Harmony was restored. I have sworn statements from the children that they will finish cleaning this afternoon.

When my folks get back from that movie, I may have to casually work into the conversation that I wouldn’t recommend looking under the bed, while they’re here, but at least I won’t have to start apologizing the second they walk in the door.


  1. Tracy

    This reminds me of my house. I don’t go upstairs but maybe twice a year. AND when I do, it’s holy hell. I get so upset that I remind myself the next time I think I need to check on toilet paper, shower curtain, etc. NOT to go. Boy, I’m glad I’m not the only one!

  2. Randi

    Let me just say that I love men who clean – my husband has no problem helping me around the house as well, and any man who is manly enough to do a bit of cleaning makes me really happy.

  3. B

    Oh yes, we’re about to do this type of cleaning this week. College son came home from school last week and as of yet, is STILL not moved completely back into his room. He is still treating my living room like a frat house or something. Today it stops. This is the last day he is sleeping on my couch! He DOES have a bed and his own bedroom! Thanks for reminding me this needed to be done!

  4. ChristieNY

    This is why we HAVE to have company over now and then, to hold the kids accountable for the clutter and actually sit down and deal with it – otherwise we’d truly live in a pigpen.

    You’re a good Mama, Mir, truly. =)

  5. Katie in MA

    Wow. I am impressed that you had the energy to put together so many words (and pretty ones at that!) after such a massive, energy-draining attempt at civilization. I am equal parts impressed with you and ashamed of myself. Right-o, off I go to the store to stock up on energy drinks so that I, too, may one day clean my house.

  6. Kate

    Ugh! My kids are all kinds of “special” too when clean, folded laundry appears in their rooms. Just can’t figure out what to do with it. I refused to do the seven year old’s laundry for two or three weeks…until she showed that she was capable of hitting the basket with the dirties and put away that which she cleaned and folded (supervised, of course). It made me crazy, but she’s gotten lots better.

  7. Megan

    My house has exploded and I have already sent three texts to those responsible “reminding” them that it. will. be. clean. BEFORE I get home from work.

    Also? My children, my very old children? Still don’t fold their clothes. Apparently the wad and shove method is juuuuuust fine.

  8. dad

    I hate to make all this extra work for you. We could just pitch a tent on the pristine terrain of your garage floor.

    We’re coming regardless. We have been conditioned to accept clutter. Our kids were that age once…long ago. Deja vu all over again.

  9. Leandra

    Am I the only dying to know if the elimination diet is working at all?

    For what it’s worth, I told Bubba THREE times this morning to put his dirty underwear in the dirty clothes basket. And then I told him that if I went into his room and his dirty underwear was still on the floor he was going to be in BIG TROUBLE, MISTER. And guess what? It was. And he was. Sigh. It’s not just your children.

  10. Lori N

    Are you sure you don’t live in MY house? Seriously – my husband cleaned the garage last week and not only was it the CLEANEST ROOM OF THE ENTIRE HOUSE, people noticed…and commented! I told him we’re moving out there for the summer. And then I noticed the spiders moving back in & I decided – never mind.

    And cleaned my house, well at least the downstairs.

    I also just had a similar exchange with my two kids. My head hasn’t exploded…yet. But when my daughter (9) came in asking for new underwear because the only ones she has are too big I just about lost it. You see, she has decided she is taking over her own laundry duties (yay!) but hasn’t put a single load in in 2 weeks. Obviously the gentle reminders I’ve been giving her have not worked & it took running out of underwear to drive the lesson home. (And the too large underwear? She pulled it from the top shelf of her closet – it was on sale & I was saving it until she grew into it. I’m weird that way.)

  11. Flea

    Oh Mir. You visited my house five years ago, didn’t you? You just described our family in detail. Which is to say, it does get better. A little.

  12. Annette

    Really? Is that how you spell rigmarole? Huh. That is why I read your blog. To improve my vocabulary. Otherwise, my my life is yours, just with 6 kids.

  13. Tammy

    I agree with Flea, it does get better. A tiny, minisule bit better, but better still.

    Last week, my 13 YO not only folded and put away laundry (his + others), but cleaned his room OF HIS OWN ACCORD. It could have something to do with the Wii game that he’s been pining/whining/bargaining for (that he’s not getting). Is it wrong to let him continue to labor under the delusion that doing helpful, proactive things will get him this game when there’s no chance we will let him buy it? I didn’t think so.

  14. bec 39

    I read your blog daily but I feel like I must have missed something. Did you explain what this elimination diet entails and what the point of it is? Personally I don’t like any type of diet in which you are forbidden to have an entire category of food, but feel free to try changing my mind!

  15. Dr. Liz

    Heh. The garage is typically the cleanest room of my house, too. With 1 and sometimes up to 3 race cars in the car (we have a VERY LARGE garage – I have lived in apartments smaller than this garage), The Boys (my husband, our main maintenance guy, and our mechanic/driving coach/co-driver) are Very Particular about the garage. Particularly when the mechanic/driving coach/co-driver has one of his cars in our garage. So definitely cleanest room in the house. The rest of the house stays clean for about 15 minutes after it has been cleaned, and then the dogs and cat go to work and it all goes to hell again…. (We don’t let the dogs or cat in the garage, clearly!)

  16. Mary

    I am so relieved to know that I am not the only one with a husband who cleans the concrete in the garage! This is deja vu to me from about a year ago when HIS family was coming for a cookout and he proceeded to clean the garage! (Though I shouldn’t be complaining – I’m one of the lucky ones that has a husband that doesn’t hesitate to help out regularly!)

  17. Anna Marie

    I specifically invite people over because I know then I will have to clean the house!

    Mir, you are SUCH a good mom.

  18. Groovecatmom

    Well, I have a 9 and an 11 y.o. too. It is too much to expect them to neatly put away folded laundry. At least, around here, it’s too much to ask that it be put away neatly and in the correct drawer. When my children wear the same three outfits over and over and over again with no variance, I remember to go and look. Oh hey! Shirts in the pants drawer! I don’t even want to know about the underwear. But, you know, to go all Robert Browning on you, what’s a heaven for? For neat laundry, that’s what!!

  19. Scottsdale Girl

    Personally I don’t even know why I have a closet and dressers. I basically dress out of the laundry basket and off the door frame. For real.

  20. JennyM

    I’m with Anna Marie. The only reason my reclusive behind invites people over is to force us to clean the house. Now that I’ve said it, that seems… wrong.

  21. Jenni

    My 9-yr-old does pretty good job of putting her clothing away. Although her drawers are atrocious. It’s all just shoved in there. However, we’re pretty strict about keeping clothing off the floor/bed. I’ve been known to take things that aren’t put away properly.

  22. Chuck

    A rolltop or flip-top desk is excellent for hiding a mess. I just got an old one from my Mom’s old house and I love it. You just have to tape it shut when company is coming over.

  23. MomCat

    When we’re having company, at some point during the pre-visit hysteria, I pull out the greatest tool for housecleaning assistance, that wise old saying, “They will love you anyway.”

  24. Brigid

    Before a playdate with a friend, my 4YO said “We better clean this place up!” because that’s usually the only time we clean. Or when I’m mad. I do my best (read: only) cleaning when I’m mad. My husband told me yesterday that my desk was a fire hazard.

  25. StephLove

    Whenever we have guest coming, even relatives I really, really love, at some point I wonder if I really love them enough to go through the h-e-double toothpicks that is cleaning the house.

  26. Amy-Go

    Cleaning? The house? Interesting concept…I’ll have to try that! Later. Much later. ;)

  27. Donna

    My 11 yr old daughter’s room is always the cleanest room in the house! She will not go to sleep if anything is out of place. Sometimes I will toss a book or a sock in the middle of the floor when I am saying goodnight just to mess with her! LOL I have never in her life had to tell her to clean her room; it has been spotless since she was a toddler. It is very odd actually. Her 9 yr old sister and 7 yr old brother apparently missed the clean freak genes though. They just shed “stuff” continually. I have learned to lower my expectations.

  28. Nicole

    When our apartment gets really overrun by filth, my husband calls it “Das Messenhaus” — I guess because saying it with a funny German accent softens the blow of our lousy parenting. What I love is when I tell my 4 year-old its time to clean up and he says, very matter-of-factly, “I can’t. Its too tiring.”

Things I Might Once Have Said


Quick Retail Therapy

Pin It on Pinterest