A while back, I came across a Facebook post that someone had shared on my newsfeed. What caught my attention at first was not the headline, but rather the thumbnail image that was displayed above it. It was a picture of a freshly vacuumed carpet.
Everyone has little quirks, things that make them happy that other people might find strange. One of mine is that I love those little lines that your vacuum makes on your carpet. No, seriously. It’s like a nirvana moment for me, akin to the people that have the little zen gardens on their desks. They pick up their tiny rakes, and I run to the laundry room and grab my Shark.
I mean, this is how I spend most Friday nights.
And when the cleaning is over, and the vacuum marks are on full display, there’s a sense of peace and calm in the house.
So of course, I ended up clicking on the link and reading the article. It wasn’t really about cleaning, but rather about prioritizing what is worth your time as a parent. How in hindsight, things like having an immaculate house aren’t really as important as you thought when you weigh the amount of time it takes to achieve perfection with the things you miss out on in your children’s lives while obtaining it.
For the most part, I agree. My kids are long past the days of wanting me to play dolls with them. But I remember those nights when it was far easier to admit defeat and corral the mess to a corner of the living room if it meant being able to read a story before they fell asleep. Besides, the toys would invariably be strewn all over the floor again the next day.
Even now, I wouldn’t call my home open house ready on a typical day. Instead of toys in my kids’ rooms, you’re more likely to find dirty socks on the floor, used glasses or bowls, and overflowing trash cans that they can’t manage to take care of themselves.
Admittedly, my house is lived in. Even with those vacuum marks I so dearly covet. But someone could ring my doorbell right now and I’d be able to invite them in without embarrassment. Well, maybe after shutting the doors to my girls’ bedrooms.
Vacuum lines are pretty, and so are moments with your children.
But having a clean house can also be a way of saying “I love you”.
So that’s why after the girls go to school, I open up those bedroom doors and shove dirty jeans into hampers. I rescue spoons and glasses from the depths of hell and march them out to the dishwasher. My daughters might not notice that I do this now, because it’s just a bit of help. But eventually, if I didn’t do it, they would be able to tell.
I should know.
Growing up, way back before there were reality shows that put a name to it, I lived with a hoarder. My childhood home should have been a place of comfort, somewhere that I should have been proud to invite people to. I learned at a young age not to, after being ridiculed at school because a friend ended up commenting to someone else about how many dishes were piled up in my mother’s sink. So I was the one who accepted invitations from others, while never handing them out. I became a master at waiting at my front door for my friends’ parents (and later my friends themselves) to pull up in the driveway, so I could run out and jump into their cars, successfully slamming the door on the secret that I was hiding.
From the outside, my childhood home probably seemed idyllic. A large two story with a welcoming porch. Six bedrooms, two and a half baths. On paper, plenty large and perfect for sleepovers.
In reality, a place that I couldn’t wait to leave. And when I did, a place I hated coming back to.
No one really questioned why I never reciprocated on the invites. I supposed it helped that I only had a few close friends. And those friends were the ones that always had everyone else over anyway. It just always worked out so that the topic never came up.
At home, things continued to get worse instead of better. Though I don’t ever remember it being clean there, it might have been when I was too little to care. Maybe it started out as lived in, then turned the corner to cluttered, before snowballing into downright disgusting. It wasn’t just one closet, or one room, it was the whole damn house.
I learned to deal with it. When I was allowed to bathe (another story completely, as my mother insisted that people didn’t need to wash daily), I took my showers in the one bathroom that was halfway functional, getting clean inside moldy shower walls that were caving into the tub. Like even they were too depressed to be there any more. Sure, I knew my living conditions weren’t normal, but I was too ashamed to tell anyone. Besides, where would I go if I did?
I vowed that when I was old enough and prepared enough to leave that I would. That I was only biding my time in a temporary situation. That once I left, I would never look back. And more importantly, that I would never, ever, live like that again.
Not exactly fond childhood memories. Or goals that you should strive for when you’re that age.
With most everything in life, there’s a happy medium. A balance that exists between normal and neurotic. And that was the takeaway that I got from reading that post.
As a parent, I try my best to temper my past with my family’s collective future.
But I refuse to feel guilty about loving my vacuum lines.