By Elizabeth L-B
When I was in elementary school, my father once left a note on the door of the bedroom that my older sister and I shared:
P and E -- Your bedroom smells like an elephant died in there, but it's such a mess, I can't find the body. Please clean it up.
Over the next 20 years or so, my organizing and cleaning skills improved. I never had a place that looked like something out of Martha Stewart, but my home was never so messy that I was embarassed to have people over.
Things have gone downhill since the boys were born. I work full-time and spend most of my non-work time with the boys. When the boys finally settle for the evening, I'm a lot more inclined to read a book, check out my favorite blogs, or try to fit in a bit of exercise than I am to vacuum the living room. Tony does some cleaning, but it's far from his top priority either. Both of us find it discouraging how quickly the boys can turn a room that you just spent an hour cleaning into a disaster zone. (Yes, I suppose it's an improvement that Nicholas is dumping the bookshelves onto a clean carpet.)
Having people over isn't much fun these days, because it usually involves an exhausting whirlwhind of cleaning to make the house presentable. (We recently hired a new babysitter, and I found myself frantically scrubbing the downstairs bathroom half an hour before she was due to arrive.) I tell myself that anyone who cares more about the house than our company isn't worth having as a friend, and yet I still cringe a little as I hear the Cheerios crunching underfoot.
Last week, I think we hit bottom. At least I sincerely hope that this is bottom. After returning from a long weekend, I discovered a sippy cup of milk that had fallen behind the toy chest in the boys' bedroom. I dumped the main chunk of sour milk into the toilet, rinsed the cup out, and left it soaking in the kitchen sink. Half an hour later, I realized that some of the "curds" in the sink were moving -- ack! yeck! maggots! We scrubbed the sink thoroughly and poured bleach down the drain, but an hour later we were still tracking down the survivors squirming their way up from the disposal. (Shudder.)
I'm not sure how we're going to turn things around (yes, I've heard of FlyLady), but something has to change. I'm not sure I'd want to visit someone else's house that had gotten this bad. We can't live like this.
Elizabeth L-B lives with her husband and two sons in Alexandria, Va., just across the river from Washington, D.C., where she works for the federal government, mostly on welfare policy.