Sunday, June 6, 2010

More Balance

When my partner told me our six-year-old neighbor commented yesterday, upon entering our house, "Wow, it's messy here!" my response was: yes it is, and if her parents didn't have their five-day-a-week nanny/maid, it's exactly what her house would look like. Belligerent defensiveness notwithstanding, our house was a mess, and today I directed our daughter through a complete clean up of her room, swept a dustpanful of crumbs, stickers and legos out from under the couch, and hosed the cobwebs with their trapped bunches of gnats off the front porch, a tight voice hissing inside my ear the entire while: if you can't take care of your things, you're living beyond your means.

Whilst hosing the porch, I noticed our neighbor sprinkling a bagful of something on the half of our front yard abutting his. This neighbor also, when he mows his yard, mows half our grass, right up to the front walkway bisecting our yard. So when he's done half our yard is mowed and half is not. It's one of those things I can't bring myself to talk to him about. In the daily rush of things crying to be handled—d0es our son have Lyme's disease, what is this letter from the IRS, why does the basement smell like sewage—why our neighbor mows half our lawn falls to the bottom of the list.

Plus our front yard is in shade most of the day and the grass grows so slowly that in the week stagger between him mowing half our yard and me mowing our entire yard, the difference in grass height is not so noticeable. Or so I tell myself. Fertilizer, dog poison—who knew what he was now dispersing over the lawn. I waved to him. He waved back.

The cleaning frenzy would have happened today even without the 6-year-olds' observation as today is the day before our once monthly cleaning woman shows. It typically takes us three hours to get our house in orderly enough shape to ask someone to come in and clean. Meaning we don't ask her to scoop the Barbies out of the tub or scrape the overturned jar of jam off the butcher block. We clear off all surfaces, and that takes a while.

Our cleaning person calls us one of her best customers, I think because the house is so clean when she comes, but it is only so clean because of how filthy it was the morning before. Whenever we look at our budget, and ways we might cut it, we don't touch the outside housecleaning. If it weren't for someone coming into our house once a month, we'd be living in squalor. I want to protest at this point what a clean and organized person I am. My office is spotless. The car I drive is neat. But I can't compete with two little people who can empty a dresser in what I thought was a blissful two minutes of quiet play, or who are learning to make their own lunches, somehow turning the entire kitchen upside down in the process.

But come on by Tuesday—the place will be spotless.