Monday, February 05, 2007

When a House is Not a Home

The wind in my house-selling and -hunting sails has been cut by The Partner's declaration that "it doesn't matter how nice of a house we buy--it's still going to look like a slum once you move in."

I've mentioned before that I'm not the neatest person. Housekeeping is not in my bag of tricks. I leave dishes in the sink overnight. The laundry turns into a moutainous load. Piles of outgrown clothing litter The Boss's bedroom. But I wouldn't call our house a slum. I would call it a place that takes a few hours to make presentable when we have guests over.

Of course, it didn't help my case any when he awoke this morning, after going to sleep mad, to find that he had no fresh boxers to wear.

The good thing about selling a house is that the showings will force me to keep our home in a constant state of clean. There will be no piles of used or unused items. There will be nary a dust ball in sight. The vacuum cleaner and Swiffer Wet Mop will get more use in three months than they've gotten in three years. I've already started boxing up superfluous kitsch and resigning it to the basement.

But the fear is that I'll return to my own devices once we move into a new home. The Partner asks, with good reason, why he can't expect to live out every day in the kind of clutter-free environment that guests see when they come over. But housekeeping, for me, is like exercising and writing. Even though I know all three acts are essential to my well-being and full of rewards, I have a lot of trouble motivating myself to carry them out. If I have to do any of those things, I will, but if I have the luxury of putting them off, well, I'll do that, too.

If it wasn't for this latest altercation involving my lazy slum-making characteristics, The Partner and I would be approaching the forth day in a row without fighting. For a couple that hasn't been able to string together two harmonic days in two years, that would've been quite a feat. But now we're back in the same old boat.

I'm beginning to think that pointing that old boat in the direction of a new home isn't going to change anything, and not just because I'm too lazy to paddle.


Mrs. Chicken said...

Two fight-free days ... amazing. How do you accomplish such a feat? Writing? Easy peasy. Marriage. F'ing hard, dude. I was ready to kill Mr. C this morning.

And we've had the going to bed mad/no clean socks/boxers/t-shirts argument 100 times.

Keep rowing. Keep rowing, Binky.

toyfoto said...

As someone who would love to be organized enough to live in a clean house, the reality is I can't manage it with the husband living under the same roof.

I don't know if this will be helpful or maddening, but here it is: I've come to realize that if I lived alone my home would be cleaner - not clean mind you, but considerably less cluttered.

I learned this when he was gone for a week. When he came home he asked me how I managed to clean the house and I realized he just wasn't there to mess it up. When he's there, leaving his dishes on the counters it makes me considerably less inclinded to tidy up after us both. I seem to have no problem cleaning up after myself, though.

If it's that important to him, maybe he should take it on. It's like my husband always telling me if I want mouldings and finished walls I should do it myself.

T. said...

I've got a solution for ya, Binky. Do what I do. Send the Partner to work out of town. There are multiple benefits to this...I)he will appreciate what you do manage to do everday, a whole lot more, 2)You can manage a whole bunch of consecutive days without fighting. You just never answer the phone. And lastly, if he runs out of clean boxers, it's nobody's fault but his own.

Of course, I sleep with a dog and my kids drive me batty but I'm not fighting with the hubs over a dirty house!


We need maids, I think.

Lauren said...

We are possibly the same person.

Chris, if you wanted a clean wife you should've married a maid. That being said, I love you both.

Wendy said...

Please dont beat me, but this seems like an easy problem to solve. Is it possible to hire a person to come in once a week, twice a week or even once a month?

I have always been a neat freak, but it is real hard to clean when the little boss arrives. Hiring a cleaning person was such a relief for me and my husband. We pay $60 a week, which I dont think it is bad. I think of that money is buying me some sanity.

Good Luck

ewe are here said...

Have to say, I'm on the other side. My husband's the messy one, as is the toddler of course. Drives me nuts. I'm more a clean as you go person which really cuts down on the need for major cleaning frenzies.

Good luck with keeping the house neat for showings! Maybe some of the new habits will stick...? ;-)

Mrs. Chicky said...

I have to ditto what T said. If he gets a job that requires travel your life will be much easier. Lonely, but easy.

And for the record, this moving thing. Bummer. That's even further away from me. :(

Chris said...

Toyfoto: I do clean up after myself and even put Binky's stuff away. And it just makes more room for the mess to spread to. Also, as the one who is NOT home all day, I don't see why I should have to take on the housekeeping role as well. Cleaning up after myself is one thing but I don't deal well with freeloaders.

Wendy: If we both worked and didn't have any spare time, a maid might be an option. But the issue here is motivation, not time.

Another issue that wasn't touched upon is that I work very hard to pay a mortgage on a nice house. And the new one will hopefully be even nicer (and definitely more expensive). So, why don't I ever get to enjoy it? I may as well buy an ugly, cheap house if it's going to look like crap anyways.

On a positive note, I'm wearing clean boxers today.

Andrea said...

I'm a bit of a slacker myself when it comes to cleaning. (I almost said 'when it comes to cleaning myself' but that's just wrong. I do shower. Daily.) I can leave dishes in the sink and toys on the floor, but too much clutter and I get a little crabby. I'm lucky in having a husband whose threshold for clean is just a tad lower than mine, so he starts cleaning before me and then I just pitch in. Plus, he says I clean wrong so I told him if he doesn't like how I clean, he can do it.

Boz said...

It disturbs me to think that someone would consider sending their spouse on vacation to be a solution to any problem. Communication, counsel, and compassion I can understand, but not separation.

Cleaning - and the maintenance thereafter - is a product of momentum, not motivation. Once you have cleaned, you need to leverage that sense of accomplishment to another chore relatively soon. It's no different than going to the gym, once you start it's easier to keep going, and vice-versa. Take responsibility for yourself (and some of your own advice) and just do it. He needs to do his chores, too.

Sending him away and hiring a maid are both lazy band-aids that do not fix the problem. I'm sure you could put $60 to better use in diapers, food, gasoline, or a trip to visit friends (wink). Better yet, take those suggested solutions, drop off the Boss, and spend the $60 on a hotel room for you and your spouse for a weekend getaway in Vermont or Rhode Island to reconnect.

jen said...

wow. deeply cutting stuff, my friend. you are already in the water. is it with the current, or is it going against it?

am thinking of you. i know how deep this cuts.

binkytown said...

Oh dear. Truthfully, the only mothers of toddlers I know who have clean houses are moms with OCD and I'm not even joking.

This is not about motivation, its about accepting who you live with for who they are. Its much harder to work that than your vaccum cleaner.

Mom101 said...

Ugh, I'm sorry for the tension and the strife. Been there, on both sides of the argument.

We're showing our place now too and despite the fact that it's a HOLY FREAKING NIGHTMARE to keep it clean all the time, there is something to be said for keeping it clean all the time. Well, if you don't open the closets. Good luck with it!

Gretchen said...

"The Partner asks, with good reason, why he can't expect to live out every day in the kind of clutter-free environment that guests see when they come over"

We call that 'company clean.'

If I spent all day working on keeping the house clean and clutter free, that is what it would be. I choose, instead, to spend my time in other ways.

Perhaps instead of using terms like "slum" and "freeloader", you partner should be looking at terms like, "help" and "partnership." And by help, I don't necessarily mean cleaning, but perhaps removing The Boss from the home for an hour once a week or so thereby giving you room to work?

Mel said...

You, too, huh? I've recently moved from a 1200 square foot-ish home sans basement to a 2300 square foot-ish home plus 800 square foot basement. Somehow before the move, I deluded myself into thinking that with more space, my husband would never have an excuse to call FEMA to report a natural disaster known as Mel's Housekeeping. Suffice it to say, I was wrong.

Three months after moving, we still haven't unpacked. The garage is still full of boxes and unfit for habitation by vehicles of any size. Every room has at least two unpacked boxes in it. I have a real laundry room now and somehow it has served mostly as a storage space for keeping piles of laundry while I wait for a break in my schedule to do the wash.

The basement, however, remains empty.

I consider it a minor miracle if I manage to unpack a single box in between cooking, cleaning up messes, and chasing after my own masters: a 3 year old autistic boy and two shelties who share in the task of causing chaos and disaster in their wake.

You are not alone.