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You Don't Live to Clean Your House, You Clean Your House to Live in It
There’s one thing I didn’t say in my yesterday’s post on inviting people. The only reason I can have guests coming over without making a big fuss about it is because my house is in a decent overall shape at last. It’s far from perfect, and there are toys and clothes lying everywhere, but it’s good enough for me to feel comfortable in it.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt comfortable about my own house before. Most of the time it made me feel guilty because of all the mess. Whenever we had people coming over, I spent a few hours before they arrived cleaning and tidying everything, and as soon as they were out the door it felt like I was back to where I started.
In the past if someone randomly arrived at my doorstep without letting me know in advance, I’d probably be terrified. I wouldn’t feel comfortable hosting them in a place like this and would almost certainly have nothing for them to eat. Now that my daughter was born, I realized that if I don’t feel comfortable at my own home, she’s not going to feel comfortable here either.
For years I saw cleaning up through the lens of purity. You’re either a decent person who keeps their house neat and tidy, or should feel ashamed for letting it fall into disarray. Only now I realize that function is much more important than appearance. I don’t live to clean my house, I clean my house so I can comfortably live in it.
It’s hard to invite people for cooking together when half of the products in your pantry have expired and there’s a flour moths’ nest somewhere in the corner. It’s hard to handle unexpected guests when all you have in your fridge are moldy leftovers, and there are no more clean towels or bedsheets anywhere. It’s hard to play a board game with your friends when half of the pieces are lost under furniture. I always had troubles with cleaning for the sake of cleaning, or for the sake of being a good person, but I can totally relate to cleaning that enables me to live a good life.
Last weekend my daughter and I made gingerbread cookies together. I probably had more fun doing it than she did, but I’m really glad we had a chance to do it, just like I baked gingerbread cookies before Christmas with my own mom when I was a kid. And it felt effortless, having all the equipment clean and ready and all the ingredients already stocked in my pantry. All I had to do beforehand was buying spices and decorations on my way home. How much easier it was without having to go through a pile of dirty dishes and a last-minute shopping round first!
I’ve barely started my journey to Minimum Viable Household, and I’m surprised to see how fast it’s paying off. For so many years I had a troubled relationship with homemaking because I saw it as a neverending todo list of chores that have no lasting effect at all. Now I know it’s only so that my daughter, my husband, and everyone who visits us can feel safe, comfortable and welcome, and so that we can make gingerbread cookies whenever we feel like it.
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