The Reason We Can’t Have Nice Things

Bethany and I are organized people.

Bethany is more of an overall neat person. She picks up after herself, immediately does her dishes after eating, and hangs up her clothes at the end of the day.

My cleaning habits are a bit more haphazard and neurotic. I love the concept of everything being immaculately clean, but sometimes I just don’t have the energy to keep it that way. I’ve been known to remake the bed if I think Bethany didn’t do it properly, but at the same time, I’ll leave a pile of clothes on the floor for four days straight and let my shoes collect in a heap on the floor of the closet instead of hanging them on the shoe rack. I don’t even quite understand the whole inner-workings of my mind myself, but Bethany and I have somehow made it work. When I do take the time to clean, it will be done perfectly, down to the polished furniture and scrubbed bathtub.

I’d been warned by friends before we reproduced that we should enjoy our time with our clean house while we could because once the baby came along, nothing would ever be clean again. I would always smile and nod at them while thinking to myself, “Oh you fools. You just don’t care enough or try hard enough.”

The first several months of Catherine’s life were a bit deceptive. Bethany and I both were agreed on the fact that we didn’t want the house overrun with toys and baby crap. Thanks to friends bringing meals and us ordering LOTS of carry out, we kept dishes to a minimum. Our apartment being small also made it easy to pick up quickly if people were stopping by.

Fast forward to this afternoon.

Rain is beating against the windows as the wind howls through the corners of the French doors that we can’t seem to seal no matter how hard we try. A guitar case and a set of bongos are lying in a pile next to the front door alongside four pairs of shoes and a lone flip flop whose mate seems to be missing. A purse is turned on its side with the contents strewn across the floor with the matching wallet lying nearby disemboweled of its ID’s, cash, credit cards. There are three coats piled next to the purse with a CVS membership card peeking out from under the fuzzy, coral sleeve of the smallest coat.

A few feet away from the entrance mat at the front door is a book case which is almost inaccessible due to the ankle deep pile of DVD’s and books strewn in front. The bottom two shelves have been almost completely emptied of their contents except for a lone copy of St. Augustine’s Confessions precariously leaned up against the Fight Club DVD case. It’s as if the two are clinging to each other to keep from falling to the same demise of their brothers beneath them. The top shelf of the bookcase appears to still be intact for the most part except for the wine rack that one can’t help but notice to be entirely empty.

The room truly looks like it should be a crime scene with yellow caution tape blocking off the doors and chalk outlines drawn on the floor. There’s even what appears to be blood splattered across the carpet.

But this is not a crime scene. This is my kitchen and living room. Upon further inspection, one would notice the red splatters on the carpet are actually spaghetti sauce rather than blood, and the culprit responsible for all this mayhem is leaning up against the French doors with her face plastered to the glass smacking a tube of Chapstick against the door frame while chattering on in mindless mumbles as if she’s inviting the rainstorm outside to come in and play.

She’s a two and a half foot tall monster with piercing blue eyes and a chubby little belly hanging over the edge of her sagging diaper.

Feigning some essence of organization was manageable when Catherine was stationary, but the second she learned how to crawl, any chance of a clean house was gone.

Ironically, it seems like around the time that Catherine learned how to pull up on the bookshelf and destroy my alphabetized row of DVD’s, I stopped caring that my house be that organized. If I have to choose between a neurotically organized house or watching my 1 year old daughter scream in delight as she plays a cymbal solo with the plastic cases of Meet Joe Black and Boondock Saints, well, it’s not even a choice.

I think that when Catherine was first born, keeping the house clean was a way of maintaining a little bit of control over life. I couldn’t control my screaming infant or explain why she was still hollering even after she’d been fed, bathed, and changed; however, I could clean the kitchen, do some dishes, and throw in a load of laundry. I couldn’t control my baby, but I could vacuum.

Now, cleaning the house is waging war against entropy. I never did well at comprehending the laws of thermodynamics when I took physics, but now I see life’s propensity to move from order to disorder the moment Catherine opens her eyes in the morning.

I have to choose daily what matters most to me. Do I want to watch my daughter explore the world around her as she systematically empties all the bottom drawers in the kitchen, or fiercely try to redirect her toward her toy box all day? She will often play with her toys, but I can’t even describe the grin on her face as she crawled around the floor today toting the empty tonic water bottle she fished out of the recycle bin.

I continually have to ask myself, is this hurting her? Is she actually ruining anything? Or is she just making a mess?

Now, instead of following my daughter around reorganizing the books and restocking the kitchen drawers, I choose to get down on my hands and knees and roll around in a pile of DVD’s.

Having nice things is truly overrated.

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3 thoughts on “The Reason We Can’t Have Nice Things

  1. I am thrilled you found- I mean MADE the time to write! It has been awhile for me and it is almost like I don’t know where to start! I love how you causally used “reproduce” vs. “have children”. I immediately knew I was reading something you wrote and it made me smile. Our cleaning habits are the same! I remake beds, especially if the hospital corners are not precise, even if I have to climb over all my crap in the floor to get to it! If I clean it requires a toothbrush-always. You are so perceptive. The idea that cleaning was giving you control that helped you deal with the lack there of in the baby arena. Look forward to reading more!

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