next to g-dliness?

July 10, 2007

Before going into the post I first should disclose that I am not one of those clean freak people.  By no means are we “dirty” people, but I won’t hide the fact that I’m REALLY good at creating clutter, shedding clothing all over the place, and having somewhat messy piles of “stuff” kind of all over the place. Little “shit depository areas” if you will. So, really, I’m not a modern day Mr. Clean with better earrings. But still. I have this thing.

If people are coming over? My house has to be clean.  I mean for casual card playing and whatnot, I’m not going crazy cleaning before they get there (ok, I lied, I go into a tizzy of spot neatening), but it pains me for there to be clutter, or dishes in the sink, or clothes on the floor if people are over. This is why sometimes our bedroom looks like a bomb went off in it, because if people are coming over short notice like, all clutter gets tossed in there. 

Now if people are STAYING? Spotless. Seriously. Floors all polished and clean and no dirt on them. Counters, fridge, shelving…all wiped down. Windowsills, etc, clean. Couch vacuumed (and sometimes I have to “tape” it to get all of the dust off, especially in corners, etc) and all sheets washed and pressed and things are ready to go. I know that’s part of being a good host, but I think there is more too it for me.

 I think it has to do with shame. 

I don’t hide the fact that I grew up with incredible privilege. My parents (when I was young) were very wealthy, and this afforded them luxuries like having a live in housekeeper/nanny for us. EVERYTHING was done for us. Cleaning, cooking, etc. I didn’t do my own hair until I was like, 12 or something. My mother, who had been a very very successful banker was able to quit her job after my sister was born, and help my dad out with his business.

When I was around 14, (early nineties) my parents “lost” most of their money. Things got really bad. My dad became…not nice. He and my mom fought all the time.  My mom had to return to the work force but could only get a job in retail. The country was in a recession, and she was getting denied jobs because she was over-qualified.  Her new job required her to be on her feet for many hours of the day. My dad gave up his business and took a job with a friends advertising firm – which was over an hour away (not including NYC/Jersey traffic.)

I was left to watch the kids in the afternoons after school, and expected to 1)keep them happy (they were 11 and 6 at the time) 2)clean the house and 3) get dinner started.  Well. Often these plans didn’t work out so well, and my parents (usually my dad first) would come home to 3 kids killing each other, a mess, and no dinner. 

And of the things that were pushed to the side, house cleaning was certainly on the list of things my parents were caring less about. Except when company came. If company was coming we would stay up ALL NIGHT cleaning the house until it met my fathers seal of approval. Even if we had school the next day. I’m kind of like that now. 

I have a close (close in lineage, but not actually “close” to me) relative whose house is disgusting. There’s pet hair and dirt everywhere. A mountain of dirty laundry runs down the stairs creating a carpet that one must wade through just to get up or down them. The kitchen is gross. Dishes are always in the sink. I have a hard time just being in there, and an even harder time eating there – which I try to never do.  

I also have a hard time eating at potluck dinners – places where I can’t see the kitchen that the food is coming out of. In these occasions, I try to suspend all thoughts about cleanliness (I do this in some restaurants, too) and move on. It’s hard to do. Most of the time it works.  I’ve lied about food allergies so I didn’t have to eat  products from  kitchens I was sketchy about. I’ve had to remember that I’m not supposed to eat certain things when I’m with these people. It’s hard to keep up. I’m not proud of this. But its happened.

I think that part of my issues with cleanliness are because I don’t want people to feel that way about me and my house.  I don’t want to be judged because of how clean my place is, and I also know that most of my friends AREN’T doing that, but it’s still where my brain goes. Part of it is OCD.  It must be. It sometimes pains me to not be able to just let go.  I wish there were a way to get over it. 

Anyone else have issues like this? 

Also, you know, if you come stay with me? The house is going to be freaking spotless. Probably better than hotel rooms. See there I go again. Weird pride thing about it too. See? Clearly, I’m mental and need some help, at least around this issue.  



  1. I’m that way too and my husband just doesn’t get it. Of course I do have OCD, so maybe that is part of it though it doesn’t feel like most of my OCD things.

  2. Oh my, I am exactly the same. Only insanity (or OCD) can possibly explain why I vacuumed, dusted, mopped the floor, cleaned all sheets and towels, and got rid of ANY clutter before our 2-YEAR OLD NEPHEW visited last week. In short, I can sorta relate…

  3. I do the same thing. My grandmother and certain members of my mother’s family are reallty dirty. They live in squalor (well, my grandmother’s dead, but she used to live like that) and from the time I was young it was important to my mother that we not be seen to live that way. yes, we’re cluttery, but if people are coming over then the house must be spotless! Even to taking a toothpick and running it under the rim of the kitchen sink.

    And the food thing? The problem at potlucks? ME TOO!!!! I have people that I will not eat at their house. And if I have to? I eat before I go and stick to store-bought stuff, or something we’ve brought.

    And I worry, worry deep, that people are saying the same things about me and my house. When people don’t eat at my house I get totally freaked out that they think we’re disgusting pigs.

  4. Hmm…I thought your place was quite clean the time we visited. In our house, it is husbando who has these issues. The thing that differs is as you get closer in the circle, the more clutter you will see. That’s not to say that I don’t care if my house is dirty when company arrives. Well, we almost never have company because I don’t like our house and don’t feel like it is really a reflection of who we are. I mean, A just came in for the first time a few weeks ago and that was only because I had a broken leg and was dying for company.

  5. very, very much the same. GM’s house when I was growing up was SPOTless. White glove tested & all. Mother felt suffocated by that growing up, so when I came along our apartments were awful. I hated it. It wasn’t until I moved out that I realized that I was a clean person. Now I have to run a household that is between SPOTless and pig sty. GM can’t do any cleaning, but she requires all of her areas to be cleaned (by me). Mother can’t stand a neat room so I just can’t even go near her rooms. I have settled on having most rooms to be at “company ready” clean. Meaning if someone just dropped by we wouldn’t be embarrassed. Those rooms are the living room, dining room, bathrooms & kitchen. But if anyone was going to stay the night I would need to invest a few hours of upkeep.


  6. I’ll add another “me too” to the chorus. While I’m quite content to live with a bit of clutter (& okay, more than a little dust), if there’s company? The house must look as though it were about to be photographed for some swanky house magazine. Which is why it is not uncommon to find me soaking the refrigerator bins at midnight the day before my mother is to arrive.

  7. Co is like this. I am all for neatening up when company comes, but she scrubs and dusts and goes nuts…if a repair person is coming.

  8. I feel like as long as my house appears clean, it’s good enough for me. But if we’re having people over for dinner or parties, it can’t just appear clean – it must BE clean!

    Does this mean we’re not as important to us as other people?

    I’ve often wondered how some people can live the way they do…laundry on the floor, spills on the counters that are days old. Grrross!

  9. I do not mind clutter, but HATE dirty. I clean daily. I wish I was more laid back, but I am not. If someone is coming? You will usually find me beating all the livingroom pillows outside franticly and shrieking at my husband DO SOMETHING!

  10. I think I am a lot like you on the cleanliness issue. Any given day, I change out of my work clothes and create a pile in my bedroom, we have mail piles in places and just some shit depository areas. I’m sure our places would be less cluttered if I did not live there. LOL.
    However, I would be embarassed if someone stopped by and I didn’t have a chance to pick up some stuff.
    A certain close family member keeps a house like your close in lineage person there and it totally freaks me out. I sometimes think Department of Children and Families should be called there.
    Food mess freaks me out most. I understand very easily how laundry gets backed up or mail doesn’t get sorted through right away but 3 day old yogurt cups with spoons still stuck in them on the coffee table is horrific.

  11. OK – You and Narda are CUT FROM THE SAME CLOTH!

    Me? I grew up with an obsessive-compuslive slob for a mother, and an obsessive-compuslive neat freak for a father.

    Where does that leave me? I tend to let things get a little sloppy. but when I DO clean (not often enough for Narda, alack and alas…) I clean like a MANIAC….

    And um, in your honor, I’m totally NOT making a post that is revealing… 😉

  12. Left to my own devices (i.e. when I’m living alone with my daughter) I am the same way. I keep things pretty clean all the time because I hate that last-minute gotta-clean-when-company (especially my pathologically neat stepmother)-comes binge. The kitchen is the most important part, especially the counters and stovetop and the dishes. My house growing up was really yucky, and just looking at sink mildew can bring on an extra trip to the therapist (ha ha ha. sort of.)

    However. Living with a messy partner has forced me to compromise some of these standards. K is responsible for the dishes, and though I long to, I don’t touch them even if they’re a mountain. I also don’t do cat boxes, so that’s K’s responsibility as well.

    Sometimes I think it’s good for me to let that stuff go; sometimes I think I’m going to explode.

  13. wow. what a story. quite a life there kid.

    as you probably know, cleaning is my zen.
    but there is another thing to it as well.
    being gay… or more accuratly being ‘different’ i always felt we needed to try harder. that the house and yard should be immpecable.
    and luckily as i get older i am less nuerotic about that.

  14. Your post made me feel anxious about my own house. It’s never clean enough for me, though friends and family say it’s pretty darned clean. Since I work at home and have families in and out all the time, I get nutty about grime and clutter. I’m working on being okay with it, esp. since Hester was born. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

  15. I’m with you on the potluck meals. I only eat what I bring or what my clean friends/relatives bring.

    Only 15 minutes ago, I was cleaning the employee breakroom at work. There are truly some nasty people around here. I guess that makes me pretty neurotic. Forget my attendance at a work potluck!

    Company is coming tomorrow night and you guessed it … I’ll be scrubbing everything down before they arrive.

  16. My partner has OCD and she is always INCREDIBLY worried that people will judge her on the appearance and cleanliness of our house. Our three cats really make keeping it clean a challenge. She is always cleaning, always, always, always. I’ve tried to bring some balance in the last few years, through moving from a 700 sq ft guest house to a 900 sq ft apartment and now to a 1500 sq ft home, and I must admit she has bent a bit. But I think it is a challenge for her and a challenge for me as well, I can’t keep up with her! Ohhhh, and she won’t eat at potlucks either.

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