March 11 – Straightening the House/Regret

As someone who grew up in an immaculate house kept by a fastidious woman, I have internalized this idea that the tidiness of my house indicates the quality of my character as a person. This both makes sense and strikes me as a bit odd, as I don’t judge others based on the cleanliness of their house. I just assume if their floors are a bit dirty that they lead full lives that are too interesting to concern themselves with the mundanity of housework every day. But I am my mother’s daughter, and I take great pride in the fact that people tell me mine is the cleanest house they’ve ever seen.

mountain under starry sky

On this topic, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:

“One of the greatest gifts that my mother gave me was that she was a terrible housekeeper. She wasn’t terrible at everything, she just was terrible at keeping the house clean, which she firmly believed that she should be able to do.

She was a published poet, a great writer of short stories, a painter, a talented breaker and trainer of horses, an avid reader, a knowledgeable collector of antiques, a seeker into the psychic and the mysteries of the world, a good mother, a true, loyal, and devoted friend, incurably curious, an authority on American Indian lore, an intuitive searcher for precious rocks, fossils, and old gems, a defender of everyone’s civil rights, and most of all a fascinating and extraordinary woman, but she couldn’t keep the kitchen floor clean.

I was not at all damaged by the state of our house. I was saddened that she sometimes negatively judged who she was.”

Straightening the house is actually one of the ways in which I deal with my anxiety. Deal is perhaps not the right word—distract myself from might be more apt. Cleaning fills me with a sense of peace. When things are chaotic in my life, I can always count on a sense of calm and order from putting my physical possessions in order. At the end of the day, no matter what tragedy befalls me, I know if I come home and wipe the counters, sweep, and vacuum that my house will be clean. I have learned not to hold myself to my mom’s superhuman levels of cleanliness, however. I mean we could literally eat off of our floors (and I often did if I dropped a morsel on the kitchen floor or living room carpet). But keeping my house relatively clean and tidy makes me feel better. These days I clean a lot less, as there are far more interesting pursuits to occupy my time with and which I enjoy more, such as writing, reading, drawing, and painting. My tidiness is probably among the least interesting things about me, but it is also a part of me which I like and will not reject. I also don’t regret that I don’t spend multiple hours per week scrubbing every surface until they shine and instead content myself with doing the bare minimum that I can live with. Anne’s point and mine is that we should appreciate ourselves for who we are, recognize the traits and qualities that make us amazing, and ignore the rest. We should certainly never regret being the person we are, because we are amazing in our own unique ways. Don’t hold yourself to other people’s standards.

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