Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Down a Domestic Spiral

Much to my chagrin, I've discovered that houses do not, in fact, clean themselves.

Even before I had kids, I'd never been obsessive about cleaning. "Reasonably neat, as long as you don't look in the corners and don't open the closet doors" is a pretty fair description of my domestic philosophy. I neatly arranged the clutter, made sure there were no obvious signs of neglect, and called it a day.

Fast forward two and a half years. My laissez-faire approach has spiraled downward into an attitude perilously close to that of absentee landlordism. What with the dust, the debris, and the pieces of paper, you’d think the horizontal surfaces in our house were somehow being deliberately protected from direct contact with the air. I walk around the house, grimly observe the mess, say to myself, "I need to pick that up," and then pass right on by, usually to tend to the kids.

When I was pregnant with Sean, I often said that our house would not become the repository for molded plastic toys. Yes, I really said that. Take a moment to laugh---I'll wait. There, feel better?

It doesn't matter that Jeff and I purposely have not bought Sean and Allie a lot of toys. Everyone else has, and thus the toy empire has spread from the initial confines of the family room to pretty much every room in the house. Maybe a stronger person could have set some boundaries, could have stood firm against the toy onslaught---unfortunately, I am weak in the face of generosity.

From time to time I do step back from whining about the cleanliness status of my house to assess the bigger picture. In a situation quite analogous to my feelings about grocery shopping, I feel that complaining about TOO MUCH stuff is, what's the word, outrageous. Poor Suzanne, too many toys for your kids? Cry me a river, honey.

In my more sage moments I concede that there will be time later for cleaning. For now I'm learning to sidestep the mess, kick the blocks and cars and puzzle pieces aside, and play with my kids.