They haven’t talked about it here, but I feel the other three SmartyPants deserve to be bragged on for doing some good in the neighborhood. In a world where people are increasingly depressed and lonely, our garages and fences are getting bigger and the front porch has gotten smaller and smaller. Rather than sit around and wonder what happened to “the good old days,” these SmartyPants and their families are working with porchculture.org to bring hospitality, vulnerability, and those kind of “more than surface level” friendships back to our area.
I had to laugh, however, when Stephanie’s husband recently spoke at my church about the project. “Opening up your home isn’t convenient. People are going to come over and make your place messy!” Oh, Stephanie’s husband, as if that were EVER the problem at the Fife residence!
I don’t mean to insult anybody, but if you follow my posts on here, I’m just assuming you have at least some of the same sloppiness issues I do. I’m going to assume that you, too, have scheduled a dinner two weeks in advance just so you’d have time to deep clean the house. I’m going to assume you’ve experienced a minor panic attack when your mother-in-law called to say she’d be there in an hour. And if you’re like me, on your messiest days it’s at least crossed your mind that a neighbor could drop by and be so shocked at your squalor they call Child Protective Services!
My dear FlyLady calls this “C.H.A.O.S.” or “Can’t Have Anybody Over Syndrome”. She offers all kinds of great tools to help you get your life back and have company. (A favorite of mine, is her Crisis Cleaning Podcast. Try it next time you get that unexpected call from your mother-in-law!)
But, honestly, I think the problem runs deeper than that. Let me ask you this: how clean is clean enough? Have you ever walked into a tidy house while your host apologized profusely for not cleaning her messes? Dirty underwear on the couch might be a bit offensive, but what family with young kids DOESN’T have at least a few toys on the floor and a few dishes in the sink? What telecommuter doesn’t have at least a couple paper piles lingering here and there? And is there ANY woman without hired help that doesn’t have at least a little visible dust on the furniture? These things don’t make you slob! They just make you busy!
I hate to say it, but making apologies for our messes (particularly our non-messes) just makes others feel uncomfortable. I’ll never forget a few years ago when I used to pedal wares for a well known direct sales company. One of the greatest thrills was my privileged inside look, not only of a person’s home life, but of the dynamic they had with the friends and family they would invite to a “shopping party”. Without fail, a stressed hostess made for an uncomfortable, grueling, and downright awkward event. Her pain staking efforts to provide just the right refreshments and have her home just perfect for all her friends would make her frazzled and her guests quiet and fidgety in their chairs. (Consequently, I made a much leaner profit on those nights!)
I’ll never forget the time, however, when I vended a party for a woman who did not clean, and did not apologize for it. She asked everyone to bring a refreshment to share. We all obliged, clearing counter space in the kitchen to accommodate our offerings. The main living area was cluttered with half done craft projects, papers waiting to be sorted, DVDs that just never made it back into the entertainment center, picture frames that still held stock photos, and the layer of dust you’d expect in a home with very few clear surfaces. Guess what? It was one of my best parties ever! Everyone invited showed up. Everyone treated her house like it was their own. Folks lingered as long as they possibly could with no one hurriedly rushing in and out because they felt the need to “make an appearance.” Her home looked just like mine… but I’m usually too timid to let folks see. And although no one who attended was biologically connected, a sense of family permeated her event.
We’re all imperfect, and while I write mainly for those who are organizationally challenged, even our tidy friends have challenges to overcome. I’m not going to say to just embrace who you are and keep your house a wreck, but, at the same time, it just doesn’t happen overnight. Please, please, PLEASE, stop putting life on hold while you’re working on getting the house clean. It’s too short. As a woman, there’s nothing quite like having the kind of friend that can see your house when it’s a wreck, but YOU have to let people in to find that kind of friendship.
Life’s too short to be lonely. My challenge this week is to invite somebody over and not clean everything. Obviously, you’ll want to handle the really gross stuff, but try the baby step of just leaving some dust, or a toy pile, or a project in-process out to junk up your space. You may be surprised how this eases the pressure with a first time house guest, and lets you both be a little bit more yourselves.
And if your challenge is not tidiness– maybe it’s unwanted weight, or a social quirk, or even an illness–how can you show yourself a little more grace, and let someone else (who might even judge you) a little closer?
Do you have a story of how sharing an imperfection improved one of your own relationships?