If cleanliness is next to godliness, then I am a sinner through and through. I’ve always been in awe of people like my college roommate who can’t fall asleep if there are dishes in the sink or clothes on the floor. Now that I share a home with 4-year-old twins, a 1-year-old, and a husband, I have graduated from “The house is a mess!” to “It looks like a bomb went off in here!”
Like many Pinterest soul-searching moms, I’ve spent approximately the same amount of time researching the perfect cleaning schedule as it would take to deep clean my entire house. I’ve swapped detailed spreadsheets in my mommy groups. Mondays change the sheets, Tuesdays bathrooms, Wednesdays tackle the kitchen. Thursday and Friday catch up on everything you didn’t do the first 3 days. Weekends you are stuck in laundry hell because by that point everyone is out of underwear.
I’m sad to report that cleaning schedules are like fad diets. They don’t work. You start off strong and full of confidence only to crash and burn by the end of the first week. Don’t fall for it. I have THE secret weapon that has not failed me once. Just when my house has officially reached “qualifies for an episode of Hoarders” status, I pull my Ace card out of my back pocket. It is what I affectionately call The Nuclear Option.
INVITE SOMEONE OVER.
I’m not talking about your best friend who has two kids of her own and comes to visit you and your messy house to drink away her housekeeping guilt. Not your mom, who will not-so-secretly clean your toilets and kitchen sink out of pity. Invite the mom you just sent a facebook request to during preschool pick-up. Offer to host the next bookclub or office party or Mops playdate. If you’re really brave, invite that type A old college roommate of yours.
Suddenly your housecleaning has a deadline. Your filibuster excuses evaporate and you are forced to finally find a home for all the junk accumulating on the dining room table.
I stumbled on The Nuclear Option—quite literally—when I offered to host my twin mom group’s meeting at my house. Five minutes before twenty women were due to ring my doorbell, I was frantically picking up the twins’ toys in the family room for at least the fifteenth time that day. My heel caught some ubiquitous piece of colorful plastic and sent me flailing backward. As I lay sprawled on the floor, my tailbone smarting and my ankle twisted, I melted into a blubbering, broken mess. My husband peeled me off the floor, revealing a huge gouge the length of my forearm in my beloved hardwood floors.
You’d think my close encounter with a fractured tibia and the jagged scar on my dark wood floor would steer me away from ever having a houseguest again. But, I enjoyed a somewhat clean and tidy home for at least a week after my fellow moms left, and we shared some incredible bonding moments that we still talk about a year later. Instead of never inviting a soul over again, what I need to do is invite them over more often.
I hope you take a moment to look for the gouge on my gleaming, freshly Bona-mopped wood floor during your next visit. While we sip coffee and watch the kids play or share a laugh and a pizza, maybe it will inspire you to try The Nuclear Option in your own home.