I know ladies that wouldn’t even think about letting you into their home if there was a smudge on a window or one dirty dish in their dishwasher. God love these women, but I am not one of them. Unfortunately, I can go overboard on how clean I think my house should be to extend an invitation. I know my home isn’t going to look like a model home in one of those really ritzy subdivisions where the houses are way to big and the lots are way too small. But how much should I really be getting done?
Part 3, What Actually Needs to Be Clean, will explore how to set some realistic expectations.
What can I live with?
We need to find balance between immaculate and hovel that we can live with. Sure, I would love to have such a clean house that you could eat off of the floor. You know the type? They are the homes you see in magazines. However, I know that those pictures are created by an artist/technical guru who first takes great time getting everything just absolutely perfect, snaps the photo, and then takes it back to computer where they continue to manipulate the contents of that room. It isn’t a realistic view of how people actually live. Just like those skinny models that have been retouched more times than my nail polish (bad analogy, I bite my finger nails).
What I decided I could live with was the common areas being clean and decluttered. The common areas in the house are a must. It is very likely my guests will be in those areas. They include the kitchen/dining area, living room, bathrooms, and front porch. Unfortunately, our guest bath is under construction right now so that also means my master bedroom which is attached to the bathroom for the main floor. This may be a different list for you.
I scratched off the garage, the yard work, and the laundry room. If these areas are not picture perfect, I don’t stress. If we didn’t get our chores done in those areas it was simply a matter of running out of time to get the work done during the week. We will catch up on it next week. I had to ask myself what was more important, spending time with people, or running myself ragged?
The kid’s rooms, which are all the same floor, are a compromise. I was so tired of organizing little tiny toys that were just going to be dumped out during the kid’s time with their friends, I just finally gave up. I do still have them clean their rooms to the best of their ability, but it is their responsibility not mine and they are also still required to help out with a few other chores in the common areas.
Another compromise, or maybe I should call it understanding, I had to reach was how to actually clean a room. I know, how could I not know how to clean? Well, for some odd reason when I cleaned a room it involved not only the traditional cleaning rituals, but also I would reorganize, redecorated, and sometimes repaint. No kidding! I learned to let that go. I still do those kinds of activities, but I absolutely do not do them as a part of my cleaning to prepare for guests. They are totally off limits.
New Life Truth: Building relationships is more important than pretending I am have enough time in the week to be a supper mom.
How much can my family get done in the time we have available?
When planning our week or month, and looking at when we could have guests over, I always work from our master schedule which is my Hotmail calendar (Live now). I put everything in there the first moment I can. I do not let it pile up and do it on one day. The MOMENT I sit down at the computer after receiving a new item I enter it. (If I say it enough times with conviction it will be true.) Or maybe I know that this is just a bad week to have someone over because by Sunday we will have trashed the house! I know how our family operates so I am careful to not try to load us down with too much. We can always go out.
I also know how much the kids and Hubby can realistically help with. If Hubby is going to be working most evenings, I know not to count on him to get the yard work done and hang that set of shelves that I have been bugging him about. Oh wait! I said that kind of stuff was off limits. I know the kids are good for about 2 chores for the little ones and 3 or 4 for the oldest. I also know that if they are left alone to work together…forget it. It won’t get done. I have to make them work separately and supervise
New Life Truth: Don’t set your family up for failure.
What will my guests be comfortable with?
What are you comfortable with in other people’s homes?
Obviously, you want sanitary environments. Clean your toilets. Nothing is grosser than having to use a bathroom where there is some seriously bad stuff growing in the toilet. The kitchen should be sanitary. Of course, you may be in the middle of cooking a meal so things won’t be perfect, but no crusted dishes. And for Pete’s sake, no visible dirty clothes piles.
Do you really care about what is in their closets, under the bed, or in their cabinets? No. Do you care if their children’s room is messy? No, as long as there are no dirty diaper laying around (yes, we actually have had this happen in our own home, whoops). Do you care if their desk is cluttered? No.
Really what we want is someplace relaxing to sit, somewhere clean to eat, and some place we can go potty that doesn’t look like the men’s bathroom at the gas station. Use your best judgment.
Now, if you are reading this and saying to yourself, “I am OK with going to someone’s house that has dirty toilets, crusted on food, and dirty laundry piles in the living room,” I want you to know that I have sat in many a nasty house because I really wanted to be with my friends and although I wasn’t exactly comfortable, I wanted to be with them more. You will have friends that are OK with the mess. However, are you OK with it? Is your messy house going to distract you from a good time. You need to be able to relax.
Every time I have ever had anyone over and I had those things wrong with my place, I apologized and just felt horrible that they were seeing how I actually lived. The point is the relationship. Your job isn't to judge them for judging you. Your job is to be hospitable and there is nothing in the Bible that says that has to include cleanliness.
What about those guests that I know are judgmental?
It is no fun inviting people over and then worrying every minute that there is something not good enough about your home. These are the kinds of guests who are best to invite out rather than invite into home. Let them judge the restaurant.
What I found myself doing is allowing their sin to become my sin. Their sin of being judgmental turns into something very ugly in me. I will stress my family out, become short tempered, have feelings of resentment towards my family for not helping more and resent the guest for being judgmental. Envy sneaks in there as well, because I believe that my home should be as good as theirs.
Until I was able to really accept God’s love for me and understand that His approval was the approval I wanted most, I would turn their sin into mine. Of course I don't do that anymore because I'm PERFECT. If you feel like you are in danger of doing this, love your friend, but avoid the sin.
New Life Truth: Love your friend, but avoid the sin. (It almost rhymes. It at least has good rhythm.)
Part 4 in this series, Schedule Your Time will explore exactly that, how to schedule your time so that the cleaning chores get done before the guests arrive.