Confessions of a Former Neat Freak: Image of our living room--my (curated) haven.

Confessions of a Former Neat Freak (because hardly anyone actually does “drop by when they’re in the neighborhood”)

Confession: I peeked inside my daughter’s diary once.

I didn’t intend to, but there it was, wide open on her bedside table. Instead of disclosing her crush-of-the-moment, her fifth-grade handwriting read, “I wish Mom didn’t care so much about how the house looks.”

Her secret ran me through like a skewer. The constant clutter in our home—a shoe or three here, 17 Beanie Babies and their dress-up outfits there, 30-something stepped-on-then-cursed-over Legos—was a nonstop annoyance to me, but I never considered how my frequent rants requests to tidy up might be hard on our kids.

I didn’t want our children to remember me forever as a demanding slave-driver, 

so I let my older daughter’s words extinguish my desire for domestic perfection. “People say they’re going to stop by when they’re in the neighborhood,” I reasoned, “but they rarely do. I may as well stop being a spazz about it.”

Other events helped me relax with regards to the homefront. For instance, there was the time Tony Bear told me,

“If you ever have to make a choice between cleaning the house or playing with the kids, by all means, pick the kids.”

Those are quite possibly my favorite words of his, besides, “I love you, Sunshine.” Oh, and “You know I’d fight for you, right?”

I learned another trick from my friend Staci who runs an in-home daycare. Once a week, I used to drop Junior-Man, back then he was Man-Boy, at her house for a few hours while I ran errands. This arrangement kept me from torturing him with the in-and-out-of-his-car-seat-at-every-stop drill.

When I picked him one afternoon, I couldn’t keep my mouth from dropping open when I glanced at Staci’s heaped high kitchen sink.

“Don’t judge,” she said. “I only do dishes once a day. If I washed them after every meal and snack, nothing else would ever get done around here.”

Because Staci’s philosophy made sense, I adopted it for myself. Wow, did that free up time!

One day I had a housekeeping brain blast of my own, an awfully good housekeeping brain blast. What was the first room company saw when they stepped inside our home? Besides the entry-way which I like to call, the foyer. It’s our amber out-of-Africa-inspired living room.

If I made sure the living room always looked presentable, if people did stop by, I could seat them in there and to heck with the rest of the house.

This would allow me to relax and enjoy their company instead of wondering every 30 seconds if they were analyzing my dusting and vacuuming skills. Which are lacking. Actually, motivation is the thing that’s missing.

It took a few weeks to get each surface of the living room, plus the artwork on the walls, “just right.” For inspiration, I leafed through home magazines and copied their curated arrangements of knick-knacks and framed photos on our mantel and coffee table.

In one corner, Tony tucked my favorite house plant, an impressive “corn plant.” Years ago when I worked in Washington D.C. I stole plucked off a hand-sized “corn plant” start from a towering speciman in my office building’s lobby. Now three decades later, the little green beauty has grown to be a lush green giant.

Nearby, on a tiny occasional table inherited from my dearly-beloved Aunt Lo, sits a pretty lamp I never turn off because its golden glow makes the room cozy and inviting. Plus, I love the shadows cast on the wall by the corn plant’s stalks and leaves.

I now love our living room. It is my haven, no matter the mess that might exist elsewhere in the house.

At least one afternoon a week, I retreat to my living room for a 20-minute mother’s time-out. There I melt onto the sofa–hopefully with one of the kitties, Bonnie Agnes or Boots Louise–to thumb through a magazine or read a book.

Currently I’m reading Monsoon Mansion,* the memoir of my grad-school friend Cinelle Barnes, and it is FANTASTIC! Cinelle’s wordsmithing is gorgeous and her princess-to-pauper story is guaranteed to captivate you! Do not delay, buy it today.

This mom learned from her daughter. And no longer worries so much about how the house looks.


What about you? Are you a neat freak or a messy missy?

*affiliate link

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