the clean and the not so clean

the cleanliness threshold, you know the one, the breaking point where you just absolutely HAVE to get down on your hands and knees and scrub. it is different for everyone and it seems we don’t necessarily marry or give birth to folks with the same threshold. so we charge through family life sharing space and knowing we might or might not kick one of our beloved over the edge with nothing but the best intentions.

before i go further with my story, i know it is time for some self reflection (and in case i wasn’t heading in that direction, my dear sister in law just read over my shoulder and reminded me to). my threshold is pretty high. paul’s is lower, madeline’s is higher. hands down the neatest member of the family is sasha, william is still too young to call. all of that is to say, i don’t love cleaning. i put it off. my daily to do list can be so long, once i power through each day, (which does include lots of said work: in addition to the basics of keeping a family of 5 fed and cared for, we milk a cow, lots of washing and sterilizing there friends!) i settle in to other, non tidy tasks. i am guilty of letting  the piles get bigger. the deep cleaning, the floor washing, the wall scrubbing, that sneaks further and further to the list’s bottom. i am not necessarily proud of this part of myself. i work hard at keeping a tidy home, really i do, but not as hard as others might like.


enter family time. each february our sister and brother-in-law with their daughter come for a mid winter break kentucky style. sometimes we are trapped indoors, but this glorious week past we have had near perfect conditions and tons of tasks have been made fun and delightful with our big family group. today, a sunny sunday, phoebe entered just past the crack of dawn, awaited the requisite hot coffee and got right to it. of all my friends and relatives, phoebe’s threshold is the lowest. she LOVES cleanliness and order so much, she even enjoys cleaning for others (or at least for me anyway). no family vacation is complete without an aunt phoebe do-over and boy has this been a good one. it was thorough. it was fun.


i think it takes a special amount of love in a relationship to handle some of these daily life issues. i am lucky to have a sister in law i know and love so well. i take no offense as she mercilessly scours my home for outdated toys, single shoes, dust bunnies. she judges me not when she finds and disposes of these horrors.


lest you think this family time was all scrubbing, there was plenty of farm based get dirty kind of fun.


we bid these dears a sad farewell tomorrow morn, they leave us with a heart full of love, another delightful collection of memories, and a clean house.


8 thoughts on “the clean and the not so clean

  1. I am one of the low threshold people, but that bar has risen since having a child. There just isn’t time! Plus, having so many pets in the house automatically puts me at a disadvantage. Floors are my pet peeve. I can scrub all the floors on my hands and knees (which I did even the day before I gave birth) and then the dogs go outside once and come back in with paw prints everywhere. From a clean floor standpoint, the extremes are best – either really cold so everything is frozen and there is nothing to track inside of really hot dry summer, for the same reason. But, it is now scientifically proven, kids that grow up with pets and in rural areas are healthier than those in sterile homes and cities. So ours are on the right track! And we have the same monstrous drying rack from Lehman’s – isn’t it a beast! I put it on my baby shower list because I knew I was going to be drying lots of diapers. My grandma liked buying it because it was super practical, but wasn’t happy with the price!

  2. I think my sister would die of a heart attack on the threshold of my house! That’s how disparate our cleanliness thresholds are. It’s best that we visit on her turf, since I’m much better at keeping someone else’s house clean than my own.

  3. As I study the blessing of non-attachment, my threshold has changed. I no longer feel that I have to keep up appearances of any kind, which has freed me completely from having to maintain a perfect house at all times. Now, I clean when it is dirty and go about my daily life 🙂 It is so good to read your words…thank you for sharing. m.

  4. Here’s my offering – one of my favorite poems: (PS I have the lowest threshold on the planet.)
    Dust if you must but wouldn’t it be better to paint a picture or write a letter?
    Bake a cake or plant a seed? Ponder the difference between want and need?
    Dust if you must but there’s not much time with rivers to swim and mountains to climb.
    Music to hear and books to read, Friends to cherish and life to lead.
    Dust if you must but the world’s out there with the sun in your eyes and the wind in your hair, a flutter of snow, a shower of rain. This day will not come around again.
    Dust it you must but bear in mind, Old age will come and it’s not kind. And when yo go and go you must, you yourself will make more dust!

    Keep up the good work gals! I’m so glad I found you!

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