Clean House? Don’t Look Too Close

Joyful hosting / Friday, February 19th, 2016

Ever have that kind friend over who comments on the cleanliness of your home? I try to be polite but sometimes it makes me burst out laughing before I can thank her.

Being a mother of two little ones has required that I master doing ‘just enough’ cleaning. The house may appear to be clean, but I guarantee it took no more than 20 minutes to pick up and ‘clean’ before you came over.

Don't Look Too Close |

Most likely, we ran the dishwasher last night, so we used paper plates for breakfast. I’m too lazy to put dishes away first thing in the morning. A few minutes before you arrived, we may have crammed the toys into the catch-all toy box.

Out of necessity (the potty-training-kind), I did quickly clean the toilet and surrounding floor this morning. But I would have done that whether you were coming over or not, because as I said, it’s necessity.

I do sweep the whole floor once a week, but most of the time I just touch up problem areas, like around the kitchen island and by the front door. If you look for crumbs, you’ll find them. All over.

If your child is under the age of 2 and puts things in their mouth, I probably did vacuum the two rooms our kids will be playing in (although I have gone without vacuuming for quite some time when the vacuum belt breaks or the bag is full), but please know it wasn’t because I wanted you to see a clean house. No, it was to protect your sweet child from choking on the umpteen tiny clear Lego lights and who-knows-what-other-tiny-pieces all over my carpet. I am always amazed at the clatter of tiny things sucked up and tossed around the vacuum cleaner.

Don’t Look Too Close

But don’t look too close; the illusion of clean isn’t necessarily clean.

The house is clean if you don’t pay attention to the crumbs accumulated under the overhang of our kitchen cabinets.

And the house is clean if you don’t look upstairs where I surely did not vacuum. It looks like I vacuumed my stairs from the front door, but I only did the bottom 5 stairs and the landing, but the remaining stairs are still in a matted down, un-vacuumed state along with the entire second floor.

Sweet friends, my house is clean if you don’t look into the laundry room at the mountain that is CLEAN laundry, begging to be folded and put away.

The house is clean if you don’t run your hand over any hard surfaces to check for dust.

If you don’t open the hallway or mud room closets, the house is clean. Open and risk the impending avalanche.

The house looks clean when you arrive but won’t be like that again for the rest of the day week. The house usually looks like this.

Oh please, don’t look in the toy box! The house is clean if you can overlook it. Nothing is sorted, matched or organized. ALL the toys on this floor fit in the toy box or cabinet in that room. If not, they are ejected to the basement (the kids want to play in the basement? Sure, but it’s a MESS. And not the ‘a few things are out, don’t mind our mess’ kind of mess. Well, I mean a borderline-chaos kind of MESS).

My counters are clean and clear of mail and daily stuff, because the stuff was all shoved into my one three junk drawers in the kitchen or hidden under the now closed roll-top desk in the office.


The only reason this ‘clean illusion’ works is we are distracted by kids when you come over. When we didn’t have kids, it’s possible my house may have actually have been clean when you came over.

Back. When. I. Had. More. Time.

Seriously, what did we do with all that excess time?

The truth is, for the house to be truly CLEAN, I’d have to spend hours and hours that I do not have. I’d probably have to stay up late or get up at the crack of dawn to clean. Then as the kids got up, I’d have to chase them around, picking up after them, and probably scolding them to pick up. By the time you got here, I’d be one stressed out mama with a mop.

That kind of cleaning isn’t going to do us any favors. That kind of clean yields crabby kids and a frustrated mama.

The Reality of Play dates

The reality of play dates is this: our kids are going to track in sand, drop crumbs and play with toys. A house doesn’t need to be spotless for kids to have a good time or for their mamas to talk over a cup of coffee. As we talk, I’m sure we’ll agree our lives are much fuller now, even if they aren’t very clean

Plus, all this dirt must do something good for our immune systems, right?

No, I much prefer the 15-20 minute pickup so I can relax, enjoy your company and watch our kids giggle while making carefree messes and memories.

And to be clear, I am more than OK with you stopping by and seeing my house (and me) in a state of chaos and mess.  House is a mess? You’re still welcome here. Come on in and let’s be real with each other.

House a mess? You're still welcome here. Come on in and lets be real with each other. #motherhood #friends #bereal Share on X

This life, this house, and this family are not perfect, and neither am I. No need to pretend among friends.

In fact, this house is often a mess. Don’t be alarmed. Sometimes, the mess is just here and evidence of a full life without much time to clean. We live here. But our relationship is too precious to cancel a coffee or playdate for a silly reason like my house being too embarrassingly dirty. Hopefully, you’re OK with that.

I’d much rather enjoy these messy years while kids are small than chase everyone around with cleaning products in an endless cleaning battle that cannot be won.

So my friends, if you comment on our home, please don’t be offended when I chuckle and say, ‘Don’t look too close’ – I’m not pretending my house isn’t clean – it really isn’t.

But thank you for saying it is.

Don't Look Too Close |

3 Replies to “Clean House? Don’t Look Too Close”

  1. What a great, honest post – it was delightful to read! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one whose house isn’t really clean, but lived in. When people are coming over, it’s hard for me not to want to run around, madly picking up after my kids. I need to learn to just enjoy the time with our visitors, rather than causing a huge amount of stress in my house right before they arrive. So, thanks for this post.

  2. I so appreciate your honesty! My house is tiny (less than 1000 sqft) and I still have a hard time keeping it the crumb-free level of clean. But right now in this stage of life, playing with my baby and soaking up these little years is more important than passing a white glove inspection. I love what you said about being real with each other. We all know we live in our houses….why do we try to pretend like we don’t?

    1. Spending time with these little people IS so much more important! Although, even before kids, I’m not sure we would have passed white glove inspection 😂. You’re so right; why do we try to pretend we don’t live well in our homes? Thank you for sharing your thoughts here!

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