Decluttering Should Come With A Disclaimer And Here’s Why

Over 10 years ago, I was strolling through Target with three toddlers and saw a pink, heart shaped cake pan in the dollar spot. I’d scored big time.

We went home and I put my kids down for a nap and made my mom’s famous chocolate cake and it was stunning. Not to mention my kids thought I was a genius, wondering how I’d managed to make such a perfectly shaped heart out of chocolate no less. I felt glorious.

Ever since then, I’ve taken that same pan out once a year and made some type of treat around Valentine’s Day for my family, and it’s brought me great joy.

Instagram Photo

But I have to admit I forgot about the joy after binge-watching the Marie Kondo series on Netflix. You know, the one that has almost everyone on earth purging so they can have more space and live their best life?

Well, after seeing how happy everyone was on the show after getting rid of their over half their stuff, I decided that was the kind of joy I needed in my life, and I told myself there was no more room in my life for sentimental bullshit.

Alas, I was wrong.

The decluttering movement should come with a disclaimer letting us know we may get carried away and throw out some beloved or irreplaceable or fucking expensive items in the heat of the purging moment.

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The other day I’d forgotten about my smug, tidy, minimalist ways and was frantically look for my heart-shaped pan as I tossed around my perfectly stacked Tupperware (because fuck being tidy when I can’t find something) thinking it would be at the bottom of the stack.

As I was crouched down, searching my mom brain about when I’d last seen it, it hit me: I’d thrown it away. Like, thrown it away in the garbage can while going all Marie Kondo in my kitchen one Saturday afternoon after watching her show and losing my soul.

It all came rushing back: I’d held it up, looked at all the stains, noticed a crack in the side, and decided my kids had grown out of the tradition of heart-shaped goodies and I no longer needed my old, floppy pan.

But I was wrong. Why had I done this?

Clearly I wasn’t thinking straight and was on such a high from getting rid of all my shit, I didn’t realize I was throwing away precious traditions and emotions and years of memories in the trash.

I’m not alone, either. A friend told me she and her husband were cleaning their house out and got rid of a box of electrical stuff. Then the following week they realized the box of “junk” contained a $50 cord to one of their devices, and they desperately needed it.

Another friend of mine from college let me know she’d thrown out her college sweatshirt and told herself she’d buy a new one. Then a week later we discovered our Alma mater would be closing in May. Now that sweatshirt is more valuable to her than ever — it  holds all the good stuff. Stuff we can go blind to when we are on a roll tossing shit out to make our lives better and more efficient.

The thing is, after cleansing our homes and minds, so many of us are now spending time looking for that special sweater we actually threw out. Our partners are racking their brains wondering where the hell they put their baseball card collection from high school, and I know damn well this whole purging movement has caused some strife in relationships.

It tastes like regret and feels lonely. Kind of like when you let that person go who was a little too nice, was always there for you, and never cared if you stunk up the bathroom, because you thought life would be better without all that comfort.

It seems to be a general rule: As soon as you get rid of something you think you no longer need in your life, like your old golf shoes, your bestie asks you to go away for a glorious golfing weekend they won. And then you are left wanting your old item back like you never have before and it’s not fair.

So go ahead, purge away, but just remember as soon as you get rid of that waffle iron you haven’t used in two  years, chances are you’ll wake up on a Sunday morning with a mad craving for waffles and hate everybody.

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Warning: Shopping For Furniture Just Might Destroy Your Marriage

My wife and I recently sold a house, and bought a new house, and somehow that all resulted in us having money for a new bedroom set. I set a little bit aside to pay for delivery and assembly because as cliché as this statement has become, furniture assembly instructions really should come with marriage counseling. I learned that the hard way a few years ago.

This was the first time in our 14 years together that we’d ever actually had money to shop for furniture for a whole room. Most of our previous bedroom set had been a hodgepodge of particleboard and laminate outfits along with Rubbermaid style plastic something or others with drawers made from rigid plastic.

We were both excited to go shopping, which was naive, because that act of actually shopping, the decisions, the picking this over that, were a wonderful test of our marriage.

We argued over the size of the bed. Mel wanted a king. I wanted a queen.

We argued over the color of the wood. I wanted dark. Mel wanted redwood.

We argued in the car, at the store, in the kitchen, and… well… you get the idea.

Once the set was actually purchased and delivered, neither of us were 100% happy with the outcome, which basically means our bedroom set sits in our room like a constant reminder of an unsavory experience.

But hey, that’s compromise… right?

Turns out, our experience furniture shopping isn’t unique. Online furniture brand Article recently conducted a survey of 2,000 Americans to better understanding the struggle that is furniture shopping, and they found that decision-making, particularly around expensive items like furniture, puts a serious strain on relationships.

According to their findings, each year the average couple will have around 72 disagreements about decor style, purchasing decisions, and furniture purchases. I’m with you, that seems like a lot of arguments considering there are only 365 days in a year. If those 72 arguments happened on different days, that means the average couple spends 20% of their year arguing over decor and furniture. Let that sink in.

Article broke down those 72 arguments based on location just so you can have a better idea of what to expect. According to their calculations, eight of those arguments will occur at the store, which makes sense while also making me never want to work in a furniture store. Fifteen arguments happen inside of the home in question, which isn’t surprising. In fact, I assumed this number would be higher.

Ten fights will happen in front of a friend or family member. This is where you ask your mother to back you up on why your partner’s taste is garbage.

Four fights will happen… on an airplane. I’ll be honest, this one lost me.

And the remaining 35 fights were pretty spread out, but were most likely to occur in a movie theatre, library, or amusement park. I can see the headline now “Wife Shoves Husband Off Rollercoaster Over Coffee Table Selection.”

Obviously, arguing about furniture happens in some unexpected places, but what are people doing to deal with this? Well, that’s mixed, too. 15% of Americans avoid going to the furniture store with their partner because the visit always leaves them feeling grumpy (well… obviously). 21% described shopping with their partner as “annoying,” while a whopping 58% simply don’t offer their opinion, staving off fights altogether, and leaving one spouse (let’s be real, it’s probably the wife) with the full emotional labor of decorating the house while also doing ALL the other things.

Article rubbed some dirt in it to find out what exactly these fights were about, and found that budget, furniture styles, and color selection were the leading causes.

Please keep in mind that this is an upper-middle-class to upper-class issue. Until Mel and I actually had money for that bedroom set, we never once fought over furniture. Most of the time we just went to better-off family members homes and asked, “Are you throwing that out? Because I could use it.” It wasn’t about choice; it was about what was free. However, if you are in the throes of it with your spouse over your home decor, take comfort in knowing that you are not alone.

Usually I’d try to end with some sort of advice on how to make this whole process a little less stressful. And sure, Article did try to give some tips about how decorating is about making your house a home, and they tried to quantify that experience in hopes of simplifying it. But honestly, I didn’t really buy it (however you can read it for yourself if you’d like). As for forgoing decorating arguments, I frankly don’t think there’s a way around it, and I’m sorry. Making a house into a home is kind of a big deal, and just like any big deal, people are going to argue about it. That’s natural. But what I can say that might help is to realize it will happen, and then mentally prepare yourself with this mantra: I still love you even though your taste in furniture makes me want to claw your eyes out.

See how easy that was? Now you are mentally prepared to go shopping.

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What My Mom Taught Me About The Meaning Of Home

The photo above is of my parents’ dining room, and it encompasses everything I adore about my mother. This was my normal. I never heard the concept “everything has a place,” until spending time with David’s family, who keeps a beautiful home, complete with a closet entirely for tablecloths, pressed and perfectly hung. As you can see, my mother’s preference is, um, scattered, but she’s always had the ability to tell you exactly where anything is.

“Mom, where are the scissors?”

“Bedside table, next to the purple earrings and underneath the stack of bracelets.”

There were times in my life when I was embarrassed to have friends over, but that wasn’t until sometime in middle school, when I realized my friends had a lot more money than I did. For a while, I didn’t think that mattered. All the books and movies had taught me that money wasn’t important.

But one time a friend told me she was no longer allowed at my house because she’d told her mom there was a roach, and suddenly I was embarrassed about every little thing — that my parents worked multiple jobs, that I never got Tretorns, that I had to color a little blue rectangle on the back of my generic white shoes to make it look like they were Keds, that I’d never been out of the country, that our house wasn’t spotless. My head knew that was ridiculous, that love was more important than vacuuming, and that I had more love than any household I knew.

My parents have never kept a perfect home. My grandparents, I am told, did. When my mother purchased the Speevack family home in 1974 from her parents, who had lived there for 25 years, she made the home hers.

Teenage Patsy in her perfect 1960s living room.
Note the furniture coverings.

The furniture from her parents remained, but the walls would take on new lives for the next 44 years. An obvious act of rebellion (she was only 22, after all), she literally wallpapered the living room with an Old Fitzgerald billboard. As the years rolled on, she stripped other wallpaper and painted the walls outrageous colors. My wonderful dad never commented, at least not out loud.

Same living room in the 1970s, owned by my parents.

The past couple of weeks I’ve slept in the dining room of my family home — a home that was last on the market in 1948. That stone elephant I’m staring at? It’s been in this room for 70 years.

My adorable daddy + Old Fitz billboard wallpaper.

We moved some furniture out to make room for a hospital bed, only to discover that when Mom painted the dining room about 3 years ago, she painted around the furniture. She also purposefully chose a 2-color theme for the dining room: a mint green and light sky blue. Rather than having different colors for below and above the chair-rail, Mom instead divided the room vertically — and freehand with a paintbrush (i.e. crooked) at that.

She was so proud of this brazen design choice, and I love her for it. Because, while I know nothing about interior design, I do know that your home should make you happy. A wall that is half mint green and half light blue has made my mother happy, and I love that she now opens her eyes to this design every day — a reminder that she always did exactly what she wanted.

She wears socks with her Birkenstocks, and floral skirts with paisley shirts, and dangly earrings like a Spanish teacher. Her living room is purple, her kitchen is turquoise, and the living room is half-blue, half-mint green, partially hunter green, partially beige. Her bedroom was coral and teal for 20 years, but recently went bright lavender, and the sunroom is bright red. There’s a half-finished mural of flowers in the kitchen, which Mom won’t paint over even though the plaster is falling down because I painted it when I was a teenager.

The house is a realtor’s nightmare, and I know my grandmother would be mortified, but it sure does make my mother happy.

My mother never turned down an invitation, was always the first to arrive at every party, knew every word to every song she heard (though she could never clap along on the beat), loved her family and friends fiercely, and didn’t give a crap about dust on the fireplace or that her daughter was using her fancy NYU degree to sing pub songs. It is priorities well-placed, I believe.

I’m sitting in this blue, green, and beige dining room right now typing by my mom and noticing I’m using past tense, which makes me sad. She’s still breathing. I’m one foot away from her right now, while she sleeps peacefully, out of the awful pain she’s been in. I’m not so able to sit still because I look around and see so much to do.

I’ve been throwing away a lot of things (old pens, not old photographs), and dusting and scrubbing and trying to distract myself from what is happening. I know, however, that I should stop cleaning and planning and just hold my mother’s hand. I mean, if she taught me anything, it’s that it you should slow down, hold hands, and paint your house whatever color you want.

Update: The author’s mom died shortly after this was written.

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This Is The Other Side Of Anxiety

The other side of anxiety is clean. It’s shiny and spotless. It looks like an ad for Town & Country. Pristine countertops. Shiny floors. Everything neatly put away.

I don’t walk into anyone’s house and think, “Oh wow, it’s so dirty in here!” In fact, I don’t notice the mess. When I come to your house all I see is you, my beautiful, kind, loving and supportive friends. When you come to my house and don’t feel comfortable, I internally cringe and hate myself for not being able to put down the rag and bucket of Mrs. Meyers infused water. I kick myself for wiping down all the surface and windows. I berate myself for putting the kids’ toys away and for shining the floors.

“It smells like a hospital in here!”

Yes, it does thanks to Purell Spray. I can’t stop. But it kills me that it makes people think these things, whether it’s self-conscious or uncomfortable.

You see, this is the other face of anxiety. This is why I don’t judge a mom whose home isn’t in tip-top shape because while her anxiety manifests itself in piles of dishes, mine is the opposite. When I feel my worst, I clean obsessively. Someone bullied my child? Bleach my bathrooms and scrub them so hard the grout starts to come out. Just feeling unbearably sad and anxious about everything and nothing all at the same time? Deep clean my entire house top to bottom.

It also manifests itself in the way that I dress. I can feel other moms staring at me when I show up to the park in a sundress, curled hair, makeup, and jewelry. I probably look like I belong anywhere else but at the park running after my children. But this is how I cope. This is how I survive the hardest days.

When I had my son, I went to a wedding two weeks later and it helped me heal because someone made me look like a queen. When I showed up to the park, each and every time with both children in tow, I wore my dresses and my makeup. I fixed my hair and applied my lipstick. I did this because it was what I needed to do to feel in control of something when my emotions were slipping through my fingers like quicksand.

I still find the time to take my children to library classes, playdates, and more. I still find time to attend every birthday party I am invited to and then some. I volunteer and I visit. I invite and I host. I have always been this way and it won’t change any time soon.

I do try to let go sometimes. I encourage my daughter to smear paint, color, craft and more. I let her run around outside barefoot eating a popsicle that inevitably ends up all over her little toes. She comes in and out of the house, smearing the walls, tables and floors.

She goes to bed clean and happy after an extra long shower. I kiss her good night and then I go downstairs and hand wash the walls, the tables and the floors. I wash away the feeling that I am not a good enough mom or a good enough wife or any other role that I hold because no matter how many times my husband tells me how great I am or my mother tells me how proud she is of me, those feelings swim around in my head.

So I pick up that bucket and that rag and I scrub it all away.

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How We Built A House Around A Boy

To renovate a home is to renovate a life. I did not know, until we began to carve out our home to make it accessible to our son with cerebral palsy, that I could plan his path to freedom, but I couldn’t plan how I would feel once he took it.

The fact is, Charlie has outgrown this life we have built. The cerebral palsy that felt first like an anchor holding him back, now seems simply like a different ship to steer. We have adapted and he is thriving, moving more independently in his wheelchair and his walker and becoming more vocal in his wants and needs. But these new milestones are beginning to bump up against the confines of our house. You cannot miss the sound of my knees popping as I carry him up the stairs to bed at night. You cannot ignore the cabinets out of reach and the ill-fitting bath seat where he slips and slides at the mercy of my own balancing act.

To change his life, we have to change this house and we have already begun the process. One year ago, we leaned in together to push the button on his newly installed wheelchair lift in the garage. Up and up we went. Gently, I took my finger off his and let him carry us the rest of the way, him bearing me aloft for the first time in his life. We rode until darkness set in and the twins came out to investigate the new carnival ride.

On the slanted wall of his attic room, there are planes and trains and automobiles heading incongruously into clouds and streetlights. Each night as I make my slow way up those stairs, I recite the phrase my grandmother would whisper to me as she carried me to bed on Christmas and summer visits. “If you lift a calf until it becomes a cow,” she’d say, “you can lift the cow.” Now though, when I look at his long legs draped over my arms and I see him looking too, I think, Just because I can doesn’t mean I shouldHe needs his space and the ability to negotiate it on his own terms.

And so, we are continuing to reshuffle.

We are ripping up that nubby carpet in the living room that is a graveyard of broken crayons and putting down hardwood so he can race alongside his younger brother and sister in his wheelchair. I am anticipating roller derby speeds. And just past the living room, we are transforming our dining room into his bedroom, effectively bringing him down from the mountain. And we’re carving out a shower so he can wash himself without assistance, something everyone takes for granted until the privilege is removed. We are slowly, but surely rounding out the edges of our lives so that it can fit the expansion of his.

All this is happening through the wisdom and wherewithal of the non-profit construction company we found through my son’s preschool. The architect and founder has a grandson with CP. They partner with therapists who advise on every step of the process, so, as they say, “the house grows with the boy.” Each time they say it, it sounds so easy, like Alice in Wonderland with her magic mushrooms.

And yet, some of it is just that simple now that we’ve set it in motion. The process builds on itself until suddenly I find myself on one muggy afternoon standing in the backyard that is ninety percent weeds listening to my husband hash out plans for a ramp that would lead from the kitchen to the deck to the fire pit. The fire pit does not exist. It is a figment of his wishful thinking. We are all thinking wishfully at this point.

All of this is wonderfully exhilarating. And yet the part I only admit to myself in the dark — when everyone else is sleeping but my brain will not — is that this house, inconvenient as it is, has kept me closer to him.

His arms around my neck have been a necessity as I lower him into the bath and carry him up to bed. As the carpet rolls back and a new life unfolds, a tiny bit of me wonders, Will he still hold on as tightly when it is a choice? And yet, I know that ultimate autonomy is the aim of all parents for their children. His freedom is the goal. This is what I repeat, like a mantra, to soothe my mother’s heart back to sleep.

It’s not, I remind myself as the construction nears its completion, that I am building him a future without me. It’s that as our house shifts, so do our roles within it. This is what no one tells you about parenting—you are crossing off milestones just as often as they are. Slowly, and probably more painfully than it needs to be, I am learning to loosen my grip so that he can tighten his on the life he is choosing. One day, I hope to look up from the dishes at the sink and wonder, for a moment, where he is. And then I will catch a flash through the window and see him down the ramp and in the back yard, popping wheelies in his chair around the fire.

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Why I Can’t Let You Inside My House

I like you. Which is why I can’t let you inside of my house. And no, it’s not because it’s a wreck.

UNLESS…

You’re okay with it being a wreck? Would that signify my level of comfort with you and give a nod toward my life being just as chaotic as yours? Is it confirmation I’m past impressions and I’m only interested in making memories with my family and stuff? Confirmation that like you, I too am human and not some 24/7 rage-cleaning robot?

Did you answer yes to all of that? Well, ha! Trick questions! Now you really aren’t getting in! Because I have a confession. My house isn’t messy. Not a little. Not at all. But hear me out. It’s not because I am anymore put together or better than you. Or because I want to give you the illusion it is, or I am.

It’s because when my sink is full of dishes, and the laundry isn’t done, or my floors are a mess, I literally cannot breathe. And if momma can’t breathe, ain’t nobody breathing. You won’t want to be around me then. Nobody wants to be around me then. My anxiety makes sure of it.

So yes, I have a ritual I complete each morning and night. And sometimes in between. (And even in-between the in-between). But please know, it’s for me and only me. I feel healthiest this way.

When things aren’t in their place, I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m spiraling, I’m clouded, I’m angry, I’m raging, I’m unproductive, and the world starts closing in around me. And if I don’t attack the source right away, I get panicked. Like, I will be too far behind, and things will never be right again.  When I’m scrubbing the floors, I’m really scrubbing my soul.

Is it odd that I’m happiest while inhaling whiffs of bleach, and color-coding my closet or bagging things up to throw away? Maybe. But, I promise I don’t have anything more figured out than you and I have other more, normal, hobbies. And believe it or not, there are days when my hair is unbrushed, and I live in pajamas too.

You don’t have to ban me from seeing inside your house just because mine is clean. (See, that’s why I didn’t want to let you in.) My panic is confined to the walls of my own living space. For some reason, yours doesn’t affect me at all. So keep doing what’s comfortable for you, and I will do what’s comfortable for me. After all, that’s the beauty about friendships, learning to appreciate and love somebody else in spite of their quirks and differences.

And as for memories, rest assured my kids still dive into all sorts of fun. You know, maybe just one bin at a time. Kidding. (Mostly.) We go on outdoor adventures, we bake, we craft (just not with glitter, my heart can’t take glitter).

Most of the time, they don’t even realize I’m picking up little things behind them.

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Get Out Of My Phone, Photos, And Onto My Wall

My Instagram feed is filled with the good life — there’s photos of us doing all kinds of things, candid shots of my kids, selfies galore, and my Facebook feed isn’t any different. But my walls? Oh, they’re bare as hell.

I thought about organizing my photos all the time. Yes, I THOUGHT about the multiple steps and many subtle levels of photo-organizing, and I crapped out. I decided to live with the mom guilt because I’ve been living with it for so long that what’s another day? Or a million.

Basically I have a disease, just like every other mom I know, and it’s called “printfluenza.” Printfluenza can best be described as a serious case of “I can’t even.” As in I can’t even bear the thought of actually printing a photo, finding a frame, buying a frame, deciding on which wall, finding a nail, finding a hammer— or those wall stickers that can hold the weight of a human — and repeat.

But there’s a game changer I’ve discovered that takes all the “can’t even”s and does everything for me — which only proves my point that if you wait long enough, something will come along and make your procrastination so very much worth it.

TouchNote is that game changer and printfluenza’s cure. It’s an app that gets the photos off of your phone and onto your wall.

Here’s how easily TouchNote takes everything you were feeling guilty about and turns it into a positive.

Instagram Photo

Drowning in Photos on My Phone

Too many photos? There is no such thing! While sitting at the pool, I was able to wrestle my phone pics into submission just by tap-tap-tapping away. I organized three years’ worth of photos like a magic wand is a real thing I posses. With TouchNote Gallery Frames, I have up to 24 spaces to work with. I mean, the possibilities are endless.

Leave My House? As If!

That is not a thing I ever want to do. It’s like talking to an actual person on a phone. JUST WHY?! Printfluenza’s most real struggle is leaving the house to pick up photos to then bring them back home and organize all over again. I LIVE for package deliveries because it maximizes my time by making me efficient when I am, in fact, not at all. It’s like hiding my true self from myself. Which is, essentially, what I’m doing here — I’m hiding the fact that an app has done all the work I never really planned to do but was trying convince myself I’d “get around to it.”

No Time for That

It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I’m a mom, and I simply do not have any extra time. Even if I ever did develop my pics, there’s still the exhausting step of finding a frame — meaning you can try to hunt down a cute one at your big box store and hope it comes with a nice mat to really make the photo stand out, but every time I try to do that it’s a DISASTER. The frame either doesn’t really fit the photo even though I was sure I got the measurements right, or the mat that comes with the frame covers the best part of the image. Or I have to take it to a professional framer who charges me a million dollars.

It makes me tired just thinking about it.

With TouchNote, everything is done with just five screen taps.

BOOM.

The hardest work I actually have to do? Simply putting my beautiful creations up on the wall. Which I know will TOTALLY happen, like any time now, I SWEAR.

gallery frame

TouchNote

With TouchNote you can turn your photos into thoughtful postcards, greeting cards, and photo gifts, including stunning, gallery-art quality framed photos, with just a few taps! Download TouchNote on the AppStore or Google Play and bring your memories to life.

Enter code SCARYMOMMY to get $5 off your first credit pack!

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Dear Husband, It’s Time To Step It Up On The Chores

Dear Husband,

I’ll cut to the chase: You need to step it up on the chores.

I know we’re both tired and stressed. We’re both wondering where in the world we’ll get the energy to feed, wash, and put the kids to bed before collapsing ourselves. You’re also wondering if we’ll ever have sex again while I’m more interested in getting six hours of uninterrupted sleep.

FYI: when I have to clean the kitchen after putting the little one to bed because you decided to binge watch World’s Deadliest Catch instead of dealing with the dishes, I can tell you right now what my priority is going to be.

Raising a family and running a household requires a shit ton of work. Yes, that’s right: it’s work, just like leaving the house for an office job is work or staying home with the kids is work. It’s in addition to the work we both do 9 to 5 and it needs to be divvied up between us. At the moment, most of it is on me and I’m telling you right now, it isn’t good for our marriage.

Household work isn’t my sole responsibility with you helping out one chore at a time when asked. The work of maintaining our home belongs to both of us. Rather than me owning all the things that need doing and doling them out to you when I finally hit my limit, how about you taking ownership of a few things? I don’t mean for a weekend or a month. I mean ongoing, forever.

To be fair, you’re great with the kids. You spend quality time with them and definitely do your share of meal, bath and bedtime, plus you’re just plain fun. The problem is you don’t do enough of the housework. Constantly asking you to take action is wearing me down. It means I’m still juggling and organizing and thinking about all the things that need doing around here. I’m still carrying the mental load.

I know you think we operate on different timelines, that I like things done right away while you “get to it eventually.” Thing is, some things actually need to happen now and not later, like changing the 2-year-old’s poopy diaper or fixing the leak under the sink. I can do these things as well, but if I ask you to do something, I take it off my mental list because I really, truly need to lighten my load. When you don’t do what you say you’ll do, it creeps back on to that never-ending list and I resent it. Worse, I start to resent you.

And you start to resent me, too. I’m not sure if you’ve forgotten to do the thing you were going to do, so I remind you. You roll your eyes and sigh and say you’ll get to it. A few hours later, it’s still not done. I wonder again if you’re really going to do it or if I should just do the thing myself because repeating the ask isn’t worth the emotional angst. I usually grit my teeth and ask again, which makes me feel shitty, like I’m somehow out of line asking you to do anything around the house. It makes me feel like a whiny nag when all I want is for you to vacuum the playroom.

Let’s face it, a lot of what I do you take for granted. I have no doubt you love living in our clean house where you can always find the remotes (because I put them back on the shelf by the TV at the end of each day), the fridge is fully stocked with the basics plus your favorite beer, you never run out of toothpaste, shaving cream or shampoo, and the bath towels are fresh and fluffy each week.

Even if you vehemently proclaim you can live just as comfortably without cleans sheets or a made bed, I can’t. And that right there is why you need to do more around the house. You need to consider me, and my needs, not just your own. Can you see how exhausted I am working in one capacity or another 18 hours a day? Can you feel the resentment building between us? Do you see that for me to be content and comfortable, I need certain things to happen around the house?

I’m not asking you to suddenly become a full-time cleaning and catering service, but I am asking you to look around at our home, notice what makes it so beautiful, comfortable and functional, and do more to keep it that way. I’m asking you to be a better role model for our kids and a better partner to me.

This isn’t about helping me. This is about each of us owning a share of the work around here. It’s about contributing to our shared life in a way that makes both of us feel appreciated and cared for. You do your part and I’ll do mine and I promise, you’ll have a happier partner.

Oh, and all that worrying you do about our sex life? Studies show that dudes who do housework get laid more, so grab the broom honey and get to work.

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Moms, Let’s All Agree To Stop Apologizing For The State Of Our Homes

Almost every time I enter a friend’s home who has small children, the first words I hear are:

“I’m so sorry for the mess!”

“Sorry, my house looks terrible!”

“Excuse the mess, please!”

Moms, especially those with small children, are always apologizing for the way their house looks. It’s an unspoken rule of having a guest over. You must offer them a drink…and apologize for your house. You must ask them how they’ve been…and apologize for your mess. Why is it this way?

I can’t judge because I’ve found myself saying the same things when someone comes to my home. Even when I’ve cleaned for hours, I look at my house through, what I imagine are, someone else’s critical eyes and can’t help but feel like I should be doing more. There’s always something out of place. There’s always something that needs to be wiped down. There’s always so much more that needs to be done.

And all of us moms are trying to do our best. So, let’s call a truce.

I won’t mind your mess if you don’t mind mine. I promise I won’t ever comment on the state of your home. I would never think that the way it looks says anything about your parenting or your work ethic. I would never assume that one day respected every day.

Because we both know how hard it is. Our homes take a beating. The carpet has stains we can’t get out. The stainless steel appliances always have handprints on them. The walls have paint chipped off. The grass needs to be cut, the laundry is piled up, and the sink is rarely empty.

But here’s what’s important. Our kids are happy.

The carpet is stained because we made slime with them in the living room. Their artwork is taped to the side of that hand-printed fridge. The paint is chipped because we had a doll stroller race and bumped into a few walls. The grass is long because we’re too busy playing in the sprinkler to cut it. The laundry never ends because we let our kids get messy. The dishes pile up because we’re making healthy meals for our families.

This mom thing is hard. And it can be very lonely. We’re in our homes raising our children on our own. We need a community. We need to be around other women who get it. Women who are giving the best parts of themselves to their families every day. Women who try and succeed and try and fail and try again. Women who are experiencing the same fear, joy, and awe that comes with trying to raise good people.

Are we really missing out on making memories with each other because there are Cheerios smashed into the carpet or dishes stacked in the sink? Are we choosing to do this alone because the floor needs to be swept? Is looking perfect more important than being together?

It’s not to me.

I don’t care if my house is a mess when you stop over. I won’t apologize for it or even acknowledge it at all. I’ll pretend that I can’t see the socks on the floor or the smears on the windows. I know it isn’t why you’re here.

You’re here so we can catch up on each other’s lives. You’re here so we can share a funny story. You’re here so that we can feel like someone else gets it. You’re here so we can pass some time together in this too sweet, too short life.

Because, really, who cares if the countertop is dirty when we’re sitting at it and laughing? Neither of us will remember the crumbs.

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I Cleaned Homes For 8 Years, And This Is What I Saw

I owned a cleaning business for eight years. For eight years, I went into two or three homes a day, juggling a full schedule of 20-25 clients. I can’t tell you how many toilets I have cleaned or floors I have mopped. I can’t tell you the number of hours of Howard Stern I have listened to or the number of books or hours of music that have streamed through my headphones.

I am not one to clean and tell people’s secrets, but I will tell you I have seen some, shall we say, interesting things during my time as a house cleaner. I have stumbled upon penis pumps, used condoms, and drugs—not all in the same house either. I have overheard teenagers having sex. I have heard couples fighting. I have heard married men and women exchange lover’s words with people they were not married to. I have been told things and asked not to tell. So I didn’t, and I won’t.

For the record, a perfect cleaning person will not open your drawers; a great one might open the drawers but won’t judge or steal your stuff. I was never perfect, and if a bedside drawer was open, I definitely took a quick peek before closing it.

But the cool and kind of boring thing about people is that we are all pretty much the same when it comes to what we think our secrets are. Hidden chocolates, weed, weird lotions, vibrators, and condoms were the highlights and common items that stood out from tissues and cough drops.

No one cares about your sex toys or dope, folks. At least I didn’t. I didn’t care about the medications people took, either. The pill bottles and creams and prescriptions could have been mine. They were what people needed to get through a day, through a life. The details of why they were needed were none of my business. I dusted around and picked up loose cash and change. It was not mine to pocket. I was in people’s homes to clean. I was being paid a fair amount for the job I did; stealing money, jewelry, or anything else was not my style. It shouldn’t be the style of anyone you let into your house.

I will confess, however, that I had been known to cut off corners of brownies or steal a cookie from a plate left out on the counter, but I usually left a note thanking the owners for dessert.

As good as some of the stories are and could be, I was never interested in what was in people’s drawers. What’s really fascinating to me are the relationships I observed, the lives I became a part of.

In fact, I sometimes felt guilty about the amount of detail I observed in people’s lives. Not the details of their stuff, but of their everyday routines and interactions with friends and family members. Many of the clients I had when I owned my business were the same clients I had 8 years later when I closed up shop.

Although the homes I cleaned were usually empty of people — with adults at work and kids at school –their literal and figurative fingerprints were left behind everywhere. Ultrasound photos on the refrigerator, pre-natal vitamins, and cards of congratulations told me a baby was coming. Once, the sudden removal of those things told me a baby had been lost. Devastating.

Dogs and cats wore spots on hardwood floors and carpets and were sometimes difficult to work around. But then on a few occasions, they weren’t there to work around anymore, and my heart would ache when I found their fur under furniture long after they were gone. Years ago, the day after I had to put down my Golden Retriever, I walked into a home that had a dog and instantly burst into tears. I hugged the Bassett Hound and marveled at how bad she smelled. I missed my guy, and hugging a client’s dog got me through the morning.

I have been privy to marital problems, family illness, and job losses. I watched a client grow increasingly ill and die of medical complications. I watched his family mourn before and after he died. I have seen the stress of parents with kids who have special needs. I have seen the guilt of working parents. Holidays and birthdays, vacations and promotions, lost teeth and gained milestones. I silently cleaned around the messiness of people’s lives. I was able to make beautiful lives a bit shinier. I helped make a part of their day easier. I was trusted to respect their space and their stories. And I did.

I took in the little things too. Marks on a wall to indicate the height of a child, cards given to one spouse from another, photos tucked inside of books, and children’s artwork hanging on walls all added up to what is really important. I found joy in organizing stuffed animals on a child’s bed. I took time to make an oven shine. I made sure people were comfortable with me in their home. That trust is not something to take for granted, and I didn’t. As a result, people left their things out for me to see.

I saw their flaws, their mistakes, and their dirty laundry. I saw their efforts and their attempts to keep it all together. I saw the constant tug and push of people trying to balance the love and hate of busy lives.

Sometimes the best thing I saw in someone’s home was a pile of bills, an open journal, or a bottle of lube left out on a nightstand. Those things reminded me that I was not just cleaning a house, I was cleaning a home. And when you are invited into someone’s home, you see a lot of good stuff. You get to see a lot of comfortable love.

The beauty of life is in all the little details. And that may be one of the most important things I learned in all those years of cleaning people’s homes.

Well, that and just how many people have lube or weed in their nightstand drawers.