Someone Has to Wear the Apron

I used to scorn aprons, and everything they stood for. I thought women wore aprons because they didn’t want to get any real life on their fancy clothes. I thought cleaning was for fetishes. I was against immaculate houses, and when it came down to it, kind of against houses. I used to love how “putting things away” in our tipi just meant turning around. And when we moved into our first real house, I hated how much walking around I had to do to accomplish the same task. Let alone the actual cleaning required for such a space. The miles of floor to sweep and windowsills to wipe, and the whiteness of everything which revealed every little spill. Don’t get me started on vacuuming.

(I’m still annoyed by that prevalent whiteness. Who the hell came up with white for floors? Someone who didn’t clean their own home, I’d bet.)

Make no mistake, I hate cleaning. And as a mom of two, I spend a lot of time at it. I figure I spend two hours a day involved in the prospect of picking up, washing dishes and doing laundry. Note those are just the bare minimums of housekeeping– treading water. This does not a clean house make. While I am busy picking up toys so we can walk through the room, the edges continue to accumulate grime. And need I explain, it’s very discouraging to spend two hours a day cleaning and not have a g*&#*$#ed clean house.

Of course, if I could ever get on top of it, right? Then the same two hours would return the house to an actual clean state every day. I used to think that keeping tidy took less time in the end than being messy. But, being the analytical person that I am, I worked it out mathematically. If I spend five minutes a day sweeping the floor adds up to 35 minutes a week. If I wait, and just sweep it once a week, I can get the job done in 10 minutes, therefore saving myself 25 whole minutes! 25 minutes that I could be blathering on about cleaning!

Lots of things work out like that. If I wash dishes right after use then it’s one use/wash. If I let them pile up on the counter for the day, I may well find a second use for many of them. The morning’s biscuit bowl works quite serviceably for dessert’s cake mixing bowl. See the minute of washing I just saved? It might sound silly, but minutes have never meant near so much to me as they do now.

But, this is not a pro-dirty post. No, quite the opposite. I am just trying to explain my past thoughts to prepare you appropriately for the impact of the following statement: I’ve recently discovered a strange and unexplainable drive to clean.

Shocked? You should be.

It came, like all changes, out of desperation. Round about November is when I started to lose it. I mean, I always wished our house was cleaner, but suddenly I just couldn’t stand it. I looked around and saw the piles of crap everywhere and my head wanted to explode. When I say our house was dirty, I don’t mean just cluttery. I mean piles of crap that hadn’t moved in months, hiding a thick layer of actual filth beneath.

At first I thought I was just going crazy. Why should it suddenly bother me so profoundly? But at some point in November it suddenly hit me that when the Babe had started walking a few months before, he had quadrupled his capacity for destruction, and in doing so had become a full, card-bearing member of the house-dirtying force. Where there had been three dirtyers, now there was four. An increase of 33%! No wonder I felt like I was drowning!

Somehow this little epiphany helped. At least I wasn’t going crazy. But next was figuring out how to even begin to tackle the monumental task ahead.

I do think there is too much cleaning necessary to our lives today. It comes down to the fact that we just have a massive amount of stuff. Closets full of clothes that need washing, bins full of toys to throw on the floor. So my Heroine’s Journey started out with a thorough culling. Not perhaps as ruthless as I might have liked, but enough that I was able to take a deep breath and exhale relief.

There was one closet in particular, the Giant Junk Drawer closet. You know, the repository of all things ambiguous. Also, not coincidentally, one of the 3YOs favorite places to play. Over the course of many months, she had pulled most of the boxes out and emptied their contents onto the floor in front of the closet. Since it was partially hidden by a bench, I had managed to ignore it for some long time. But that time was over. The closet was my first Obstacle.

For some reason, this sudden outburst of cleaning fury just happened to take place at the end of November, when I should have been getting ready for our almost month long trip, and when My Man was extraordinarily busy studying for finals. I meant to just clean the closet. But of course that kind of cleaning makes the house dirtier. You know what I’m talking about. At some point My Man walked into the dining room, surveyed the table strewn with piles and boxes, and the rest of the room and house suffering the neglect of a Mama-Project, and said, “So…. You’re… Cleaning?”

In other words, although the closet was clean, I could hardly stop there. The house was a wreck in the name of cleanliness. It was too late to turn back, I had to keep going.

I tore open another closet, and ravaged the kids toy shelf. Working in my rare spare moments, it took me right up until we had to leave just to complete the purge. I took the boxes to the charity shop the day before we got on the plane.

Needless to say, I left the house anything but clean.

And left a husband to himself for 10 days of finals.

Act 1: Set the scene

Act 2: Reveal the plot.

Act 3: Resolve.

When we returned on Tuesday, the house was a complete disaster. The floor particularly was epic. I left the suitcases in the car, and started right in, hair afire.

I have been cleaning every day in this blessed window of time before My Man’s classes start back up. I am still nowhere near a clean house, but I can see the progress. The laundry piles are diminishing. The corners are slowly revealed and vacuumed of their bunnies. The suitcases have been unpacked all but one. The new toys have been put into the places of the culled toys. And then taken back out and thrown on the floor.

I find myself almost eager to do the work. I have some spark of hope I will be able to maintain, not a clean house, but a decent house. I don’t even aspire to an immaculate house, I like to see the toys of the day on the floor, and projects in process. I love a little clutter– the sign of life in progress– but I cannot, no matter how I try, love a filthy house.

Part of this new found drive and prioritization is yet another step of submission. To the task at hand. I guess it took me 4 years of full-time motherhood to accept that cleaning the house is my job. Not that My Man shouldn’t help (he does), and not that the kids shouldn’t learn to help as well (the eldest is getting there). But that, in the end, cleaning the house is part of keeping a Home, and is therefore inescapably a part of my job as Homemaker. I know it comes with plenty of controversy, but yielding to the realities of my chosen path has been a revelation for me. Cleaning the house is never so unpleasant as when you are pissed to be doing it. Letting go the gritted teeth and relaxing into my work might not make it fun, but it keeps my jaw from aching.

And the apron. Yes, that punked out lovely in the header. What I have come to realize is that aprons originally weren’t to keep the real life off your clothes. Of course. They were to keep the bulk of your clothes cleaner longer, so that you don’t have to do so much laundry. Brilliant.

Sometimes when I need a good boost of kick ass for a daunting cleaning project, I tie that little sweetie on. And think of you, dear reader. Let’s get our aprons dirty.

12 thoughts on “Someone Has to Wear the Apron

  1. It’s great to read a post from you again. I’ve missed you! But, as a Mum and a homemaker myself, I know how impossible it is to always find time for the things you do for yourself.
    Just want to say how much I enjoy your blog. You tell it like it is…no sugar coating. Lots of bloggers leave me feeling extremely inadequate so it’s good to know I’m not the only one struggling to keep the dust bunnies at bay!

  2. What an interesting post. Was worried as I hadn’t seen anything for a while. We have had both Josh and family for two weeks and Jeremy and Jamie for weekends. Kids left this evening for home and Jeremy leaves tomorrow early on the ferry. I will be wearing the apron tomorrow and cleaning the corners here and liking putting things in order. Then I will learn to start weaving on the Schacht Flip loom I got for Christmas. I will go back and read your post on weaving and think of you and your wee ones. This job of “homemaker” isn’t an easy one, and such the learning experience. Hang in there.

  3. You have obviously achieved one of life’s great transitions, but the difference with you is that you can effectively put it into words that even the uninitiated can understand. You really ought to be thinking about that book.

  4. Brilliant. And perfect timing – my husband and I were just having the “purge” conversation this morning. Our house badly needs to be pared down so that there is just not so much stuff everywhere and things can actually have a home to go back to, thus making cleaning A LOT easier.

    I used to hate cleaning too, but the older I get the more I realize that when it is done it makes my brain feel a lot better. Like I can somehow accomplish things better when the clutter and grime is less. It makes my whole outlook feel calmer – the way the space around me can be a mirror of the space inside myself.

    Here’s to dirty aprons!!

  5. I smiled all the way trought his and just told my man he’d love it and must read it. It was your mathematical approach that he’d love.
    We put our whole summer last year aside for “purging the crap” and August was the month where we cleared masses out. It felt sooo good. I am still doing it, months later. We all just have so much stuff. It just slows us down. Now I am into trying to simplifying it all; making it sustainable in all ways.
    You write the truth of it all and so well. Thanks for your voice.

  6. Ahh… you are speakin my language. I have been bewildered by all those other home-makers that were really into immaculate houses and lifestyles pre-kids and gone on to just seamlessly incorporate kids into it all. I have struggled with each step of the surrender – as you describe it so well.

    My life was, well, filthy before kids. I played in bands, I worked, I travelled, I got out and about. I prioritised fun. My fellah almost didn’t come back after our first night together when my housemates disgustingly dirty cat leapt up on the bed and nuzzled him! And it was fine. But that really ain’t so fine any more.

    I am trying to figure out how to bring the basic idea I used to ascribe to into my homemaker-parenting – that life is better when it’s fun and functional rather than just good-looking!

  7. I Hear you! This post spoke to me!! How can we spend so much time on this exercise and not get on top of it? I detest cleaning – the time could be spent on so many much more interesting and useful activities but I’ve come to realise I love a clean house. It rarely happens. What I love more is when I visit people and they are proud of their little home…sure it’s cluttered and the life’s debris is strewn about but underneath all that..their homes are clean! I want that! I want to ask people over without the dreaded feeling that I have to go and clean the bathroom/toilet because they might not want to come back again after answering natures call. If I can wipe the benches, put the dishes away and sweep the floor all before getting out of the house then I am one happy person. I figure anything extra is a bonus to the day and I feel like I have conquered. And the Apron. I agree…such a stroke of genius. A dirty apron makes me happy because even though the house isn’t clean all over…all at once, at least the apron’s proof that I’ve been doing something to change the situation. Plus, like you say, clean clothes underneath…gotta love that!! :)

  8. I love this. I have been trying to focus on decluttering this year, but what we really need is a good solid monthlong purge! I hate cleaning and I suck at it (and do does the Man), and I realise back in janurary or so, that having less stuff was the way to make it easier.

    Wish I’d done it when the kids were younger and I had more influence over their stuff though.

  9. So my question is, going on towards ten months later, did it work? Did all that purging abd cleaning make it possible to actually *keep* the house clean?

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