Sunday Confessional: my theory doesn’t withstand scrutiny

I grew up in a big house my parents built out in the country and for much of my childhood, they wanted to sell the house (in part, I’d guess, because they couldn’t afford to heat it). As a result of their desire to move, I had to do even more cleaning than was already required by a mother who prioritized a clean house over most everything else. All that cleaning felt like a never-ending cycle of drudgery.

Dusting all the furniture, including every single chair rung. Vacuuming upstairs and downstairs plus two flights of carpeted stairs. Applying lemon oil to the paneling. Washing windows. Mopping the slate foyer. Cleaning bathrooms. Lather rinse repeat.

Oddly enough, as an adult I really dislike cleaning. 🙃 I married someone who isn’t much interested in it, either, and our various homes have always been messy. Part of that’s because we’ve always had dogs and cats which means hair gets everywhere. Today, Zippy and I did a thorough cleaning (there’s already animal hair on the floors!) which got me thinking about my friend Rebecca who I taught with in California.

Rebecca grew up in a household completely different from mine: her parents were more like Zippy and me, and their home was a bit on the chaotic side. That bugged the hell out of Rebecca who grew up to be an adult with a spotless home. And when she heard my tale of childhood woe, she suggested cleaning for me. Initially, I felt really uncomfortable on several levels, but she assured me that (a) she sincerely enjoyed cleaning and (b) I’d be doing her a favor because she needed to make more money.

So, Rebecca cleaned our house and, as far as I know, she never became enraged when the overstretched vacuum cord unplugged itself or the bag needed emptying or the handle came loose and slammed her in the leg. She never cried tears of frustration at the streaks on the window that would not go away, no matter how many times she washed and dried it. Rebecca whistled while she worked.

I thought about her today as I cleaned (without whistling although I was thrilled to NOT be pushing around the approximately 80-pound Kirby vacuum of my childhood) and remembered our theory about why we had such different outlooks on housekeeping. We both believed she became a clean freak because of her upbringing and that I’m a messy-mess because of mine. And then it hit me: while my two sons were required to do weekly cleaning, they were raised in an environment in which most every activity took priority over a clean house, and neither one of them is a clean freak. Not even close.

My theory doesn’t hold up.

Maybe I need more data. How about you? Are you neat and tidy or do you lean more to messy? What kind of upbringing did you have in regards to cleaning? It’s possible your experience will bolster my faltering theory but even if it doesn’t, I’d love to hear from you. Spill, please.

6 thoughts on “Sunday Confessional: my theory doesn’t withstand scrutiny

  1. I’m in the messy camp, but I don’t blame my neat mother. I blame my Hone Ec teacher, who would have fit in well in the military, and against whom I have been rebelling for a lot of years. It was teachers like her that gave me a dislike for authority figures, and in her case, insecurity about my cooking and housekeeping abilities. I did eventually become quite a good cook but I still do the minimum amount of cleaning.

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    • That’s so interesting, Barb. My Home Ec teacher was not militant, but clearly more into that stuff than me. I’m sorry you had that experience, but glad you now cook as you like! Thank you so much for sharing. 🙂

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  2. My growing-up house: immaculate.
    My own adult homes have been pretty messy. I would like them to be cleaner, but I have always worked full time, plus writing, plus other interests, and cleaning just falls to the bottom of the list. I do notice that the busier I am, the messier things get, but when I have a long stretch of time off, I’m able to keep things neater and cleaner. My spouse maintains a neat clean living room, but his home office and his side of the bedroom are disaster areas, much worse than mine. So even if I were neater, the effect would be limited 😉

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    • That’s very interesting, Jenn. The push and pull of a tidy environment weighed against life’s other factors. If I had cleaning fairies, I’d happily accept a tidier home, but I’m not going to forgo outdoor exercise and sunshine or creating something just so the house is clean. It’s kinda cool you have a messier spouse who then gives you an “excuse” to not put more effort into tidiness. Thank you for adding your “data” to this post. It seems my theory is all full of holes. 🙂

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  3. My parents divorced very early on. My dad built his own house out in the woods which took the entirety of my childhood to do it practically brick by brick on favors and overtime. I like to joke that I grew up “under construction.” My mom rented a small house in the city for us and she liked to keep it clean and tidy, but not obsessively so. I started out with the same cleanliness as her, but I’ve got to admit, since the pandemic I’ve been slacking a lot more in that area. No one around here seems to mind though.

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    • Growing up “under construction”….HA! I’m glad your household is cool with the way things are now. Personally, I feel that with all we’re facing, a clean house is pretty low priority!

      P.S. I just posted about Barnraisers Project and hope you check it out. 🙂

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