Tuesday, November 27, 2012


One day this past summer, my husband earned his way into the dog house. This doesn't happen often. We both do our best to forgive quickly, but I will admit that I held this incident over his head for a while. You see, Andrew is by no means cheap. In fact, he has one of the most generous hearts I have ever known. But he does like to save money where he can. So when he got a call from the Kirby vacuum company, offering to come clean our carpets "for free," he was all over it. 

Andrew works nights and scheduled this "free carpet cleaning" during a time when he would be asleep and I would be awake. "It'll be fine," he said. "Some woman is just going to stop by to clean our carpets. No strings attached." 

I tried to convince him that no company would do this type of service completely free, but he was immovable. 

So later that day, in place of Andrew's promised female carpet cleaner were TWO male vacuum cleaner salesmen. I stepped out onto the front step, Harriet on my hip, and closed the door behind me. I was setting a boundary. I told them that I was incredibly sorry but we were not in the market for a vacuum so they might as well move onto their next home. I said that my husband had set this up and I was sorry that we had wasted their time. They were lovely men and kindly insisted that they understood the situation and were happy to clean our carpets anyway. After a bit of back-and-forth with them, I opened the door and let them inside. Big mistake.

They vacuumed the living room floor with our Dyson, then fired up their miracle-working Kirby. The main guy would put these little white disks in the filter, vacuum a little, then take the white disk out to show me how much dirt our Dyson left behind. This process was excruciating. I was sitting on our couch with Harriet on my lap, covering my face with my hands in shame as he laid disk after disk out in a perfect arch, each of them covered with carpet gunk. "You can just stop," I said. "I get the point."

I couldn't even remember the last time we had vacuumed. I was humiliated. "This is probably the worst you've ever seen, huh?" I said, hoping they would tell me that this level of dirt was fairly common.

"Well, it's the dirtiest we've seen from a family that didn't buy a vacuum."


They left an hour and a half later. I felt just horrible that we had wasted their time and I was embarrassed by my subpar housekeeping. So I did the only thing I could - I gave them a few of the citrus butter cookies I had baked the day before. Part of me is shocked they even ate them after experiencing our dirty house.

Later that day, I vacuumed. I let Andrew have it. And I vowed to make dust, dirt and grime of any sort an anomaly in my home.

One problem:

We have a dog. A dog that loves messes and mischief. If you have this sort of dog, you know that a spotless house is as attainable as a yummy low-fat dessert.

We also have one of these:

And as darling and sweet as she is, the girl cuts into my cleaning time. More accurately, she cuts it out. Completely. Because I would rather play with her than polish. I would rather dance with her than dust. I would rather snuggle with her than squeegee. It's okay when our "sensory play" ends up all over the kitchen floor because the best learning is messy. I don't mind our living room turning into a sea of toys because play is her work. And because I know nothing makes her happier than the pure freedom of nakedness, I don't care much if she pees on the carpet. (Once she pooped behind the couch but we try to keep that to a minimum.)

The same is true about our pup. We decided long ago that we would only get a dog if we could offer it a good life full of fun, dog stuff. So if we are on a walk and he notices an especially tempting dirt hill or mud bog, I often unhook his leash and watch him run through the muck as though he has never known a more perfect moment than this. I find so much joy in watching his celebration of all things gross and smelly. (Later, I often regret it, but that's beside the point.)

I won't pretend that I'm always so laissez faire about my house and purely focused on fun. There are times when I lament to my husband that it's impossible to keep up, that I just want things to be clean and put away. To that, he says that he'll do it. And he does. Which is why I can't be too angry about the Kirby thing.

I'll admit I was a bit nervous to publish this post. I worried no one would ever want to come to our house again. So know this...if you stop by for a visit, our home will be (relatively) clean. The floors will be swept. The toilets will be scrubbed. But more importantly, know this...

If you are going to spill a full bowl of chili on the carpet,

if you are going to get a little clumsy or rowdy and put a dent in the wall,

if you are going to come in from the rain and drag mud and leaves up the stairs...

...this is the place to do it. At our home, it's okay to make a mess. Heck, it's okay to be a mess. Because that's the kind of place where I want my children to grow up.

Good thing...because I wouldn't know how to do it any other way.

P.S.   I typed this post with one hand while holding a sick, sleeping baby so you can just imagine how clean my house is(n't).


  1. I had a saying when my kids were little. It went like this:
    "No matter how much I scrub and comb,
    No matter what high hopes I start the day with.
    My kids always look like the kids,
    I wouldn't want my kids to pay with."

  2. First, I love reading your blog! The first time you posted it to FB, I may, or may not, have read your whole blog in that sitting.
    Second, don't worry about your dirty carpets. Mine are exactly the same way! If a mom values cleaning her carpet over loving her kid(s), then her priorities are messed up.
    Way to go with loving your little girl!!

    1. Thanks so much for keeping up with my blog, Hannah! Glad to hear I'm not alone with the dirty carpets. (-:

  3. AHHHHHH we had an absolutely nightmarish experience with a Kirby salesperson a few years ago- she was here for like 3 hours, til after 10pm!!!! And SOO rude and pushy!! I was like a week post-surgery, not feeling great, NOT feeling rich. WHICH WE EXPLAINED. When we politely declined each of her 'deals' she was offering us, she was like "oh, so you're okay living in a filthy house??" "well, it's not great, but it hasn't killed us yet, so I guess we'll keep on..." "But don't you see how disgusting it is? You don't want to do anything about it?" "For $3k?? No, we don't." And then she completely ignored us for the hour it took her to pack up her stuff and leave, and also she left a huge mess of dirty white pads and piles of gunk in her wake. I would NEVER buy from a company that treats people like that!! (Oh, and she kept trying to guilt us-- "I need to make this sale so that my kids can earn an X-Box!!"...to which I say...I need you to NOT make this kids so I can save for my next round of infertility treatments and adoption! And kids don't NEED X-boxes!!")

    1. Oops, typos amidst my bitterness...should be 'I need you to NOT make this sale so I can save..."

  4. When my twins were infants, I cared for them while I worked full time as a nurse and ran a construction company. Meanwhile I expected myself to keep my huge 5 bedroom house perfect at all times. Five years ago I got divorced and learned to stop and slow down. Now I enjoy my girls and let other things go. When my kids or anyone else asks me about the girl's childhood, I have zero recollection. I don't remember their first steps or first teeth or potty training. Pictures draw a blank. I was too busy trying to be Martha Stewart. Thank for writing this Em.

  5. Great Post….. I read a few of your other posts.

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