From Spotlessly Clean To Comfortably Lived In To Call The Health Department

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retrochick.JPGIvy says:

About 80% of the people I know would describe their house as “comfortably lived in.” That title is not always accurate. I remember some people Mr. Ivy knew that described their house that way and a couple of years later, Child Protective Services came in (this woman also described herself as a great mom, heh) and what they found was a house so filthy that it made the news. Complete fabrications notwithstanding, I think most people who call their house “comfortably lived in” are really describing the level of clean that they are comfortable with.

Take my grandma on my mom’s side. Before her hoarding (child of the Depression) got ahold of her, she described her house as comfortably lived in. Now, my cousin and I put a quarter on top of one of her shelves to see how long it would be before she dusted them and it stayed there 2 years before he and I came up a quarter short at the candy store and I raced back to grandma’s to get it. 10 years later I helped her pack to move to Tennessee and that shelf was still not dusted.

But grandma’s not dusting didn’t mean she ran a dirty household, really. You could always count on her bathrooms being spotlessly clean and smelling nice and she never left a dish dirty her entire life. See, her comfort level included having a clean bathroom and kitchen, but not having her shelves dusted.

My other grandma, on the other hand, not only wasn’t a fan of dusting, but she wasn’t a huge fan of dishes either. You could come into her house at any time and pretty much guarantee that there’d be at least one or two dishes in her sink. Not that she’d let them pile up and her kitchen would get call-the-health-department dirty, but unlike my other grandmother, she didn’t get things right away.

I am not a natural housekeeper, but I grew up in a spotlessly clean house and I strive every day to be more like my mother, who is an excellent housekeeper. My problem is, I’m random. You could come into my house at any time and never know what you’ll find. It might be spotlessly clean (less likely, unless I know you’re coming, haha), it might be comfortably lived in (most likely) or it might be call-the-health-department dirty. (only likely if I’m depressed or sick)

So, Home Eccers, this begs the question: how would you classify your house? What’s important to you that it’s clean and what can you leave for awhile and not get too worried about? What could you try to be better at? One thing I’m working on is being like my one grandma and not letting dirty dishes sit.

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20 thoughts on “From Spotlessly Clean To Comfortably Lived In To Call The Health Department”

  1. I like how you described yourself…that’s me…I am very random. I have 5 kids, and as my blog name states, I am Un-Organized! But, I HATE dirty toilets and my closet…when my clothes make it there, is organized. My sister is very OCD with cleaning, but, if you look in her closets or drawers, they are very Un-Organized. We are complete opposites! I would love to have a spotless house…it’s just not in me to keep it that way.

  2. I’d describe it as “best as can be, considering”. Lately, I’ve been cultivating the habit of not letting dishes sit around and trying to keep the kitchen cleaned up. This was spurred on by an attack of ants after I left the dishes in the sink one night. If I even leave them sitting after dinner, say, while we watch a movie, then by the time I get to the dishes the ants have taken over again.

    The floor is absolutely impossible to get completely clean. Our unfinished house sports fashionable Oriented Strand Board flooring, which is kind of like the Thomas’ English Muffins of floor materials. See, most people cover it up with things like carpeting or tile, but not us. We’re going for that construction site look, and the dirt just fits right in with that.

    Sorry, I’m complaining again. I get somewhat jealous of people who actually have kitchens with counters and cupboards and ranges rather than folding tables, rubbermaid totes and hotplates. Some day….

    • I really related to “That Bobbie Girl” because our house has been somewhat of a construction zone for going on three years. Before that, it was actually a construction zone. We ran out of money to rent another place while building this one, so we moved in. Jobs are getting done, but slowly. So, the wood floors, which will be lovely, are still unfinished and never really look clean. The kitchen has areas of clutter-freedom, and areas of…well, not-so-clutter freedom.

      I have always struggled with being a pack rat, so that is a cleaning challenge. However, I’m slowly reforming myself. I recently purged a great deal of stuff by asking myself 1. Do I actually use this? 2. Do I really love it? 3. Will I regret it if it’s gone? It worked fabulously, and I unloaded tons of stuff from the garage and the house. The house feels so much better now. Not done, but better. I look around and see mostly things I really use, like and want. As for daily cleaning, I’m much better during the summer when I’m off work, but overall, I’m just learning to be more consistent. I always feel like the house is a mess, but I think that’s partly insecurities from growing up–I always felt like we were the ones who had the “yucky” house because we rented and didn’t own ours–my mom was a single mom, so we had to just get by. So, when I saw this website, I was drawn to it because I do wish I’d learned these things better. All I can do is work on it now!

  3. This is almost like a Sunday confessional, no?

    Okay…here is the skinny on my house cleaning:

    My house is also comfortably lived in.

    What this means:

    1) Dishes are done throughout the day. If you see dishes beside the sink, they will be in the dishwasher within an hour.

    2) Messes that you see are quite recent. The entire house is picked up as the day goes on. My girls (ages 3 and 4) make the messes, for the most part. If they are in the front room….I am tidying up their bedroom. If they are in their bedroom….I am tidying up the front room. (I am also trying to get them to help me so they don’t think a little fairy comes and does all this for them, I’m no magical cleaning fairy). I throw stuff away. A lot of stuff. If is broken: it goes in the trash. If you drew ten pictures: we pick the best ONE to go on the fridge. I do not like clutter and messes taking up floor space.

    3) Laundry is my achilles heel. I hate it. Clean clothes tend to hang about for a while before getting folded. Dirty clothes tend to pile up. I do laundry once a week but always tell myself that I will stay on top of it from now on (I never do).

    4) Dusting: I dust when things need to be dusted. If it is visable and I notice it, it gets dusted. I don’t always notice it, though.

    5) Floors: I am very good about vacuuming the carpets. I hit my tile kitchen floor twice a week (it gets dirty in the interim, though).

    6) My office and workspace: This stays really clean. Kids are not allowed in my workspace when I am working. Ever. This rule helps to keep that space clean. This space shames the rest of my house.

    to sum it up: someone coming into my house would think it was fairly clean. I have five kids, a husband, no pets AND I run a small business out of our home. I think I do okay considering all of that. (I hope so, anyway!)

  4. Wow – what a great post. I inherited a lackadaisical approach to housecleaning from my maternal grandmother and then married into a family who embraces clutter.

    My house – very comfortably lived in.
    My brother, who inherited the paternal side of the family’s compulsive cleaning tendencies once said, “This place is mess-merizing.”

  5. My ideal and my reality are two distinctly different things. I’ll confess it is all my fault; I don’t even have kids to blame. I went to boarding school and our room cleanliness was graded. I consistently received top marks and was penalized for the tiniest of infractions (seriously, one kleenex in the trash bin knocked me down a point .. it was totally unfair) but I digress ..

    Now, while I wish I kept my house in that type of condition, there are no Hall Moms to inspect the place. So, after a long day at work and post work activities, shoes end up in the middle of the floor, dishes go undone, and miscellaneous papers seem to multiply. I may manage to scrub a room top to bottom on a weekend, occasionally.

    Usually though, it’s all about the kitchens and bathrooms. If those are clean, I can live with not vacuuming and dusting obsessively. I’ve given up on the kitchen floor. The entrance to my house opens into the kitchen and it is impossible to keep the floor clean unless I really want to sweep and mop every day .. not going to happen.

    On the other hand, I’m very proud of a recent cleaning impulse that has helped me get rid of oodles of clutter. Hooray! (:

  6. Well… my dishes get put into the dishwasher every night and then the dishwasher gets emptied every morning.

    The bathroom counter is always clean. We have one bathroom and I insist on keeping the counter clean – so things get put away.

    The rest of the house? A MESS. It drives me crazy, but it is what it is.

  7. I really liked yotur post. I can relate to you very well. My house has never been spotlessly clean and I am okay with that. I did very well for about two years with Flylady. But, now the house is a mess. It does seem to correspond to my depression and not feeling well.

  8. I am bad at cleaning and truly do not like to do it. Growing up we had daily jobs and I was always the one woke up at 6am in the morning by my dad because I did not clean up to his expectations. I am good at making things look good from far away, that would mean don’t look in the cabinets, closets or under the beds. I just can not stay in one room and clean it all either, I usually travel from room to room. And well you never know what to expect when you come into my house… really depends on how motivated I am.

  9. childrens’ bedrooms clean, bathroom clean, dishes get done, kitchen stuff is clean, don’t dust, child broke the hoover two weeks ago so that should tell u what the floors look like – yuck – waiting for a part to fix it and trying to find the shop vac in the garage (now that’s a disaster area!)

    even with a degree in home economics (which gets great laughs from my family), my house is on the down side of ‘comfortably lived in’ but definitely not ‘call the health inspector’ — i guess you could say my house is messy but not dirty

    my mothers house though — spotless — beyond spotless!, as a child i never saw my mom clean — she didn’t’ want our help because we couldn’t clean to her expectations. — so i came up with the ‘fairy’ story, while i was asleep or at school the fairy would come in and clean – which might explain why i’m clueless (but learning!)

    my aunt’s mother-in-law though — when she died they had to pitchfork / shovel clean out the house — she lived on a farm and if things got too much she would pack the dishes up in plastic bags place them in trash cans outside the back door put a lid on them and say to her self she would get to them later………. they threw the whole lot out

  10. yeah!!!! i’m not the only one! diaper cake becca i didnt’ read the comments till after i posted, i’m not the only one who grew up with a ‘fairy’

    and i forgot to mention, i’ve got 3 children, 2 cats, 2 dogs (large ones – so lots of fur), and me 🙂 — and various sundry neighborhood children that wander in looking to play, and the bugs my 4 year old brings in……..sigh cleaning up lady bug and firefly carcasses

  11. I live in a house that is slowly being remodeled as I get the funds to do it, so there’s always some degree of mess, but I try to keep it confined. Dust on the other hand is everywhere. Not only from remodeling, but also from three big dogs, a husband who makes vast messes in the garage and then tracks it into the house, and from the fact that the house is made of concrete and concrete makes its own dust. So I dust every other week, and a day later, it looks like I haven’t touched a thing for a year. *sigh* I’m slowly coating the concrete surfaces with paint, tile, and stone, so I’m hoping that eventually the dust will become manageable. I also try not to think too much about the possible consequences of breathing it.

    My closet, bathrooms, and kitchen are always organized; I can’t function otherwise My desk, however, is a stinking mess from two weeks of trying to get things done at 2 AM and not being awake enough to deal with the consequences. After the long weekend, it will be straight again.

  12. I guess I am like your maternal grandmother. I keep the kitchen and bathrooms clean, but dusting and sweeping/vacuuming are haphazard. Laundry I am pretty good at. Recently I have gotten better at getting control of the incoming paper – the mail. I am recycling/shredding most of it as it comes in., which is keeping it off of the countertops. Clutter – I am bad at clutter. The kids toys drive me to distraction.

  13. when it was just me and my now-ex boyfriend, my apartment was messy (piles upon piles) but always clean. I would lift up the piles to wipe down the surfaces or vacuum the floor at least once a week, and dishes never stayed out more than 12 hours (12 hours being the time from a late dinner to getting cleaned up first thing in the morning)

    now I’m living with two roommates and all of us have our own busy schedules (although mine is acknowledged to be the busiest with 40 hours of school a week plus homework and working 5-10 hours a week). because of this none of us wants to be the one who sucks it up and cleans the bathroom or mops the kitchen floor. actually, just today I discovered that we didn’t HAVE a mop! (I went and bought one and mopped up the mess somebody else left on the kitchen floor that was staining my bare feet yellow…)

  14. Dishes done,
    laundry kept up,
    bathrooms clean,
    kitchen table and counters cleaned,
    and beds made…..

    The rest tends to be cluttered!

  15. This is a funny post to me. Most homes I have visited are magazine-shoot-ready. People, really, don’t you have something to do BESIDE clean your house? Don’t get me wrong, I would love my house to look like that. But, I gave up years ago trying to pick up after everyone else. I am NOT the only person who lives here nor am I the only person using all the appliances, dishes, restrooms, showers, floors, etc. We have moved to a much smaller house with less closet/storage space… I have so much clutter everywhere and all the stuff isn’t even sorted by category…I can’t find a thing! Most of the clutter is mine, I admit. It is hard to keep up with items when other people move them about, though!

  16. Ok…I have a daily routine…Shower, dress, swipe bathrooms, make beds, open curtains, take out bathroom trash,

    throw a load of laundry in, get kids ready to go out the door for school, then do dishes and wipe counter and sweep kitchen floor…I change sheets and vacuum on Mondays…Then I try to do a deep cleaning of one room a week…. Then dinner and dessert and dinner dishes and of course after school activities… I’m sure there is no dust on my fridge but I find new places dust hides everyday..House work is never done… So I def need down time…So Todays down time was making an address book in excel and got rid of my old book that was sitting on my shelf..and yup collecting dust… i love this site and look for inspiration to keep on keepin on…


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