Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Anne of Green Gables Set Me Up for Domestic Failure

My mother did not raise my brother and I as slobs. We made our beds each morning. We were expected to vacuum every evening. Despite my mother's belief that our house was always dirty, we really grew up in a tidy, clean home.

In college, to stave off the omnipresent housekeeping battles among roommates, we established a cleaning schedule. Each week all the roommates alternated between cleaning the kitchen, vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, and scrubbing the floors. Of course that left dishes as a free-for-all and as can be expected among a group of stressed out girls that did not go well.

The point is, while I prefer a tidy house, I'm not the sort who's going get their knickers in a twist over a little dust and will go so far as to claim that a little dust strengthens the immune system. But oh are there times I wished my living space was just a little cleaner.

Let's take this past week for example. Andy is undertaking yet another project that involves cutting holes in the ceiling (installing a bathroom fan over the shower to help battle against the mildew problem) and that means the living room that was clean for about two minutes when we took out all the recycling last Tuesday, is again a pile of power tools and empty cardboard boxes. The rug by the couch is so dirty that I haven't done my knees exercises the last few mornings because I can't be bothered to vacuum. The kitchen counter seems coated with some mysteriously sticky substances that Mrs. Meyers' countertop spray can't penetrate. The bedroom basically looks like to went through a hurricane of dirty clothes.

When I first read Anne of Green Gables, I was an impressionable young adult. In the books, the characters are always overwhelmed with domestic duties: cooking, cleaning, etc. There is a particularly poignant scene where Anne expresses a desire to make sure every inch of the house is always spotless because while guests to the house would never know that cellar steps hadn't been swept or the attic dusted, she would know it wasn't clean. It seemed so admirable to set yourself up to such a high standard of cleanliness and deep down, I wanted to be like Anne. I wanted to be the perfectionist who knew there was no dust to be found in the house. 

But I can't do it. I just can't. 

I mean, do you know how often you're supposed to be washing your sheets?! At the risk of an over-share, let me just state that I feel lucky if I get the linens washed once a month around here. This morning I swept up a dust pan full of dust, hair, crushed tortilla chip particles, and goodness knows what else from our kitchen floor, which, for the record is about 12 square feet. I can almost feel the glare of Marilla Cuthbert (Anne's guardian) on me every day I walk through our front door.

With today's standard two income households, housekeeping seems like the most logical first thing to let slide. (After all, I can deal with a dirty house, I'm less tolerant of an empty stomach.) I could blame Anne of Green Gables for prompting me to set unattainable standards of cleanliness. But the truth is that Anne and I are from different eras. I don't spend every day cleaning and preparing meals. I spend my days out of the houses pursuing a paycheck. Even my days off involve more errands than cleaning. I should feel any range of emotions about the fact that I will not be Good Housekeeping's poster girl any time soon: guilty, disgusting, a failure. But for some reason, I don't.

Because let's be honest, even Anne, after she'd hunkered down with Dr. Gilbert Blythe, hired Susan, the housekeeper.

1 comment:

  1. I can relate ~ to both the never ending task of keeping house, and to being a fan of Anne of Green Gables. Indeed, as a child I always imagined that my house would be as neat as a pin, and now in adulthood the bitter reality has set in. I'm in the same boat with the sheets. It seems like every time we finish all the laundry, the dishes, or the dusting, in the blink of an eye there's another stack!

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