As I was cleaning up dinner last night, I looked into the family room to see this:
That would be dust on our TV, thick enough to draw in.

Now you all know the truth. I don’t dust. My house isn’t perpetually presentable.

Why admit that I don’t keep a perfect house? Because I think it’s important to keep things real. It’s important to me not to pretend to be something I’m not. And I fear that our normal “Quick let’s clean up before company arrives” approach to life might give a false impression (unless you are these friends) about what we as a family are really like.

So, I’m taking the mask off today. I struggle to manage the paper that pours into this house from the kids’s schools (hence my piles). I throw school lunches together at the last second, as the bus is pulling up to the bus stop. And most days, I pick my way through a house strewn with the toys, clothes (the 2-year-old has figured out how to remove his clothes so I find random articles of clothing everywhere), and bits of the kids’ art projects.

What really happens before company comes over is that we race around, hiding clutter and vacuuming and scrubbing. I have a great cleaner-upper for a husband, and he can make our house look immaculate in the space of an hour. (Just don’t open any closet or cabinet doors.) We do this because it’s a way to serve our guests and because we want them to feel special. Not because we are trying to show off how awesome we are.

The real me, the every day me, has given up the standard of having a perfect house all the time. Cleaning and organizing is good and necessary, but I stop being a pleasant person when I try to meet the Martha Stewart standard and insist that our house not only become but remain magazine-perfect. The house might look great, but the atmosphere becomes toxic.

I’ve realized that creating a beautiful home goes far beyond neatness and cleanness. My demeanor is crucial. Our home is beautiful when I expect my children to be children, when I only take on what is truly important, when I can keep a smile on my face and love in my tone of voice even when the kids bicker or demand my attention incessantly or clog the toilet by unrolling and flushing (or attempting to flush) an entire roll of toilet paper into it or feed pieces of the Mousetrap game to the dog or throw all their toys down the stairs to watch them bounce.

I’ve also realized that hospitality is an attitude, not a style or a standard of perfection. It’s trying to put people at ease and make them feel welcome, whether I am serving a four-course meal on fine china or water and some popcorn on paper products. It’s being willing to welcome people into my life no matter what because my focus is on on them, not on myself or my image.

All of this has caused me to consider whether we should more often just invite friends into our real life. Let people see the real state of things, or at least something closer. After all, we DO have three young children!

Feel free to test me on this. Please drop by for a visit if you are ever in the area. We love company. Just watch out for the Hot Wheels cars on your way in. The kids like to race them in the foyer.

What do you think? Is this an issue for you? What do you do about it?