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I have a serious problem this holiday season: No one is coming to visit me. Now, many of you are thinking, “That’s not a problem. That’s a gift. If only Aunt Frida and Uncle Floyd would stay home this year, maybe I could enjoy myself for once instead of having to listen to them complaining and passing gas all week long.”
But, my friends, here’s the thing: When no one comes to visit you, you never have to clean up your house. Unless you’re one of those neat freaks like my neighbor, whose garage floor is cleaner than my kitchen counter.
However, I think most of you normal people can agree with me: The only time you tidy up your house is when you know people are coming over, right?
I went over to my friend’s house the other day and had to laugh because she was in mid-frenzy straightening things up for me. For me. She was cleaning up her house for me. Even though she’s been in my place and seen its discord many, many times. In fact, she’s offered to call one of those hoarder TV shows that will come and declutter your house – the only downside being that everyone in America gets to see how pathetic you are.
Gee, who wouldn’t want that? I’m not kidding, by the way. She really did offer and seemed mystified that I wasn’t thrilled. Meanwhile, though, things are actually tidier around my house these days, but I have about three years of paperwork on my dining room table that needs to be either discarded or filed away.
My friend and I made a pact that we would separately clean up our own paperwork, which seemed like a good idea until she said “by Friday.” This was on Sunday. I told her, “You’re joking, right? If I got the file folders made up by Friday, that would be amazing. There’s no possibility that table could be cleared off by then.”
So, we agreed that she would clean up her office, and I would make file folders for three years worth of stuff that needs to be filed away in case the apocalypse comes and someone actually needs to see it. I wish I could just circular file all these papers, but just when you chuck something, you get a letter from the IRS and have to find a way to recreate it.
However, if I had company coming on Friday, you bet all that stuff would be cleaned up in time. I would be working around the clock until that table was clean. And what couldn’t be finished in time would be piled on my desk, with all the unfiled paperwork already there, and I’d throw a cloth over it so it wasn’t immediately visible to sight.
This is why I buy textiles in places like Guatemala, by the way. So I have beautiful cloths to throw over my unfinished chores.
Now, in my defense, I have spent the last three years going through chemotherapy, radiation and stuff like that. But at a certain point, I just started using that as an excuse to live in clutter. I hate clutter. Not enough to clean it up, you understand. But it does disturb me.
My mom was the neat freak to end all neat freaks, so I was raised in an immaculate house and I still have those standards. I just can’t live up to them. My mom was the type who would grab a glass of iced tea out of your hand while you were still drinking it, so she could wash it. I don’t own a vacuum cleaner to this day, because the sound gives me PTSD from hearing it four hours a day in our spotless house that didn’t even have carpets.
I actually tried to convince my brother that we should put on our mom’s grave marker that she was “cleaning up heaven,” but he refused. Even though she would have loved it.
I’m looking around my living room right now – from the cubbyhole in the corner of my dining room that the IRS thinks is my “office” and the boxes that need to be opened to the plastic bins left over from the daughter’s wedding that need to be put back in the garage – and wondering when the Christmas fairies will arrive to deal with them.
When I was really, really sick with chemo, my wonderful friends would just show up and do these things for me. They’d usually bring food, too. Nowadays, the problem is that I’m not all that sick. OK, I’m still ill, but not so truly pathetic that people feel the need to come over and clean my house for me. (Wait. Yes, I am. Come and clean my house. Please!)
I guess I need to act more pathetic, right? Or at least invite people over for a potluck dinner. Then, I’ll have to clean up. We went out for Thanksgiving dinner, but it occurred to me that it might be fun next year to have a leftover potluck on the Friday after Thanksgiving. I could give a prize for the most creative dish. What do you think? Email me at email@example.com.
Hey, do you want to meet me? I’m going to set up my little lawnchair at Don Derr Park, 3303 Monroe St. in Riverside from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 16. I will be signing my books and I’ll have some for sale, too. Or just come by to say hi. Look for me near the bathroom. Bad weather cancels. Check my Facebook page for updates at facebook.com/FrumpyMiddleagedMom.
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