"When I got my first television set, I stopped caring so much about having close relationships." - Andy Warhol

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I'm in the middle, too

I'm a neat freak.

It’s true – I like my house to be my “safe place” – an environment that’s tidy, organized, and clean.

If for some reason I find myself seeking refuge from an upset stomach, a headache, or respiratory malaise, I want to feel confident that I’m in the company of colors, textures, and accessories that are pleasing to the eye and harbor no odors, grime, or any other unpleasant characteristics.

Put that away...or else

I watched the finale of the third season of The Middle on my couch – surrounded by the tools, dust, paint cans, and drop cloths that signal one thing in our house – a renovation project.

In the episode, Frankie is stressed by her brother-in-law’s upcoming wedding - and rightfully so, since it’s taking place at her own house.

Frankie only has a week to prepare for the wedding, and she immediately gets busy dusting the tops of kitchen cabinets, pulling wallpaper off the dining room walls, and covering cracks in the ceiling.

At one point during her cleaning craze, she has a minor meltdown, and I completely identified with her irrational disappointment that her home will never look as good as the ones she envies in glossy magazine pictures.

Despite her best efforts to mirror what she sees in magazines, her home is lacking. Her house is lived in, and it shows.

I feel Frankie’s frustration. I find Steve’s dirty socks in various places throughout the house, and no matter how many times I vacuum, I still feel the unmistakable pebbles of cat litter under my feet when I’m not wearing socks.

Not ready for a close-up

Frankie - you're not alone!

Unless company is expected or I’ve just done my weekly cleaning, my home is probably not photo-ready. The kitchen sink will contain drying dishes, and there will be water spots on the faucet.

Cat-sized body imprints will de-fluff the bed and tousle the throw pillow arrangement, and the computer desk will be marked with wet rings from sweating beverages.

At the end of the day...

Frankie works up until the guests arrive, but she is finally able to enjoy the wedding reception in her less-than-perfect yard.

And she gets it.

At the end of the day or even at the end of your life (as Mike’s best man speech so eloquently points out), it’s the people that matter. Family can be annoying and messy, but that’s life. And we live our messy lives in our (often) messy houses.

Just like Frankie, at the end of the episode, I got it too. Our renovation mess will eventually get cleaned up. But even after everything’s back in place, nothing that’s truly lived in can be picture-perfect all the time.

Personal growth

As the credits rolled, I actually told Steve out loud, “I don’t need a perfectly neat, tidy, and organized house. I want our house to be a warm, happy place we feel good about calling home.”

Aw, personal growth, inspired by a 30-minute comedy on cable!

(*Clears throat.* Before you get too inspired by my shift in priorities, I have to mention that my declaration was immediately followed-up with a stern warning to Steve, indicating that I still fully expect the renovation mess to be cleaned up within a week).

But there’s still hope for me – when I trip over Steve's stray dirty socks, I know I’m home.


  1. This is very Katie, but I feel your pain. You almost threw me when you made your couch comment! I'm finding myself in a similar situation today: our 1 year inspection has caused our walls to be torn up to fix things like nail pops. It is a complete wreck downstairs.

  2. Who's socks are those? Better put them in the laundry basket before Katie finds them!

  3. I'm the same way...I'm always "straightening up" the house before we leave to go anywhere and my family says, "what are you doing? Cleaning the house for any burglars who break in while we're gone?" They think they're so funny.

    No, I clean up the house because I don't want to come back to a mess. I like to have everything in its place, although my house may not be the "cleanest" around, at least it's kind of tidy. It will never look like the magazine houses because...I have a real life -- kids, dogs, and a cat...plus lots of dirty socks!