IMG_1159The secret to happiness is a house cleaner. I’m not turning down a multi-million dollar best seller. Love and partnership are great. Children….that’s an up and down ride at best. A clean house…..no parallel. I stumbled upon this secret several years ago. I envied a friend of mine who’s husband was deployed for several years in the middle east. Her house sparkled regardless of her three small children, full-time job and myriad of activities. My ego took a beating. I have three kids. I worked full time and my husband was home to help out. My house regularly looked like the fairgrounds after a carnival left town.

One afternoon she spilled the secret. She had a house cleaner. Are you kidding me? Not only did she employ Dixie the miracle worker, several of our friends did as well, including three stay-at-home moms. I gaped in amazement. A phone call with my cousin revealed she too participated in this secret joy. She stated without embarrassment or hesitation she hadn’t cleaned her place in ten years. She’s single and lives alone. Oh, why would all of these people keep such abundance to themselves? The Beard’s earned raise went toward a house cleaner.

The day Dixie the miracle worker visited the house angels wept, choirs sang and unicorns danced happily. Understand, I’m a slob at heart, okay not exactly a slob, but I am a piler. Nice organized piles.  My folks are obsessive compulsive clean freaks. My father’s ex-military service and 48-year stint as an air traffic controller resulted in Howard Hughes-like proclivity. My mother, well, OCD is just the beginning of a long list of disorders. I remember knock down drag out fights about my room and it’s piles of papers, clothes and other flotsam. My kids think they invented the ‘stuff everything under the bed’ trick. Ha!

Four college roommates without personal boundaries, my own career in air traffic control and a dysfunctional marriage to a control freak forced me to develop my own set of OCD cleaning habits. I can’t function in clutter, but I hate to clean. The Beard is an engineer…need I say more? We’re clearly cleaning challenged. IMG_1155

My best friends lived down the street in our backwoods, out in the boonies neighborhood. Four daughters, indoor pets and two working parents meant their house was lived in. The daily routine included cleaning, laundry and getting dinner set up. I helped. My mother didn’t much care for them. Irish Catholic, down to earth people with the detritus of a noisy household. I wondered at the crumbs on the table, the piles of dishes and laundry. I experienced the same thing at my aunt and uncle’s house during summer visits. Another three-child household with damp towels on the floor, open peanut butter jars and unmade beds.

Newsflash. Three kids and full-time jobs equals non-stop mess. I’ve come to understand my upbringing bred unrealistic expectations. There’s nothing like kids, pets and a busy schedule to whip up a decent size hurricane mess. My mother loves to remind me if my dogs stayed outside I wouldn’t have to worry about dog hair. My father advises me I let my kids get away without responsibility. They don’t come to visit often. We don’t eat at chain restaurants; we don’t have live TV, our wine costs more than four bucks, and some days I don’t vacuum.

Dixie kept my sanity and joy intact for over five years. I gave up the cleaning fairy when I quit my teaching job to write full time. I’ve managed to come to an understanding with the dust bunnies. The dishwasher runs daily. The washing machine runs daily. The kitchen requires cleaning daily. The rest can wait. None of it’s going anywhere. The kids are almost grown now. The dotter lives on her own and the boys are off doing something or another. Oh sure, they clamor for breakfast occasionally and clog up my laundry queue, and grow penicillin experiments in their rooms, but I’m planning menus primarily for the Beard and me. Even if they say they’ll be home for dinner, odds are they won’t be.

Sure the house is cluttered and I’m not the most devoted of domestic goddesses. I love to have company because the house will be clean at least one day. For all intents and purposes, I’m an only child. Our house might’ve been clean, but the noise was an entirely different cacophony than the places I enjoyed being. What’s a few toast crumbs when there’s a community? Our house is a boisterous jumble of DIY projects, piles of books and dog beds, but the food’s great, the company is entertaining and you’re guaranteed a good glass of wine.

I’m not a martyr, the minute I hit the bestseller list, I’m hiring Alice. She may not be Dixie, but I’m certain her fairy dust is equally potent. Ahem, make the angels weep, the choirs belt out and please, oh please get those unicorns to boogying….buy my books.