Wednesday, June 19, 2013


My daughter is having some of her lifelong friends over this afternoon. Even though I have known these kids since they were four, I made her promise to tidy up the house before they came. Once upon a time, I would have run around trying to do it myself, unconscious of my underlying belief that anything less than a pristine house meant I was somehow failing at life. This summer, I am releasing all that. My mother kept a spotless house when I was growing up. Everything in its place and all places artfully arranged. I have recently realized that in some part of my brain, I judge myself for not being able to keep an HGTV home. I look around my house and I feel as if I am failing. The expectations I have internalized just from watching my mother, the way she staged elegant dinner parties with such poise, her impeccable presentation of self day in, day out, that is the tyranny. But no one has actually imposed it on me—not my mother, certainly not my husband and children. I have imposed it on myself.

So I'm about to get real. My mother worked full time as I do. Sometimes she worked late into the night, showing homes for the real estate business she owned with her brother. The only way she could possibly have achieved such spectacular upkeep of her home was with the help of the housekeeper who came every weekday. Not to mention we lived in a spacious house with closets everywhere and garages and outside storerooms, so our living spaces never felt overrun. I live in an apartment  with too few closets. We have a storage unit for which we pay monthly rent, and it cannot hold another thing, not a piece of paper, certainly not the plastic bins and suitcases I am looking at in my children's rooms right now.

Next month, after my brother and I do our level best to dispose of, give away, store and adopt my mother's personal effects from her house in St. Lucia, I am sure there will be even more stuff proliferating in our already crammed New York City apartment. This is just the way it is. It is not an indictment of me as my mother's daughter. It does not mean I am a failure at adult life. It just means I don't have a daily housekeeper to help me keep order and I don't have enough storage space, and one day I will do a huge mind-freeing purge, throwing out all of the things in my apartment that are no longer needed or useful but until then, it just is. 

Photo: Handstand at age 9


  1. Amen! My mother had a housekeeper too. When she quit (and i can't remember why) my mother didn't know where the broom was.
    This explains a LOT, doesn't it?
    Yeah. Be at peace with the way things are because truly, you can't change them into something they are not.

  2. Glad you are fighting the blame yourself feeling. I'm dealing with not enough space here too. Trying to clean out some of an impending family reunion. It's not easy. Trying to come to peace with the fact that my brother-in-law came to stay for a few months and has been in our studio for going on 3 years. Everything that was there, is now in what's left. Very small space.

  3. Amen to that for myself as well.

  4. I am so over the day to day stuff! A housekeeper is not in the cards for me so my answer is simplify..simplify...simplify. It does make a difference.

  5. I used to be guilty of the same thing of holding my self up to my mother's example. Then I would feel bad that I couldn't keep up to the level of clean she could maintain in her house. It wasn't until about a year ago that I started to let go of beating myself up for this. There's no prize given for the tidiest house.

  6. My mother hated housework and left to her own devices could be sloppy. I, on the other hand, have always been tidy. Simplifying helps, but don't beat yourself up. You have better places to put your energy and time. You are a great mom, too.

  7. Yes, I think the circumstances of your life in New York are quite different from those of your mother in St. Lucia. Don't beat yourself up about the state of your house! You work full time, raised two amazing children -- your hands are full enough already!


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