Yesterday I went to the Container Store. It was insane. I nearly got into a fistfight trying to find a parking space. Standing in an interminable line to purchase my Elfa file storage unit, I couldn't help but wonder - what are all these people doing here? I knew what I was doing - I was in the middle of a serious post-holiday cleaning and organizing binge. From the looks of it, I was not the only one. It happens every year. Around January I go through my equivalent of a spring clean. I resolve to be neater, more organized. I will turn a corner. My house will be one of those houses, the house that is so neat that you are filled with shame thinking about the mess you left at home. But no matter how noble my goals - scrub the bathtub every week! All mail sorted and filed immediately! No dishes left in the sink! - I can never quite measure up. I have three jobs. I have hobbies, dangit. I have friends. Somehow having the neatest house always seems to fall by the wayside. Somehow I am always the person frantically cleaning 15 minutes before people come over, and then apologizing for the mess. Again.
The cleaning binges are lovely and productive while they last, but eventually I succumb to fatigue. Eventually I find myself like I am now, sitting on the couch, drinking a beer and staring at the detritus of old bills and dislocated boxes. What's the answer? Should I just try harder? Will this be the year my house is finally, blissfully clean? Or will this be the year I finally make peace with my shortcomings? Maybe I won't apologize any more when people come over. This is my house, I will say. This is how I live. It's not perfect, but neither am I. Welcome.
The answer, I think, as in so many things, is somewhere in between. So here is my cleaning resolution for 2012: I will try harder. I will be more disciplined. I will clean out the cat box and put the dishes in the dishwasher, even if I am tired. I will make my mother proud. I will strive for the perfect house that I know my house could be. But when I fall short, I will forgive myself. I will remind myself that life is short, and living is a messy process. I will be thankful for every day of my beautiful, messy, unperfect life in my beautiful, messy, unperfect home.
Image: Allie Brosch, from her excellent blog about Why I'll Never Be an Adult. (If you haven't read it already - you need to.)