Getting Dirty


My husband is a pig. I’m anal. It’s a happy marriage, but for these two facts. I can’t sit in a room if there’s a pair of socks on the floor. My husband can’t sit in a room without leaving his socks on the floor. It’s why we often watch TV in two separate rooms.

It’s also why I clean constantly. I am always picking up, putting away and straightening. It doesn’t bother me to clean — it actually calms me — but it seems to have the opposite effect on everyone else. People get touchy just because I might occasionally put a glass away that’s still being used. And okay, there’ve been a handful of times I’ve thrown away something important. So I clean around folks while they’re watching TV or reading the paper — sue me.

I’ve tried to be one of those relaxed women who have an inviting and creative home. My friend Karen’s kitchen is full of life: kid’s artwork on the walls, papers lying around, and coats crammed in a cubby by the door. She even has a toy Fonzie doll hanging from the kitchen chandelier. I’m not sure why, but I know there’s got to be good fun behind it.

When Karen comes to my house, she peeks in my living room and says, “Wow, does anyone actually live here?” Other people have said similar things – “Your house is always so clean.” I can hear it in their voices; it’s not a compliment. Sometimes it’s code for “Lady, get a life.” This I know.

Once in a while, I’ve left my husband’s socks in the middle of the floor and waited to see how long before he picks them up. The longer they sit, the more nervous I get. I’ve made subtle hints – taking an exaggerated path around them when I enter the room, gently nudging them out of my way. Inevitably, I’ll just pick them up, and my swine-of-a spouse has no idea there was even a heated sock stand-off. But I figure, either the socks go or he goes – and other than his piggish tendencies, I’ll take him.

No one leaves their dirty socks in my garden, however, which is good because its early spring and the place is a mess. Dead leaves are strangling dried stems. Weeds are staking claim. I see winter’s leftovers and they’re like the socks on the living room floor. I am itching to clean.

Yesterday we finally had warm weather, and I was able to sit in the garden with the sun on my back, hooked up to my iPod in total bliss. There’s nothing like spring in the garden to indulge my inner-Felix. No one hassles me. No one says snide things about being “so clean.”

Outside, my efforts are appreciated. My sedum greet me with their pointy smiling heads. My spirea enjoy getting a haircut. My lady’s mantle stretch out lazily in the sun, happy to be stripped of their winter blanket.

These days, it takes more effort to clean the garden than my house, so I let the house slide. My family revels in their dirty sock pile on the floor. I’m happy for the break, too. After rolling around in the mud for a while, I get to feeling like a pig myself. And guess what? I like it.


19 thoughts on “Getting Dirty

  1. I had to laugh as you described the way you clean up after your husband. That sounds just like my husband. It drives him crazy when I clean up a glass ,spoon or whatever that he’s still using. I must admit, I do it quite often too.

    The mess he makes drive ME crazy. As long as the dishes are done ,he is blind to any other mess. He will leave drawers half open, a banana peel in the bathroom,socks any where. UGH!

    Unfortunately I have a brown thumb ,so no garden to escape to. 🙂

    1. Banana peel in the bathroom? Now that’s one I haven’t heard before. Wow – you’ve got work to do. 🙂

  2. Gosh, you sound like me! I always say that if it weren’t for him and my messy boys I would probably be more OCD than I actually am. A scary thought indeed! I am trying to learn to just let it be. However, just the other day I took a photo of the socks and underwear he’d dumped by the side of the laundry hamper and emailed it to my friends asking if they knew why he couldn’t just put them IN the hamper??

    1. Good to know I’m not the only one who’s taken photos. I was starting to feel guilty for that. Still, by the hamper is not bad. At least he’s making it to the right room.

  3. Your house sounds like a wonderful, magical world of cleanliness. Like some place where I would feel perfectly peaceful and content. I love all things clean and neat and organized. Can I come live with you?

  4. I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one who does this! My husband gets mad at me for “following behind him”–his phrase for when I finish what he leaves unfinished. For example, he’ll empty the trash but then leave the trash container in the middle of the kitchen floor without a new trash bag in it–then he disappears. When I finish the job and he notices (much later), he gets offended and says “I was going to do that!” Anyway, it’s a very small blip in the big picture, isn’t it?

    I love wallowing in the garden, too. I don’t like to use gardening gloves because I like to feel the dirt and plants, but I hate when dirt gets under my fingernails. In case you have the same problem and haven’t heard of this tip: Before gardening, scrape your fingernails over bar soap so the soap gets under your fingernails. It will keep a lot of the dirt out and the dirt that does get in will clean up so much faster and easier!

    1. Sometimes I garden “naked” too. It is easier to get to small weeds and I agree, dirt is good. I’ve tried the soap under the nails, but it never works properly. Each season I do buy myself fresh gloves. I try to wash the old ones, but as you’ve read, I’m a freak.

  5. I am apparently the slob of the bunch. I take an all-or-nothing approach, meaning that I let disaster areas build up around the house then I go on a frenzy and clean them all at once. Usually right before company arrives. I’ve tried to constantly pick up, as that is the only way to have a decent house, and rather than finding it calming I find it enraging. Because, oh my god, I JUST cleaned off that coffee table. Why is it covered in crap again? And why are there dirty dishes on the counter? I JUST ran the dishwasher.

    So what I’m saying is: please come live with me.

    Although my husband leaves his socks on the floor, too, so never mind. (What’s with the sock thing, anyway? Why are you taking your socks off in the living room, husbands? Don’t your feet get cold?)

    1. I’l come live with you…from June to August. Otherwise, you and your husband’s (cold) socks on on your own up there.

  6. This post is almost word-for-word my life. I, too, am an anal-retentive wife and mother married to a sloppy husband. I have one sloppy daughter and –pleasegodpleasegodmakeitlastineedsomeoneonmyside –one tidy daughter. I drive my family crazy with my dusting and sweeping and whisking away of anything left untouched for 30 seconds. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who cannot function at all with any kind of clutter.

  7. I’m like that about paper clutter…I throw away important documents on a regular basis including but not limited to my tax refund check several years ago.

    Not so much about outdoor landscaping though…I’m usually good for all of April and part of May…and then the mosquitoes come out to play and I take cover.

    Fonzie as in ‘The Fonz’? Very interesting.

    1. Yes – The Fonz. Eyyyyy. I have no idea where he came from, but it does make me smile every time I visit her kitchen.

  8. My boyfriend is the anal neat freak in our house, and during the weeks when I’m overloaded with work, I greatly appreciate this. The only thing he does leave around, are his socks! Clean ones on the kitchen table, dirty ones on the rug in front of the door. And I think dirty socks are gross.

    I can deal with some mess and chaos, knowing my kids will be actively messing the place up, and it’s a waste of time to clean while that’s happening. But I must have a clean and organized work space.

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