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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Today... my house is clean

"A clean desk is a sign of a sick mind." "A clean bathroom is a sign of a wasted life". I wish there was a way for me to fully express just how sick I am of people posting these quotes - sometimes even slapping a famous name to them, as if to add some credibility.

And when I post something to the contrary - taken directly from a book and with a proper source indicated, such as, "Not to go all voodoo priest on you, but your house creates a vibe that impacts your entire day. Never underestimate the mojo of your environment. If my apartment's a mess, I'm a mess. If my place smiles serenely as I leave, I glide into the day." - Clinton Kelly, there are immediately jabs and irritations: oh, this guy doesn't have children, oh, there are more important things in life than having a clean house, oh, a million other excuses and ways to berate me for caring about my environment - most of which I have heard before.

Perhaps, you should ask yourself, who you are really so annoyed with? Is it really the author of my chosen quote, because his life is perceived by you as so perfect and problem-free? Because it's so easy to just pretend that you are the only one who has any challenges whatsoever, and so no one is in any position to give you advice, because how can they possibly understand the depth of your hardship.

Is it me? Because I don't buy the excuses, having grown up in a home with two working parents, who had to travel for their jobs, and nevertheless managed to maintain a great environment for our family to exist in. That - while living in Soviet Ukraine, in the midst of poverty and deficit, in a communal apartment for some of the time, with no washing machine, no vacuum cleaner, and sometimes no hot water or electricity.

Yes, I was the only child, but I was also one of those kids, with whom the doctors made bets as far as life expectancy was concerned. And yet... Somehow... Our home was clean - not perfect, never. My parents never wanted a place that looked and felt like a museum, where people would be terrified to move something out of place or break something. Both the room at the communal apartment where we live until I was six years old, and our next place looked like where a family lived. But it was lovely, and interesting, and eclectic, with books and paintings. People liked coming to visit us. And my parents always talked about how much they looked forward to coming home from their business trips. There were no dirty socks or piles of laundry. My parents made it perfectly clear to me when I was very young, that my toys belonged in a specific area and were not to be seen anywhere else in the house. So, that was how we kept it.

And that was how my parents' friends kept it too - and they all lived in the same city, in very similar conditions, and also had children. Nobody suppressed our creativity and told us not to play. But rather, we were encouraged to respect our bounds and not attempt to take over the house. Whatever mess we made was localized, and we were expected to clean it up.

What I have learned from my parents, my grandparents and their friends, I brought to America with me. No, I do not have children, which, I suppose, will cause a lot of people to exclaim, "See! You have no idea!". Very well then. I do not have children, but my husband and I live and run multiple businesses out of our house. I do not have children, but we have five pets - two large dogs and three cats. I do not have children, but I do have a sometimes-debilitating back defect. Nevertheless, it is a matter of principle to me, to keep my place looking like someplace I want to live in. Yes, I am a capitalist pig - I started having a group of two cleaning ladies come and clean the living area (not the business area) of our house, when my back issues got worse. I specifically set money aside for that, giving up other things. During the rest of the month, I still do all the laundry, ironing, most of the cleaning and substantial amounts of cooking.

At the end of the day, when I wrap up my work, my desk has less than 10 items on it. Nevertheless, that is the same desk, where I've done all my writing, translation, illustration, cover design, and some very involved data analysis. I don't know about anyone else, but it doesn't sound to me as if my mind is somehow boring or my life is somehow wasted because my desk is clean and because my house is pleasant to look at.

In fact, I can think of a few things I do not waste my life on. I do not waste time, frantically searching for that piece of paper with vital information someone needs in the next five minutes. I do not waste time at the emergency room because I failed to tell my kids to keep their toys in their rooms, stepped on a toy car and twisted my ankle. I do not waste time looking for what to wear when I have an important meeting coming up, only to discover that the thing I want to wear is torn, stained, in the laundry or needs to be ironed. I do not waste my time trying to figure out what is for dinner, with nary a clue what is safe to eat in my fridge or in my cabinets. I do not waste time arguing with my husband as to the precise location of the elusive other sock or a particular shirt.

One's home is where a significant portion of one's life takes place. How can it not be important? It is something we see every day, something that constantly registers in our minds. Is it realistic to expect something that looks like Versailles or the Biltmore Estate? Of course not! We don't have butlers and housekeepers and servants and cooks and valets and maids. Nobody expects for us to keep up that kind of household.

However, putting the notion on its head, when you enter your home, what does it say to you? Do you sigh with relief, happy to be there? Or do you want to turn around and run because all you see is mess, mess, and more mess with no volunteers in sight to help you straighten it out? When you look around you, do you see something that is warm and welcoming, and reflects your personality? Or is the only thought in your head, "Someone, please, take me away from this awful place." Given all that, do you still believe that a good home is not important? That keeping it clean - collectively with your family, as a concerted collaborative effort - is not worth the time? And do you honestly believe that your unhappiness with your own environment is caused by a book author or by me for quoting the book author? Or is the answer somewhere closer to home, so to speak?

Recommended reading (one of the things you'll notice in common between these books is encouragement to ask for help when you are really down, out and overwhelmed - hmmm, have you been too proud to let others help you?)


1 comment:

Kira said...

I'm just getting into the Peter Walsh Book and I have to say, I'm starting to look at my home differently.

Thanks Maria!