Some days the apartment looks all cute and vacuumed but on other days I suggest we buy a few more packs of socks and underwear so we don’t have to do laundry. (When it comes to the art of organization, Lorelai Gilmore is pretty much my spirit animal.)
My organizational inspiration comes in waves. Sometimes the state of the apartment reflects how we’ve been feeling. Everything is in its right place because that’s how life is feeling, too. Sometimes it’s evidence that we’ve been busy or sick. And there just wasn’t enough energy for putting away the clothes that’s currently piled up on the dryer. Sometimes it says we chose going on a date, spending time together, over doing the dishes. When we’re laughing and talking and breathing in a beautiful, relaxing moment together, the dishes can wait. And sometimes it shows that we just didn’t get around to it.
As the female person in this relationship, I know that the state of my apartment indicates to people my mad (or nonexistent) housekeeping skills. I know people would never think “Kelsey and Ian are fantastic housekeepers” if things are all neat and shiny. Nope. So it only really, as far as our society is concerned, says something about me. And that causes me anxiety, as if the organizational state of my apartment is somehow a direct reflection on personhood and my ability to adult correctly.
But it’s not. (I’m going to need you to remind me of this regularly.)
Recently I was thinking about how we needed to figure out how to be more organized. “Maybe we need to buy one of those home organization books,” I thought. Books. The home organization genres has become a cottage industry. Why? Well, apparently Lorelai Gilmore and I are not the only ones who have yet to master the ancient technique of staying up on the laundry. Perhaps there are a lot of us who never really “figure out” this organization thing.
And you know what? Maybe that’s okay. Maybe I don’t need to freak out and hide all the clutter and dirty dishes when a friend comes over. Maybe I don’t need to feel ashamed or even embarrassed. Maybe sometimes it’s good to see how people really live, not just what things look like once I’ve grabbed that wad of clutter sitting on the kitchen table and hid it in the spare bedroom. Maybe seeing the messy bits of people’s lives makes our hidden parts feel more welcomed. Maybe it helps us know we’re not alone.
Julia Child gave me the best advice of anyone when it comes to cleaning (even though it didn’t specifically relate to cleaning). In her book My Life in France, she retells an incident where she made some godawful eggs when a friend was coming over for lunch:
I made sure not to apologize for it. This is a rule of mine.
I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make. When one’s hostess starts with self-deprecations such as “Oh, I don’t know how to cook …,” or “Poor little me …,” or “This is may taste awful …,” it is so dreadful to have to reassure her that everything is delicious and fine, whether it is or not. Besides, such admission only draw attention to one’s shortcomings (or self-perceived shortcomings) … Maybe the cat has fallen in the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed — eh bien, tant pis! (p. 77)
I’m trying to learn to say “whatever” and “oh well” right along with Julia as a radical act of self-care. I’m trying to stop automatically spitting out, “Please excuse the mess.” My apartment looks lived in. It doesn’t look perfect. And that’s nothing to apologize for.
There’s something that’s been freeing about not apologizing for the state of my apartment; not offering quick explanations or excuses. Just saying: Welcome. This is where I live. It’s my home. And it looks a lot more like a home than an add in a magazine. And I’m okay with that. Or at least I’m starting to become more okay with it.