Sunday, September 19, 2010

I have a clean-dentity.

One of the most challenging aspect of living with other people is the blending of several people's version of 'clean'. You expectations for the status quo of your home, more then anything, is from the home you grew up in. Like many things inherited from our parents, we are either reactionary like the pendulum, or emulate those aspects that inspired us.

For me, I emulate my parents in some ways, and am reactionary in others. In the realm of emulation, I must first inform you that my father is a bit of a perfectionist, especially in the kitchen. My father is a jack of all trades in the purist form. He could never find anything to
capture his interests enough to want to get a degree in, and so never graduated college. He grew up on farms, and working the land, building things, working with his hands, so he knows a bit of each skill type. He built houses, worked on construction crews, but was always creative and perhaps sensitive, and so he cultivated the other less stereotypically masculine aspects of himself as well. He's an accomplished and talented sketch artist, sculpter, potter, woodworker, leatherworker, tailor... and perhaps most relavant on this topic, cook. I grew up knowing my father as the cook, in fact, I didn't realize my mother could cook until I was well into middle school because Dad always cooked. We had homemade bread, gourmet meals, creative recipes and it was all delicious. But the kitchen was Dad's domain and he wanted it just so. Dishes were always rinsed and set on the counter, never stacked in the sink. Trash was carefully sorted into compostables, plastic & metal, and finally burnable trash. The cupboards were ordered and things always in their place. As a result I can't think if the kitchen is a mess. The sink must be cleared and each cupboard a specific purpose and organizational scheme. If this is no the case, then I am doing it wrong.

My mother was a fastidious housekeeper, mostly. We cleaned bathrooms and swept, and vacuumed as often as we could as a busy family, and her commitment to routine clean has certainly inspired me, but my greatest association with housekeep and my mother is the business of her decorating sense. Part of this is utilitarian. We always had pets, and so not only were most flat surfaces kept as full of stuff as possible (to keep the cats from jumping up and sleeping on them, and thereby knocking things over), but all furniture was covered with country quilts of varying colors and patterns. Every inch of free space was utilized from full bookshelves of books, trinkets and photo frames, to jungles of houseplants on top of a chest beneath a window, draped in lacy curtain. I've always been more or less ok with busy-ness. But as I've become used to having my own home, with my own decorating sensibilities, I am more and more drawn to simplicity. Solid colors, clean and empty surfaces, matched sets, neat and organized rows.

This might seem like a bit of unnecessary family
history on my part (overshare, tl;dr) but, it's
relevant in that these two things (although not alone) are part of my formative identity, so agreeing with another person, most specifically my darling husband, as to what 'clean' means, and who's to be responsible for it getting (and staying) that way, is
among the more difficult challenges.

And while it is safe to say that after living
together for three years prior to our nuptials, not a lot has changed, for some reason this issue seems more ever present in my mind. In order to compromise and find happy mediums we tried delegating tasks or spaces to each other, although that hasn't worked entirely to our satisfaction. We've also tried ignoring the things that irk us, also not an ideal plan.

The only solution that I can see is that despite, or in spite of our formative clean oriented identities, we must strive to create a new, dual identity to what our own version of clean is. Starting fresh, and new at the beginning of this new journey.

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