It’s a Safety Issue

I am a subscriber to a number of blogs. One which I particularly enjoy is A Teachable Mom ( The writing is top notch and the subjects are diverse and interesting. I highly recommend you check out the blog.

Today, I present to you a guest post from A Teachable Mom.  Thanks so much to ATM. Read this post about ATM’s thoughts on cleanliness and you will see why I speak so highly of the blogger.

Despite what my children, husband, friends and family members enemies may tell you, I’m a fairly sane and even-tempered person. Mostly.

I also may be a teeny, tiny bit anal in my need for order and tidiness. It’s a lovable quality. Mostly.

Unfortunately, my aversion to messiness is a repeat lighting rod in my marriage; the cause of many arguments. My husband, Mike, and I are clear we’re not really fighting about clutter, chaos and crayons. We’ve been told dozens of times that we’re really fighting about power: who has it, who wants it and who’s going to keep the other from getting more. Sound like fun? I agree!

Unfortunately, I’m the one who pays good money for a therapist to remind me that I can be right or be happy. Not both. Not fair.

My therapist also is adept at pointing out that control is one of my flaws. As much as I prod and push him, he refuses to point out Mike’s flaws. That must cost extra.

We can all agree that my therapist’s reluctance forces me to point out Mike’s flaws for him. Today I’ll focus on one of his biggest: obliviousness.

Mike is oblivious to messes. He can look at this room and think, “You know, I think we could use a ceiling fan in here. I’ll head over to Home Depot now and get one.”


Photo Credit: evelynishere Flickr/Creative Commons

I look at this room, and I can’t breathe. I must sit down. But wait! There’s nowhere to sit. Even though it is only a picture of a messy room, I must sit down. Hyperventilating here!

Mike is able to walk over piles of clothes, underwear and toys in a single step and never look back. Every night he reads numerous books to our four year old daughter, Rhys, and doesn’t mind stacking the books on the floor in makeshift piles instead of putting them back on the bookshelf.

Here’s a typical interaction between us:

Me: Mike, can you help Rhys pick up her weeks’worth of underwear and clothes off the ground and put the books back on the bookshelf when you’re finished reading them.

Unspoken communication: I really mean right now. Who do you think comes and restacks the books on the bookshelf? The f**king library fairy?

Unfortunately, our marriage doesn’t flourish if I repeat every nasty thought I have in my head. I tend to come across as controlling and bitchy – even though I’m just being helpful! Truly.

So I have a new strategy. A wise friend recently reminded me that as long as I couch any request as a “safety issue,” I’m good to go.

Here’s my redo:

Me: Mike, honey, I’m concerned about your and Rhys’ safety. With all those books around, you could trip and twist an ankle. I hate the thought of you not being able to run or play basketball if you tripped over all those books. Would you put the books back on the bookshelf when you’re done reading them? It’s really a safety issue. Thank you.

Should work like a charm.

Occasionally, my anal tendencies desert me. A few weeks back, my husband took the girls to visit his family in Michigan. I enjoyed our house by myself for a blissful 29 hours. During this time, I noticed something odd. Messiness is comforting. And so much easier. I left dishes in the sink overnight, left groceries on the counter and newspaper and books strewn across the kitchen. Relaxing!

Apparently, when it’s my mess, I’m perfectly happy to ignore it. When a loved one’s mess is added to mine, I go postal. Curious, don’t you think?

My friends tell me I’m nuts lovable. Every parenting expert, book and blog warns that children and neat homes have never co-existed peacefully on this planet. Even though I believe this is true, I’m insanedetermined to be the first. Here’s my plan:

No matter what it takes or the fallout that ensues, we will get our house organized once and for all. And then we’ll keep it like that. We won’t touch anything. Our house will be a museum. That sounds so fun! To me.

Unfortunately, our daughters have other ideas about order and organization. Apparently tidiness is not fun. Who knew?

I have failed in my quest to teach my girls to put away things they take out. This was my sole reason for desperately wanting them to go to Montessori school. In Montessori, kids learn to return one toy to its designated place before taking out another.

For this reason alone, I think Maria Montessori was a genius! She also may have been a tad anal. (I love her for that!)

Unfortunately, we weren’t accepted to any Montessori schools. (Perhaps the school administrators were so awed by my organizational abilities, they didn’t feel worthy of teaching my progeny? Something like that.) Either way, Montessori was not our fate (apparently the universe prefers to give me repeated practice with letting go of my anal tendencies) and the messes continue.

I’m also one of those people, the sane few, who straighten up the house before our housekeeper comes for her monthly cleaning spree. While my husband cannot comprehend this, I want you, dear reader, to hear me out. I refuse to pay someone to clean, only to come home to a clean, messy house. I want a clean, neathouse. And I make everyone miserable making sure I get one. Once a month.

If you are one of those people who straighten the house before a housekeeper comes to clean (or would if you had a housekeeper), please raise your hand. Thank you. I count, hmmm, let’s see … everyone? I’ll consider that scientific proof that everyone sees the wisdom in this practice. I believe we have a consensus: to not straighten up before a housekeeper visits is, in fact, insane. And a safety issue.


28 thoughts on “It’s a Safety Issue

  1. Pingback: Messes Are My Kryptonite | ateachablemom

  2. Wonderfully funny! Loved it. Sounds like my husband and I when it comes to cleaning. Although now that I stay at home, I take it all upon myself. It’s better for our marriage that way too.

  3. Hilarious! Rings so true although I’m not naturally very tidy (my mess is ok though). The real safety issue is avoiding my wrath. I can’t believe my people haven’t figured that out yet. I’d pick up daily just to not hear me rant.

  4. I can relate! My husband-to-be is the MESSIEST person you will ever meet. His shirts are always untucked. His pants are always inexplicably tucked inside his socks. He leaves everything out when he cooks any meal. It drives me insane. I have been trying to cut down on the resentment by realizing that if the mess bothers me, I need to be the one to clean it up. That only helps about 60% of the time. The other 40%, I still stew in my resentment. If you learn how to let go, can you teach me?

  5. My therapists have always refused to point out Steve’s flaws, too! So unfair!

    I wax and wane in the messiness category, but I scrub my kitchen floor every night on my hands and knees. Oh, and if you wear shoes into my house or get the floor dirty, they will hear me yelling the next town over. Great post. But then again, when do you NOT rock?

  6. I would totally be one of those nuts who cleaned before the housekeeper got there. I hate people seeing my house a mess. Any people. Even housekeepers. Of course since I cannot afford one I’m not overly worried about it. 🙂

  7. Mary..we are definitely related. I clean while the girls are playing. I hear, “Mom, why did you put that away? I was playing with that?” Me: but isn’t it easier to play with the toys when they are in the right spot?
    I was off work for the summer and I spent some of my “Free” time organizing! Trips to the Container Store!!!!! Yippppeee! (oh, yes..we are related).

  8. My hand is in the air! Of course I straighten up before the cleaning folks come. I want them scrubbing not tidying. I tell my kids if they don’t put their stuff away before the cleaning then they probably won’t be able to find it afterwards, which is mostly true. You sound completely sane to me 🙂

  9. The problem is that…”opposites attract” stuff…gets us every time!! My husband & I are as different as night & day!! I’m also the “neatnik”…

    I’m trying to train my 22 year old son…he’s a great kid, but I say stuff to him like…”Honey, please let your future wife know early on, that all you really want to do all day is play video games…then she’ll know & plan her life accordingly!!” Ha!

    Wish someone had warned me!!

    Great post!!

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