Unexpected benefits

A while back, as I was giving a rundown of my Ideal Life Themes, I wrote about the festering open wound which is the theme of keeping a clean house.

I wish I knew why these everyday tasks are so abhorrent to me. I wish I were the kind of person who could just not question it. Unfortunately, I am a chronic overthinker, and I cannot do something so simple as sweep the floor without considering it as a function of its historical and social context. “It’s not so much the sweeping,” I ponder, “it is the getting out the dustpan that I hate.” No. No. No. I just hate housekeeping.

So far, if you have been following along, I have made summer goals out of: reducing my paranoid thoughts; wearing only 4 dresses this summer to reduce my CPW (cost per wear); confronting my social anxiety by extending one invitation per week; making checklists to idiot-proof our family outings; dealing with at least one of my multitude of problems around food; giving my boys age-appropriate responsibilities.

Well. I just hit on an unexpected benefit of having one of these summer goals.

Having people visit

I love my apartment, even though in the last year and a half it has taken a hit. Our furniture has seen better days: three months of lockdown last year and our already old couches, which became my boys’ favorite toys: rearranging the cushions, blankets, pillows to make them into trucks or cars or tents or forts, suffered so badly that sometimes I wonder if they will hold up under our weight anymore. Oh! And find me a surface in this apartment that has not been touched with markers and I will give you a nickel.

In addition to my social anxiety, which only got worse over the last year of relative isolation, comes my shame at the state of my apartment. During lockdown the boys irreparably broke one of our table legs. They broke one of the cabinet doors on the under-sink storage, so now it is just a gaping Playmobil storage shelf. My coffee table has scratches and stains that I can guarantee you I did not put there. Our dining room chairs, cute as they are, have been written on, scraped, knocked over so many times that they wobble.

The reason we haven’t replaced any of these things is because we do intend to move at some point in the next year, and would prefer to replace everything all at once with items chosen for the new place, just as we did ten years ago when we moved into this apartment.

But in the meantime, our place is a colorful, well-worn, well-loved dump.

It is this “dump” epithet which I just tossed out there so cavalierly that solidifies my lack of motivation for having people over.

However (you knew there was a however coming, didn’t you?) I made that goal of inviting people. And do you know what that forces me to do? It forces me to make the apartment guest-worthy. My friend Iza came over the other day. Later this week, a school-mom named Hadije is coming over. Our apartment must be presentable.

Knowing that someone is coming to visit has shifted the lens on how I see the apartment. It’s like getting new glasses and suddenly seeing more clearly. It means keeping surfaces clear by dealing with mail and school papers and drawings and paintings and coloring books right away rather than piling. It means putting away my stacks of folded laundry instead of letting them sit, waiting for someone to whom the clothing belongs to put it away. (Although magic may have happened in the righting of inside-out clothes, the laundry fairy is still MIA…)

Avoidance of shame is tremendous motivator, apparently.

In my Ideal Life, I am a person who can welcome guests at the drop of a hat.

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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