Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tornado Cleaning

We've all done it, right? Tornado cleaning. It's where you suddenly get a call from someone ten minutes away, saying they're going to stop by in a few minutes. And you race through the house picking stuff up, putting it away (or throwing it in a closet) and trying to make it look like you always sit in a spotlessly clean house for no reason at all. Yeah, no one believes that, so why do we try for it?
The worst tornado cleaning is when the doorbell rings. A peek out the window or peephole is followed by frantic scurrying, and whispered shouts at the kids to "move this junk out of here!"

Okay, so maybe I'm the only one that lives in that sort of chaos?

Last week my husband told me we had a missionary coming through that would be staying in our guest room for a couple of days. That was fine with me--that's why we have a guest room. Before we got down to the nitty-gritty of cleaning for company, I was told that the missionary had put off his trip for a week. But he would be arriving on Tuesday instead of Wednesday.

Still not a problem. Our weekend was full, but I knew that Monday nights we usually had nothing going on. I would clean then. Terry had to work at the church Monday, and I asked him to take the boys with him because they occasionally need parental influence in their lives. He agreed, but then Monday morning (twenty minutes before I left for work, mind you) he said,

"You know, I was thinking about the boys and I believe I need to leave them home today so they can get some things done around here. After all, the missionary family will be here either this afternoon or this evening."

A surge of adrenalin shot through me. Followed closely by an overwhelming desire to kill the man that stood in front of me.

"No, you said he was coming tomorrow. 'He'. Not 'they'. You said 'he' was coming on Tuesday." I could only hope Terry had his days mixed up.

"Well now they are coming today." I could tell by the look on his face that he knew he had messed up. I could also tell he wasn't about to take any flak for it at the moment. Truthfully, did it matter? Obviously the important thing to focus on was the dirty house and the imminent company. Also obviously, I wasn't ready to prioritize yet.

"When did you find out they were coming today?"

He hesitated. "Thursday? Friday? Saturday? I can't remember." This was all muttered as he walked away from me.

So that was it. I had to leave for work, and the company could very well be here by the time I got home. I hurried down the hall to the boys' rooms and woke them up. This was a time to call in all favors. This was time for them to step up and apply all the lessons they had been learning. This was a time to begin paying back all those hours of labor I went through before they were born.

I've had emergency help-me-clean moments before, but the boys have not always caught the vision or the urgency of what needed to be done. Fortunately, Monday was not one of those days. They cleaned. They washed sheets and made beds. They picked up and vacuumed. There were still things to do when I got home. No dusting had been done. Dishes still needed to be washed. But bathrooms were clean. Most items had been picked up and put away. The company obliged us by not showing up until much later that night. We got everything done. They came. They stayed. They left today.

My house was not spotless. But it was definitely cleaner than it had been. And anyway, I'm tired of striving for perfection. We are not perfect people and we actually have to live in the house. It is impossible to keep it completely clean. It is unnatural to keep it completely clean. I don't think anyone expects it to be completely clean. (Especially people that actually know us!)

So I'm trying to lower my expectations a little. I'm not June Cleaver and I never will be. I can live with that.

But still, I just wish we could get a little underwear washed once in a while.


  1. I "love" it when I find things out last minute. But that is usually my children's fault (or mine). My hubby will tell me things, and I forget, or tell the kids and they forget to tell me.

    I think people expect their pastor's wives to have a perfect home. I have heard of people who clean because "the pastor's wife" is coming over. I'm sure they'd be thrilled to know the pastor's wife cleans before they come over too, lol!

    I like to have my home "company ready" but it doesn't always turn out that way. So if I can have the kitchen, bathroom, living room and entry pretty clean, then I don't worry so much about the other places.

  2. It's nearly impossible to keep things picked up with a large family. I'm trying to instill good habits into my children and giving them consequences, but it still happens. As a matter of fact, just this evening I had them all go outside and pick up the yard that NO ONE left a mess. I guess we had a tornado go through the back yard and we didn't even know about it! :) I figure if we all live here, we should all help do the work, right?

  3. Hello! I am a pastor's wife in Mobile, AL. I just happened upon your blog through Dani Contreras. It is nice to meet you.

    I love this post! I have a couple of very similar experiences, but somehow it always gets done. I get a rush and go into crazy cleaning robot mode.

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Rachel. It's nice to meet you too.


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