Building the Nest

Building the Nest

My husband and I have always wanted kids. Building the nest is the first step. We agree it’s better to create good habits now, while it’s just the two of us in the house, rather than waiting until we have a newborn. With all the chaos kids create, trying to create new habits on top of that would just be a nightmare. A little while back I wrote about how I came to enjoy cooking as I grew more aware of what I consume. The journey from teenager to adult is filled with lots of little epiphanies. For me, cleaning was another one.

I read an article not that long ago on Cracked which included a section about learning to clean without regarding it as a chore. The author described a friend with dead mice in the piles of crap on their living room floor. It calls to mind that episode of Friends where Ross dates the girl who doesn’t like his apartment because it smells clean. We were never that bad, but the article brought up several interesting points about our progression through life. Some people, it claimed, never get over viewing cleaning as a pointless chore, so they never do it.

It’s hard to wrap one’s mind around the idea of living in absolute filth. Yet I’ve heard horror stories from people I know about encountering this kind of environment. One of my relatives has mentioned on several occasions wearing rubber gloves to clean out a co-worker’s office, in which she also discovered rotten food pressed between stacks of paperwork. How can someone work in that mess? How could you ignore the smell? I guess people who are around that sort of thing all the time get used to it, but I still can’t fathom how they let it get that bad in the first place. Can that really be attributed to simple laziness?

Growing up, I never really learned to clean. I was one of those people who regarded it as a useless chore, something my mother nagged me to do just to get on my nerves. I always envied my friends who lived in more chaotic households. They had fun rooms which never needed cleaning (or so I thought). I couldn’t wait to grow up, move out, and never have to clean again.

It takes about a month of living on your own for the novelty to wear off. You realize that no one’s going to clean the mess in the bathroom, no one’s going to make the pile of dirty dishes go away, and no one’s going to fold your laundry unless YOU do it. Maybe this is the moment when some people decide to hell with it and just let everything go to hell (cases of mental disorder not included). We had a ‘good enough’ attitude in our first place. If we had clean dishes when we needed them, it was good enough. If the apartment didn’t smell, it was good enough. If we could walk freely and access everything we needed, it was good enough.

My mother-in-law is a bit of a neat freak. She would clean our apartment when she visited (she said because she was bored, but I think she was being nice. Sorry MIL for subjecting you to our first apartment).

But she’s also incredibly patient. And she kept at us, gently explaining how you do this and how you clean that. And while we were both very whatever in the beginning, I became receptive to her guidance during our first move between apartments. I wanted to do better in our new place, wanted to organize it better, wanted to keep up with the cleaning. In fairness, our first apartment was a cave. It was a basement and there was limited space. We loved that little apartment. It was our first home. Our landlord let us paint it and we were comfortable in the space. But we ran out of places for storage and neither of us ever wanted to spend time in the kitchen because it was the most cavernous room of them all.

Our second apartment was on the fifth floor of a high-rise building on the outskirts of Toronto. It had WINDOWS. Actual windows, which provided light and the ability to see what the weather was like outside (the novelty of that never did wear off). And I tried really hard to keep house better.

At that time I was working weekends. The lulls between calls offered me the opportunity to chat with my co-workers who were of similar age but, because I married so young, had very different living arrangements. When I spoke about cleaning the apartment, it also became apparent they had a a different outlook on chores. In fact they both laughed and told me they couldn’t imagine bothering with such a task. That was the moment I realized we come to these things in our own time. I didn’t live in a dorm, I had my own place. I had a family, however small, and I knew I wanted that family to grow. When we moved out of the ‘cave’ we wanted company more often. We cared about how our apartment looked. We didn’t want it to turn into the organized chaos of our first apartment. Good enough just wasn’t going to do it anymore.

As my husband’s graduation from teacher’s college fast approached, and he began searching for a new job, I started having strange dreams. I dreamed we moved into a messy house and I got angry that the people who lived there before us didn’t take better care of it. I dreamed another night that we moved into a house and I resolved to do a better job at keeping it clean than I had at our apartment. It was a fresh start. It was the best opportunity to do that. I should mention, at this point we weren’t planning to buy a house. We were planning to live in an apartment (or a provided residence, depending on where we ended up). Our brains have a way of directing us while we’re asleep, though, and when I woke from these strange dreams I resolved that I would improve my housekeeping wherever we ended up next; practice for the day we did own a home.

And then we bought a house.

We weren’t really prepared for the transition from apartment to house. We weren’t really ready for how much extra work it is to begin with. We were used to having about four rooms and a tiny hallway to live in. Suddenly we had two floors each with at least four rooms of their own. And though my resolve wasn’t shaken, it was no small task I undertook.

Luckily, I’m a creature of routine. And once I found a routine, I was set.

I hate cleaning. I hate it more than I hate cooking. It’s a monotonous task even when I try to spice it up with music (doesn’t work so well anyway when you’re trying to vacuum). But I love the way my house shines every week when I’m finished. I love sitting down in a clean office every morning feeling ready to create. I love preparing dinner on a clean counter. I love not having dirty dishes piled in the sink. I love the way the light bounces off the taps in the kitchen and bathroom. And it makes the hours I pour into the task every week worthwhile.

Whenever and however we come to accept it, chores as a necessary part of life. For me it was having a space I valued and wanted to preserve. Our house has needed a lot of love since we bought it (more than we ever knew), but it’s worth that blood sweat and tears to turn it into a home.

Now I can’t wait until I have teenagers to force to do my housework for me! *Cackle*

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