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Nov 3

House Proud

Posted on Monday, November 3, 2008 in Family, Philosophy

We have a… erm… ‘friend’ who lives in London.  A while ago, she decided to visit us and rather than have her stay in a hotel, we invited her to stay with us.  We gave her a warm bed, food, local tours and endless shopping trips; no expense was spared, we wanted to make her feel as welcome as possible.  Her aura felt strained, though, the entire time.  She sat on the edge of her seat nibbling at her fingertips, and I caught her sneaking a quick whiff of one of our cushions at one stage, screwing up her face as she did so like she’d accidentally spilled raw sewage on her hands, oblivious to the fact that I was watching.  When she left on the Sunday, her parting statement was not of thanks but of dismay. 

“Don’t you have any pride?” she asked… “Can’t you see that your house is a mess?  You should really take care of your home better.”

Instead of my being shocked, I found myself questioning her definition of the word ‘home’.  Her house is pristine… she surrounds herself with expensive porcelaine dolls to witness her perfection, makes you take off your shoes as you enter and confines you to the wooden flooring lest you crimp her shag pile with your oaf-ish feet.  Her walls are adorned with cheap prints found at M&S, designed to make you feel as though you’ve stepped into the most perfect house in the world… modern, yet demure.  Fake plants, fake flowers, fake books and soap that is never to be used.  Fake, fake, fake.  She has a young child, but she must keep it in the attic lest it spill something, for there is no evidence of it at all… a pure oddity to me.

My house has errant beads and lost jigsaw pieces under the couch.  Paper covered in painty splodges is stuck all over the refrigerator with silly chipped fridge magnets, and a dotted line of grime adorns the wall above each step of the staircase, the graduation marks of a toddler’s ability to master the epic skill that is stair-climbing.  Each smudge of grime elongates slightly upwards to show how fast she’s growing, and I think it’s the most beautiful thing she’s created in her short life so far.  Tufts of dog hair sleep cozily in corners, and painted toilet roll tubes decorate the bookcase proudly showing off their apprentice artist’s work… far too sentimental to throw away.

This is home.  Home tells a story and describes its occupants… it reflects the countless giggles that hang around stubbornly in it’s crevices, and it is not afraid to show its weaknesses, its colourful history, the bare underbelly of disorganisation.  I feel most welcome in places like this and look forward to returning… to finding new marks of family life to warm the soul.  I don’t look forward to re-visiting houses where my presence most obviously creates more work for its owner, where I feel as though I’ve stumbled into the territory of an empty heart.

So far my nicest experience of what is most definitely a ‘home’, happened today.  I stood with a friend, nattering by a boiling kettle and my eye suddenly fell upon a forgotten sight.  I interrupted her flow of conversation rudely with an exclamation of pure joy, and went to it like a pirate to the treasure of Davy Jones.  A height chart was rudely marked on the door frame of the kitchen in an array of different mediums… pencil, crayon, marker… each displayed a proud date and a loving line, made uneven by the jiggling head of a young child.  The dashes stopped at waist-height, and I got the sense of a story that hasn’t ended, the anticipation of things to come… blank wood… the patient wait for that final line.  If ever there was a picture drawn based on pure love, this was it.  It was truly beautiful, just like mine was when I was growing up.  I felt honoured and proud to have seen it.

Proud.  House-proud. 

Home.

Bring on the comments

  1. Strangely enough I agree with you, a house should be lived in. I, however, was an only child and as such I really really need a piece of space that I can place my own personal order on. I Don’t have that.

  2. K8 says:

    I’m an only child too! I have small havens of tidiness and a general de-cluttering once or twice a week to free carpet space, but no matter how hard I try, the grime clings so I’ve learned to love it and find the beauty in it. Not easy I know.
    If you need personal order, create it! Keep an empty cardboard box that you can climb into to feel peace. That’s what I do.

  3. Seems like a bit of an ungrateful goodbye… and really quite rude!

    I’m with you though – a home should be lived in, comfortable, life-ish. Dave thinks I am overly house proud and there are often jokes made about me tidying up after people… actually, it’s only because he’s so untidy that he thinks this. I am a superficial tidier and I like my home to have people in it, doing whatever it is people do. I’m prone to straightening cushions because they upset my sense of balance when they’re wonky and sometimes I hide things in ‘safe’ places… but mostly, I’m fairly normal!

  4. Warrior says:

    Wow first of all I would have kicked friend the …naw I was going to use a word I hadn’t in years.
    Second I am afraid I am clean freak.
    third our place is a mess.
    fourth I am stressed out of my head till the third glass then I don’t shiv a git. So you would probably be far more comfortable in my home than I am…
    And thats it…the word for me is home…not house or flat or appartement….( too many p ? ) Home. It’s where you Live.

  5. No, my wife was one of 4 and views my desire for personal space with deep suspicion. My blog will have to do for now.

  6. Nick says:

    That’s the best comment on housepride I’ve ever seen! I do agree about people who live in pristine, ultra-smart surroundings where you feel guilty even sitting down on the sofa in case you crumple the fabric. That’s not a home, it’s a museum. I can’t feel comfortable or welcome in that sort of environment.

    Our house is tidier than yours because we don’t have kids but look closely and there’s plenty of dust and grime and worn carpet. Life’s too short to be cleaning and upgrading everything non-stop. As for ticking you off for a messy house after you’ve given lavish hospitality – utter crassness.

  7. K8 says:

    Jenny; I do like cleaning… or at least I like having cleaned. The mind is very reflective of its surroundings I find!

    Warrior; Is that the third glass drunk or the third glass smashed? I love smashing glasses. Also I can’t kick said friend in the -anything- because I am related to it tenuously.

    Thrifty; Blogs are great the way you don’t have to clean them. If only I had a house-ish spam filter for clutter :(

    Thanks Nick!! It’s a pity more folk don’t prioritise the actual living of life over the maintenance of its cleanliness. So much is lost for those people it seems.

  8. downsdad says:

    It reads like she did you quite the service really. You looked at your home and another friend’s home with new old eyes and saw what it was that was you. And with your ‘friend’ you saw what was not you and what you did not want and do not have and it all sounds like it worked out pretty well for you. It sounds too like your visitor is trapped in a stainless steel world which is guarded by Domestos, bless her. Cushion sniffing. That’s a new one on me. I wouldn’t try it in my house, and I’m me!

  9. Kirk M says:

    Now guess which home I’d rather visit… :D

  10. Maxi Cane says:

    Yep, I grew up in a house, not a home.

    My mother would do a full load of house work every morning. Stuff that other normal people would do when needed, or not she did everyday.

    Nowadays I roll around in piles of dirty clothes and I’ll only wash the dishes if I have to piss.

  11. That’s a lovely capture K8. Lovely.

  12. Granny says:

    ” The cleaner the house the angrier the Woman” Do we really need to give room space to such ignorant women?

  13. Jo says:

    K8! How lovely!

    I’d love to have clean counters, hair free carpets, smell free air… I could never be a neat freak, but I’d love some space, and order, not to have to clear a pile of stuff every time someone wants to sit down. I’m always embarrassed when people call, the dirty dishes, the clothes everywhere… but I am always more comfortable in a messy house. Your friend is BAD. Clean but with no manners or grace!

    I need storage and a utility room. I fantasise about a room of drawers…

  14. Jo says:

    Oh yeah, Maxi, haaa!

  15. Tuli says:

    A home is meant to be lived in. Meant to be messy at times. Meant to be welcoming and warm. Mausoleums like your friends’ will never EVER achieve ‘home’. They’re just places where stuff is kept.

    My house? It’s a freakin’ pit. Two jobs and half-time college attendance means clutter, dust, and dog hair everywhere. And I wouldn’t change that for anything because it’s my home.

  16. TheChrisD says:

    A house is not a piece of art that you need to exhibit in a gallery and appoint 24-hour security to keep it in that state, it’s a place to live, be yourself and call home.

    Hence why you can never see the floor of my room under all the junk, rubbish, crap, clothes, games etc. strewn all over :)

  17. Quickroute says:

    I rather visit a untidy house with real people than a tidy fake house

  18. houses are way too clinical these days, no sense of being lived in

  19. Baino says:

    Erm very rude person and not a friend I’m afraid.

    I would love an anally retentive clean home free of dog hair and dust and sticky coffee rings and doggy snot on the sliding glass door. I’d like a fully stacked stainless steel fridge, clear kitchen benches, plush scatter cushions and a clean carpet. I’d like a tidy bathroom cupboard and a walk in wardrobe with all my clothes folded monochromatically or in PMS order (that’s the ink colour not Pre Menstrual Syndrome) . . .Oh sorry, having a little dream there . . . problem is, I like a house full of people, I like noise and laughter and I don’t care if someone spills their drink or drops their food. I like al fresco living and Adam’s boots by the door. I like wine in the belly, dogs on the bed . . .see how being a Libran is causing me such angst!

  20. K8 says:

    Downsdad; Yer right! She did do me a favour! Bless her indeed – she’s a lonely woman.

    Kirk M; Yay! Kettle’s on…

    Maxi; I give my dirty dishes to the dog to lick clean. Highly economical, me.

    Xbox; Thank you! I’m a dirtbag and I’m proud.

    Mammy; Sadly I have to every now and then. It’s a woman’s lot.

    Jo; I fantasise about an invisible door to another dimension where I can store things without actually having to look at them! Your home RULES.

    Tuli; Cool – well said! I’ve stopped apologising for the mess. I think people like the freedom of not getting dirty looks when they spill coffee :)

    The Chris D; I’m thinking that layers of stuff are good on the floor- it stops the carpet from fading!

    Quickroute; Conversations seem to flow easier in the former, don’t they?

    Roy; Bring back pigs in the kitchen and chickens underfoot!!!!

    Baino; Maybe you and I were meant to be Manor-born? Maybe in the next life…

  21. Quickroute says:

    “Conversations seem to flow easier in the former, don’t they?”

    Ah sure if nothing else you can break the awkward silences and talk about filth ;-)

  22. K8 says:

    You mean like “I wonder can you catch bird-flu from cleaning windows?”
    “Probably… better not do it so!”

  23. Tinman18 says:

    I don’t know if you’ve seen this:

    http://homepagesthebook.wordpress.com/the-nitty-gritty/

    and I know it’s after the date, but I think you should send this post to them.

    Because it sums up exactly what a home is about.

  24. Ah, it sounds like she has issues alright! Be proud of your house. My mothers house is spotless, but only because she has a maid. There are still marks on the kitchen doorframe from when my sister was a wee brat. :)

  25. There is nothing like the ole measuring chart to make it a HOME. I measured all relatives who ever visited and jokingly always put a line about 2 feet high for my short relatives ! they love it !

  26. Jo says:

    Oh, yeah, tinman, that would have been perfect. Give it a go, KAte – she was doing a sort of first come first served thing, but maybe she’d make an exception.

  27. K8 says:

    Tinman18 and Jo; Okay, okay, you got me. I wrote this post with Catherine’s book idea in mind, and had mailed it to her already :) Thanks!!! I’m not sure if she’ll use it, but entering is always fun.

    Jefferson; Foot holes? Well they’re just a growth chart of their very own, aren’t they? ;)

    King o’NYhacks; They do say that good things come in small packages! My dad has a short-arse door in his house, the notches on that are at the top from people whacking their heads on it- sometimes it pays to be small.

  28. Oh, you and I are definitely kindred spirits. I’ve forgotten to read your blog in awhile and now I know I need to more often! You spoke my heart in this post… I too, have a house that is messy most of the time. Mainly because real people live there. I would rather be doing something with my children than preventing them from making a mess. I try to keep it clean when I can, but to be honest with you, I really don’t care that much. I grew up in a home that was a home and I want mine to be that too. Unfortunately, we live here in the suburbs where there is this false sense of reality ‘fake’ as you so aptly described it! People’s houses look suspiciously perfect, but at what cost? Give me a cup of tea in your kitchen any day and you’re always welcome in mine if you ever decide to pay a visit to the States! I can offer you a warm bed too, but can’t promise you won’t step on children’s toys all the time. The bath might have lego and toy cars and towels on the floor too. But you know you’d be welcome. Thanks for that post :) it made my day!

  29. K8 says:

    “I would rather be doing something with my children than preventing them from making a mess.”

    That’s exactly it!!! Give me the destruction of a pretend lego world over vacuum cleaning anyday. I have to say though, it’s very handy having an enthusiastic 4 year old pair of helping hands around the house… scrubbing is such a great game! Long may it last!

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