Diary of a Lousy Housewife

Note: I wrote this a week ago and since then I’ve partially cleaned up three of the bad rooms. I’m hoping this weekend to bring it down to six rooms usually and cleaned up, with one bad, one horrible, and two impassable left on the To Do list.

There are 10 rooms in my house. One is decent. Three are bad. Two are really bad. Two are horrible. And two are impassable. Parts of my house look like rooms on “Hoarders.” How did things get this bad? How did I let them get this bad?

Do I value myself and my family so little that I don’t care about our living environment? Am I that drawn into myself with depression that I want to keep the world at a distance?

We’ve lost so much this past year because of the house. We used to watch TV in the family room with the big flat screen TV and a well-stocked TiVo. Now we watch random crap on a 10+ year old set in our bedroom. I have TONS of dishes, we eat on paper plates and use plastic forks and cups. I have craft supplies out the wazoo, but can’t access them in my “office.” We’ve had to tell family that they couldn’t stay at our house—our FIVE BEDROOM house—because things were such a mess.

I can’t take this anymore. It has to change.

So a few days back, I decided to straighten up our front hall closet. When we had an early snow, the girls had gotten into it and made a mess. I pulled out the gloves and hats and scarves that were all over the floor of the closet and started to sort them all.

Sidebar: A few months back, there was a HORRIBLE smell in our front vestibule. I kept thinking there was a dead mouse somewhere, but couldn’t find anything.

So while I wasn’t 100% surprised by what I found, I was 100% freaked out by what I found. As I pulled a scarf toward me, a little figure was pulled along. It was, to my horror, the shell of a mouse. Imagine something decomposing from the inside, leaving just skin and fur. Somehow, that’s what happened in my front hall closet.

I would like to say that I reacted calmly, retrieved the mouse suit, and disposed of it accordingly. Yeah, right. I screamed. Then I flung the scarf in such a way that it pushed the mouse carcass (is it a carcass if it’s hollow?) to the back of the closet floor. I then threw the scarf away.

I figure if it took a few months for the mouse’s insides to dry up and float away, it shouldn’t take that much longer for his skin to do the same. But in any case, I’m keeping my boots in a different closet.

I like my job, but some days there just isn’t much to do, so I spend time looking for projects. Or, I pull up a Word doc and start writing a blog post. 🙂 Not a good use of company time, but I think I’ve made it clear to my coworkers that I’m looking for stuff to do.


The visit by the in-laws went just fine… because I told them in advance they needed to stay in a hotel. This was greeted somewhat frostily, but we had a very nice time with them while they were here (for all of the six hours we saw them). Of course being let off the hook from having to house them for the night meant that the house has gotten worse, not better. Add to it a big laundry push (because children not having clothes to wear to school is a problem) and the aftermath of a birthday party (toys, wrapping paper, leftover cake), and things are looking grim.


The house has been affecting Mr. LHW for months and now it’s really wearing on me. Any progress that I make is destroyed by my children within a matter of days, so I constantly feel I’m starting at ground zero. And when I’m bored at work, it’s especially frustrating because I know I have so much I could be doing at home. By the time I get home (generally around 5:15), I don’t feel like diving into cleaning. Ugh, ugh, ugh. Whine, whine, whine.

So it’s been about two years since I last posted. Amazingly (and frighteningly) life has changed very little. Despite a number of promising interviews, Mr. LHW is still unemployed. I, however, as of last month, have started a part-time job. Nothing exciting—it’s a part-time administrative assistant in a design studio. On the one hand it’s an easy entrée back into the world of those who work for others; on the other, it’s hard being in my mid-40s and back at the bottom of the totem pole.

The house, you ask. Yeah, the house. Well, it’s in worse shape than ever. We haven’t been able to use the third floor in more than a year, it’s so messy. The family fell to the land of chaos over six months ago and the kitchen has gone back and forth between horrific and passable with occasional stops in “okay to show to others.” I still don’t really understand why it is that I can’t keep up with it. Part of it is laziness. Part of it is feeling like I don’t deserve to have a nice place. I try and fight these feelings, but it’s harder and harder.

The only way we’ve survived the last two years is with the help of my in-laws. This help has literally made the difference between leading a somewhat normal life and being homeless. Unfortunately, this help has given them free rein to judge how we live. They’re coming to town next week and we’re both overwhelmed at how much we have to do to get the house viewable for them. It seems both insurmountable and possible at the same time. Surely the house can be cleaned in a week. But how can it when we haven’t managed to get it cleaned up in months? It’s like we’re walking a tightrope and I honestly don’t know what the outcome will be when they arrive next Saturday.

I’ve realized that I need an outlet for my feelings other than my husband, my mother (a whole ‘nother story), and my therapist (she could probably use a break). So hopefully I’ll be posting here more frequently than once every two years. Keep your eye on this page. 😉

Be warned: this is a bit of a stream-of-consciousness post…

Things are afoot chez lousy. Five weeks ago, Mr. LHW’s job was eliminated. In the long-term, I know this will be a good thing. He wasn’t happy with his job and has been questioning a lot of career issues lately. In addition, I’ve started to realize that it would probably be best for my psyche for me to get back into an office environment. As the title of the blog implies, I’m not good at this housekeeping thing and I’ve been missing adult interaction–especially that which doesn’t revolve around children.

The bigger picture issue in the job loss is that we live in Cleveland, Ohio, and the economy here sucks. While there might be *a* job here for Mr. LHW, it’s likely to only be one. If we were more committed to the area, that would probably be enough. But we’re not and it isn’t.

We moved here 6 1/2 years ago, full of hope and excitement. We had a new baby and bought a big house for 2/3 of what we had sold our little townhouse for in Arlington, VA. Looking back, I’m not sure what was in the Kool-Aid we were drinking when we decided to leave the DC area. We had a small house, but at the time, we also only had a small baby. Mr. LHW had a good job and was happy at it. I had stopped working when the baby was born, but had a strong professional network if I decided to go back or wanted to start freelancing. But for whatever reason, we felt that the best thing to do was up stakes and move somewhere where we could have a bigger house and be a bit closer to family. So that’s what we did.

Fast forward to today and we have a first grader and a preschooler. We have a big house in which fully 30-40% isn’t used for most of the year and we feel overwhelmed taking care of it. We’ve had three years of financial difficulties (following an additional three years in which we were having financial difficulties, we were just hiding our heads in the sand about it), three years of Mr. LHW being in chronic pain from a hip condition that was finally resolved this summer, and in Mr. LHW’s case, two job eliminations and in my case, a thriving freelance business that went belly up in late 2008 and has yet to revive.

I love my house, but I fear I love the concept of my house more than I love the reality. I want to be the Martha Stewart type, always entertaining and having house guests. But the truth is that I really don’t like having house guests and I entertained more in my little townhouse than we have in this big house with its wonderful flow.

Being house poor has also made it so we haven’t really been able to travel. I’d rather have to show a guest to the couch rather than the guest room if it means my family can actually go on vacation somewhere other than my in-laws’ house.

More later…

After a ridiculously long hiatus (read as, major depression aka nervous breakdown), I’ve realized how much I’ve missed blogging. So I’m back. Who knows how often, but I need an anonymous place to post all my weird thoughts. Hope you enjoy. 🙂

Well, my time alone to get the house cleaned up ended in a big mess. I gave in to my OCD/perfectionism and spent the entire time cleaning two rooms. After a big blow up with Mr. L, I realized I really needed to focus on smaller steps, doing at least a triage cleanup in rooms that were disasters, and maintaining the rooms that were clean and orderly.

My cold turned into a sinus infection, which thankfully I got antibiotics for yesterday, so that slowed my progress over last weekend, but for the most part, the house has been straightened up every day. And, with the girls on Spring Break, so they’re home all day, that’s saying something.

I still struggle a lot between the house work, taking care of the girls, and (theoretically) having a freelance design business. I haven’t had much work in the last six months, so it’s been easy to concentrate on the first two and let the last one slide. Now that Mr. L has been laid off, I feel more pressure to get the business back up and running, but my other two priorities have not only not lessened, but have increased since he’s home all day, so there’s more dishes/cooking to do as well as more straightening up during the course of the day rather than waiting until when he was on his way home from the office. On the one hand, I want more help, but the reality is that he needs to concentrate on finding a new job.

I wish I had a crystal ball that would at least tell me that in six months we’ll be fine, he’ll have a new job, and we’ll be living somewhere, who knows where, but at least we’re fine. Unfortunately, nobody has invented a crystal ball yet. Somebody could make a fortune on that.

Why is it that every time I set off on a big cleaning project, I end up with a cold? My little one has a cold already, so I’m sure I caught it from her, but I’m also sure that the amount of dust and crud I’ve been dusting, vacuuming, and sweeping over the last few days has made it worse.

And I’m not done. Oh, I’m so not done. I’ve trying to stop my perfectionism in cleaning, but even so, there are currently only five out of ten rooms in my house that I would not be mortified to have someone see. That doesn’t count the basement, which needs more work. And the kitchen, OMG, the kitchen! I haven’t even started it yet and Mr. L and the girls will be leaving my in-laws’ house early afternoon. So I have at a maximum 6-7hr left. Sounds like a lot, right? Given that I’m sitting on the couch right now trying to move the massive mucus weight that has settled on my chest, I’m not so sure. But I also just realized that I haven’t eaten in 6hr. That’s definitely a factor.

Okay, thinking positively now. I am going to take a break, eat a sandwich, drink a bottle of water, and then get back to work. I shall prevail!

So I spent all of yesterday in the basement–and it’s still not done! Once I got down there, I realized that things needed to be put away before the floor could be cleaned (long story short, we had two elderly cats who left their mark). And there was no way that the existing shelving could handle everything that had been put down there over the last few months. So my first task was to pull out the IKEA shelving we bought 7-8 years ago but never assembled. Some of the bolts were missing, so I could only put two of the three sets together, but this finally gave me space for all of our paper/plasticware supplies, space for additional Christmas decorations, and (my favorite) a shelf unit that stores all of the excess photos, tchotchkes, candles, etc, etc, that have been sitting in the basement for the past five years while most of the walls/surfaces in the house have gone bare.

We have an old “coal room” in the basement–the place in days gone by where coal was shoveled in to run the boiler. I’m using that room as a space to keep stuff that needs to go to the dump as well as stuff that I’ll put out at a garage sale. Doing that, as well as the new shelving, allowed me to really clean the place up. The workbench is still a mess and the floor still needs some scrubbing, but it’s SO much better than it was!

Today I’ve retooled my schedule to get the rest of the house done (such optimism). Of course, I’m already an hour behind that new schedule. But, I’m confident that by the time I fall into bed tonight, the house will be drop-in ready (except for my office on the 3rd floor, which I’m tackling tomorrow).

While I certainly miss my girls and Mr. L, having time to myself is such a nice luxury. Even when the time is spent cleaning, it’s relaxing to know that I don’t have to feed or wipe anyone but myself for at least another 30 hours. 🙂

Mr. L has taken the girls up to his parents’ house this weekend so that I can blitz our house. Going on a floor-by-floor basis, I’m going to clean up the messes, throw out the crap, and put the rest of it away. In theory, I will be done with all of this by 5:30 tomorrow. In reality, I’m sure I’ll be working up until they pull in the driveway Monday afternoon. And given that I’m already 3hr behind my optimistic schedule, I better get to work…

Dust Bunnies