BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES

00:00 June 01, 2011
By: Debbie Lindsey

Ijoined the ranks of Donna Reed and June Cleaver three years ago. That was when I left behind my one room apartment of fourteen years and set up house with Boyfriend.

My domestic and decorative skills had gone dormant; my natural desire to collect and amass great works of art (knock-offs from yard sales) and vintage china (thrift store kitchenware) had been suppressed by my 14x16 floor plan. But now there was five times the space for our treasures and creative endeavors.

Boyfriend is a collector (thrift store addict) like myself. Our tastes are, for the most part, a perfect match; and when his stuff doesn't quite fit in with my vision for our home I just kinda…move it out of the way, into a box, or under a bed. Never discarding something, just postponing its debut. Keeping the place 'dust-free' you might say.

Speaking of dust, this place with its ample space is a breeding ground for dust, renegade dog and cat hair and, my nice yard travels in on every shoe sole or paw. The great outdoors never made it past the flagstone courtyard and up the long flight of steps to my old little speck of an apartment. This house is a job for super mom. How do women with children (not the four legged variety like mine that I can shave if need be and bribe to lay on an old blanket instead of my good quilt) ever have time to clean and maintain? They must have super powers or maids. My fragile sanity is kept in check by Boyfriend who knows no boundaries when it comes to pitching in with home work; I have not cooked a meal in three years.

Despite my dearth of domestic dexterity, I was born to vacuum. In fact I collect Electrolux Vacuum cleaners circa 1930's to 1980's (only three are in working order but they are so damn cute). I can spot one on the curb a mile away as it sits sadly awaiting the garbage truck, its hose gently curled around its canister, a wheel or two missing, the stainless steel wand glinting bits of sunlight. The floor brushes looking exhausted as a pair of work shoes. Of course I give it a home.

When my back went out some months ago, I was told not to even think about housework—-especially vacuuming. But one day as I hobbled past my vacuum cleaner, nearly tripping over a drift of random dog hair, lint and that damn dust, I reached out to the Electrolux and felt the hand of Jesus say: You're healed (or, You're a heel?), go forth and vacuum. (Did I mention Vicodin was involved?) You might be thinking, my, my, her house must be spotless…well, no. Just because one could eat off my floors doesn't mean the table is particularly clean. I dust when packing to move (I move on average every ten years) or before company, which ever comes first.

Since moving into our dream house, I began pledging to the sorority of domestic divas and embracing all things dear to them.

I have begun to give tours of the place (entrapped friends, lured in by booze). One time after really fussing over the house and getting it all gussied up for my girl Donna to visit, I found myself disappointed in her lack of curiosity; doesn't she read Southern Living? Didn't she want to see my little antique hand towels in the bathroom? You'd think all that cheap wine would've influenced her bladder.

Recently I noticed my Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval was nearing expiration; fortunately there's nothing like the impending objective eye of houseguests to reveal my bathroom for what it was becoming—-a hazardous waste site. And whoa, when did that black mildew attach itself to the refrigerator, surely I'd have noticed it by now. Must've happened over night.

Shamed to my very core and in danger of having my Martha Stewart Living subscription revoked I looked for motivation and realized that company was coming soon. Two sets of guests back-to-back. Neither having been to our home sweet home before. Carolyn and Bob from D.C. (best friend and husband from the ole Mobile days) would be our dinner guests and the following week BIG SISTER.

At fifty-seven I am still the little sister and of course I have to dredge up enough sibling rivalry and insecurity to send me into a frenzy. What made me think that having company would involve no more effort than fresh sheets and changing the kitty litter? Suddenly 20/20 vision has me viewing our home with the same domestic disdain that June Cleaver might feel.

Keep it simple, I told myself, don't go overboard. They are coming to see you not your hand towels. But I know I am not alone in this. Hell, my friend Dawn even cleans her closets before company comes. I'd told her no one would ever think to look. Still, Dawn went and bought all new towels for her freshly organized linen closet and sure enough her guest made comments on how she too had that particular pattern. Busted! Never let your guard down.

Fortunately my guests are not into all that. So I have limited myself to just painting a few rooms. No big deal, just a quick job, one coat, no ceiling, no moving furniture or pictures away from walls—just paint around them. Maybe spruce up the yard with a few acres worth of new bedding plants. Oh and the dogs will need a bath, the ceiling fans are looking kinda hairy, the fridge is full of science experiments. And what the hell, why not clean the closet?

Or…I could tell them I have Chinese drywall and start making reservations.

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