Why I Don't Clean My Apartment Before People Come Over Anymore (Or Apologize For How Things Look)
If there was anything that I found strange and stressful as a kid, it was having to meticulously clean every time we were having company. I could sense then that it was less a courtesy than it was a performative obligation, one that didn't focus on the joy of sharing a space with people we care about, but in making sure they thought of us as better, more put-together people.
I'm a half-minimalist. I say that because I both keep very little (I only have a box of things, maybe two) but I'm not opposed to having more (hence the half distinction). I believe very strongly in the fact that things clutter our space and energy and mind, and we consume them so mindlessly and rapidly because we are cultured to the consumerist monster-mindset and the more we have has no bearing on how much goodness we feel. In my process of cleaning out almost everything I owned, I began to feel free. So incredibly free. With the exception of my furniture, I could pack a box or two and take off in my Jeep tomorrow. I am not bound to my earthly belongings, and because I no longer take such emotional stock in them, they don't have a hold over me. I have to admit all of that before I get you thinking that my lack of cleaning makes a huge different physically: having so few things basically forces you to always keep them tidy.
My space is delightfully lived in. It is comfortable and honest and it is my home. I don't like dirty, I don't like cluttered, but I am absolutely in love with messy. When I invite people to come over and hang out and have dinner or just have a glass of wine on the couch and catch up, I'm inviting them into a moment in my life, not an image I have to construct. If they don't like it, they don't have to be there.
I would always get this feeling, this very particular and almost sickening feeling, when I would clean manically for a guest's sake. Now, of course, I believe in cleaning the things that need be wiped down and straightened up: the bathroom, the dishes, the gross things that are a matter of hygiene and, you know, living decently. But when I'd rearrange books and set up a table display that wasn't for a particular use or re-arrange things almost so that they'd move through my space collecting ideas about who I was and how they should think of me, it made me feel sick. It reminds me of the smell of bleach, probably because I use it physically, and probably because it's a metaphor, mentally.
I don't clean before people come over anymore. I let them into my life as it happens. I've made leaps and bounds toward creating that life to be naturally less cluttered and intentionally more centered and "me," and I would never want to disturb that flow for what someone else would think. I clean for myself. I clean because I don't want to live in a dirty space, but I also don't want to live in a sterile Ikea setup. I've learned to leave books on the ground or letters on the table or my mug from the morning next to my desk. Not because I care what these things do or don't say about me, but because in lessening what I don't care about and focusing on what I do, I've created a space that I want to feel like mine no matter what. And it seems insulting and strange and disconnected to alter that for the sake of someone else's perception. To let you into my personal, sacred space is to let you into my heart. To let you into my heart is to let you see what's truly there. This is just a little physical metaphor for that.