Summer of squalor


I accepted a certain amount of savagery in my life when we willingly entered into living in a house without granite countertops, a master suite, attached garage or central air. Clearly, our standards are low.

Nonetheless, I have always held a pretty high standard to housekeeping.

I would no more entertain in a “messy” home than I would willingly go out in public with spinach in my teeth.

The thing is that even without the perks of “modern living” (our home is more “modern living c. 1902”), we enjoy our home very much. The house is still old, but our mindset is new.


As we face the summer of our daughter’s sophomore and son’s junior year, I am forced to face how short-lived and fleeting these summers as a family under one roof really may be.

Already BoyWonder works (so proud!) and his hours mean we see far less of him than we used to.

Girlwonder works hard at sports and a social life, so she too is around far less than she used to be.

A lifelong renovator and just a touch OCD about homemaking, I’ve spent the past 25 years of adulthood planning to do more — to be more — at home “someday” when “everything is perfect.”

I was always going to host pool parties when everything on the patio was “perfect” and “done.” I was going to host chatty girls gathering on our wrap-around porch when it had new paint, porch furniture (matchy matchy!) and everything was “perfect” and “done.”

I was going to encourage my kids to host impromptu sleepovers and marathon game sessions when the house was, repeat after me, “perfect” and “done.” I have been planning to enjoy our life, our property, our surroundings and the sheer joy of immersing myself in friendship and fun when everything was “perfect” and “done.”

I am now embracing the “Summer of Squalor.” I’m no longer going to pass up opportunities for friendship and fun because I haven’t painted the living room or run the vacuum cleaner.

I’m letting go of “perfect.”


Last night, a friend called to say she was stopping by and would enjoy a glass of wine on the porch when she came. I had four hours’ notice.

For the first time in possibly forever, I didn’t run around cleaning up prior to her arrival. I didn’t hide all the laundry — clean and otherwise.

I didn’t fling shoes into closets, sweep mail into bins, swish bleach through the sinks and spray the rooms copiously with the chemical scent of Fresh Linen or flowers and fruit.

What I did was relax. I kicked back on the porch with a good book (OK, it was my iPhone and social media, but I do love me some Pinterest).

I let BoyWonder relax after work instead of jumping on him about shoes (by the door), lunchboxes (on the counter), and laundry (pretty much everywhere).

GirlWonder was doing something girly that involved singing out loud. I chose not to interrupt that to have her unload the dishwasher.

Both children left soon after on a mini-adventure with a friend without my admonitions about chores ringing in their ears.

Our friends arrived and made themselves comfortable on our far-from-perfect furniture on our very imperfect porch. They marveled at the space (they’ve never sat on it before because it’s not “done.”)

We had fresh drinks and fresher conversation and a perfect evening in a far-from-perfect environment. When my friend had to use our bathroom, I panicked, apologizing for the mess.

She laughed and said our being so “real” made her feel better about herself.

What a freeing idea. Letting our friends see us as we really live. Isn’t that what friends are for?

You’re welcome.

The Summer of Squalor doesn’t mean we are going to wallow in filth. We still have standards — sanitary is a definite goal.

What it does mean is we will enjoy living where we are right now.

This summer I challenge us all to embrace the Summer of Squalor. Make messes — be they bubbles, berries or good old brown earth. Let the laundry wait, the dishes sit, and the friends come over anyway. We are no longer going to aim for “perfect.”

Let go of that standard.

We aren’t going to wait to enjoy our homes and open them to friends until that momentous occasion when everything is “done.”

In truth? That time is never. Life is not perfect and if you’re lucky, it’s not “done.”

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