Meandering through my home and compiling a list of summer projects I'm struck by the notion that I treat my house the same way I treat my 50-something body. Mostly I care about how it feels and how it works -- not how it looks. People who visit comment on how "comfortable" the place is. Comfortable's good. It's not "beautiful" or "stunning." But most days it'll do. But then there are those other days . . . as when I've agreed to host a big party or my in-laws are coming to dinner. I rush around cleaning and think I have it nailed. Then, 2 minutes before the guests arrive, I notice scratches that have always been there and think, "The food had better be good cuz this place is not going to impress..."
Living in the U.S., I absorbed the notion that "bigger is better" and that "newer is definitely better." American couples live in spaces that could accommodate 6 Chinese families! More times than I care to count I've attended functions in homes that looked like they'd never been caressed by a child's muddy hand. Proud owners of spotless mansions would beam as their guests raved about how wonderful their houses (and by extension their selves) were. Before the event even got started I'd wish I were home in my little place that was "not quite up to par."
Then I moved to New Zealand. A colleague with three rambunctious children invited me to her home for "tea." (We call it dinner.) Carefully attired, I found my way to a meandering home behind a "typical" English garden. I was enchanted until we got to the "lounge" (living room). Clutter is putting it mildly. Toys were scattered, drapes askew, old cups sat on the coffee table. Was I here on the wrong day? I felt like I was intruding on their private lives. But no, I was invited to join the family for tea. They saw no need to tidy up. After all, whoM were they trying to impress? Over the years I was invited to many homes and, while host and hostess bustled a good deal with food and entertainment, no one (and no house) showed any sign of the manic cleaning that used to go on in my place getting ready for guests. Eventually I learned to do without it myself, to prepare for guests with a focus on food, comfort, and entertainment.
Mostly, with home and body, I care about how it feels and how it works. But from time-to-time I yield to that old judgmental gaze. I step on the scale or look at a photo and think, "not quite up to par." I see spots on the windows and decide to give them a good cleaning, "Just in case someone drops in." And after that there's nothing to do but shake my head and laugh.
What do you think? Anybody share my neuroses?