Organize This, Real Simple!

Carla: If you aren’t familiar with Andy Crouch and his book/blog Culture Making, well you should be. Today, he links to a short discussion of a documentary I hope we all get to see one day. It’s called Koolhaus Houselife.

The premise of the documentary is to see what it’s like to actually live in a fancy-pants house, in this case a house designed by “starchitect” Rem Koolhaus. The movie apparently spends a significant amount of time with Ms. Acedo, the woman who cleans this house, which was clearly not designed with vacuum cleaners in mind. The movie isn’t just taking a peek inside a famous house, it’s exploring what happens when art meets dust.

And that makes me happy.

Last summer, my sweet eldest child volunteered to bring the class tortoises home for part of the summer. With them came a 6-foot-long glass tank, two big bags of Timothy Hay, plastic tub, a heat lamp, a big orange extension cord, and power strip. The tank, which we’d thought would be upstairs, hidden away from the world, was so heavy we couldn’t get it past the dining room. So that’s where it stayed for 6 weeks. The whole house smelled like hay–and not in a sweet, summery, fresh-mown sense. Every day I’d look at that huge tank and think, Funny how you never see those in the house porn catalogs.

I live in a lovely house with wood floors and big windows and a fireplace. When you walk in, the first thing that hits you is the smell that, as far as I can tell, is a combination of the previous owners’ 50 years of smoking in the house, their cats, our cats, our dog, wet pull-ups, and something rotting that I haven’t found yet. If you want to sit down, you need to find a place with no dog hair or soccer gear or Polly Pockets on it–and good luck with that. The fireplace doesn’t work, the windows are drafty and only a few of them open, and the wood floors are coated in a fine layer of dog hair and dust that seems to come right back out of the vacuum as soon as I’m done cleaning.

Believe me, these are not complaints. This is our home and we are grateful for it and beyond happy to be in it. But it’s also a real house, not a showplace, and we really live in it: the kids, the dog, the cats, the tortoises (well, they’ve moved on but I’m pretty sure there are some mice who have taken their place somewhere in the basement), a messy man, and a woman who is still trying to live in the real world and not some magazine spread. I have to tell myself this every single day.

I can’t wait to see Koohaus Houselife if only to pay my respects to the woman who spends her days living in the place where fantasy collides with reality. I have a feeling she has a lot to teach me.

Caryn: You know, many, many people reading this might be afraid to come and stay at your house next weekend. But me? I just know that I’ll feel right at home. Nothing—and I mean nothing—of late makes me happier than people who live in houses that get messy, who recline on couches strewn with Polly Pockets, and walk across floors with a nice carpet of dog hair.

As is so often the theme here at the Rev: it just feels so good to know I’m not alone. I too live in a darling (though not fancy pants) home. Nice place. Nice town. Nice big yard. A big front stoop-porch hybrid that I love.

But my life does sort of feel like the place where art and dust meet. Or, actually, where art (the art of living, raising children, and writing) meets mess. Hmmmm….. I’m wondering what all this might mean. And I’m thinking that even if I lived in a fancy pants (or “shiney” as my daughter calls them) house and had a housekeeper, it’d somehow be crazy and messy and chaotic. Because that’s kind of who we are.

But, yes, a movie about where art meets dust? I’m in. I did see Andy’s tweet this morning and was initrigued. Of course, now, I also think he should do a bit on the Mommy Revolution for Culture Making. Because, really, the hand that rocks the cradle makes the culture. Isn’t that what they say?

Can’t wait to smell your house—see if I can help you locate that rotten something—next weekend at Christanity21!! The Mommy Revolution dinner is taking shape.

Carla: Seriously! Who is nurturing all those culture-makers? Who is letting the future starchitects mess up our lovely houses with their couch-cushion forts and Barbie houses? Who is letting the future chefs and scientists and inventors create concoctions in the kitchen and the yard and the basement even if it means they use all the chocolate chips?

I love that you just made a post that was essentially me crabbing about my house into a treatise on motherhood as the foundation of society. Nicely done.

And I promise I’ll clean the house before you come.


9 responses to this post.

  1. Carla, I hope you haven’t changed that really awesome bathroom you have!


  2. Posted by Carla on October 1, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    Not even a little.


  3. Hi Carla and Caryn –

    This is marvelous. Years ago Catherine and I decided it was possible to have three of the following four, but not all four: be involved parents, do great work, have good friends, and have a clean house. We ditched the clean house. 🙂 Although I will say, as the kids have gotten older (12 and 9 now) the clean house is within reach too, thanks to their generally cheerful help!


  4. Posted by Heather on October 5, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Caryn – what is this MoRev dinner you speak of?

    Carla – the smell you speak of is not one bit offensive, just so you know.


  5. Posted by Carla on October 5, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Heather, that’s good to know. I smell it every time I come in the house, but then again I do have bionic powers of smell.

    We are figuring out when to have a MoRev confab during Xianty 21. Thinking Saturday dinner/drinks.


  6. –Andy: Thank you. I think we can all agree that you can join the Dude as an honorary male member of the Mommy Revolution. I’m sure you’ll add this to your bio. You should. Carries a lot of cache.

    –Heather: What Carla said. Stay tuned.

    –Carla, you have the spiritual gift of findiing earring backs. I think of this every time I lose mine! And have prayed for the gift and now share it.


  7. Posted by Carla on October 7, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    I do have that spiritual gift. I can also untangle necklaces.


  8. This post has struck a chord with me. I wasn’t willing to admit it, or maybe I just didn’t realize it, until yesterday or today, but I am struggling with trying to keep up with the house porn catalogs (I love that phrase and will use it again!). I like a neat house, I really do. But I feel I am incapable of having one. I don’t know how to organize anything!! Somewhere between emptying a bin of junk and putting it into piles, I get lost and need my husband to come save me from my confusion over what is to be kept and what should be tossed. Translate that to the every day life of laundry, dishes, groceries, mail, and various activities and our house is a mess! The mess overwhelms me so I don’t care for it which makes a bigger mess and pretty soon I want to just sit in the middle of it all and cry.

    It helps to hear others talk of their messes. Yet I still feel that I am the only one dealing with this. I mean my neighbors actually sweep the sidewalks and yards outside of their apartments! I just can’t keep up with that!!

    So thanks for telling me I’m not alone in the mess. And thanks for actually making the mess sound like a positive thing. I needed that.


  9. Posted by Kim on October 8, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    I joke that I have the spiritual gift of encouragement — I set the housekeeping bar low so that other moms come to my house and are “encouraged” that at least they aren’t as messy as me.

    But seriously, I wish I could keep it tidier. The little messes don’t bother me that much and then I all of the sudden realize that the little messes have turned into a BIG GIGANTIC mess and then I’m completely overwhelmed. Since I have meetings with clients in my house, I also feel the pressure to get my house spotless, artsy and inviting — all at the same time. In general the house is what falls off of that list that Andy mentioned, but when I have to get the house in “shape” then I feel like it’s “involved parent” that ends up taking the backseat.


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