Cleaning for Visitors

My parents are flying in today, and I couldn’t be more excited. I love having my parents come to stay. When my kids were little, my parents coming meant that Nana and Papa were also coming, and they were bringing gifts, clothes and distraction.

They were babysitters, advisors, and fun friends all rolled into one. My parents coming meant that my husband could actually get a good night’s sleep after working as a musician until 3 am. It also meant that my husband and I could pretend we were a young, dating couple off on a fling for an entire weekend.

Nowadays, my kids are older, and only one still lives at home with us. Having my parents visit now means good conversation for hours on the patio. It means my daughter can fill up on Nana’s and Papa’s hugs and adoration. It means doing some fun, touristy things like whale-watching and breakfast on the beach.

The other thing I really like about having my parents come to stay is that I become highly motivated all of a sudden to clean my house.

Normally, cleaning is not one of my top ten favorite activities. It’s not even in my top fifty, quite frankly. It’s somewhere between being dragged by horses and doing my taxes, neither of which I even have to do, thankfully.

If cleaning involved more sitting and more snacks, I’d probably enjoy it a lot more. But it doesn’t, so I usually spend most of my weekend lamenting the state of my house and the hour I have left cleaning exactly one toilet. This attitude has infected my whole family, so I’m usually quite alone in my weekend cleaning endeavors.

But when my parents are due to arrive, I realize that not everyone wants to live in our current state of affairs, and I start noticing all the ‘little’ things I’ve let go for months.

Like the crowded, dusty bookshelves (why is everything moldy and dusty at the same time in the tropics?). Like the thumbprint-y windows. Like the coffee-ringed outdoor patio furniture.

And suddenly, I become a really decent cleaner, and as I tick things off the list, I kind of start enjoying it. Because suddenly my house becomes a cozy home, with things in a place where I can find them and my cute knick knacks dust-free and visible.

I start thinking to myself, why don’t I do this all the time? This is kind of fun! This is how I want to live! I should take pictures and send them to some sort of interior design magazine!

Well. I guess ‘Architectural Digest’ might be a bridge too far since I haven’t seen many featured homes with mismatched furniture and a ripped afghan on the sofa (why use the nice one when the dogs are going to chew it). But you get the idea.

My house has become kind of nice because I’ve set aside the time to pay attention to how the end result makes me feel – calm, organized, and comfortable.

But let me lay this out for you – in exactly twenty-four hours, the TV furniture is going to be covered in a layer of dust (I really don’t understand this), the stove is going to have melted cheese stuck to the burner, and my carefully folded towels are going to be lost in my daughter’s room. And my motivation is going to take a beating.

But you know what? That’s actually ok, because as I told you before, my parents are coming to visit, and that’s another thing I love about that – my mom loves to clean. It’s definitely not the most important thing I enjoy about their visit. It’s not even in the top fifty.

The best part of their visit will always be the conversation, the connection, and the love. But I don’t mind the assistance as I continue my perplexing war on mold and dust.


  • Leza Warkentin

    I have been living and teaching in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, since the turn of the century. I am a Canadian with a musician-Mexican husband and two Mexican-Canadian patas saladas who are growing up way too fast.

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