I flat-out PANIC! I seriously struggle with this. In my dreams my home would be a revolving door with friends and family over all the time. But the reality is we rarely have company other than family over. The issue is all me. (Wow, this is kind of a soul-bearing week, I hope you don’t mind.)
I get super stressed about cleaning the house when people come over. It has caused arguments in the past. I get so worked up, sometimes I am no fun to be around by the time company gets here. I have this standard of perfection I try to keep up when anyone comes over. It is daunting and debilitating. It didn’t used to be as bad…when I had a house half the size and no kids.
My problem may be aggravated by blogging. Knowing people have seen my home in photographs, staged in the best natural light, I don’t want my house to be a let down when they see it in real life. Enter major panic attack when Jen raided my house (seriously, what was I worried about, she was so sweet). And, so often with blogging I focus all my attention on cleaning and staging a specific area of my home for photographs, that I completely neglect the rest of the house. My family room may look fabulous while dirty dishes are piled in the sink and clothes to be folded and put away are bulging out of the laundry room. (Thank heavens for depth of field and being able to blur those rooms in the distance in photographs.)
I have included having more company in my yearly goals. It is one goal I continue to work at. I am pretty comfortable with my close family coming over on short-notice. I don’t feel the need to frantically clean for them. I used to, but I have gotten over it.
For friends, extended family, neighbors, and play dates I still put undue pressure on myself to have a perfectly clean house. Have I mentioned with the basement our house is a little over 4,000 sq ft? Yeah, the best thing I probably could do for myself is move to a much smaller house that would be easier to maintain. But, we love our house. And if I am honest, my dream of having a perfectly clean house all the time where friends and family are free to drop by unannounced includes a big house…you know with space for all those frequent visitors.
Reducing Stress When Company is Coming Over
Admitting I had this problem was the first step to making it better. Sadly, it took a few pre-company cleaning blitz blowups right before expected company for me to come to my senses. I needed to change some behaviors to lessen my stress.
The first big thing I did was communicate. My hubby wanted to help more than I knew, but he did not know what he could do to reduce my stress. Now, I tell him the top areas I feel stressed about and he helps me clean them. He has been so great that when I mention we have company coming he starts cleaning things here and there a few days ahead of time.
The second biggest stress reducer has been leaving adequate time. No last-minute hurried cleaning blitzes. Recently when my BFF and beautiful bridesmaid, came to visit, I juggled my whole work schedule to leave an entire day to deep clean the house. They hadn’t been over in two years and I knew they’d like a recent tour of all the changes. I didn’t even end up cleaning the entire day, but knowing I had the time if I needed it helped immensely. No stress.
Third, prioritizing is so important. I have come to grips with the fact I can’t do it all and don’t need to. By prioritizing what must be cleaned first, I make sure the biggest trouble spots are always addressed. Kitchens and baths are at the top of my list. Dirty kitchen counters and sloppy bathrooms are the most cringe-worthy to me. For sanitary reasons I feel these should always be clean (everyday, company or not). Right up there on our list is vacuuming…our border collie/sheltie mix is a big shedder. Black dog hair on light carpet is maddening to me. Vacuuming is the one chore that always instantly makes our home feel cleaner. I allow myself to be happy if I get these three trouble spots taken care of before the doorbell rings.
Another really important technique for me is limiting where I clean. For example, if we are having company for a BBQ, I focus my cleaning on the kitchen and adjacent guest bath, knowing we will be hanging out mostly on the deck. Now, this has backfired on me in the past. When I hosted my SILs baby shower, I reduced my cleaning anxiety by limiting myself to cleaning the first floor only where I would be hosting guests. Well, my mom (well-intentioned and unknowingly) started taking extended family on tours of the upstairs, which I did not clean at all…gah!
That brings me to my next tip. Don’t be afraid to set expectations. By welcoming guests and letting them know we will be dining in the kitchen, politely tells them to go where I want and bypass the dining room where I might have skipped dusting. This tip is also really important for play dates. We have toys in the living room, our upstairs loft, and now the basement playroom….all over the house. My kids without any direction will take their friends all over the place. I set boundaries with my kids about where we will play before guests arrive, so they clearly know if I don’t want to take guests upstairs.
I started batching visits. This one is going to sound a bit crazy but it totally works for me. When I know I am going to do a big cleaning blitz for company, I try to schedule other people to come over in the following days. For example, the week the newspaper came to interview me (which I definitely cleaned for), I also scheduled a play date and company for dinner. I ended up only cleaning once, but had visitors three times in a few short days.
The single most important thing we try to do to keep my anxiety at bay is regular cleaning. Honestly, we suck at it. We get pretty lazy about the chores when we don’t have company on the schedule. There are so many other things we would rather be doing on the weekend. But since we are both stressed by uncleanliness, whether we have company coming or not, we are coming around to regular cleaning. Setting up our cleaning command center was the first step. Taking an hour on Saturday to clean together and get the kids involves helps a lot. Then, we get to enjoy a clean house for the weekend and we are ready for company.
Please tell me I am not the only one with this anxiety?! Or maybe I am, and if so writing an entire blog post about this clearly shows I think about this way too much.