We recently had lunch at the home of a friend. When we entered she told us that we didn't need to take off our shoes, because her floor wasn't very clean. She said this matter-of-factly, without a hint of embarrassment or apology. When we still removed them because we felt awkward about wearing shoes inside, she suggested that we don houseslippers. We did, and she immediately gave us a tour of her house, making us feel at home. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch while our kids and her 5-year-old son played inside and out in the expansive yard.
The house and grounds boasted two cats, three kittens, one dog, a pen of chickens, and two flocks of geese, including a bunch of goslings. After we finished eating, our hostess showed us her chickens and collected ten eggs to send home with us, then she walked us to her vegetable garden, where she harvested some radishes and green onions for us. It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon, and we didn't mind her dirty floors one bit. As we were leaving, she said something that has stuck in my mind.We were about to have our kids clean up the toys that they had been playing with, and she stopped us, saying that her son would be playing with them anyway, so why bother to pick them up? Then she explained that she wasn't a very good housekeeper because her husband always says, "The house is for people, not people for the house."
I'm still mulling over those words and gleaning wisdom from them. What is the point of a spotless house if the housekeeper is so preoccupied with keeping it that way that she creates an unpleasant atmosphere for the people who live in the house, losing her temper over juice spilled on the floor instead of reassuring the child who spilled it? What is the point of a sparkling guest bathroom if the hostess is so flustered from last-minute cleaning that she can't relax with her guests and make them feel truly welcomed?
The house is for people, not people for the house.
I think I'll make it my new housekeeping motto.
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