Once upon a time I had a neighbor named Amy. She had kids the same age as mine, so I invited them over one day for a playdate. She had never been to my house before, so I cleaned like my life depended on it. I really wanted to make a good first impression when she came through the door because I was hoping we’d be friends.
When she arrived with her kids for the playdate, she looked around. “Wow!” she said. “Your house is so clean!” And then added, “I’m never inviting you to MY house.”
I thought she was kidding. But over the next 4 years that we were neighbors, she never, ever did. Our friendship never went anywhere, either. My too-clean house had stopped her cold, just as we were starting to get to know each other.
I learned that same lesson again in a different way when a friend invited me to see her new house. It was immaculate and perfectly decorated. I was impressed, considering she had three young children, and wondered how she pulled it off.
At the end of the day she whispered, “I can’t believe I’m showing you this, but check out this room.” She opened a door and waved me in. This is where everything–and I mean everything–from her house had been stashed before my visit. The piles of laundry alone covered the furniture. We had a good laugh about it, and I loved her for that. In my mind, that’s the day we went from being friendly acquaintances to true friends.
Don’t get me wrong–if company is coming, I get the vacuum out. But now I try to remember that I’m not trying to impress visitors with my cleaning skills–I’m trying to make them feel at home, among friends. And nothing does that better than signs of life being lived in a house.
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