This picture of the living room doesn't do the messiness justice; my pride prevented showing a truer representation. I snapped it early this morning when it was in a more or less pristine state. Just a bunch of cars around and, in the background, the cheerful new storage bucket I recently bought to contain all the vehiculage. (The storage bucket is made of burlap, and somehow, in the store, it had a folk-arty, Early Americana vibe I found appealing. Now I'm thinking it looks like a tacky leftover from a 4th of July sale.)
We are four people (my husband, son, me, my twin sister) living in 1296 square feet. For four, that's a small space, relatively speaking. Unless one uses the Third World Hut Standard.
Ever have the Third World Hut Standard wielded against you by an earnest friend? It confers an exhilarating breath of Sweet Perspective -- for approximately four-and-a-half seconds. After that, it's as obnoxious as dog poop wedged in your espadrille fibers.
"Don't complain about having closets the size of foxholes. If you lived in a Third World Hut, you wouldn't have any closets at all."
"You may feel cramped, but if you lived in a Third World Hut, you'd also have all your relatives living with you. In one room."
"Americans are so spoiled. If you lived in a Third World Hut, you'd be happy just to be alive."
My Third World Hut slinger happened to live in a house twice the size of mine. Add hypocrisy to smugness.
OK, so our house resides somewhere between hut status and middle-class breathability. And, as every stay-at-home mom who ever popped a valium (or tinctured up the roots of her Valerian plant--this is Asheville, after all) knows, if the kids are home most of the time, the house will look like a trash factory all of the time. It's physics: any attempt to corral clutter, mop a floor, scrub the filmy bathroom sink, only lasts for seconds. Seconds! Even if you don't actually see a small person drip a popsicle on the couch or smear toothpaste on a wall, the house will re-dirty itself anyway, just from habit. The house is used to the abuse; it's comfortable being a victim.
The thing is, if you have more than one kid, people will forgive you a messy house. "Look at all she has to keep track of!" But I'm here to testify that you don't need more than one child to turn a hut into a sty. It's not about the number of messmakers; the phenomenon is more deeply organic than that. A little person is an adorable crucible of chaos. And as with any bomb, it takes only one.
Who's with me?