If You Drop In Unexpectedly, Don't Expect a Perfectly Clean House

Samantha Kemp-Jackson

How clean is your house? Could it withstand a visit from an unexpected guest?


How clean is your house? Could it pass the test that we all dread: unexpected guests?

I pose the question because a friend of mine relayed an irritating scenario to me that I just had to write about.

A friend of hers had been surprised by the friend’s mother-in-law (MIL) at her home. Apparently the MIL was horrified by the state of the house because the kids had (surprise, surprise) made a mess. The mother-in-law expected the house to be perfectly clean and in good shape at all times. Now here’s the kicker: the MIL insists that other people with kids have perfect houses that don’t look like a bomb went off in every room.

For the record, I think this MIL is insane.

On any given day, many working parents' homes look like both a tornado and tsunami have simultaneously crossed the threshold with a force that only Mother Nature could create. Their kids' various items abound, laundry baskets (full, of course) are plentiful and there may even be unclaimed, half-eaten food remnants in some not-too-opportune places (how did that pizza slice get under the sofa?).

Those with kids - small kids, at that - should be given a pass, full stop. It's impossible to expect them to have a perfectly tidy home. It may be in perfect disarray - that can be guaranteed. And that's as it should be.

Kids = Chaos.

Kids, by definition, mean chaos. We love them, sure, but let’s face it: raising them on any given day, is chaotic, to say the least. There are soccer to shepherd them to, and of course there’s the requisite soiled laundry pile that never seems to get done.In the case of teenagers, welcome to the world of dirty laundry piled up in their rooms and jammed under their beds. Fun! There are playdates and birthday parties, homework assignments yet to be completed and class projects that require the full use of the dining room table. There are dishes in the sink, the dishwasher and, sometimes, in the kids rooms. Yes, the kids’ rooms (see pizza slice details above). Regardless of where these dishes are found, they all need to be cleaned. The fact of the matter is that some level of “mess” is part and parcel of having children. It’s a package deal, folks.

The fact of the matter is that some level of “mess” is part and parcel of having children. It’s a package deal, folks.

STATISTICS: Hours spent per week cleaning


Source: Business Wire

According to the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), a 2018 study showed some surprising facts about time spent and attitudes about cleaning.

2018 ACI National Survey Stats on Cleaning Habits

  • 28 percent clean their homes more than seven hours per week; 26% clean between three and four hours per week; 10 percent clean less than one hour per week
  • 34 percent have concerns about if they are cleaning enough; 31 percent wonder if they are cleaning correctly
  • 74% perform light cleaning most often; 26% deep clean most frequently

VIDEO: 10 Amazing Tips From Tidying Up With Marie Kondo

The cleaning industry is cleaning up quite well - and will continue to do so in years to come

In 2020, the cleaning industry earned over $46 billion USD and is expected to grow by another 10% by 2026. Clearly there are more than a few people who are worried about the state of disorder and mess in their homes.

So back to the unhappy mother-in-law. Perhaps this woman is "old school" and likely she ran her house like an army barracks when her kids were young. Everything had it’s place, and she may very well have raised her kids (and spouse, no doubt) with an iron fist. We all know the type. Nothing less than perfection in housekeeping is acceptable. While this may work on the surface of things (the house is always clean when folks come over, unannounced or not), the reality that belies this type of scenario is less-than-perfect. Because, let’s face it: keeping a house in order at all times takes work, even if you don’t have kids. Add even one little person to the equation and you will gain more than a few grey hairs and your blood pressure will likely skyrocket. It’s just the way things go. Add two or more to the mix and…well, you know the rest. The reality is that parents need a break and a pass from the prying eyes and subsequent criticism of those who feel holier-than-thou. Mother-in-law or not, unless you’re also dealing with the perpetual laundry hellborne of a family of active children, you have no right to comment.

Judge not lest ye be judged. Remember?

So back to this friend of a friend and her prying mother-in-law. Here’s what I would suggest to her:

1) Tell the mother-in-law to back off and mind her own business. Difficult to do, I know, but oh, so cathartic when done.

2) Refuse to answer the door when MIL (or anyone else) drops in unannounced. It’s your house, after all, and you should be the one who dictates when someone crosses the threshold to your comfortably messy house.

3) Enlist the support of her spouse (MIL’s son) in getting the message across that insults and criticisms are not welcome. It is his mother so he should take the lead in speaking to her and supporting his wife. He’s wise to remember that old but very truthful expression: “When mom’s not happy, NO ONE is happy!


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I write about Lifestyle content with a focus on Parenting, Society and Trends. I also talk about how things have changed on my podcast, "Parenting Then and Now."


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