This sounds crazy, right? When we’re kiddos, the cleanup obligation is driven into our brains. When we play at a friend’s house, we have to help clean up before we go. Those are the rules. Thirty years later, as guests, we still feel obligated to help clean up, only now instead of Barbie dolls and LEGOs, it’s dinner plates and White Claw cans. (If you’re at my house, that’s what it is anyway, maybe for some of you who are living right it’s dinner plates and wine glasses, but either way, you get the point.) Though the obligatory cleanup is what we’re told is the “polite” thing to do, I’d like to argue that it’s actually really rude.
I am admittedly a self-diagnosed borderline OCD personality when it comes to the cleanliness and organization of my home. I also like routine and bedtimes for my kids. I know. I’m a real ball of fun. My point is that when it comes to cleaning up after an afternoon/evening of kids playing hard and cooking out and destroying the kitchen, no one will clean up as efficiently as I will and there is a method to my every madness.
Take for example, my kids’ playroom. A few months ago, I spent an entire Saturday organizing their toys and putting things in labeled bins. I use these bins to keep my sanity with 30,000 LOL Surprize pieces of garbage that my girls cannot live without, as well as to teach my 2 and 4-year-old how to sort things. They get it. My method works. As a guest, when you “help” by throwing whatever random object on the floor into the closest plastic box, it screws up the whole system. If their stuff isn’t where I know it should be, how in the hell will I ever find the tiny plastic poodle that my 2-year-old will not sleep without? Now I have to search for it while listening to an inevitable meltdown. Hard pass.
When it comes to cleaning up my kitchen… just don’t. First and foremost, usually, when it’s cleanup time my 2-year-old is asleep. Pots and pans being clanged around by someone who doesn’t know the weirdness of my kitchen and has likely had several cocktails are not conducive to keeping her that way. I’ll be damned if I want to spend another hour doing round two of bedtime when my little one wakes up from all this racket when I myself am likely ready to put myself to bed.
Not to mention little oddball facts like my dishwasher is a monumental piece of garbage and has to be loaded a certain way so that it actually cleans dishes. Or that we recycle, and it makes me absolutely cringe to see beer soda cans thrown in the trash. It just makes more sense in our world to do kitchen cleanup in the morning, so although you’ve likely enjoyed a gourmet feast of chips and cheese dip and a plate of chicken wings during your visit, do not feel like you have to clean up. I mean take your plate to the kitchen? Yes, sure. But get in there with yellow rubber gloves and a scrub brush? No.
I realize that there are people who will completely disagree with what I’m saying here, and that’s fine. But know this. If you are a guest who feels obligated to clean up after hanging at someone else’s home, there is a distinct difference between a host who says, “Aw, you don’t have to do that!” as they prop their feet up on the coffee table and unbutton their top pants button, and someone who nervously scurries around behind you saying, “No really, please don’t! I got it!” If you’re a guest in someone’s home doing the obligatory cleanup, and you hear the latter, get your butt in your car, go home to your sparkling house, and enjoy the fact that today the mess isn’t yours to clean up. OCD hosts like me will thank you.