To clean, or not to clean?


‘The best way to get ready for house guests’

I remember vividly the time I was chatting happily away on the phone with my Middle Younger Brother Roger when I caught myself and said, “Darn. I’ve gotta go. Wayne’s sister and her squeeze are coming for the weekend, and I have to clean.” At which my wise brother said, “No, no. You’ve got that backwards. You don’t clean before guests come — you clean after they go.

Major crumb-producing loaf. When The Dude’s Bro visits, we go through one of these puppies each day

Well. How smart is my Middle Younger Brother? He was absolutely right. Guests — even beloved, dear, wonderful guests — make messes. Where I am, here on gorgeous Eastern Long Island (the land some folk call “The Hamptons”), guests produce not only crumbs on the countertops and hair in the showers but also sand on the floor. (And often there is sand in those showers too.)

Whattaya gonna do? It’s a sandy place

If you clean before guests come, you’re in that awful Hostess Place where you’re following your guests around with, like, a sponge or a cloth, trying to deal with crumbs and sand and whatnot, thinking “Oooooo…I just vacuumed that floor!” instead of relaxing and enjoying yourself — and them.

Big ole messy family birthday celebration. Trust me, I wasn’t thinking about crumbs

Whereas, if you clean after the guests go, you’re not only less stressed, but you’re — voila! — instantly ready for your next guests. If you’re like me, and own a house in a location that’s House Guest Bait, and actually enjoy having (most) house guests (see my piece “The House Guest Hall of Fame” for some notable exceptions) — your house won’t have time to get dirty before the next batch arrives.

Why, in a two week period in June alone, I was hostess to a bunch of bridge buddies, my chocolate-factory-owning nephew and niece and their three adorable spawn, and The Child’s gorgeous girlfriends. Whew.

Girls just wanna have bread. A new loaf is back in crumb-producing action

So. Thanks to my brother, I’ve developed this system where I clean after my guests go. And I mean immediately after they go. Sometimes the sound of tires crunching on the gravel driveway mingles with the sound of my vacuum cleaner, I’m so eager to get cleaning.

I’m hot to get going with the vacuum and the Soft Scrub because that way I can erase any traces of their visit. See, the older I get, the more nostalgic and sad I feel when guests leave. If I have to pass by an open guest-room door and see a rumpled bed, I catch myself getting all weepy while thinking, “She was just sleeping there a few hours ago, and now I don’t know when I’ll get to see her again. *Sniff*”

A batch of beauties (AKA house guests) after I dropped them at the jitney stop. I raced home and immediately started cleaning

Why, the last time The Child was here, I had her room all spic and span and ready for her next visit before she’d reached the LIE. Probably even before they’d passed out the granola bars and itty-bitty bottles of Evian.

So, in hostessy summery summary, if you’re expecting house guests, don’t waste time cleaning. Save your energy for what’s much much more important — grocery shopping.

Amagansett, New York. July 2019

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15 thoughts on “To clean, or not to clean?

  1. I can relate Alice! As we are situated smack dab between Boulder and Denver, our house is also bait for guests. And I love having them! We do usually go nuts cleaning beforehand, but maybe next time around I’ll put my energy towards grocery shopping and prepping food instead of cleaning.

  2. Ok, here I succumb to silly summer questions. What kind of bread & what are those chocolaty looking thingies w. delicious white insides gooping out – Long Island Whoopee Pies??? No children in sight. That makes sense!

    • Hi Ellen! No summer question is “silly”, especially when it comes to bread and chocolate. The bread is what is called (I believe; I never buy it. My goal is to never ever set foot in a Citarella) a “peasant loaf” or some such. I know that Bill gets there as soon as the door opens in the morning because they only sell one intact loaf. The rest get divvied up into quarters, which is what normal, non-Whitmore people buy. The chocolate goodies were some sort of brownie with creamy filling — actually homemade (again, not by me) by Christine and Russ, who are Aunt Eleanor’s daughter and son-in-law and who, like the girls, are not visible in this photo. Because — yes — those girls were there, and the Life of the Party, I might add! It was a fabulous, messy, time and I wish I could do it every weekend. xoxoxo

    • Whitmores are notorious bread lovers. When The Child was a mere wisp of a thing, she would pound her high-chair tray and demand “bread and water”! (but lest you are too impressed, I didn’t bake that bread; it’s from Citarella)

        • Most definitely massive! My bro-in-law lurks outside Citarella to nab a whole loaf each morning he’s here. Apparently (I have never set foot in Citarella and have no plans to do so) they only sell one great big ole intact loaf per day, and Bill makes sure he is the one who gets it!

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