Before the snow started flying on Sunday, I found myself home alone for the first time in about a year. Totally alone. My wife, Emily, was in New York City being a fancy grown up with a job, and my son, Macklin, was enjoying his first sleepover at the lake with grandma and grandpa. It was 3:30 p.m. on a Friday and I was entirely unencumbered. Yet, all I could think about was cleaning the house. So that’s what I did from Friday afternoon to dinner time Saturday, and it was glorious.
Was there a part of me that wanted to go out, find some fun and cab it home? Of course. But that part of me tends to resemble a worthless pile of garbage the next day, and considering that’s what my house currently looked like, I allowed my better judgement to win out. Plus, it’s already been the “quadruple stomach flu” winter for me, so I’ve had my fill of unproductive couch time.
As a stay-at-home parent, the house is my office, and to be a productive father and round-the-clock lifesaver, I really do need an organized office. Mack and I have things to do and places to be—knowing exactly where everything is (and that it’s fully stocked) saves a bunch of time and makes the days run smoothly. We’ve never really been late for anything, and I contribute that entirely to staying organized.
There’s also something relaxing about cleaning, especially when you’re alone. I love my family, but they do tend to get in the way when I just want to lose myself for a couple hours deep cleaning the carpets while listening to conspiracy theory podcasts. The boy’s too young to get it, and Emily’s the fun parent who makes it possible for me to indulge in my cleaning fantasies by allowing Mack to really explore his inner child… all over the place.
The craziest thing I did—that I’ll admit to publicly—during my 24 hour cleaning binge was increase my soda intake to three cans from my usual zero. The sugar high proved helpful when my back started to hurt after folding that third load of laundry. When doubt began to creep in that maybe I wouldn’t get everything done in time, I cracked open a third can of Coca-Cola and rode that 40-gram sugar wave right on through to midnight… or maybe it was 9 p.m. I honestly don’t recall. I was definitely “crazy crazy” tired, as we call Mack when he starts to lose his feel for three-dimensional space, and the fumes from all the cleaning products were definitely taking their toll on at least three of my senses.
By 5 p.m. Saturday when Mack rolled back into town with my parents, the entire house was spotless. Well, except for our actual office, but nobody ever goes in there. I had vacuumed everywhere, shampooed the upstairs carpet, mopped the hardwood, dusted everything—including the furniture—taken out the recycling, disinfected the bathrooms, run through five loads of laundry and two loads of dishes. If you’re keeping score, I won the weekend.
This life I’m leading now is quite wonderful, though totally unrecognizable to my younger self. I was rarely the last one up at parties and most always the voice of reason within my group of friends, but I also knew quite well how to have a good time. I’d say that’s still an accurate description, but my definition of a good time has indeed changed. As a parent, a good time means working ahead so the coming week brings as few surprises as possible.