Dirty House Friends


“Company’s coming!”

As a child, I knew what that meant. My mom would put us to work picking up clutter, vacuuming the carpet, and cleaning the kitchen, while she ran to the pantry to survey our stores and choose ingredients for a meal worthy of visiting dignitaries. The house took on a shine that it never wore when it was just the five of us, and we gathered around the table to marvel at the pristine tablecloth and the regal centerpiece looking like some foreign piece of art sitting there, where, on normal days, we folded laundry, did homework, and played with Legos.

Now, as an adult, I also love to invite people over for dinner, and the ritual is much the same. I press Paul and the kids into service to clean the apartment from stem to stern, trying to see it through a stranger’s eyes and discovering dirt in places I usually overlook, like on the baseboards and inside the stove’s fume hood. I scrub the toilet, sweep the floors, eradicate the rapidly reproducing dust bunny population, clean the tub (as if dinner guests are going to take a shower while they’re here), and order all the kids’ toys confined to their room for the duration. I even light candles to make it smell as if I bake.

Then, since I used up all my time cleaning instead of cooking, we order pizza. But that’s another post.

The point is that while I enjoy special occasions and inviting new friends and acquaintances over to showcase my masterful housekeeping and pizza ordering skills, when it comes to socializing, my favorite moments are those I spend with my Dirty House Friends.

Dirty House Friends are the ones you call up on a whim to ask, “What are you doing? Come over and watch Phantom of the Opera with me!” And they come, despite the fact that you’ve made them watch Phantom of the Opera six times already (rewinding all the good parts with Gerard Butler.) They sit on the couch next to your unfolded laundry with their feet resting on the wooden blocks and puzzle pieces and Happy Meal toys that are scattered around the living room like shrapnel from an explosion in Santa’s workshop, and they don’t see a thing. You never say “Sorry about the mess!” to a Dirty House Friend, because they don’t care, and when you’re with them, neither do you.

Dirty House Friends let you glimpse their clutter, too. I always rejoice when a friendship crosses the boundary of company clean into the intimacy of Dirty House-ness. When I walk, invited, into a friend’s house to see crusty dishes in the sink and stacks of papers scattered over the dining room table, I smile inwardly, knowing that I have stepped into the inner sanctum of my friend’s genuine living space, her real and disheveled and authentic life.

And that’s what I love most about Dirty House Friends. A friend who’s not put off by my messy house won’t be scared away by my messy life. A friend like that can take it when you lose your keys, lose your temper, lose your mind. A friend like that will be around when you’ve really screwed up, passing over recriminations in favor of a much needed hug and some help in picking up the pieces, knowing that you’ll be there when the pieces are hers. A Dirty House Friend won’t think you’re a bad mom when you drop the kids off at her house just to get an hour or two alone. She isn’t freaked out when you burst into tears, and the word “overshare” doesn’t apply to her. She’ll take you seriously when you tell her to call anytime, and the resulting conversations will cover everything from peanut butter brands to deep spiritual struggles.

A Dirty House Friend sees the clutter in your home, in your mind, and in your life, and loves it all. Loves you, the you that lies beyond your Yankee candles and your clean baseboards.

So if you’re thinking of inviting me over, do me a favor. Don’t bother to clean. Let’s just clear a space in the mess, pull up some chairs, order pizza, and talk.

Let the dust bunnies live to see another day.


*Dedicated to my own dear Dirty House Friends. You are such a blessing to me!

21 responses »

  1. Pingback: My Personal “Keep Me Up To Date On The Top News” blog » Dirty House Friends

  2. Kat – I loved this post!!! Dirty House Friends really are the zest of life and if you don’t have at least one of them, then you miss out πŸ™‚ You would feel right at home in this house, and I hope that if you ever wander down to Texas, you’ll give me a call!!!

    As for the ‘call to service’, anytime I vacuum, my kiddos always ask me who is coming over. I hate that!

  3. I love how you described it…Dirty House Friend is the perfect title for a real, honest to goodness, love you like you are friend.

    And I must say… I LOVE the new site. The picture at the top is just perfect! Kudos to you!

  4. What a perfect description of the best kind of friends. It makes me feel more a part of humanity to know that I am not the only person with a dirty stove hood and dusty baseboards.

  5. As I become older (and tireder…) I find I like to hang with the dirty house friends exclusively because the few “clean house friends” that showed up could never bring themselves to transcend into dirty house friends and they require too much work to maintain.

    A random clean house friend will unwittingly wander by occasionally, but then run screaming for the door and the next time I invite them to a coffee shop or something. Or not at all. Life’s too short.

  6. This post made me cry. (I’m emotional this week, but that’s another story.) I don’t have any Dirty House Friends. Mostly because I won’t allow anyone to come over when my house isn’t perfect. And my house is rarely perfect – so I just don’t have people over all that often. It’s so sad. Two of bridesmaids – my bridesmaids, my bestest friends, who I love more than I can even begin explain – have never seen my house. Ever. So sad. 😦 I’m in the process of “working on it”… moving to SF is helping (I think)… more people around… more opportunity for unexpected guests… although the last two that came over I sent to a bar on the corner because I couldn’t bring myself to let them in the front door. Ugh. We’ll see how it goes.

  7. I have two “dirty house friends” and it is so great to be able to relax and not worry about the dust and clutter when they pop over unexpectedly. I’m more relaxed these days about my house than I was when you all lived here. Kudos to me, right? πŸ™‚ Great post.

  8. I am like Courtney, no Dirty House Friends here though that sounds heavenly. My husband and I like to joke that perhaps we should tell ourselves guests are coming just so we’ll keep the house perfect more often. Or I just need to dump my Martha Stewart Friends. πŸ™‚

  9. What a GREAT post…….. I have many ‘dirty house mates’…… cos I live in organised mess with 4 sons, cats, a chicken that comes in the house and which now everyone just accepts as part of his home…….

    Love me, love me mess πŸ™‚


  10. What a GREAT post…….. I have many dirty house mates……. living here with 4 sons, cats, retiles, and Janet our Chicken which just comes in the house and is now accepted as normal by my maties….. its clean but messy, and my maties love me for what I am…… its organised mess though LOL

    Love me love me mess…..


  11. I am having dirty house friend withdrawal! I had several dirty house friends, when living in Utah. We lived for those stolen moments of sharing an entire key lime pie amongst cluttered toys and laundry, sharing the last bit of chocolate and venting about the unfairness of life and the ultimate fabric softener.

    Ahhh…I miss those days.

  12. Katrina, I like how you compare a dirty house to a messy life. I adore my friends who are willing to enter the battle with me day in and day out. It’s much more difficult to allow others love you if you think you need to be perfect first. Once I let that go life got much better.

  13. I stumbled upon your blog through nablopomo Randomizer! And I LOVE it!! Your description here is perfect….like you lived in my house when I was growing up….ohh how I remember having to help my mom get the place all spiffed up!! And, I especially love the Dirty House Friends who will devour an entire chocolate cake with me…for no reason at all!

  14. so funny, i remember being in my twenties, we will call them 2’s and all the energy of a child, yearning to be like mom, clean and organized, beds made, perfectly, and so on, now after a bizzillion kids dogs birds hampsters, bunnies, kids, friends, broken toys etc, and in my 4’s i am tired.. i am a good mom i love my home, its not mess that cant be cleaned up in a matter of 1/ hour, but damn, 8 a.m dirty house friend shows up with donut and coffee in her robe after dropping off kids to school, i will push the laundry basket aside, put on the coffee put the damn dogs out, turn down the t.v wipe off the crumbs from breakfast table and sit down and enjoy that ime, it does not happen enuff and you will see, how much lighter your load feels. its refreshing to just relax like when we were teens, just enjoy life a little, forget the background, enjoy what you have for that moment, blieve me, it will be there waiting when she leaves!

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