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Mendo Lake Family Life

 A Little Dirt Won’t Hurt

By Meredith Ethington

The holidays bring visitors and that means getting out the mop and the vacuum cleaner. But just how clean does the house have to be? Refer to my handy guide for help:

The Less than 24-Hour Notice Guest If someone is not nice enough to give you 24-hours notice, immediately lower your standards. Sure, pull out a set of clean sheets, but it’s OK to use the ones that are a little scratchy in the middle. Drop hints like, “Oh if you had let me know you were coming, I would have had my 3,000 thread-count sheets clean for you.” This may help avoid future sudden drop-ins.

The Brother Brothers don’t care; they are fine with a pillow and a blanket. If your brother is married with children, then he will just be glad a kid is not stepping on his face at 6:30 a.m. Clorox wipes in the bathroom and a few squirts of Febreeze are about all that’s required.

The Sister Now, in general, I would say that no cleaning is required whatsoever if you are close with your sister. However, we know that sisters do secretly judge each other’s cleanliness, so you will probably want to go almost all-out anyway. Give the bathroom a proper washing and make sure the microwave is splatter-less, but don’t worry about the smudges on the windows. In the end, you know she’ll help you clean your stove if necessary, and she will, no matter what, come back. While she’s there, you’ll secretly wish you were allowed a sister-wife.

The Childhood Friend You Haven’t Seen in Years Even though you know she won’t judge you because she’s seen you at your worst (e.g. crying at that the New Kids on the Block concert), you’ll want to clean anyway. But despite your best efforts, you will still find yourself immediately confessing when she arrives, “I ran out of time to mop the floors!” Luckily, she’ll hug you and let you know that she does not care at all, and you’ll know she’s telling you the truth.

The Mothers This, the highest level of cleaning, is required when your mother or mother-in-law is coming to stay with you. You must wipe smudges off of windows, clean baseboards, and vacuum up those corner cobwebs that frankly you had never even noticed before. Most likely, you will fall over from exhaustion before you get to actually achieve the level of cleaning you’d like. It is, after all, totally out of the norm for you to check every surface for fingerprints. Since it’s impossible to actually finish everything you suddenly see through new eyes (i.e. hers) you will pray the entire time she’s there that she never has to lift up a couch cushion or look under a bed for anything.

There are definitely more scenarios to consider, such as the visit from a friend of a friend or from a cousin. The best advice I can give is this: As soon as would-be-guests utter the words, “I’m going to be in town” blurt out, “Oh I know the best hotel just a mile from my house.” Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

Meredith Ethington is the author of the parenting blog Perfection Pending ( and the book Mom Life: Perfection Pending.