“By the way, there’s a broken couch upside down in my living room,” I said, as I transported some out-of-town friends from the airport to my home. No one even batted an eye. They asked for the story, of course, because with me, there’s always a story, but no one was surprised or concerned about the broken couch. It’s not that their visit was unexpected – I had seven months’ notice, actually – it’s just that I hadn’t made up my mind what I would do with my broken couch, so there it sat in my living room, greeting people as soon as they came through the door.
My mother is an impeccable housekeeper. Even when I was a kid, you could show up unannounced at her place any day or night and walk into a sparkling home. In this regard, the apple has fallen very far from the tree. My housekeeping is pretty slack, but I’ve never let that stop me from having people over. Of course, when friends come to spend the night, I change the beds and clean the washrooms as a minimum standard. I try to tidy up before someone comes over, but I never fret too much, and with good reason.
There are generally two kinds of friends who might come to my home: good friends, and potential friends. Good friends are the ones who know already me well – like the ones that I picked up from the airport. They have a full understanding of my personality; they love me for my good qualities and have long since learned how to forgive my shortcomings. They certainly didn’t cross the country so they could sit quietly in a perfectly clean house. On the contrary! They came for the fun and adventure, to share joyful memories that they knew we’d make together during their visit – and I didn’t let them down. I gave them the full Maritime experience, from the local music to seafood, from beaches to pretty towns, from ferry rides to the Confederation Bridge. They’ve since gone home, and they might remember the mess of my kitchen, or the fact that my bedroom didn’t look as clean as it did on Instagram, but more likely, they will remember the fun we had.
I once read a book that suggested people’s best qualities often double as their flaws. For example, a person who is fun and spontaneous can sometimes be disorganized and unreliable. A person who is happy with themselves and unconcerned what others think about them may be less sensitive to how their actions affect others. A person who loves heading out for an adventure may not be great at keeping a clean house. I’m not saying this person is me, buuuuuuuut this person is me.
Which brings me to the other kind of friends who might come over: potential friends. These are people I invite to my home in the hopes we will start a new friendship. I adhere to the social norm that a house should be kept a little cleaner the first time someone comes over, but my home is still never “perfect.” Frankly, it’s a good test to see if the friendship is the right fit: if the person is put off by a little mess in my home, they will likely be put off by a little mess in my life. On the other hand, if my potential friend can overlook the scattered toys and that pile of mail that’s been growing for weeks, we have a shot at a real friendship – one where perfection is never the expectation.
“Don’t mind the mess” is a phrase I say the first couple of times someone comes over. What I mean is, “I hope you don’t mind the mess, because it will generally be here.” After that, the phrase is simply implied. I am grateful to have loved ones who have looked beyond the mess and found what will always be there for them: an open door, open arms, and adventure.