When people are slated to visit, it's a different story. We try to make it look like all the toys and books are neatly organized. We dust and vacuum, clean the fridge, and put the laundry baskets full of clean clothes in the closet so no one will see them. We chuck the mass of disorganized bills, magazines, and other paper pollution into Scott's office and quickly close the door. Voila! We've created a Martha Stewart illusion.
But on a day-to-day basis, I truly do not have time to do anything other than the mere basics. When I do have a moment to myself, after the kids are in bed, and the dinner dishes are clean (or at least in the dishwasher), and most of the toys are put away, the last thing I want to think about is washing the floor, vacuuming, dusting, or organizing the pantry. My moments of peace are too precious to me, now that I have so few of them, to spend them house cleaning. If that makes me Oscar Madison's poor relation, so be it.
When you have two kids in diapers who can wreck a room in mere minutes rendering anything you've done to make it look adult-like and presentable a moot point, a sense of frustration sets in. "Why bother?" you ask. "It's fruitless if they're just going to get jelly all over the spotless floor as soon as they wake up."
Instead, we opt for the as-clean-as-it-absolutely-needs-to-be rule. We need clean clothes, towels, and sheets. We need clean plates and eating surfaces. We certainly can't live with large chunks of food lying around, or anything that will eventually smell or grow exponentially. But the rest of the innocuous stuff can wait, at least until the kids are able to operate a vacuum by themselves.
Many of my relatives—including my great grandmother who is rumored to have not only washed her kitchen floor every day, but had my great grandfather move the fridge so she could clean behind it weekly (mine's never been moved)—would be simply nauseated by my lack of Martha couth. But whoever said that cleanliness is next to godliness couldn't have been a parent of small kids and most certainly never found a perfectly washed pea in the clothes dryer. I thought that pea was pretty godly.