Argg! Martha Stewart's Coming Over!

by Katy on December 18, 2008 · 9 comments


Martha Stewart

I really don’t like cleaning. 

I don’t like tidying up, I don’t particularly like getting things organized and I especially hate doing dishes.

I’m proud of the fact that Peg Bracken, author of the classic “I Hate to Housekeep” book was a Portlander.

I respect people whose houses are always at peak condition, but I know I’ll never be that person.

When I was in college, my apartment would get pretty bad, so I would play a game called, Martha Stewart’s coming over. The idea was to pretend that the diva of domesticity would be gracing my one bedroom Albuquerque home in, say, a half an hour. This would throw me into a cleaning frenzy that would result in a decently clean apartment. Maybe not Martha Stewart clean, but definitely Wolk-Stanley clean.

I know, I’m a bit insane.

This game would work for awhile, but then I got to a point where it wasn’t so effective anymore.

Who is this Martha person? And who the heck does she think she is, being so judgmental about my housekeeping skills?

I haven’t played this game for probably 15 years, and have actually gotten a lot better about keeping the house at a level of tidyness where an unexpected visit doesn’t throw me into a white-hot panic.

Or at least that’s what I thought.

I was going about my business this afternoon, mixing up some tortillas to make the kids some late lunch when I heard the phone ring. It was my step-mother Lindy, wanting to know if it’s okay to bring her mother Mary over to see the terrific job my sister did building the brick patio and rock wall in the backyard.

“Sure. C’mon over. How soon should I expect you?”

“In two minutes, we’re at a restaurant in your neighborhood.”


Gammy Mary is as close to Martha Stewart as this house is ever going to see. Not only is she a drop-dead gorgeous octogenarian, but her housekeeping skills are the stuff of legends.

Two minutes? I’d better get my act in gear!

I was able to:

  • Clear off and wipe down the dining room table
  • Take laundry to the basement, (not into the washing machine, but close to it.)
  • Wipe down the bathroom sink
  • Wipe down the kitchen counters
  • Tidy the entryway
  • Vacuum the living room
  • Arrange the couch pillows
  • Straighten the furniture
  • Load the dishwasher
  • Send the bedraggled teenager up to his room.

And you know what? The house didn’t look half-bad. It might not have been up to Martha Stewart’s standards, but it met the highly lax Wolk-Stanley standards.

And . . . I think I just invented a new motivational game called, Gammy Mary’s coming over. I may even turn it into an infomercial and take it on the road.

What do you do to get yourself motivated to clean your house? Tell us about it in the comments section below. Extra points for sounding more insane than I am. Points deducted for phrases that include the words “enjoy” and “housework” together.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Kassie December 18, 2008 at 5:50 am

I recently went in to the business of cleaning and organizing…because I really do enjoy it (oh sh*% points deducted.) My intention was that I may help others get clean, like the results and learn to enjoy cleaning (sh$% more pts deducted)…after the first job I abandoned the last part. Reality is everyone has their skills, likes and dislikes and if cleaning isnt a part of that there is no way to change it. I now encourage the 15 minute daily maintenance and keep my rates low enough that a family can afford to have me come and clean the toilets because I do enjoy it! Do what you are good at!!


CanadianKate December 18, 2008 at 6:48 am

When my dd was six months old and stuck to the kitchen floor, I decided I had to get a housekeeping system. I found the Sidetracked Home Executives (also from Oregon – what’s with you people?!!!) and was able to settle into a comfortable compromise between cleanliness and spending time with my kids.

Twelve years later I found an online community of SHEs and discovered I wasn’t the only person in the world following the system. Now is the best known of the SHEs and has moved the system into the electronic age.

I don’t think you are insane – my SHE friends and I have Conga Friday when we put on loud music and literally dance through the house to clean it. I used to dress up in a slutty outfit and pretend I was a cleaning lady and come over and clean my house. “Whatever it takes to get the job done”, is my motto.

As the kids got older, housecleaning got easier. I finally developed daily tidying routines which really help me stay on top of things so the house can withstand a ‘Gammy Mary’ surprise visit.

I’ve also learned to lower my standards over the years – after all I no longer have a baby crawling around on the floor!

The biggest thing I’ve learned is that a tidy house looks clean and a messy house looks dirty. It isn’t necessarily so – you used to be able to eat off the floor behind my fridge (and you had to because the table was covered with papers!) and I’ve learned that by redirecting my energy, I get better overall results.


Daphne December 18, 2008 at 6:59 am

When my now tween and teen were toddlers, I came up with the 5-4-3-2-1 game. When the girls’ rooms or the house looked like a train wreck, I’d announce it was time to play our game. “Quick, run and put away 5 things, and come give me a high 5! Good! Now put away 4 things, and give me a hug. 3 things, and get a pat on the back. 2 things, and tell me how much better things look. 1 thing, and come back for a reward!” The reward would be a cookie, or sitting down to do a puzzle together, reading. . .anything that was age appropriate and not a mess maker. It was an easy way for each of us to put away 15 misplaced things and get things neat in a short amount of time.


sandy December 18, 2008 at 7:40 am

For me a dirty house and a messy house are two completely different things and they affect me differently. I can’t stand dirt and so I clean quite frequently. But I also have several projects (house improvements, sewing, art, etc.) going at the same time, and these tend to form messy spots here and there around the house–and can last for a long time if I’m slow at finishing that project. I need to motivate myself to finish a project in order for that spot to get cleaned. Inviting people over can help motivate me to clean up, since I don’t want to look like a slob. But that only works if I have enough time to get the project finished. Otherwise I just end up shoving it in the closet, which ends up delaying finishing the project.


thenonconsumeradvocate December 18, 2008 at 8:52 am

Canadian Kate,

Slutty outfit to clean the house? I love it! (As did the mail carrier.)

We have a winner!

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


steplikeagiant December 18, 2008 at 9:46 am

I hate hate hate to dust. The rest of house is clean and things are almost always organized but the dust…ugh! It’s embarrassing. My husband and I take a few afternoons a few times a year and wipe everything down. And then I just try not to look until the next time. To get motivated to clean in general, I view it as exercise, doing it really fast with music, running up and down the stairs, etc.


Foo December 18, 2008 at 4:30 pm

I put on techno or electronic dance music, and promise myself an hour of computer gaming for every hour I actually clean.

I *have* to reward myself or it just doesn’t work.

Also, I’ll be spurred to tidy up when the cat sits in the middle of the living room and mournfully yowls, because there is no clear flat surface for her to sunbeam-sleep on!


Julie December 19, 2008 at 8:57 am

Our house has been for sale for 8 months, it’s so horrible. I have a 7 year old son who’s been unable to fully enjoy his toys in so long, because he can’t leave them out in a big Lego jumble any more. We’ve had (stupid) real estate agents give us as little as 20 minutes’ notice that they were on their way to show the house. So everything needs to be pretty close to “show ready” at all times. If people are coming over to see it, I have to go into major German cleaning mode and get everything perfect, at the expense of spending time with my kid. (We are supposed to be homeschooling!) I am so sick of it, but it’s becoming normal for me now. Yesterday, we had 4 inches of snow on the ground (very unusual for the Seattle area) and I knew that no agents would be out in that. However, I still could not stop myself from doing the dishes and clearing everything off of the counters. After 8 months, it just doesn’t look right any more to have even the toaster oven out. Yet I can’t wait till we can move and let things slide, waaaaaaay slide from where they are now.


Magdalena December 19, 2008 at 10:45 am

My house cleaning secret is to have less to clean. When we had our own house, we got rid of everything extra. If I can’t put it in a cupboard, drawer, pantry or closet, I don’t want it. Most of our books are in a glass-fronted cabinet. Clothes rarely land on the floor of the bedroom, because we have lots of hooks behind the door.

Now that we are in a house shared with other family members, it is a little more difficult. They still have their decorative stuff – not a lot, but enough that dusting is not a two-minute task! I am endeavouring to get the ornamental furnshings off the floor, since I have major dust mite allergies, and need to keep a clean house for good health.

The other issue is dishes. The family members here all work varied shifts, and supper starts at 6:30 pm and goes to almost midnight some days. I am tired of a sink full of dirty dishes every morning, so after Christmas, I intend to start a rinse and stack system – so things at least are not crusted and gross by the time I get to them.

Just remind yourself that being obsessively clean and neat is a diagnosable mental illness!


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