Camaleonda sofa 2
Image Credit: Supplied

The husband and I had an altercation about the state of our home. He told me to put the cushion covers of my chaise-lounge to wash. Said that they looked so dirty, he didn’t feel like sitting on them. Then he grumbled some more, saying that he was calling Take My Junk to come and take several things from our house.

At this point, I got angry and told him that he should stop visiting his friends’ houses, and stop being influenced by them. The context to this is that he has, in the recent past, compared our home to those of his friends, saying how clean and spotless their homes looked. I also told him to ‘have an identity of his own’. He walked off in a huff, muttering something about not wanting to have this ‘pauper identity’.

This got me thinking a bit about the state of our home. Granted, it’s not something to write home about. Puns aside, it’s a regular middle-class home. We don’t have expensive furniture or furnishings or decorations. I lost any interest in home decoration as soon as I realised how expensive good furniture was. It seemed more important to save money for eating out, travel and for the rainy day, than to spend on furniture and furnishings.From

From toddlers to teenagers

Once the kids came, I realised it was utterly impractical to keep anything breakable in the house. In their toddler years, we got used to walking around their legos and toys on the floor. Now, in their tween years, I’m used to walking around their clothes and shoes.

So having a home that one can be proud of when inviting friends over, is not something that has occupied any mental space of mine, for many years. The husband, however, took up home improvement as a project last year, when he redid the living room arrangement, bought a new sofa and some furniture, made some structural changes to the study upstairs, got the house painted etc. He has a better sense of interior design, so I was happy to leave all this to him. I think it gave him a sense of achievement to take up and finish this project after his recovery from longish COVID, so I went along with it.

Recently, he has been going over to a couple of friends’ houses, which are beautiful, neat and clean, and has started making snide comments about our house. It’s true that our home is not particularly well-maintained — one of the sofa chair covers is frayed, the main sofa has toothpaste and food stains because the kids brush and eat on it. In the evenings, after the kids’ friends have left for their (pristine, I’m sure, homes; after all, the friends’ parents’ have outsourced the messes to our home), the house is strewn over with their school stuff, nerf guns, bullets. And all the sofa cushions are inevitably on the floor. But hey, it’s not like there’s fungus growing on furniture or walls, or that it smells musty or is covered with dust. Simply put, it is a house which has young kids and is lived in.

I suspect that this need to have a ‘show-off’ home must be a sign of midlife crisis. Sure, I would also like to have an expensive-looking, well-designed, well-furnished home, but I’m simply not convinced that the money involved won’t be better off in the bank, for a rainy day or kids’ college education. I want to tell him that the comparison he makes of our home with his friends’ houses is not an apple-to-apple comparison. Both these friends have daughters! No sons! Secondly, the youngest of their girls are either the same age or older than our twin boys. And the oldest are approaching college age. Thirdly, both these households have two live-in helps compared to our one help. And finally, those two couples are at a different stage of life, having already built some successful businesses, while we are a single-income family.

But if I tell him this, he will tell me that I’m making excuses so I can continue to be lazy and ignore the stains on the sofa! There is some truth to this; I didn’t sign up to be a supplemental cleaning service. My cleaning philosophy is ‘why bother, the kids will make it dirty again’. I know that I’m not doing the kids any favour by not disciplining them and letting them mess up the house, but I’d rather pick my battles. And the battle I choose will always be over screen time. I love having friends over, and while my house may not be the most impressive, well, my friends are coming to enjoy my company rather than gawk at my posh home, aren’t they? There will be a time, in the future, when the kids will be at college, and there’ll be no messes to clean up and no danger of broken things. That will be the time when we can actually furnish the house to our aesthetics and maintain it to our cleanliness standards. Till then, I’m reconciled to living in a shabby, messy, but lived-in home.

Sharmistha Khobragade is a freelance writer.