The proof is in the picture

When you live alone and walk out the doors of your freshly cleaned house, chances are it’s going to look exactly the same

When you live alone and walk out the doors of your freshly cleaned house, chances are it’s going to look exactly the same once you return home. When you live with other people, particularly those like mine, all you can do is make requests and hope for the best.

Once in a while I’m pleasantly surprised after one of my cleaning sprees that the house remains neat and tidy for hours after the invasion of my children and their friends. Last Friday was not one of those times.

Instead of walking upstairs to the orderly home I had left behind, I instead found a couple of chairs on top of the dining room table, another one lying on the floor, and the rest were pressed up against the wall. Large gymnastic mats were strewn all over the place, garbage and dirty dishes were everywhere, and the one and only indoor plant I have ever managed to keep alive for two full years was, tragically, lying on the floor in a pile of dirt, broken into several pieces.

“Sam!” I yelled, since I knew my 10-year-old daughter had already been picked up for her sleepover at a friend’s house. “Get up here!”

My 13-year-old son bounded up the stairs to see what was wrong.

“How did it get like this?” I asked. “It looks like a bomb went off in here.”

“I have no idea,” he said, looking around, perplexed. “It wasn’t me.”

I reminded him of my parting words when I told him, his sister and their friends that I had just cleaned the house and wanted to keep it that way, and to put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher and their garbage in the garbage can. His reply had been “Yes, Mom. And we’ll put the recycling in the recycling too.” They did none of that.

He helped me clean the chaos, and as he did he let me know that the empty Dairy Queen Blizzard cups and cereal bowls weren’t his or his friend’s. Obviously his little sister and her pals were the guilty culprits.

But when Daisy returned home from her sleepover the following morning I questioned her about the incident, and she blamed her brother.

“Sam made that mess, not me,” she said.

Normally I wouldn’t have known who to believe, but this time the girl child had something the boy child didn’t have: photographic evidence.

Handing me her iPad, she showed me a snapshot of her brother perched on the large gymnastics mats he had stacked on top of the backs of the dining room chairs that were all lined up in a row. Precariously sitting on top of the rubber mats with him was our little dog, Charlie.

“Oh, yeah,” he said laughing at the picture after I showed it to him. “We built a train for the dogs. They loved it.”

When I asked why he didn’t tell me that in the first place he didn’t seem to connect the creative structure he had built with the disarray he had left behind.

“It wasn’t that messy, Mom,” he insisted. “It just looked that way.”

That statement didn’t really make sense, but at the same time, it kind of did. My own temporary clutter never looks or feels as bad to me as theirs does.

And I fully recognize that not everyone’s a neat freak. Some people are naturally more comfortable living in a disaster zone no matter who made it that way, and they’re not irritated by it like I am.

There have even been studies published that suggest some minds think more clearly and creatively in a disorderly environment.

Those are the types of people that I live with, and as messy as they are, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at www.LoriWelbourne.com