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by Abigail Van Buren

Active Fantasy Life Does Not Mean You Are Cheating

DEAR ABBY: After 10 years of marriage, I have come to a realization. I am a terrible housekeeper! I have tried learning to clean better, using new techniques or different equipment. My husband has begged, bribed and fought with me over picking up my stuff. We have a good relationship, though, and this is one of the only conflicts between us.

We by no means live in squalor, but our house is usually messy. Frankly, I'm not interested in housecleaning. I'm not lazy. I'm busy with two kids, volunteering at two different schools, preparing healthy meals, engaging in endless play, make-believe and kiddie craft projects.

My mom and grandmother were also somewhat laissez-faire about housekeeping. Their motto was always, "Happy children are more important than a clean house."

There are so many more interesting and important things to do; I get little satisfaction from housekeeping. Cleanliness is short-lived around here, anyway. I believe there are more messy homes out there than people admit. A little clutter never hurt anyone.

This problem is not family-threatening, but I would like your opinion on it. -- GOOD MOM IN ROCHESTER, N.Y.

DEAR GOOD MOM: You asked for it -- and here it is. I agree that there are probably more messy homes out there than people admit. However, there is a difference between "clutter" and "not clean."

Your kitchen and bathrooms should be kept clean to safeguard the health of your children and spouse. If the problem is clothing in your bedroom that you have tossed all over, allow me to remind you that it takes only a moment to toss an item into the clothes hamper, hang it up or return it, folded, to the drawer from which you took it.

While I agree that "happy children are more important than a clean house," the two are not mutually exclusive. A disorganized house can also be a sign of a disorganized mind. You're setting a poor example for your children, who will grow up thinking this is acceptable -- just as you did. You should be teaching them to do their part, too.

P.S. Has it occurred to you to hire a housekeeper to come once or twice a month?