10/15/2014 12:16 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How to Raise A Slob

When my sister and I were very tiny children our mother trained us to make our beds the second we got up in the morning. We were then required to clean and neaten the areas around and under our beds, with a heavy emphasis on our night tables, in case we accidentally placed a toy there while we were sleeping. This is the same woman who bathed us in Phisohex if we played with anyone she suspected of having had a cold at some point in their lives. For anyone who doesn't know what Phisohex is, it's a hospital grade anti-bacterial, putrid smelling, white liquid soap that is so potent it was taken off the market in fear that it would wipe out all of civilization.

As so often is the case with children who are not allowed to have germs, I finally cracked. One sunny morning out of nowhere instead of performing my morning clean up routine I walked around my room littering my carpeting with Monopoly money, from one end to the other.

"Ma!" I yelled downstairs. "Come up! You gotta see this."

I stood at my doorway, arms folded, admiring the catastrophic mess and my own balls as the color drained from her face.

"I'm not sure I understand how this could have happened." She steadied herself on the edge of my night table, careful not to make fingerprints. I led her by the elbow and instructed her to sit down on my bed.

"I was playing Monopoly and things got out of hand. Let's not make this any harder."

Dabbing her eyes with a sterile tissue, she reminded me of the time I refused to put away my Barbie's Kitchen Colorforms in my toy box. We'd had a six-hour stand off until I got the idea to start stuffing them in my mouth one by one.

"What?" I asked, chewing on a drawing of a ladies shoe, enjoying not only the plasticky flavor but also the fun clicking sound of vinyl on teeth.

"You'll get trench mouth!" she screamed.

I pulled a tiny, pink refrigerator out of my mouth and handed it to her.

"C'mon, give it a try, just this once. You can't beat it."

If ever there was a lesson in parenting it's this: If you force your children to be neat before they're old enough to care, they will turn out gross. Those of us who were taught to obsess over cleanliness figure out pretty early on that life is infinitely better when you don't give a crap about anything. Slobs get to say things like:

"Put your feet up. Here, use my pillow."

"It's probably just dog sh*t. I'll clean it up later. It's not going anywhere."

"That's a pretty big cold sore you have there. Want to borrow my toothbrush. . . Mister?"


The first thing I did when I had kids of my own was tell them, "Never, ever try to make a bed. It can't be done." And because I believe in leading by example, I only make mine when people come over and insist on looking at it. I don't put my clothes away until they become a fire hazard, and as you can see in the above photograph, which was taken today, my night table has become something of a health issue.

My husband took that picture.

"At least open a window," he suggested.

I tried to explain the mess in the context of the Bible.

"There's a reason for everything," I began. "For example, all of these half filled coffee cups in this region are because I can only write in bed and I enjoy the company of food and beverages. The reason why the cups are all half filled is because I don't really like coffee. Furthermore, if I spent the time it would take to bring each one of these cups to the kitchen I wouldn't get any work done."

"Okay, then why do you need to keep a tape measure in the coffee?"

"Because I was measuring a painting I'm gonna put on Etsy. After I measured it, I carefully rolled up the tape measure and balanced it on the rims of that cup and the one next to it. Somehow it fell in there."

"Did you put the painting on Etsy?" he asked.

"No, silly. But I will. Someday."

"What about this huge bowl? It's taking up a lot of room and it's empty except for these... stalks."

"It used to be filled with grapes. I've since eaten them. That's what happens to grapes, over time."

"Is that my passport?"

"Yes. Why?"

"I thought we keep important documents in our 'Important Documents' folder."

"We do. Most days. But lately I've been using your passport as a lid. It blocks the Coffee Mate fumes, which also occur... over time. They can be overwhelming when I'm trying to sleep. And look how handy it is!"

"I guess it's not worth asking why this post office receipt from 2008 is stuck to this empty bottle of hair conditioner, or why my inhaler is in this empty ice cream container."

"Oh my God! Why are you so mean?!"

"I'm not mean. I have asthma!"

I began throwing things in the garbage concerned that there might be other critical life-saving devices buried in the wreckage, and uncovered a clock I thought someone stole.

"Look at the time!" I said to distract him from a huge wad of gum.

"If this keeps up we might need to move you to some kind of an assisted living situation. You really shouldn't be left here alone." He spotted the gum and immediately started scraping it off my phone. I remembered saving that particular piece earlier in the day so I could eat my ice cream. As soon as he got a nice chunk off I grabbed it and put it in my mouth.

The color drained from his face.

I took the gum out of my mouth and handed it to him.

"C'mon, give it a try, just this once. You can't beat it."