For all you less-than-immaculate housekeepers out there, I have developed a housecleaning system that is 97.98% fail-proof. It doesn’t matter how bad your house is, this system will take your space from cluttered to clean in record speed. This system can be yours for just $29.95 plus shipping and handling.

Just kidding. I hate to mess with shipping charges, so I’m going to share the system with you for free. Merry Christmas, fa-la-la-la-la and all that. Are you ready? You might want to get pen and paper and write this down:

If you need to clean your house, but lack the motivation to do it . . . (cue drumroll) . . . throw a party! Nothing will light a fire under you quicker than knowing a few dozen of your closest friends and family will soon rake through your fridge and use your guest bathroom.

Works every time.

Last night, I hosted a Christmas party for some of my favorite people in the world: my church writer’s group and their families. In preparation, I got most of my house cleaner than it’s been in a while. The rooms I didn’t get to (AKA the teenagers’ rooms), I just closed and locked the doors.

I swept.

I mopped.

I dusted, y’all. I hate to dust.

I also baked cookies, prepared crudités and made sausage balls. And for the pièce de résistance, I got out my silver tea set. The one with the silver tray, the silver teapot and the silver creamer and sugar bowls.

The one that has been in storage for more than 12 years. That one.  

When I pulled the box out from the darkest, farthest corner of the cabinet, I didn’t know what I’d find. That set has made it through two moves without being opened. I held my breath as I unwrapped the package, wondering if it would be black with tarnish.

But my careful packing, all those years ago, paid off. Each piece was wrapped in plastic and sealed tight against any possible air contamination. Sure enough, the set was as shiny as if I’d just polished it yesterday.

As I set out the pieces and filled them with hot water, sugar and creamer, a little bolt of joy flashed through me. I love that tea set. It makes me happy. But the joy-flash was followed by a question I wasn’t quite sure how to answer. Why haven’t I been using it? Why have I let it sit, unseen and untouched, for all these years?

And then I realized I have a few things in common with that tea set. I have a tendency to shrink-wrap myself and hide away. I hold people at arm’s length to protect myself from getting hurt.

The truth is, sometimes I just want to stay in bed on those cold, rainy winter days. I want to bask in the security of my fluffy-soft blanket, of my own four walls. I long to sleep through the stress that lurks outside, listening for my footsteps into reality.

But then I remember that the same four walls that protect me from the world also trap me, imprison me, keep me from spreading my wings and experiencing joy. Those steadfast walls of security keep me from loving anyone or anything but me.

Do I really want a shrink-wrapped, shiny-perfect life? Or do I want to come out of my box and risk getting tarnished? When we protect ourselves from pain, we often seal ourselves off from the best things in life. Things like laughter. Joy.

Things like love.

I think I’m going to keep the tea set out for a while. And each time I look at it, I’ll remember that life is a treasure. It’s meant to be spent, and used up! At the end of my days, if I’m not a little tarnished, I’m not sure I’ll have spent my time wisely. Discoloration and pain add depth to our character, and show we’ve lived life to the fullest.  

Renae Brumbaugh Green is a bestselling author and award-winning humor columnist. She lives in Stephenville with her handsome, country-boy husband, nearly-perfect children, and far too many animals. Connect with Renae at www.RenaeBrumbaugh.com.