Husband & Wife Articles


Down and Dirty

My kingdom for a mudroom

By Maryan Vander Woude

We all have certain vices which can be daily struggles for us. For me, sloth, anger and gluttony are three of the Seven Deadly Sins that shadow my days. Envy does not normally rear its ugly head – except when I’m in someone else’s mudroom.

State of the art kitchens, beautiful Italian leather couches, and plush master bedrooms fit for a king don’t bother me. But let me see someone’s mudroom lined with hooks for coats, baskets for shoes, and cubbies for hats and mittens, and my eyes turn green with envy.

You see, my house has lots of mud, and there’s no room for it.

Vander Woude Family

What I do have is a lovely front door with a “Welcome” sign on it that opens into a foyer covered with a honey-colored, oak wood floor that was lovingly nailed down by my husband. As you stand on our welcome mat, straight ahead lies our kitchen, to the left is our living room and to the right is our dining room. A set of stairs heading up to the bedrooms also comes right off this room. So this little entryway is the portal to almost every area of our house.

And all over this small foyer are the mud-infested shoes left by my sons as they come in from their daily bout of mud wrestling (which they call football).

Something there is that doesn’t love my wood floors. It’s called mud. I turn my back and it does its destruction. The moisture buckles the wood and the dirt ruins its shine. I have many and assorted commercial rugs to help keep it to a minimum, but there’s no such thing as a minimum of mud when you have children, especially seven of them.

So I do the only thing I can do: sweep. Sweep to protect the lovely floors that my husband gave to me. Sweep to keep the insidious dirt from infiltrating every room in my house and wreaking more havoc on other floors. Sweep to keep gardens from growing on all the inches of soil sown daily inside my foyer.

I sweep ten or twelve times a day. And yes, I do have the offending mud-bearers do some of the sweeping for me.

So you can understand why, during my daily dirt purge, I dream of a room where all the dirty clothes and muddy cleats can just be left and tended to once at the end of the day. Why I dream of floor materials like tile, stone or vinyl against which mud doesn’t seem to hold a vendetta, as I mop it off my precious wood. Why I dream of places to hold my “mother load” of coats, shoes, cleats, sweatshirts, hats, and mittens, so guests can walk into the foyer without tripping.


A few months ago, I decided it was not healthy to dream for something that wasn’t going to happen, so I decided to take a different approach to my daily sweep.

I started meditating on its benefits.

I’d think about how sweeping gives instant gratification. What once was dirty is now clean by my own hand. Another benefit of sweeping and sweeping is daily exercise. The back and forth motion burns calories and builds muscles, and I’m sure releases some sort of good endorphins to counteract my mud-colored frustration. Another bonus: Sweeping is frugal! It doesn’t use electricity nor use costly vacuum bags. I found deeper benefits. Sweeping ten times a day offers me ten opportunities to offer up my splinter-sized cross for friends who carry real crosses.

But this morning, a few more fruitful sweeping thoughts came to me, as I swept the floor for the 123,000th time.

“I sweep dirt in my house with dogged determination because I know that if I don’t stop dirt in its tracks, it will just create more dirt. If I applied that same determination to vice or sin ...” This thought led to, “What if I offered up my physical cleaning for the purity of souls in my house? If every stroke of my broom was a physical manifestation of my prayer that the smut and slime of the world never make a home in souls of my children, how redemptive and purposeful sweeping would become!

So redemptive that it might make me stop dreaming about mudrooms!

Probably not.

However, giving an eternal aspect to my “earthy” activity definitely elevates my sweeping above the reach of the green-eyed monster that wants to come out when I’m in other people’s mudrooms.

Maryan Vander Woude lives in Virginia with husband Dan and their seven children, and blogs about their adventures at A Lee in the Woudes.