One of the few stations that we would get on DSTV Africa was an international version of the Style Channel. We didn’t have DSTV but we certainly enjoyed it at our friend’s house. One of the shows that was played over and over again in syndication was Clean House. In Nairobi I watched it with a bit of embarrassment because of the amount of stuff that these people had, but mostly I just enjoyed the mindless inoculation of our pop culture, a superficial breather in a hard country.
On Saturday morning I commandeered the TV from my husband’s watching of ESPN and saw Clean House in the guide listing, I eagerly clicked happy to see a show that I liked. This episode featured a mother and daughter living in cluttered squalor. At one point the design team found more excessive belongings that they were trying to keep. When confronted the daughter grabbed what she wanted and stormed out in silence, calling the show bullsh*t. Later in the episode during the reveal the mother discovered that the team had gotten rid of her storage box of unused purses, she them stormed off in tears, got in her car, and left her daughter alone to finish the show. And I was angry.
I was angry because these people had been greedy gluttons of things, things bought and never used, things saved and never used, and things ridiculous with nary a usage. This television show was giving them a newly decorated and clean home and they were both acting like brats. We hide this behavior in the guise of a psychological problem but really it’s blatant sin, this show rewards that sin with a beautiful that most of us can hardly ever dream of.
For the first time in my life I am not embarrassed about how much we have. We sold our cars to go to Kenya, and when leaving Kenya we left a lot of our belongings (including most of my wardrobe) behind. Right now if we were to move into our own home we would have a bed for us, a bed for Emma, a dresser for each of us, a complete kitchen, camping gear, and that’s it. No cars, no couch, no tables, that’s all. And yet I really do not feel poor. I don’t know why, when I ‘have’ less than most. Maybe because it’s a temporary state, I know that once Scott or I gets a job that pays us what we’re actually worth we will buy cars and couches. Maybe it’s because poverty is a mindset and I don’t have that mindset, maybe it’s because I have had true poverty in my face for the past two years, and I no longer believe that people are truly poor in the U.S.
Not to complain about our situation, we will be okay, and people have been kind and hospitable to us, but this show angered me. These people didn’t need a newly decorated house, they might have been better served by a spanking (especially after their display of attitude), and here we are with not a whole lot and Clean House certainly isn’t offering that to us. If they did I would turn them down, because I know I don’t need it. After watching that thoughts of entitlement and true poverty spun in my head, what if Clean House went into truly impoverished homes and cleaned them up? What if they went overseas? But they won’t, because that level of poverty takes more than a coat of paint and new curtains to clean up.