There are a few words in the English language that, even if you have no idea what they mean, you just have a sense when you look at them and hear how they sound when you utter them that they probably don't have positive meanings.

    There are a few words in the English language that, even if you have no idea what they mean, you just have a sense when you look at them and hear how they sound when you utter them that they probably don't have positive meanings.

    Like “squalor.”

    Even if you’re unclear on the specifics of its meaning, you just know you wouldn't make small talk at the office water cooler by saying something like, "I had a blast at Tony's party on his new squalor on Friday night." You wouldn't say, "I think I ate the best squalor I've ever had at that new seafood place last weekend." You wouldn't say, "Oh, that new squalor you bought just looks lovely on you!" You wouldn't say, "I think that was the best deer hunt I've ever experienced...a real squalor."

    Squalor is defined as "a state of being extremely dirty and unpleasant, especially as a result of poverty or neglect."

    So I was a bit taken aback  when I strolled into the living room on the Friday morning after Thanksgiving and while doing some work on her laptop  on the couch, my wife greeted my cheery morning greeting with a blunt proclamation: "We live in squalor."

    True, the big rug was in need of a good vacuuming, and the wood flooring needed a once-over with a broom. Dusting could have found its way on a to-do list as well.

    I think what spurred my wife to choose the word "squalor" to describe the status of our house at that particular moment in time...was the laundry.

    If you share a house with any number of teenagers - we do, with 18 and 15 year old sons - you know how easy it is for laundry to be constant stress point, an always-lingering flashpoint. At any moment, due simply to the state of the laundry situation in the house, either one of the two adults running the house could blow – go full Super Fly T.N.T. – without warning. It's a constant state of flux: A mix of dirty clothes that need to be gathered up and sorted in preparation for washing...clean, wet clothes that need to go in the dryer...baskets full of clean, dried clothes that need to be folded but the teens in the house pretend for days that they don't see the multiple baskets situated in the middle of the living room...stacks and stacks of clean, dried and folded clothes, towering on the coffee table, on the sectional couch, on the library table and on the floor, separated for each of the four members of the family, but the teens in the house for days simply crane their necks to see the TV screen behind their twin towers of clothes.

    When my wife made the living-in-squalor remark, she was mostly obscured by skyscrapers of folded hoodies, jeans and hockey jerseys on the coffee table. I was only able to confirm it was her when I followed the sound of her voice through that morning’s version of Laundry City, and first observed her rather grim countenance.

    I sprung into action. My wife would say I'm an amazing picker-upper around the house - and I am - but I don't think she means it to be taken as a full-fledged compliment. The implication is that I merely pick up but rarely do I actually roll up my sleeves, dig in and actually clean the house.

    In a few minutes I had restored our living room to a pristine state. There wasn't a stitch of laundry to be found. I also arranged all of the pillows on the sectional, folded the blankets, gathered newspapers from the coffee table and brought them to the recycle bins. Emboldened and sparked by motivation, I moved onto the kitchen, where I emptied the dishwasher and gathered cans and bottles to take to the garage. I sorted through bills and junk mail collecting on the stove.

   My chest swelling with a sense of accomplishment, I snatched up my laptop and joined my wife on the couch, where I commenced with my daily diet of online reading and fantasy football research.

    Stating nary a word about the positive impact of my burst of picking-up activity on our home and family unit, my wife soon got up and commenced with "cleaning" the house. Without emotion and progressing at a impressive clip, it was clear she was on a mission. It was also readily apparent that I needed to cease with my trolling of the waiver wire for potential free agent wide receivers to bolster my fantasy roster, and join her on her mission for cleanliness.

    For the next few hours, we went nuts. When the boys returned from hockey practice with some friends to empty our kitchen of food, the house as a whole may have never before been in such a state of - how best to put it? Encouraging disarray?

    With Pandora Radio’s 1970s Light Rock station cranking as our cleaning-frenzy soundtrack, we moved furniture to clean behind and underneath. We took photos off walls. Junk drawers were returned to a more sane, orderly state. I got on my hands and knees and scrubbed the dining room floor. A real cleaner, I was!

    Yes, this former “quicker picker-upper”could pass for Mr. Clean himself, minus the blue eyes and gold hoop earring.