My son is the last line of defense.

When everyone else is out of the house, it is up to him to make sure the house remains clean when it is shown to prospective buyers.

I'm nervous.

Since everyone else works, and his schedule during his last summer before college is a lot less busy to be kind he is responsible for making sure he doesn't mess it up.

Since the house officially went on the market last week, we now have to live like visitors in our own home.

We'd be better off moving into a hotel until the house is sold.

We have told Alek that he needs to make sure his dirty baseball uniform is not lying in a heap in the middle of his room or even in the middle of the laundry room. We actually have a hamper that when the lid is lifted, clothes actually fit inside.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Apparently there's a level of difficulty I never imagined.

But believe it or not, he is neater than my daughter, Claire.

Her clothes often replace the carpet in her bedroom floor. At least the new owners won't have to replace the carpet anytime soon.

To be honest, we're all messy at times. We call it the lived-in look.

I never feel comfortable in homes that are too clean. They make me feel like I can't touch anything or sit on the furniture.

To add to our cleaning chores is the fact that we have a dog and a cat, and they never clean up after themselves.

I never understood why the sellers of a home have to act like they are not pet owners.

We took our dog and cat with us when we left the house so the realtor could show our home.

I understand if there were dozens of cats or the house was not clean, but pet owners are not unique.

We took our pets with us, took the dog kennel, put the litter box away, and tried to hide the fact that anything that walked on four legs ever entered the house.

Maybe some prospective buyers do not like pets, but I would think most people have or have had pets, or at least understand that the home they are looking at may have been inhabited by pets at one time.

Maybe they are worried those card-playing, cigar-smoking dogs lived in the house.

So we live on high alert that we may have to vacate the house, and make sure it is clean before we head out.

It takes a little more planning because we are often on the road this summer to watch Alek play baseball.

The first call we received about showing the home came when we were on a road trip.

That is a real concern, and that is why we have to live in our home without really living in it.

It is why I get up from the couch in the family room and look around to see if there is anything I need to pick up, throw away or put away.

It is why I walk into the laundry room and throw my dirty clothes in the hamper and see if there is anything else to put in there.

It is why picking up dirty dishes and putting them in the kitchen sink is no longer good enough. A sink full of dirty dishes is not a good look.

Luckily, we got home from our road trip in time to spruce up the house.

If we are really lucky, this will be The One, or at least The One will follow shortly.

But until then, Alek, like the street cleaner at the end of the parade, will have to follow us and make sure the house is clean enough to show off.

Patrick Murphy, of Columbus, Neb., is a former assistant managing editor of The Telegram.