Cleaning This Mess


I come from a long line of clean women.  VERY clean women.  One of my so-many-great grandmothers worked as a cleaning lady.  She routinely washed the walls of the houses she cleaned.  Yep.  Scrubbed them top to bottom with a mop.  She’s a legend in the family; her achievements are spoken of in hushed tones with great reverence.  Her legacy was fully realized in my mother.

My mom can clean.

As a teenager, I earned extra money ($20 a week) by cleaning house for my mom.  I only got paid if it was done to her specifications, and she was picky.  For instance, I had to dust the panels on the doors to our rooms, dust the tops of the doors, and move the furniture to vacuum underneath—every week. 

Maybe some of you are squinching up your faces and saying, “So?  What’s the big deal?  I do that every week.”  Well, honey, more power to you.  But I HATE cleaning.  Don’t mistake me, I love a clean house.  As a matter of fact, I find it difficult to concentrate if my home is messy for too long.  It’s distracting, I can’t find things, and it’s  a constant irritant.  I will avoid working on a project if I have to clean a work area first.  I finally taught myself to tidy my quilting area and my crafting areas as I go along so that I will be more likely to work on projects.  I created filing systems and storage systems that work well for me in those areas and I love them.  My desk is an obvious exception, as it is the dumping grounds for everything in the family that’s in transition, needs to be dealt with, or needs to be filed.  I clean it periodically, though, because it makes me crazy.  (I’m actually stopping to clean it now because I can’t bear it anymore.)

I’m back.  

When my daughter was small, I decided I needed to conquer my dislike of housecleaning.  It was just too easy to decide that I could clean tomorrow instead of today.  (By the way, I HIGHLY recommend the book Speed Cleaning by Jeff Campbell.)  So, I set up a schedule for myself:  wash clothes on Monday and Thursday, wash sheets and towels on Wednesday, and clean the house on Tuesday.  I kept to this schedule for years, and it worked really well.  Then, my kids went to school and I went to work.  The clothes, etc., still got washed, but the house cleaning started to slide.  After I started homeschooling the children, I resolved to do better and split the housecleaning chores between myself and the kids.  Score!  Keeping a clean house is an important part of a person’s education, isn’t it?  Darn right.

Unfortunately, my kids have inherited my distaste for cleaning.  My son’s room looks like a trash truck backed up and emptied through his window.  (We recently had a come-to-Jesus meeting about this and the room is now clean and Will Remain That Way.  Or, he’s welcome to find another housing option.  Like the dump.)  In an astonishing twist, my son was the CLEAN one of his college roommates.  Thaaat’s right.  The clean one.  He was the only one who brought cleaning supplies to school with him (yes, his mommy packed them), and because he disliked the fine that came with failing the weekly room inspections, he made sure the room was always clean for it.  He’s also very proud of that fact.  He looks down on people who can’t keep a clean house and then drops used Kleenex onto the floor of his room.  Go figure.

My daughter is less like a contained dump than a puddle of slime.  Her things slowly spread out, creeping through the house until you turn around and her stuff is everywhere.  She, however, goes through whirlwind cleaning cycles.  Several years ago I realized that every time she was stressed, her things got cleaned up.  It was a coping mechanism, controlling her space when her world felt out of control.  It’s a positive thing.  Fortunately, she doesn’t live with me anymore—she’s moved on to cluttering her own home.  After her last visit, though, I found things she’d left behind.  Ah.  That’s my girl!

Several months ago, out of the blue, my husband asked me if I would ever consider getting a maid if we could afford it.  I looked at him incredulously and said, “Are you kidding me?  OF COURSE!!!”  

Taken aback, he said, “Oh, well, you know, some people feel like they need to clean the house before a maid comes and I wasn’t sure if you were that sort of person or not.  I kinda figured you were.”   

“No,” I said firmly.  “If you ever hire me a maid, and I will love you forever and ever if you do, I will NOT clean house before she (or he, don’t want to be sexist here) comes.  I will gladly and gratefully let the maid deal with everything.”  And, so I shall.  If I ever get a maid.

For now, though, I’m cleanin’ my own mess, experimenting with friendlier cleaning products, and trying to stick to a routine.  What about you?  What routine chores do you hate the most?

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