Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cleaning should be a circle in hell

So my sister is stopping by for a visit while on a trip to show her teenaged sons a couple of colleges. I’m excited that they are coming, but it means that I have to clean! Cleaning is the bane of my existence. The only things I like less than cleaning are moving and looking for a job. I’ve managed to avoid those two for a while, but this cleaning thing never goes away!
When I was young, my mother always changed all the sheets and did all the wash, and cleaned up after all of us. She made all of our meals and cleaned up after those, too. She used to say “I’m doing this for you now because someday you’ll have to do it for your own kids.”

Her logic was flawed in two ways for me: 1) I never had any kids; 2) Now I don’t know how to clean. It never occurred to me that cleaning was skilled labor, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can clean all day only to end up with unsatisfying results. This is how I learned that I didn’t know squat about cleaning and why I hated it so much. For me, cleaning was just one big exercise in spinning my wheels.

I’ll never forget the day I read in
Real Simple magazine that you should stock two buckets with the same cleaners so that you can keep one upstairs and one downstairs, spending less time and energy running up and down stairs (or not) looking for what you need. Seems obvious, but it was an epiphany for me.

Then there were the days, ever so briefly, when I could afford a cleaning woman. One day she asked if I had a toothbrush so she could clean the detail on the radiators. I was flabbergasted. First, I would never even think of cleaning the detail on the radiators - I barely run the vacuum. Second, it never occurred to me to use a toothbrush to clean anything but my teeth. Now, a toothbrush in is the forefront of my arsenal of cleaning tools. I use it when I’m doing the laundry, the dishes, the bathroom, everywhere. I buy more toothbrushes for cleaning than I do for brushing my teeth!

These are the things, things that seem so obvious to me now, that I didn’t learn until I was an adult. I also learned that coffee filters will attract static-y animal hair that won’t wipe off a sink or tub or toilet with a regular cloth. Not such an obvious cleaning method, but very effective, and very useful when you have an animal, or like me, six of them.

So while I don’t clean as much as I should, certain things look a lot better than they used to, now that I have some new tricks in my bag. Sorry sis, Aunt Mary’s house will always be cleaner than mine, but at least you’ll have clean sheets and towels and there won’t be any, well, as many, stray animal hairs in the bathroom. I don’t think I’ll ever get around to cleaning the detail on the radiators, though.


Just Jane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
suebray said...

This post cracked me up Jane. Like you, I had a "Supermom" who worked fulltime (in the 50's!) - cooked, cleaned, washed and ironed the clothes, ran the carpools etc. My brothers and I were never expected to do anything. The downside came when I went away to college. I remember standing in front of the washing machine in the dorm basement-- and it may as well have been a spaceship as far as I was concerned. I was clueless as to how to operate it. Over the next decade I was faced with my total lack of knowledge of all things domestic despite having been raised by the Mom of the century. My brothers brought zero domestic skills to their marriages. My husband, on the other hand, had a way less than ideal Mom. I'll say she was dysfunctional and that would be to be kind and discreet. The result? He was totally self-reliant in all ways including housework and even child care because he had to take care of himself and two younger siblings. I guess the moral of the story is-- if you are looking for a spouse who can handle the physical plant and the details of daily life… select one who had a "poor" mother!