I love a clean house. I find it almost painful to live in dirt and clutter, so every day I clean, pick up, organize, and whatnot. Yes, one could speculate all sorts of things about my mental state and throw out such terms as obsessive compulsive, anal retentive, blah blah blah. All that really matters here is that I like a very clean and tidy house.
That presents a bit of a problem for me, as I don't actually like to clean and I resent picking up after other people. Since Pete and the girls are pack rats, tidying up is an ongoing project. I rarely clean the entire house in one fell swoop. Takes too long and I don't usually have that kind of time. Instead, I tend to clean in spurts -- making the beds while the girls are getting dressed for school, throwing the laundry in to wash while I'm printing out documents for work, mopping the kitchen floor while I'm on the phone. I'll clean my bathroom while the girls are having their showers in their bathroom. My boss and I were having a phone conversation once and I used that time to fold laundry and iron a bit. It's pretty rare that every room of my house is clean all at the same time. More like in varying stages of clean, reasonable, and filthy.
There are some jobs that I just loathe and put off as long as possible. For some reason, I hate to clean and dust the bedrooms. Always have. It could be because it's a multi-step process that takes a while. We have hardwood floors with area rugs, so I have to first dust the floors and moldings before I can actually mop the hardwood. Only after that can I vacuum the rugs. I also have to move furniture around and cleaning around the legs of the nightstands and dealing with electrical cords irritates me. The girls' rooms are worse because I have to actually pick up the mess before I can even clean. That means hundreds of Polly Pockets and accessories, dozens of American Girl outfits, loads and loads of books. The stuffed animals piss me off and it's all I can do not to load them into garbage bags and pitch them out the windows. It can take me two hours just to clean their rooms and then another hour to dust and vacuum all three bedrooms and the upstairs hallway. (And yes I have the girls working alongside me, but sometimes I don't want them around in case I'm trying to throw away some stuff as I work.) Consequently, I postpone it as long as possible. I should do it every week or maybe every other week. But I'm so sluttish that I'll wait four, six, or even eight weeks. In that time the dust bunnies have multiplied, colonized, and achieved developing nation status. If I wait much longer they'll join the U.N. and start voting on aid to Africa.
[My use of the word "sluttish" is based on the primary definition of the word "slut": a slovenly, dirty woman. Definitions involving immorality are secondary. And all definitions refer to women, not men. It's interesting how promiscuity and filthy cleaning habits are 1) defined as women's problems only and 2) both considered equally negative. A Ph.D. student could probably do an entire dissertation on the sociological implications. But I digress.]
Most people would assume that, because I work from home and only part-time, that I have loads of free time to clean and pick up. It doesn't work that way at all. By the time I walk the girls to school and then come home and shower, it's time for me to get to work and then I usually need all the remaining time I have until they get home. And that's if I don't have to run any errands or I'm not volunteering at the school. When the girls get home from school, I'm focused on hearing about their days, monitoring homework, finishing up my own work, and starting dinner. After dinner, I'm exhausted and don't feel like cleaning. Invariably, however, I have to fold laundry, work on plans for my Brownie troops, etc. By the time we put the girls to bed, Pete and I are exhausted and just want to read and relax, not clean.
Pete is really great about splitting household chores with me. This is partly because he's a great guy who understands how much work is involved with running a household and partly because he's too cheap to pay for cleaning help. Our agreement is that, as long as Pete carries his load of the cleaning, I won't call in Molly Maids. If, however, he balks, I start dialing. Unfortunately, Pete wouldn't notice filth even if it bit him on the ass while he's sitting on the toilet. I have to tell him what he needs to do or he won't notice it needs to be done. And I have to be very specific. For example, several years ago, I instructed Pete to "clean the crapper." I used those exact words. Two hours later, I asked him when he was going to get busy with the job. He pointed out a gleaming toilet, while the rest of the bathroom oozed scum. He thought I only wanted the toilet -- the actual crapper -- cleaned, not the entire room. I'm not sure why that would ever be a viable option, but he thought it was reasonable. He's never made that mistake again. And, because his mother did all the cleaning when he was growing up, and never had any of the children helping in any way, I had to teach him HOW to clean, including exactly WHAT needs to be cleaned in each room. We alternate kitchen duty every night and it has taken me years to get him to do most of the job and not just part of it. In fact, I'm still working on that one.
Graceful and Elegant think that picking up is b-o-r-i-n-g but that cleaning is fun. It's like pulling teeth to get them to deal with their messes -- unless I just simply pull out the vacuum and prepare to work on whatever room they've messed up. Then, they move with a great deal of alacrity and haste and miraculously the mess just disappears before I have a chance to hoover up their Legos. The girls are fascinated with some tasks, such as sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming. I'm trying to teach them, but the vacuum is proving a bit tricky since it's so heavy for them. I can almost always give Elegant a dustcloth and she'll flit through the living room working industriously.
I know some people love to clean and I have a friend who actually likes to scrub her bathrooms. Really, I am not making this up. Beth grew up in a large family and all of the siblings had set chores growing up. Beth's job was to clean the bathrooms, which I would assume would automatically make her loathe the job now. On the contrary. She loves it. The rest of her house may be -- and often is -- a bit messy and chaotic, but her bathrooms always sparkle. I've seen them. They seriously gleam as if they were new. It's truly a wonder to behold.
I tend to do a lot of housework on Sundays. I know, I know, it's supposed to be a day of rest; however, I feel so good on Monday mornings when we start the week with a clean-ish house, that it's worth it to work a bit on Sunday morning. I strip the beds and put on clean sheets, do several loads of laundry, pick up, etc. Yesterday I had to clean the bedrooms and I spent hours doing so. So I guess that means I'm done until the spring. :-)
So now it's Monday morning and my house looks pretty good -- if you ignore the bathrooms that I didn't get to yesterday, but I'll deal with them in a bit after the caffeine has entered my bloodstream and I begin to levitate a bit.
I have a dream.
I have a dream that one day my children will clean up after themselves. That they will deal with their own messes. That they will manage their own laundry.
I have a dream that one day my house will almost always be clean and tidy. I will hire a cleaning service and eat bon bons while other people vacuum around me.
I have a dream that my husband and I will one day have separate walk-in closets so that I can just put his newly-laundered clothes in there and shut the door, instead of nagging him to put everything away.
I have a dream.