Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Clean House . . . Not!

I have never claimed that I was a good housekeeper as far as cleaning.  I am a good cook, I manage the household (and business!) accounts well, we always have clean clothes and clean dishes.  My pets get fed, and their homes get spruced up at least occasionally.  My houseplants are the kind that thrive on very occasional watering, annual trips outside during the summer, and then benign neglect most of the rest of the time.  My kitchen and main bath are probably the most tended to parts of the house, in no small part due to the fact that I hire someone to do the kitchen and bath once a week.

I grew up in a house where my mom was always busy cleaning something . . . it just never stayed neat and tidy because there were 5 of us always running around.  But my mom had a routine, and she put us to work at an early age to help keep up with the routine.  Every week the living room and dining room was dusted and vacuumed.  I used to complain about in one of the houses we lived in that neither of those rooms needed cleaning because we hadn't used them since the last time the dusting and vacuuming had been done.  We had a family room that we lived in, and an eat-in kitchen where we ate almsot all our meals.  But every week that chore got done.  Every night one of us had to sweep the kitchen floor.  Mom took care of sweeping after breakfast and lunch, at least during the school year.    Every Saturday we were required to change the sheets on our bed and clean our bedrooms  --- putting toys and books away, dusting the bureau, vacuuming.  And every Saturday we helped clean bathrooms and do other chores like the ironing.    None of liked these chores, and I'm sure my mother didn't like them either.  But they got done.

I somehow lost that discipline of daily/weekly chores.  I think I mostly blame the fact that aside from approximately 2 years, I have never been a stay-at-home wife or mother.  When our first child was born, I quit my job to stay home.  At the same time, my husband started his own business and before you could blink I was working again, albeit from home most of the time, or at times when he could be home.  Our 2nd child was born 15 months later, and when he was 2, I started working part-time in the office instead of at home.  All that is my rationale for why I fell out of housecleaning discipline.  With two children less than 2 years apart and a family business, it was hard to find consistent time to do all of the chores that I'd been raised to do.  Some jobs just had to be done --- clean laundry, clean kitchen and a clean bathroom were the essential chores after cooking.  Vacuuming??? Dusting??? Not so much.  Both my husband and I were working more than 40 hours a week at times; our kids accompanied us to the office.  On weekends we often traveled 3 hours to take the kids to visit their grandparents.  So when there was some down time, instead of cleaning, we'd collapse!

And it doesn't help that both my husband and I are pack rats, collectors, and people that see flat surfaces as filing cabinets.

All of these goes to say that I am still not a good housekeeper as far as a neat and tidy house.  If you drop in unexpectedly you'll find several pairs of shoes around the house, the kitchen table stacked with mail, magazines, our pills, and the newspapers.

 My counters are full of small appliances, jars of utensils, a spice corral, and various things that didn't fit in the catchall drawer(s).  If you go into our living room, or dining room, or just about any room, you can usually write your name in the dust on flat surfaces.  My dining room table which is used only on holidays has become my husband's filing cabinet for the business.
If you come on Tuesdays, the kitchen will sparkle, as will the main bathroom.  ONe gift of having a regular cleaner come in, is that my counters and bathroom vanity are 90% less cluttered than they used to be.  On Monday nights I scurry around actually putting things away where they belong.

If I know you're coming ---- like for Thanksgiving---- ah!  Then I actually get some major work done.  All of the unused guest bedrooms have had fresh bedding put on, the cobwebs in the corners of ceiling are gone, the bureaus shine, the windows are clean, and they are vacuumed within an inch of their lives.  The hallways also have been dusted and vacuumed, and the dining room and living room look at least like the before pictures in those house decorating magazines.  (With our odd collection of cast-off furniture, they'll never even make the shabby chic category!)  So the answer probably is to have company early and often.

We will be moving soon (I hope!) into a downsized house.  It will be a big change.  We are going from a 100+ year old rambling house with 5 bedrooms to a 2 bedroom open concept cape.  We're transitioning to open, clean, contemporary styling from our heavy mostly Victorian furniture.  We will actually have an office for the office.  But I am making a huge promise to myself.  There will be no clutter.  THere will be no mail on the table for longer than it takes to read it and dispose of it.  My  counters (in an open concept great room) will be clear.  I have designed the kitchen area with lots of storage for small appliances,a pantry, a spice drawer, a wine rack.  And soon after we move, I will be retiring.  I WILL establish a cleaning routine, so that I'm not exhausting myself trying to clean the house for company!

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