Earlier, I waxed eloquent on my meal-planning mediocrity. Today’s subject: cleaning.
Let me provide some background. When I was a child, my room was known as The Pigsty. My mother had a rule of thumb: Don’t fight battles unless they really matter. Having discovered that forcing me to maintain a certain standard of cleanliness in my room was both annoying and frustrating for both of us, she declared that I could keep my room how I liked it as long as she could close the door and ignore it. (To be fair, I was no Jeremy from the “Zits” comic strip. Yeah, I had clothes and toys on my floor, but portions of my floor were still visible, and I never kept food or dishes in my room.)
As a whole, however, my house was more-or-less spotless growing up. (Not sterile-seeming, just very clean.) I inherited my goal-oriented nature from my mother. Her solution to the frustration of being home all day with no goals was to clean incessantly. From what I remember of her schedule, she washed our towels and every article of clothing after a single use (a significant amount of laundry, given that there were four kids in my family), laundered our sheets weekly, dusted the whole house (including shelves with figurines and books) each week, vacuumed the house at least once a day, and washed the windows inside and out each month. I don’t remember much of anything ever sitting on our kitchen counter or on the floor, which—if it was not carpet—she not only vacuumed daily but also scrubbed at least weekly. (She even washed under the fridge and stove on a regular basis.) Our house—with the exception of my bedroom—was a bastion of cleanliness.
Fast forward a few decades to my marriage. With a whole house to myself (well, and ‘Love), I was able to expand my cluttered living. While this meant that more space was cluttered, it also dictated that there was less clutter per square foot. When both my husband and I worked, cleaning and straightening got done on an as-desperately-needed basis: I would spend an occasional Saturday morning scouring the house and doing laundry when things got too dirty to stand.
Once I had children—or, perhaps more clearly, once I had mobile children—suddenly my motivation to clean increased dramatically. What mommy wants her beautiful baby sleeping on weeks’ worth of spit up on crib sheets that were last washed who-knows-when? What mother wants her precious child crawling around in dust bunnies and dirt clods?
As my children have grown, so have the areas that I care about cleaning. Baby is big enough for the big tub? Better make sure it’s clean enough for a little bottom! Toddler is mastering the potty? Better be sure those little hands won’t be leaning on anything gross! Preschooler can reach the countertops? Better get them cleared off so important papers don’t turn into fodder for writing practice!
Partly in an attempt to satisfy my need to achieve and partly because it’s amazing how long you can go without remembering to clean things if you don’t make a point of doing so, I created a weekly cleaning schedule when we moved to this house almost two years ago. It goes something like this:
– Daily: Do dishes, wipe kitchen table and counters, sweep kitchen floor, clean up toys/straighten
– Monday: Clean the bathrooms (toilets, shower/tub, sink, mirror, floor around toilet); scrub the kitchen sink, stove, and microwave (it seems odd, but they use the same baking soda/dish soap cleaner as the tub)
– Tuesday: Wash sheets and towels (plus random clothing); dust-mop bedroom floors
– Wednesday: Wash kitchen and bathroom floors (and entry hall, if motivated…)
– Thursday: Wash whites and anything else needed; vacuum living room
– Friday: Catch up, straighten up, declutter
You’ll notice that I’m practical: I alternate cleaning with laundry so as not to get too tired of either, and I concentrate more chores at the beginning of the week when I’m more motivated, leaving myself a catch-up day at the end and allowing my weekend free time to be spent putzing with my husband rather than cleaning. (He helps with the daily clean-up and is in charge of the outdoor maintenance, for the most part, since our lawn mower gave me blisters the few times I’ve tried using it.)
The countertops still sport more crumbs and junk mail than I’d like, and I don’t run the vacuum as often as I should. (The living room is the only place we have carpet, and all three of my kids are terrified of the vacuum. Goober actually bursts into tears if she so much as sees it out of the closet. The ordeal of moving toys to and fro in the room, shoving a heavy vacuum across the floor whilst three children cower—or wail—in terror does not make me especially motivated to repeat the process with any great frequency.)
So how clean is my house? I’d like to think it’s decent. But I guess it depends on who you ask. Is it clean enough for me? Well, that depends on when you ask and whom I’ve recently been comparing myself to. In general, my housekeeping is probably adequate; nothing stellar, but certainly not disgusting, either.
Once again, I find myself measuring up at “mediocre”. Is that my lot in life?