Monday, November 13, 2006

lousy housekeeping

Riccar RSL4

A couple of months ago we bought a new vaccuum cleaner. It weighs 8 pounds, so I can actually use it without provoking a sciatica attack.

Even so, I've probably only vaccuumed three times in the two months we've had the thing -- not counting the three times I vaccuumed up the Moon Sand that DD got for her birthday, that doesn't count. I'm talking about honest-to-God, clean-the-whole-floor vaccuuming.

I just don't do it. Well, I do it more often now that we have the Riccar. This is not a testimonial but I do love that machine. It does a fantastic job on both the tile and the carpet. The bare floor setting has a squeegee-like thing that prevents the airflow from the vaccuum from just blowing the dirt around the floor, the way my old one did. (Brooms are just too slow for me -- we have a lot of tile.)

As I was vaccuuming this morning, I thought about what a lousy housekeeper I am. I have fantastic intentions. I bought the book Home Comforts and actually read most of it. Not only that, I agree with the principals involved. A well-kept home is not just nicer to look at it, it's healthier and overall, just better to live in.

So I was thinking about why I'm so bad about cleaning.

One reason is I can get away with it. Our tile floor is gorgeous and more than one color, so it never really looks dirty. Our carpet is exactly the same color as what little fur our kittens shed. (I admit to coordinating pet color and interior decorating color schemes.) I don't let the kids eat on the carpet, and they rarely wear their shoes indoors, either. What dirt there is on the floors doesn't really show.

In the bathrooms, it's the same deal: I can get away with it. I have friends who are forced, more or less, to clean their bathrooms every day because their kids are disasters in there. Mine may leave an occasional glob of toothpaste, but overall, they're pretty neat. We rinse out the tub every evening, and I clean the rest of it when it reaches a grunge level I can't tolerate. (My grunge level is much lower than DH's -- but I don't expect him to clean the bathrooms, anyway. He would if I asked him to, but that would just be lame.)

Overall, I do a clutter patrol practically every day. Sometimes (like now) the kitchen counter and my desk are crying out for archeological expeditions to recover their pristine surfaces, but that isn't even a half-hour's work, honestly. I'll get to it. Generally, I don't let stuff pile up all over the place. So when I do want to clean, it's not like I have to do the pre-cleaning declutterfying. That gets done practically every day.

My one non-negotiable, doesn't stay dirty room is the kitchen. Dirty dishes don't stay in the sink any longer from breakfast to lunch, and clean stuff gets put away. I cook too much to tolerate a dirty kitchen, and my kitchen is big enough to have places to put everything away. I'd say I love my kitchen, but that's not exactly right. I love the layout of my kitchen, but I'm coming to hate the flimsy cabinets (we didn't have a choice with those) and I'm so, so tired of our laminate countertops. But neither one of these is anything close to a priority. Maybe if I have a few surgery-free years, we can afford to redo it.

I know a lot of folks swear by the Fly Lady, and I think that's great. I have actually been using a sort-of-Fly Lady approach for years now, with my daily clutter patrols and insistence on keeping the kitchen up. Whatever my problem is, FlyLady isn't going to help me.

For some reason, while vaccuuming today I had a flashback to what my life was like during my first marriage, when I would vaccuum our humungous condo every single week. We were just two people who were practically never home, but I'd devote three or four hours every weekend to cleaning the house. Weird. It was some sort of compulsion, I think, because it was what I was supposed to do. I don't really remember my day-to-day life from back then very well, through a combination of willful forgetting and repression. I wondered this morning if my complete inability to stick to a housework schedule goes back to those years of being so completely stuck to a schedule.

It's possible, I suppose, but I don't really buy it. That was a long, long, long time ago and frankly, I don't feel oppressed by housework. I used to get annoyed having to unload the dishwasher every morning, until I realized I was being a spoiled brat about it: hey, I could be hand-washing all those dishes before putting them away. It's just life. Life takes work, especially when you have a family.

I don't know where I got this skating-by attitude, but it's annoying me lately because I see the same thing manifesting in DS1. I can spend hours online steadfastly ignoring the things I could be or should be doing around the house. I rationalize that it's just my priorities -- and I don't accept that it's a faulty rationalization! We always have good food to eat and clean clothes to wear, everyone does their homework on time, and I manage to be only 5 minutes late to every appointment.

The important stuff gets done. I wish I could find a way to motivate myself to do those things that are manifestly less important, but still really nice. When I'm feeling better, it's easy to do those things. When I'm just holding on, they become overwhelming. I'm doing a fairly good impersonation of a not-depressed woman these days, but I think that's starting to fray around the edges. I'm going up for my bloodwork tomorrow morning, and hopefully I'll get this straightened out. The return of the sinus junk and post nasal drip from Hell are not helping at all.


Tracey said...

We are so similar in our approach to housework. Most people think my house is very clean, but what they don't realize is that I seldom mop my floors or deep clean. I'm so busy I pick up things as I go along and this saves big gobs of time for cleanup later. It helps my kids do some chores. My older son cleans the batrooms and takes out the garbage every day. My younger son vacuums on Fridays before Shabbat. I'm grateful for that!

nina said...

Our attitude about housework is a complicated thing. Someone should write a thesis about it.

I was a normal kid -- neat enough, made my bed, kept things more or less tidy -- but I would stuff a pair of stockings behind the shelf rather than washing them as I should have.

On my own, as a young adult, I kept things tidy. And I married someone who was absolutely stellar at keeping order in the house. So then I slacked off a little.

Now, on my own again, I am fanatically clean. Why? I think the chaos of my life got the better of me and I never want to go down that chaotic path again.

I wonder if your attitude toward tidying is also linked to events in your life. I wasn't thinking the first husband thing (how long were you married??), but more your coping with illness and understanding that ultimately, minutes spent on vacuuming are lost minutes.

One more thing in this ramble: I gave my first year law students a paper assignment this week for the several days that I am away. I learned that they have other papers due as well. I told them -- prioritize! Mine counts for no grade points. Your other papers will count toward your GPA. Don't waste your time doing a fantabulous job on my paper!

Anyway, I'm sure you get the analogy.