A Clean House Is Overrated

Published in The Ferndale Record-Journal

Somewhere between my third and fourth child, I stopped cleaning the house.

This sounds worse than it is because in truth, I occasionally clean out a sink or sweep the floor. But the operative word here is “occasionally.”

The early years with young children were full of self-imposed cleaning schedules I strictly followed: Mondays were for dusting and vacuuming, Tuesdays and Thursdays were for bathrooms and floors, and on Wednesdays I cleaned the kitchen.

These days I tidy things up, but rarely do I deep clean anything. In fact, not long ago, I noticed a fish stick in one of those hard-to-reach places behind a drawer in my refrigerator that looks like it’s been there since the early years of the Clinton administration. I’ll get to it someday.

I wish there was a high moral message I could apply to this festering fish stick and my dusty piano. For example, I would love to tell about how I prefer spending my time saving the rain forest and performing charitable acts for orphans, which allows me no extra time for housework.

The truth? I don’t like doing it, so I don’t. What I do is only enough to get by and usually, it feels just fine.

Whenever I’m expecting company and I want things a little cleaner than they are, I get the job done. And it always feels sublime. I think to myself, “I should do this more often.” But I don’t.

Periodically one of my children will mention casually that something needs to be cleaned. I hand him a rag. One time, my teen-age son had a friend over, and I expressed to the visiting boy my concern about the unkempt bathroom he was about to use. In the next breath I offered him five dollars to clean it—it was a small bathroom. Without thinking twice he grabbed the Pine-sol and went to work.

No, I can’t pretend to be high-minded about work, my family or other worthy pursuits that keep me from cleaning. I have plenty of time to scrub the place down. But I do think I know a little about where this personal moratorium on fastidiousness comes from. It’s a two-pronged excuse.

First, my mother and sisters were and are cleaning dynamos. They live in homes where, if one was so inclined, he or she could safely eat directly off the toilet seat. As a young woman I felt the need to keep up with them. That is no longer the case. I am neither young, nor motivated by competitive domesticity.

The second part of my decision to relax cleaning standards is simply because I’d rather do other things. There are only so many hours in a day and I want to get right to the good stuff. I want to play Guitar Hero with my son and take a nap. I want to get the bills paid, toss in a load of laundry and take the garbage out so Alex and I can watch “Seinfeld” together.

I figure that if we don’t live in abject squalor and the health department has never issued us a warning, we’re probably doing great. Besides, between the boy and I, the basics get taken care of.

Meanwhile, if you ever find yourself cruising my neighborhood with a little time on your hands, and feel like cleaning a bathroom or anything else, I’ve got five—no, make it ten—bucks with your name on it.

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4 thoughts on “A Clean House Is Overrated

  1. Hi
    As usual I was on my trawl and today it was “gravy”…and I bumped in to your blog.Really nice to read.
    Hope that I could come back and go through your candid expressions sometime later.

  2. I think domesticity and the compulsion to create an environment that you can eat off the floor (or toilet seat) is dead! Thank heaven! So many other more important things in life as you aptly pointed out. In 20 years, will it really matter how clean your house was? If you can walk through safely, you are fine.

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