Cleaning the house once a week is part of my DNA from my mother’s side. She cleaned once a week, her mother cleaned once a week, and I have always cleaned once a week.
We’re talking thorough cleaning: toilets, tubs, showers, bathroom sinks, kitchen sink, countertops, appliance fronts, dusting, windexing (that’s a verb for my people), vacuuming, sweeping, emptying trash cans, shaking throw rugs and wet mopping floors.
Clean on Saturday and collapse on Sunday.
My husband came from a more casual line of DNA. My mother-in-law, bless her sweet, sweet heart, was of the “pile it higher and deeper” method, along with the “don’t throw that away, we might need it someday” line of genetics.
My better half’s approach is: Wait.
Wait until the sink is full. Wait until the countertop is covered. Wait until the laundry basket overflows. Wait until you can see a thick covering of dust on a flat surface — then take your finger and write, “Send help!”
Our first argument as newlyweds was about cleaning the house. He said if we cleaned once a week, we would wear out the furniture.
To which I said, “I’ll dust; you vacuum.”
To which he said, “Right after the game.”
Now I’m thinking of amending the thorough cleaning once a week. Who am I kidding? I’ve been on a slow slide for ages and have the dust bunnies to prove it.
The other day, I heard myself say, “We were out of town two nights this week, let’s just wash the pillowcases and not bother with the sheets.” My husband was ecstatic.
I find myself losing enthusiasm for sparkling clean windows. I think about cleaning them, then I think about grandkids coming over and I think, “Why bother?”
My next thought is, “The little ones like playing with spray bottles. Why not let them clean the windows?”
It’s a win-win.
I’ve also questioned the frequency with which I wet mop the kitchen floor. The only real answer to that one would be to get a dog, and that’s not going to happen.
Despite visions of my mother holding a cup of coffee in one hand and swiping her index finger through dust on the console with her other hand, I have shifted from “a place for everything and everything in its place” to “casual is nice.”
You don’t slip from top tier clean to hitting the high spots without serious rationalization. I have several ready answers should someone give the place the white glove test.
“I’m busy; I’m still working.”
“We have a lot of grandkids. Don’t judge me.”
“Cleaning products can be bad for the environment. I’m saving the earth.”
“It was a great party. Sorry you couldn’t make it.”
The cleaning gene has weakened in the next generation. It skipped our son entirely, but the girls have a good measure of it. When our oldest daughter was out of college working long hours, she offered to pay her younger sister, who was still in college, to clean her apartment.
She gave her a two-page list of instructions, including specifics on how the vacuum tracks on the carpet should align. Her younger sister cleaned for her once and then quit.
There’s an easy way to permanently solve that vacuum track issue.
Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.