Friday, June 4, 2010

It's All About Timing

Lately, I've been cleaning a lot. Part of this sudden urge to clean stems from the fact that we're moving in less than two months, and part of it from the fact that Wiggle is a grade A mess-maker.

In all of this cleaning though, I realized something very important. I don't really know how to clean. I mean I know the basics of cleaning, but I never learned all of the things that make a cleaning thorough.

For this gaping hole in my education, I will openly blame my mother (sorry, mom). Make no mistake, my mom is a great housekeeper. No, her crime against me did not come in the form of a messy house, but in how it became clean. You see my mom has a couple of problems; she is a personal perfectionist, and she is an insomniac. My mom was like one of the shoemaker's elves who worked through the night, and when we woke up all we saw were shoes. I cannot count the number of times, my sister and I stumbled out of our rooms at three in the morning because we heard the vacuum running downstairs. Sure we had our own responsibilities - we unloaded the dishwasher, or at least we did some of the time, we handled our own laundry, and made plenty of our own food, for breakfast and lunch at least, but we never saw much of the nitty-gritty of cleaning. While I watched my mom cook for hours and hours, sitting and talking with her in the kitchen as she made dinner, I hardly ever saw the bulk of her cleaning routine. I saw and inherited the desire for the detail work, like taking a toothbrush to the kitchen faucet, but sweeping and mopping occurred mainly by moonshine.

I know my mom would have told me how to really get in the corners, or pre-treat a stain on my shirt, but I never thought to ask. It all looked so easy for her (not in man hours, but in know-how), so I just assumed I could figure out how to do it, or that it would suddenly come to me. But I didn't and the "flash" never came, and I now realize the last time I really questioned my cleaning techniques, I was probably fifteen.

And then I had a baby.

Now I vacuum my living room rug every other day because if I don't the detritus that can be found there is large enough for Wiggle to eat, and so he does. I dust more frequently because I notice more that the surfaces are dusty. Those dusty places are where I put my coffee cup and the old battery that I'm trying to keep away from Wiggle. I've been systematically going around the house with a 4/1 bleach solution, cleaning all of the baseboards and woodwork because I have actually seen him lick our walls.But since I don't have any elf in me, I had to figure out another way to get time for cleaning into my day.

I am definitely a stuff person, I like physical things around me, so my biggest obstacle to cleaning is clutter. Now even though, I am not blessed/cursed with a nocturnal urge to clean, the clutter would certainly keep me up at night. It's just that my cleaning thoughts at night are a little crazy. You know, the weird slightly OCD ones that make you think that you can't throw out old magazines until you buy new towels for the bathroom. If you read the last sentence and thought, "what the hell is she talking about?" then you are probably normal or you are a guy. If you thought that the sentence made sense, then I can guarantee that you have at least one closet door in your house that you don't even let your husband open. The "logic," in case you are wondering, is my husband likes to take magazines into the bathroom, so I would like to give him old ones to have in there, but they should really have a place to go in there, so I need some kind of container, but what kind? Hmmm. I need a new soap dispenser to replace the one that broke, and the soap dispenser and magazine container, should "go" together, but if either of those things have any color in them, they need to complement the colors of the towels, and I need new towels because my current ones have bleach stains on some of them, so I can't go through old magazines yet, because I don't have a place to put them. It's crazy, I know. But that's what happens to me when I stay up all night and try to clean, I just get one of those thoughts after the other, until I've made more of a mess than I started with. So since I'm not naturally an elf cleaner, I needed to find another kind of magic.

My magic is a timer and a hokey website. Actually, with a toddler, I don't even need to set a timer most of the time. I just try to do a small enough task that if Wiggle leaves the room, I can finish in enough time that he hasn't injured himself in the interim. One tiny thing at a time, I clean the house. In order to stop myself from the crazy thought train, I turned to the FlyLady. Do not judge me. Even though, the constant "bless"-ing terminology turns my stomach a little. It has good advice. Also, more importantly for me, it tells me what to do - every day. I never walk into a room, and think "How do I decide what to do first?" because she tells me. I love not being responsible for planning my cleaning routine or deciding what to do at every turn. I love just doing what comes next on the list, and I generally do. It turns out, it doesn't take a lot of time to keep the house in relatively good condition, as long you do a little bit all of the time. I love being a grown-up and realizing that I don't care if a website that helps me is homespun hokey; the important thing is that it helps me.
Sporting a new 'do.

1 comment:

  1. LOL! I LOVE this post! Thanks for the compliment on my housekeeping abilities. I'm sitting here laughing...but the OCD comments and reasoning of course make perfect sense to me. Takes me back, actually, to when I asked the chief psychiatrist why I had to ask all those questions about normal behavior in the ADD and OCD parts of the semi-structured interview, when I was doing a psych eval, and he just looked at me and I had this aha moment. I'm going to check out the FlyLady website. The Slob Sisters helped me. I still have the colored 3 x 5 cards, do you remember those? Whatever it takes...