The Tale of the Horrible Housekeeper

A couple of weeks ago, Bob and I toured some brand new homes. They were enormous. I think one was close to 5,000 square feet and while standing in the cavernous finished basement, looking at what seemed like miles of brand new carpeting, Bob exclaimed, “Just imagine how much you could NOT keep this clean!”

Bob was, of course, referencing my housekeeping skills, of which I am not necessarily known for. I should be offended, right? But, I’m not. I am terrible at keeping house. Tending to our home. Deep cleaning. Or, whatever else you want to call the menial tasks of scrubbing toilets and wiping baseboards and figuring out what that weird sticky substance underneath the table is. I fully own up to my failings on the housekeeping front. I can’t be bothered with stained grout or dust bunnies or making the beds every single day.

I mean, I have stuff to do. Mostly on the Internet.

A few months ago, something awful (I can’t remember exactly WHAT it was), spilled in the refrigerator. It chilled, hardened, looked disgusting and appeared super difficult to clean. I think it dripped down and I was going to have to do something extra complicated, like remove a shelf or bin, to access it. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I actually crunched the numbers on just buying a new fridge and having the old one hauled away.

It wasn’t always like this. In fact, when I was living on my own in an assortment of post-college rentals, I had no problem keeping my surroundings spic and span.  It was just me and everywhere I lived was rather compact. When there is no one else around to muck up your tiny space, staying neat and tidy is easy.

Then, this happened and all hope was lost:



As much as I would like to, I can’t entirely blame the kids. But, there is kind of a self-defeatist aspect in trying to keep a floor free of crumbs when the vast majority of the people in your house cannot seem to get food from their plate to their mouth via the most direct route. Not to mention that having two boys means unspeakable bathroom conditions. There are so many aspects of parenthood that are just gross, man, and the pottying habits of boys tops the list.

There is also the first-world issue of our large house. While our old home was a very manageable 1,900 square feet, our current home is about 3,000 square feet. My mom wisely commented after a visit, “That’s a lot of house, dear.” I think she was just trying to make me feel better about the cobweb she walked through when she went to set her suitcase down in the guest bedroom. But, it IS a lot of house. Too much house. Too many nooks and crannies to stay on top of. Too many rooms that we kind of don’t even use. Too many extraneous pieces of furniture to keep free from fingerprints.

(My sister, who has raised a family of six+ in a home with one bathroom, wants to punch me in my whiny face right now, I bet.)

But, let me clarify. We’re definitely not living in squalor. Our home isn’t filthy. In fact, just looking at it on the surface, it looks quite clean because there is never really any clutter laying around. I am insanely organized. Pretty much compulsively so. I mean, I could produce a receipt for you right now for a piece of jewelry I purchased back in 2002. Or, show you how I’ve sorted all of our medical records by year and family member. Every toy has a spot where it is stored and our junk is so limited that we don’t even have a kitchen drawer dedicated to it. I am excellent at containing the clutter. So, organization isn’t the problem.

The problem is finding the time to do anything else beyond that. The Big Stuff. Like, washing windows and wiping down cabinets. The things that you should really do regularly. After all, I’m pretty sure sniffing the kids’ bath towels isn’t really an effective way to determine cleanliness.

I basically only have two household goals when Bob is away at work during the week. They are to keep the dishes and the laundry from piling up. I can feed and clean the kids, get everybody to and from school and activities, complete homework and sort school papers but finding time in that mix to do anything cleaning-related besides dishes and laundry is nearly impossible. So, while our home isn’t revolting or anything, it’s just not as clean as I’d like it to be. My dream is to be able to have unexpected guests drop by and for me to not panic over the state of the half-bath.

If only this was actually helpful in getting the dishes done.

If only this was actually helpful.

So, how do I get from here (dusty, so very dusty) all the way to over there (gleaming floors)?

A hired cleaning team is out of the question. And, not because Bob would protest but because I refuse. We had a cleaning lady when I was working full-time and while having the bathrooms and floors cleaned on a regular basis was really nice, I just feel like this is something I should be able to do since I’m home during the day.

I have a feeling that people who have their housekeeping life in order use some sort of schedule. Am I right about this? Their tasks are written down so they know when to change the sheets in this room and wipe the ceiling fan blades in this other room. All orderly and reasonable-like. I do really enjoy making lists and I bet some of my friends would share their cleaning schedules with me if they were to visit and see how badly someone needs to sweep the front porch.

However, a big part of my personality is that I like to be able to finish a project once I’ve started. And, since my days are just a series of 15-minute intervals of free time in between tending to an adorable kid(s) that wants to be read to or hugged or fed, finishing a task isn’t guaranteed, even if it IS written down. And, this feels sort of defeating in its own way.

Plus, just to do something simple, like cleaning the kitchen floors, opens up a Pandora’s box of other tasks that have to get completed first. Because before I can mop the floor, I have to vacuum. Before I can vacuum, I have to pick up all of the throw rugs. Before I can pick up all of the throw rugs, I have to pick up all of the toys on the throw rugs. And, before you know it, I’m just going to go check facebook for a minute…

So, you can see why this is so complicated. I guess the bigger question is, should I just go back to work full-time so I can justify the hiring of a cleaning lady?

2 thoughts on “The Tale of the Horrible Housekeeper

  1. In your defense, I only have 1 child and 950sq ft and the absentee spouse. So even if not super helpful on the cleaning front when present, when he is present can at least “watch” (occupy enough to prevent serious harm to themselves) said child so I can have more than 15 consecutive minutes to dedicate to any one project….Which may or may not be cleaning. so I can only imagine the conundrum with 3x as many little hands and square footage…

    • See, that’s exactly it, Erin! It’s having more than 15 minutes to dedicate to a task that is causing a roadblock for me here. And, when Bob is home for the weekend, we like to hang out and do family stuff – not clean the bathtub.

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