Monday, October 02, 2006

Cleanliness comes at a price

And in my world that price is a cleaning service. Having someone else clean the house has been one of the non-negotiable budget items for years. When we first got married, M cleaned the house. After M switched to his current job that requires many late nights and travel, we hired someone to clean every other week. She was the best investment we ever made in our marriage. Well worth giving up dinners out or movies or other such luxury items when the budget was tight.

I can't clean. I fully, completely, and openly embrace my inability to clean. Sure, I can clean a bathroom in a pinch. And I have been known to whip out a vacuum if the cat hair gets out of control between cleaning dates. Once, I even bleached the sink and scrubbed the garbage disposal with a toothbrush because Martha told me it is what a good housewife should do. But, all of my cleaning endeavors have been limited in scope. There have only been a few occasions that I have had to tackle the whole house on my own, and none of them ended very well.

But, our current budget has gotten tight enough that we (I) finally caved and agreed to let the cleaner go. We had given up eating out and movies that didn't come from the library ages ago. I can't remember the last time we had takeout sushi (or takeout of any kind). We are quickly chewing through the reward points accumulated on the credit cards over the years to buy the few items we desperately need for the new house and purchase M a few suits that actually fit him now that he has lost several sizes. There is really no place else in the budget to cut that makes logical sense. We could sell M's car and drive him to the train, but then the kids and I would have to wake up at 11pm to pick him up. I suppose we could start eating pasta every night and save on the food budget, but none of us actually like pasta, so the savings would be lost in the need to buy even more clothes.

No, the cleaner made sense. So this weekend I tried to tackle the new house on my own. I offered up the job to M, but he felt inspired to spend time with the kids and take them to church and then the fun fall carnival downtown. So Sunday morning, with only a modicum of guilt about missing church to clean (cleanliness is next to Godliness, right?) I surveyed the new house with vacuum and broom in hand. "Well, at least there is no furniture to dust" I thought to myself and headed into the void with iPod in hand.

I am sure that the neighbors peeking through the trees wondered what on earth I was doing. Honestly, I wasn't sure myself. I couldn't decide if I should tackle jobs by task (vacuum everything first, then mop and scrub) or by room (all bathrooms, all bedrooms). I finally went with a totally inefficient but somewhat logical approach of doing everything I couldn't do later in the week with the kids in tow. So I scrubbed the showers and tubs, then vacuumed and mopped the upstairs and front hall. Because of my utter inefficiency, this took me almost four hours. And I still have the kitchen and playroom left. The house ain't that big folks.

I know there are people out there who clean their own homes and clean them well. I applaud all of you. It is a useful skill to have and, quite honestly, I envy it. I am never quite satisfied with how someone else cleans my house, but as evidenced by this weekend, if the cleaning were left up to me it would take my whole week. But since I am left to my own devices for the foreseeable future, any words of advice for the cleaning challenged? How to you clean your house? Does everything get done at once or do you do one room a day? Inquiring minds want (and need) to know...