Friday, July 15, 2011

On Channeling My Inner Susie Homemaker

Lately I have been on a cleaning binge.  For some people, what I have been doing would be considered normal.  For me, however, it is not.

I am one of those people who was raised in a house of women.  You'd think that this would have given me excellent training in the domestic arts, but that's where you'd be wrong.  The Susie Homemaker gene is sporadic in the females to which I am related...and for some of just comes in spurts.  For others...well, it never comes at all.

When I was younger, my grandmother had "help" who came in primarily because she had done so for years and was in my mind...a part of the family.  Christmas gifts were under our tree for her each year and I know that it pained my grandmother deeply when she passed.  A lot of people had these arrangements because back in the day...babies were born at home.  In that era before the insurance companies began sending women home an hour after delivery, the convalescence period was something like two weeks.   Since men weren't in the delivery room...much less the kitchen or assisting with child care...someone had to step in to help.  Usually that "help" went on for years.

Even now, some of my fortunate friends still have someone who helps get the housework done and those special jobs that can be overwhelming like polishing silver or preparing for a party.  Some other friends have someone who comes in each week or at least every other week to do the "heavy cleaning."  It is really a business for these women...and the few times I've had someone come in, I was almost giddy at how good my house looked.  Sadly, housekeepers just didn't fit into our family's budget when we decided to send the kids to private school.  I've had fantasies of a clean and orderly house ever since.

Needless to say, between having "help" and my family's attitude of "it's just easier to do it myself"...I never really learned how to do housework.  I'm quite sure that someone did it, but I just never really thought about it.  I had friends that were required to cook or fold laundry or make up their bed.  My jobs were to set the table, put ice in the glasses at dinner and avoid getting on everyone's last nerve. 

That last part was way harder for me than you can imagine.

My grandmother was patterned, stubborn, and wanted things done a certain way.  My mother was spontaneous, easygoing and didn't give a rat's behind about order.  Every day was an adventure.

Through the years, I've figured out a lot of what should be done.  Most of it has been learned from observation or from Big Dave.  There are a lot of things in life that you can accent...intelligence...or a tan...but you can't fake housekeeping. 

Believe me, I've tried.

When I was little, I put everything under my bed.  If it was hidden from was clean, right?  I later went the other direction and was so organized that it scared people.  I hung my socks on individual clothespins on a string on my door in color.  Through the years, I've found somewhat of a happy medium.  With the goals of a cleanliness, organization or utilization...I've found that I've only been able to get two out of three at best...long term, anyway.

I'm fairly certain that most people either manage to get housework handled because they like keeping a neat house...or they have help.  Big Dave and I have managed to avoid living in squalor, but housework has ranked right up there with weighing at the doctor's office, the annual gynecological visit/mammogram or cleaning up "gifts" from the dogs.  Wait, that last one actually qualifies as housekeeping.  Yay! (I guess.) 

Big Dave is naturally neat, but there are limits.  He is obsessive about a clean kitchen and he manages to put his laundry in the basket in his closet instead of on the floor.  He puts the toilet seat down, and he will make the bed if he passes by and it is unmade.  I know!  I'm totally lucky, right?  He cooks most weeknights, handles the yard, and even sweeps and mops. 

Granted, he will leave a basket of laundry to be put away until he has either exhausted all of the items in the basket or the items become victims of dry rot.  He is also a bit obsessive about his socks...he puts a "D" on the bottom of each one so that the kids don't confiscate them.  He also does not understand the concept of cleaning the way that I do it has sparked more than one clash through the years.  He puts it away and that's good enough for him.  Me?  I have to take everything out, sort it, put it in bags, drive it to various sites to give it away, and then move all of the furniture to sweep underneath.  For Big Dave, if it is behind a cabinet or closet door where he cannot see the simply doesn't exist.  He usually finds me somewhere in the middle of hauling it all out and wonders if I've lost my mind. I know this because he asks me exactly that.

The most recent cleaning binge started quite innocently.  My sister, nephew and niece along with the folks were coming for a visit over the 4th of July weekend.  Jill was also to be home between summer classes, and I wanted to at least give the general impression that I keep my house all hospitable and such.  It isn't like these people haven't known me for the better part of my life...and know better...but whatever.  I started the preparations while Brian was in France at the end of May because it was easier to make progress without him coming behind me messing it all up.  I'm not being unfair.  He's like the Peanuts' character "Pigpen."  He's not dirty...but a trail of destruction usually follows him.  The destruction is usually in the form of wrappers, crumbs, cereal boxes on the counter, cups in his room, and boxers on the floor.  Since I've been on my cleaning binge, I've been a "crazy lady" (his words) because I've extracted him from bed to pick up boxers and jerked him away from the Xbox to put away a cereal box. 

(He doesn't know "crazy lady" quite yet.  Wait until he pulls that crap with a wife someday.)

The cleaning has moved through almost every room in the least most of the surfaces that anyone can see.  I've just started moving to the closets and will then be working on the outside windows and the landscaping.

Unless I keel over from exhaustion or snap out of it first.

Oh my goodness...I have totally digressed.  Anyway, back to how this all started...Brian's room. 

I don't know if I built up some confidence with that room cleaning...but I started doing a little bit more every night.  And much like anything that is awful at eating a proper diet or became easier for me to find a little project and just get that little rush of accomplishment for taking my house another notch closer to my ideal. 

You know it is sad that I am looking for self-actualization in a clean mirror or a closet that is not threatening to implode on me like a bad episode of "Hoarders."

Even if that "self-actualization" has meant that I've had to wake up family members to put dishes in the dishwasher, pick up clothes, or put them away.  Or that I've been comatose the next morning because I stayed up until 2 a.m. sorting socks. 

I've given up the dream of Merry Maids swooping in here and making it look amazing.  I mean...I suppose since I am the maid...I might as well be merry about it.  I generally am...unless someone fails to put his cereal bowl in the sink.  (Yes.  There are charging rhinos less aggressive.  Trust me.)

I am trying to get everything taken care of because in two short weeks Jill's apartment items are coming back here.  She is moving into the sorority house at the end of the month for next year, and won't need a lot of what is currently residing in Tuscaloosa.  She will, however, need it the following year as she has informed me that she is definitely finding somewhere to live that is...not here.

So far, I have made progress.  I can actually tell that the house is neater, cleaner, and more organized.  It is more fun to be home without five hundred "shoulda-woulda-couldas" nipping at my heels.  I like getting up in the morning and knowing that the kitchen is orderly, I can walk into the laundry room without being mortified, and I don't have grit on my feet...because the floor is swept.  Even the crickets that were invading my house like some insect version of Hitchcock's "The Birds" have stopped coming in.  Perhaps they are allergic to cleaning products.  Who knew?  I know that they are "allergic" to a folded up "Southern Living."
(Yeah, if you haven't seen the can get the gist in about one minute forty seconds with some weird whistling soundtrack.  Thanks YouTube!)

I'm not saying that my house will be clean enough for Southern Living to come in here and photograph...but I do know that I have enjoyed the freedom that this discipline has brought.  I suppose I'd forgotten how awesome the rewards of discipline are.  Probably because I've been spending a lot of time trying to enjoy life...or just simply being undisciplined.

I hope that this spurt of productivity will last until I can get everything cleaned up and cleaned out.  Next project: body clutter.

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