It could be a very short list:
I’d rather do anything rather than clean. But then that wouldn’t actually, exactly, be true. And it’s even less true now that I’ve hired a cleaning woman who comes in twice a week. Be still my beating heart, there is someone else sponging down the gritty counters and mopping the floor.
My mother never had a cleaning person – or, as she used to say, she was her cleaning person. Apparently she didn’t pay well and the job had no benefits, so on the days of “big” cleaning (mopping the floors, the bathrooms) we all tried very hard to steer clear. What I realize now, looking back, is that we’re lucky she didn’t impale us all on the mop handles because we were so incredibly ungracious and unappreciative of her hard work.
Um, mom? I know it’s like
two three decades late and many dollars short, but “thanks!”
She did, however, develop a serious incentive program to help us, her darling children, pick up our crap and stow it where it belonged. Our house was old and had a laundry chute running from the top floor down to the basement: clothes slid down the chute and landed in the (overflowing) hamper. Whatever she found lying around–tennis racquet, algebra book, sweater, shoes, notebooks, toys–she would toss into the chute, so you’d have to go into the basement and root around in the dirty clothes in order to find your belongings. Sometimes things never surfaced. I suspect there was wildlife down there homeschooling their offspring with my French book, which went down the chute one day in 1980 and never re-appeared.
I digress. I don’t have a laundry chute (apartment dwellers–we’re a horizontal people) and I don’t have a good system for getting my sweet boys to pick up their crap and put it away, unless by “good system” you mean saying, “put that away, please.” “Put that AWAY please.” “Pick that up PLEASE!” “PUT AWAY YOUR BACKPACK.” To which the usual response is an eyeroll and a “well you don’t have to yell.”
1. Cleaning can be what I call productive procrastination. Have to prepare for teaching tomorrow? Let’s do the laundry first. Need to work on an overdue article? First you should probably clean the stove burners.
2. I’m one of those people who has to clean the kitchen before she can start to cook; I tidy up my desk before I sit down to work. I like a clean slate, I guess you could say.
3. There’s a distinction between “tidying” and “cleaning.” I’m a tidier. I think that means that ultimately I’m pretty shallow: if the bed is made, who cares if there are dust mice the size of buffalo under the bed?
4. I make the bed. Always. Husband has almost left me over this compulsion I have. I hate to leave the house if I’ve not made the bed. Husband says, why? You’re just getting in it again later…And I know. It’s true. But if making the bed feels…orderly. And no less an expert than Gretchen Rubin, the Happiness Project lady, said once that making the bed in the morning is one of the tiny things that you can do to make yourself feel better about your life. And who are we to argue with her?
5. I would rather watch an entire evening of Kevin Costner movies (including Waterworld) than mop the floor. In my old New York apartment, my kitchen floor was about as big as a large dog, and even though mopping it took about six minutes, I would only break out the mop when I was in danger of becoming permanently stuck to the accumulated goo beneath my toes.
6. On more than one occasion, I have cleaned the floors (bathrooms, kitchen) by putting damp towels on the ground and sliding them around with my feet.
7. If people are coming over and the house looks like its standard who-turned-the-building-over-and-shook-it-mess, I’ve shoved all the crap into a closet (or under the bed with the dust buffaloes), and squirted a little poof! of some cleaning fluid into the bathroom, to make it have that nice “clean room” smell (similar to the “new car” smell they spray into used cars when they’re trying to sell them).
I’m going to veer away from the standard ten-item list (what a rebel, right?) because I am going to make a confession here: I actually don’t mind cleaning. I mean, no, scrubbing toilets isn’t ever going to be my idea of a good time, but I like having things in order. Maybe it’s because inside my head it’s really messy, with ideas and projects all bumping into one another, so I like my external surroundings to be as non-chaotic as I can get them. Most of the crap going on in the world I can’t control, but I can line up all those sneakers by the front door, dammit, and I can make my bed.
So sure, there are lots of things I’d rather do than clean–and I might have to draw the line at the Costner movies–but on the other hand, if my choice is chaos or mopping the floor?
I’d take the mop.