Monday, September 9, 2013

Housework and Cleaning Help

Housework, if you do it right, will kill you. Erma Bombeck, American Humorist (1926-1996)

I live in a big house. My husband and I didn’t need it and didn’t have to buy it, but because of his interest in architecture and cruising neighborhoods to look at houses, his decent income, assets from my unmarried miser days, my inheritance, and a low interest rate, we woke up one day in a new house waaaay bigger than the one we left. All it took was asking the salesperson one question and the snowball began.

Yes, there is much more house to clean, but I’d be lying if I say size is the reason for lacking a thorough cleaning process. Truth is, house cleaning has never been up there among my list of favorite things to do. Bending over a bathtub… how hard is that! I twisted my back when I was pregnant fourteen years ago cleaning it (or was I bathing the kids?) and I am reminded at least once a year of that incident with a shot of pain.

Cleaning the toilets—that’s Girl #3’s job. She goes from toilet to toilet with her cleanser and a brush that has an additional thumb-like brush attached for cleaning under the rim (that doesn’t work). I’ve got to teach that girl how to get down and dirty with a sponge!

Changing the sheets of a king sized bed that includes a blanket—mindless walking from one side to the other and back, over and over.

Mopping floors—another back bending, back breaking job.

Does this sound like fun?

Speaking of pregnancy… After Girl #2 was born, Darling Husband suggested a cleaning lady to help while I was getting adjusted to having two children. We were in our previous house then, but it wouldn’t have mattered where or what we lived in—I needed help. Taking care of the demanding babies (that included breastfeeding), minor cleaning, paying bills, going to appointments and play dates, minor cooking, and taking my occasional shower, something had to give.

The cleaning lady was my gift, I suppose, for having the kids—at a very advanced age, by the way. She was supposed to be temporary—and she was—for ten years. Every two weeks, Sharon came to my home for three hours. In that time, she cleaned bathrooms, vacuumed carpets, and mopped the kitchen floor. Sometimes she dusted blinds and shutters and did other small jobs that needed attention.

It was odd at first, having someone cleaning for me; but with all my other responsibilities, I never got to revel in the fictional, so-called, lady of leisure role. Instead, I’d wake up on Sharon’s Day, announce to DH and the kids (when they were older), “Miss Sharon is coming today! Let’s pick up our things. Clean up!” My mother and friends without help, would ask, jokingly, “Why are you cleaning? Isn’t your maid coming today?”

“She’s NOT a live-in, 8 hour a day maid! She’s a cleaning lady! And if we don’t get these toys off the floor, she can’t vacuum.  And if our laundry is still in the bathroom, it might be a little embarrassing.” Blah blah blah…

Sooo… for ten years, minus about ten months without Sharon and me ultimately begging her back, the cleaning routine was: rolling up my sleeves every other week to work with Sharon (me, in another room) to clean a house that stayed reasonably clean (maybe a half day) until someone started the downhill cycle again by flossing and brushing their teeth; hence, getting plaque on the mirror and toothpaste in the sink.

I’ve heard a lot of opinions on cleaning help, i.e. maids, cleaning ladies, cleaning services, housekeepers, domestics, etc. What I have gathered from it, is that people think: 1) you are lucky to be able to afford help 2) you are lazy and/or spoiled if you hire help 3) you shouldn’t have a house too big to clean yourself 4) some women take pride in how clean their home is and make it a priority to keep it as so by cleaning it themselves  5) some women want help but feel guilty about spending the money and/or by admitting that it’s a hard job that depresses them 6) some women feel that it is their job to clean and a reflection on them as a woman, especially if they are “stay at home moms” 7) some women have husbands who insist on cleaning help because they don’t like seeing their wives working hard and/or because Wifey is doing a lousy job 8) a miniscule amount of women say they don’t need help because their husbands do the cleaning 9) someone told me that the bible book of Proverbs tells of a woman who has maid servants, so why not have help 10) some families ALL pitch in and don’t need help 11) some people feel: to each his/her own.

Sharon left us about five years ago and I never sought a replacement. It was time for the kids to clean their own bathrooms and vacuum their own bedroom rugs. Also, I was tired of the scheduled routine; cleaning in a flurry. Another reality is that someone is in your home-- sometimes when you are there and not in the mood for a “visitor.” Of my friends and neighbors who have help, some treat the relationship in a total business sense. The woman or crew comes in, works, and leaves. There is no personal conversation.

My situation was different. Sharon and I became friends; not hanging out friends, but friends who had personal conversations and who gave each other gifts and did things for each other’s children. If I ever feel the need for help again, I’d skip the personal relationship… but who knows?

And lastly, I should say that this is not about having a big house. Cleaning is an ongoing job, regardless of square footage. Small apartments, trailers, ranchers, mansions—it doesn’t matter. Some people enjoy it; seeing their home transform into a dustless wonder. Others *sigh* are a bit challenged. That would be me; although, I’m superwoman when cleaning the kitchen. And DH and I are great at managing to keep a tidy downstairs, sometimes resorting to putting things in bags and pushing them into the closet when company is coming.

“Shhh… don’t tell.”

How to you feel about cleaning? What about cleaning help? (It’s okay if you think I was lazy. I can handle it. J)

Image from Microsoft clipart


Judy Thomas said...

I enjoy a clean house, but I am too busy to do it myself. And it would mean trading off activities I love (writing and making art) for those that are boring and repetitive. I am on the verge of getting paid help.

Peaches Ledwidge said...

I don't mind cleaning the house, but I do mind buying groceries. I do not like grocery stores. I could hire someone to do it for me.

P.S. I like the way you told the story... and you leave no room for judgment.

Shelly said...

I am on my way in just a bit to pick up my parents' cleaning lady to take to their house. I'm glad they have her, but I've never had one. I don't know why, because cleaning isn't my favorite thing, but I've gotten to where I just take my mind other places when I'm cleaning, like I do when I'm exercising, so it goes by a little faster.

I love how your husband let you have Sharon as a gift after having the babies- a sure sign of love!

joeh said...

We keep a clean kitchen. I keep the bathrooms acceptably clean. We vacuum occasionally, and we have guests over every once in a while or the whole house would never get straightened out.

If you can afford it and you want it, hiring help is your business, and some cleaning services do quite well with this as a business...keep the economy going.

Did the Cosby's have help? That home was always immaculate. Didn't you say you married Theo?

Rebecca S. said...

I'm with joeh on the cleaning front. My aunt, who keeps an impeccable house is coming to visit next week and I have written 'Cleaning' on the calendar for the next two days. Bring on the coffee and loud music.

I cannot tell a lie. I would love someone to come and clean my house once in a while when I get busy with other things. I have friends who hired a cleaning lady and promptly fired her...they said the house was too clean. Imagine that! We have other friends who interviewed a cleaning lady. She came over to their beautiful home and said she couldn't clean it, it was too dirty. It was not dirty, they just had a long haired dog.

Barb said...

Love the comments so far. The only time we've had cleaning help is when I had abdominal surgery and couldn't clean for 6 weeks when the kids were little. (That gal stayed for about 3 years!) Since my heart attack, we fall under #8 - my husband runs the sweeper and does all the heavy stuff, I do bathrooms, kitchen, and dusting. We both strip and remake our king-size bed. For the past 3 days, he's been cleaning the tile and grout - he's a bit of a perfectionist. I'm sure he does it better than anyone we could hire. We just have to fit it into his busy schedule of bike riding and skiing!

yonca said...

Love your writings:D
I like living a clean house and I do clean myself mostly.Carpet cleaning pics up and dropp off the rugs. For Windows a cleaning lady comes..we are living on 7th floor.
It really depends the house/apartment type or you have a dog/cats. Cleaning is not easy though!

myletterstoemily said...

you always make me smile, and i appreciate
your honesty. i would NEVER admit on my
blog that i have house help, because people
judge you. you addressed that very well.

now let's progress to jimmy choos. they are
as comfortable as heels can be, and they are
green. :)

RAnn said...

My household staff was just cut in half as my daughter headed to college. I have to admit that cleaning isn't high on my list of priorities; however I will also admit that my husband is great at housework

Mage said...

Frankly my dear, cleaning ladies saved my marriage. :) Seriously. I write, I draw, I volunteer, and I'm a total slob. I try to keep things neat but they are not clean. I was raised by two full time housekeepers, Dolly and Kathy, who did a pretty good job despite me. Now Marta does the floors, dusts, and does the kitchen and bathroom every two weeks. That's enough.

Did I ever tell you that I hated housecleaning? The joke is on me as I worked my way through college as a custodian. :)

Stephanie said...

I HATE cleaning, hate it with a passion. (probably why I'm not very good at it)
When I was working we had a cleaning lady, and we did the exact same thing you did. Every other Wednesday we would run around like crazy people cleaning up for the cleaning lady. It was kind of funny, but did make sure she didn't see our undies on the floor!
Oh I miss her!

Hilary said...

I've never hired someone to help clean but if I did, it wouldn't be a cleaning lady. If I'm going to watch someone bend and use muscle to scrub, it's going to be a man. ;)

Seriously, it's actually in my plan to hire a cleaner to do a thorough job on my house just before I put it on the market. It needs it.

Tabor said...

I also have a house that is too large for two people. I had cleaning help when we lived in a small apartment a few years ago...why is that? NOw I do it all myself, but am getting tired of so much work. I have been thinking of getting a cleaning person...maybe...maybe not.

Linda said...

I love to clean and organize, but I must admit that vacuuming, mopping and sweeping are on my list of "do not like." :)

fsmum said...

I don't have a big house thankfully because I find it difficult to keep clean a the best of times. And I only have one child!!!And I am on a career break which is sadly due to end in November. I don't know how I will manage cleaning and childcare along with a job outside the home! I can't get it all done now... I couldn't get a cleaning lady because I'd feel guilty and also because I'd be too embarassed to let her clean and I too would end up cleaning before she/he came to clean! On the other hand, it would be terrific as it would give me more time to blog and be creative. Is it just me or are creative types more messy than other types? As long as my kitchen is clean, I can eat and drink from clean dishes and the bathroom is reasonable, I'm okay with that.

Margie said...

Thanks for the visit and kind words on my poem.
I love a clean house but do not love the cleaning bit.
My hubby is a great help but since he's gone back to work today, looks like it may mostly fall on my shoulders.
We live in a ranch ans it's much easier that the tri-level that we moved from last year.

Cheers to having a clean house ...LOL
No cheers on the hard work of cleaning but I shall "grin and bear it"

I enjoyed your post!

Margie said...

When I looked at your profile pic , I thought you were a teenager.
You look "marvelous darlin" ...lOL

Miss Quotes said...

Yep. Been there done that. I hate cleaning, but having someone come into my space to clean up after me and my family felt invasive. And, yes, I would do the "sprint" cleaning before the cleaning person came. Now I have learned to accept my home "as is."

Shalet Jimmy said...

I don't like cleaning, especially mopping...what to do...;D

InSeason Mom Cynthia said...

I interviewed cleaning help when my daughters were babies and toddlers. I couldn't decide on one, so I ended up doing the housework. Now that my social media business is expanding, I could use help with the housework and the cooking. I love a clean house and good Southern food! :)

Betty W said...

Since moving to Paraguay 26 years ago, I've always had a cleaning lady. It's totally normal thing over here. It's treated like any job and many woman do this work here. From the comments I take it, it's something to be embarrassed about over there, I wonder why? I have a full time job and admit freely, that I don't like cleaning, so I let someone else do it,who does. What is wrong with that?

Cathy said...

Hello Anita
Just getting back into the swing of things - thought I'd pop in and see how you are.
Have to say the last thing on my mind was housecleaning yet you made me chuckle as I read your post - especially your comment about putting stuff in bags ! I have a feeing you were that fly on the wall, the one I swat when we've had company coming and there are things hanging around that fit into the 'too hard basket' that we all seem to have lol
Haven't had a cleaning lady but many many years ago did have a lady I cleaned for - and let me tell you she and her family did not tidy up before I arrived. I often wonder if any of her socialite friends were aware of the mess her house was in some days.
Take care

Annie Z said...

I can add another reason for a cleaner. Bachelor boyfriend (now hubby!) had a cleaner for his bachelor home. Same deal - once a fortnight for three hours. When he moved into my house, he announced that he would more than happy to keep the cleaner. Having never had a cleaner before, I said "thank you very much"! And that was that!

I LOVE having her come once a fortnight. It's not a lot of money, because she isn't employed through a cleaning service, and once a fortnight I don't have to do the basic housework. I often use that time to do more nitty gritty cleaning that you don't always get time to do!

Bob Wolfe said...

If having a cleaning help doesn’t work for everyone, then so is doing the chores by yourself. However, I think that it doesn’t make the latter an elitist, lazy, or spoiled. It’s just there are some chores that are enough to be a significant sources of one’s stress, especially on occasions when you need to spend your time on more important tasks. In those cases, sparing a little expense for this matter is probably worth it.

Bob Wolfe @ The Maids

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