October 10, 2007

Cleaner's Anonymous

So let me first start off by saying that I am a cleaner by nature.

I am one of the few strange and odd phenomenon of women/men who actually enjoy cleaning. It's kind of like this: much like any addiction - there is first the heightened awareness of the need. Just walking from room to room, my mind will start churning towards the, shall we call them "flaws", in any given room. I start to think of what needs to be done here and there, and how moving that item slightly to the left or right might actually make it look a little bit nicer. How the carpet is looking a little too...I don't know...carpety? Little pieces of lint or fuzz can be seen. Dust might be collecting on any given flat surface. The kitchen floor starts to take on that dull look.

Any one of these observations alone don't set the addiction to work. It sometimes takes several to finally send the addiction into full-blown NEED.

Then a day is set aside and I get dressed in those clothes that usually can only be worn to...well, let's face it - nowhere but home. The music goes on (preferably Barbra Streisand - good Lord - don't ask........alright! Fine! - it's because my Mother used to clean house to Barbra when I was a kid, and something about it just feels right...WHAT?! Don't question the addict, just accept!).

Once I have the house to myself and the appropriate cleaning supplies are in place, dress code has been established and enforced, and one can hear "Evergreen" in the background - the addict can begin her rounds.

The following are the 11 rules of cleaning, for those who long to be a cleaning addict, like me:

1. Set a day when you know you will have the house either to yourself or mostly to yourself. Having AB around distracts me and has on occasion made me resentful. Cleaning is not only NOT his strong suit, but he actually loathes it. While I'm humming away, like the little gal in the picture above, he's cringing and sweating, and hating life. But I find that if he is watching TV, and I'm cleaning around him, I feel annoyed and thus ensues the drama. Cleaning is a strength of mine, and Lord Bless Me, I enjoy it. This means, we set AB to his strengths - fixing things, cooking all the meals, grocery shopping, and all things trash related. It makes for a lot less drama. If neither you or your spouse are good at cleaning - then I suggest you both bite the bullet - split up the rooms in your home, and turn up the music. It'll be over before you know it.

2. If you do laundry like I do laundry - then it's a haphazard "get to it, when I get to it" or when we no longer have clean underclothes to wear. I have been breaking this long-term habit by setting myself to do all the laundry one day a week. Doesn't matter which day, just make sure you're around to see it through. Pull it all into one place, sort it however you prefer to, and get moving. If you arrange this on the same day you clean, start the laundry before anything else, since it's something you can keep moving through and checking on as the day progresses.

3. Change the sheets and pillow cases on your beds regularly. Some people change them weekly, daily, etc. The important thing is that you change them regularly. Don't go a month. Sweat, dirt, dust, and bed-mites accumulate on your bed daily. This can actually lead to restless sleep, difficulty breathing, and in some cases; sickness. Especially if your kids climb in bed with you - or the family dog lays between you and your spouse, the cat shares your pillow, or the hubby has a cold. Change those sheets! If you do laundry once a week, I highly recommend it.

4. One room at a time. Top to bottom. Or at least top to bottom in terms of what makes you tick. Sometimes, when I'm short on time, top to bottom only means dust, vacuum, and pick up. Sometimes it means suck the dust off the ceiling fan, clean out the fireplace, and purge the knick-knacks.

5. A large laundry basket follows you. This means that a large basket is brought into the room and all items that don't belong in that room are placed in the basket. This will keep you in the room, and not wandering around the house.

6. In lieu of the rule above, we have the "no wandering" rule in place. Most people will go to clean a room, pick up a pair of shoes off the floor and walk them back to the closet they belong in. On the way, they will notice that the frame in the office is hanging slightly off. They will stop, set the shoes down, and straighten it. Having done that, they will then notice that the frame is dusty. They will then seek out a cloth to dust it. Once in the laundry room for said cloth, they will notice that they never set the dryer to "ON" for the last load. Having done that, they will remember the load they meant to wash. Putting the load of wash together, they will start to notice that they are out of certain detergents and will run to write down on the shopping list the missing items. While running to the list, they notice that the plant in the entry way is looking a little droopy and will go to the nearest faucet to gather some water. After plucking twenty dead leaves from the plant, the floor is littered with dead leaf trimmings and must be swept. Off to get the broom, they might notice there are shoes sitting in the hallway outside the office. For this reason, we must instate the "no wandering" policy. Many a women have lost entire days being run down by loss of direction.

7. If it ain't broke....: Listen to the addict - there is nothing more frustrating than being frustrated that your house isn't perfect. Or maybe it is. But for most, our homes are a constant work in progress. I look at pictures of my home from three years ago, and the transformation is drastic. We have painted, added new pieces of furniture, changed the arrangement of the rooms, etc. Don't start your day with good cleaning intentions and then find yourself sitting in the kitchen drawing out maps of everything you would change if you won the lotto. Just remember that the age old adage "Home is where your heart is" has profound truth to it. Stop trying to have the perfect home. In most cases, stick with clean, warm, and inviting - that usually wins over anyone.

8. No more Comet powder - work smart: Stop the insanity ladies. You know how I said above about the whole "Babs" music? Pure insanity - but it doesn't chafe the skin and burn the eyes. (Well, unless your AB - let's just say, he's not a fan) There are many, many wonderful cleaners out there and we have evolved in this department. I once let my toilet go for a month. It was an experiment to test cleaners. On half the toilet bowl, which was actually turning a dark musty color, I squirted the new liquid Comet. On the other half, I sprinkled the dry powder Comet. I waited five minutes. Coming back to the bowl - the side with the Comet "gel" had practically cleaned itself. No kidding - it was all but bright white. The other side, the powdered down side, had not even remotely changed. Result: I would have to get on my hands and knees and scrub that side to get the gunk off. So other than the nasty smell of the powder, and the burning sensation I was already getting in my eyes - I now had to pull myself down to the underworld of toilet scum and use my hands to physically remove each and every "deposit" of grime. Lesson learned: millions of dollars on research and product development have been spent so that with a gel squirt I can walk away - clean the sink (with the gel of course) and return only to have my toilet bowl sparkle all on it's own. Now why, for the love of harriet, would anyone, anywhere, defer to the old fashioned powder just because it's what they had growing up. I had lace gloves and spandex growing up, but you sure the heck won't see me sporting them today. Allow yourself to "splurge" on cleaners that will help you to work smart and efficiently. Cleaners that will do the hard part for you and allow you to come along behind and gently wipe away the bubbles.

9. Every once in a while you must "go there": You have been meaning to wipe the top of that bookshelf off for six months, or was it a year? Stop procrastinating. When I say to take a room floor to ceiling, I mean - leave no stone unturned. Move things around a bit and get rid of the dust. You can't believe the amount of allergens in dust. Do you have pets? Even more so! Pet dander, hair, skin - all these things heavily contribute to the dust you see in your home. So the next time you look at a big thick layer of dust, you can say "there's my skin shelf!". Isn't that nice?!?! Seriously though, dust is a pain. It accrues constantly. So the more often you can remember to hit the nooks and crannies, the better. Two tips for dusting: If you use a dusting spray like "Pledge", be sure to wipe down the surfaces really well and use a clean towel. Pledge is great, but leaves an oily residue that beckons to airborne dust. If you use a dust mop and no spray, you're really just pushing the dust into the air to settle somewhere else. If you must, at least wait to vacuum until after you have dusted.

10. Vacuum like you mean it: If you use a "bag-in" vacuum, make sure to change it. Not only will the vacuum be less productive, it will also burn your motor if too full. If your like me, and have a canister vacuum - be sure to empty it often, and replace the filter every six months. When vacuuming, get into as many places as you can. Again, dust settles on our carpets and in every crack and crevice. It's the nature of the beast - it's very invasive. I don't recommend carpet powders, as the powder is only partially retrieved with the vacuum. Many particles settle into the carpet fibers, and beneath, into your carpet pad. After a while, you will notice it when you walk barefoot in your living room. In addition, use your attachments! I use mine for baseboards, cobwebs in tall corners (and short corners for that matter), ceiling fan dusting, windowsills, mini blinds, and even for sweeping tile and bathroom floors. I also use it for sucking up pet hair that has accumulated on the sides of my furniture where the dogs lay up against, and for - hate to admit - sucking up large lines of ants trying to make their way into my kitchen. No shame. The vacuum attachments are such great tools - use them to make your job easier.

11. Take breaks, but don't lose your groove: This means that it's ok to sit down for a second, ok to stop for a drink (not talking about at Shady's Bar either) and ok to break for a meal. But tried and true results have forced me to realize that turning on the TV while I break is a bad idea. Reading is preferred. Don't get too comfortable, or you're finished. Stay on your game, and just give yourself enough time to refresh and get back in the running. After all - you're working towards the goal of addictive cleanliness.

Well, there's my "dirty" (pardon the pun) little secret! I like to clean! And I find that the more organized and clean my home is, the more at ease I feel and freed up to do what I like with my spare time. I don't feel burdened by the ever increasing piles of work. Not to mention that I don't mind as much if a friend wants to pop by, or if AB invites a family over for dinner.

If you feel overwhelmed, don't. For some, cleaning is like the boogie-man in the closet. (oh, and don't even get me started on closet organization! Ha!) What it takes is a little tenacity and some brief organization before you start - in terms of deciding exactly how your going to attack the project and what type of cleaning you can feasibly accomplish in the time you have. Some days are for light cleaning and general pick up, and others are for hard-core, rolling up your sleeves and diving in.

Either way, the sense of accomplishment I feel when my humble abode is cleaned up and a candle is lit and I'm relaxing on the couch with a good book - well, there is no defining it, other than to say it definitely gives me the "fix" I need.

And let me add, that it's "to each her own". My ideas about cleaning are my own and they are made up from almost ten years of cleaning with my Mom, and fourteen years of cleaning my own home. They come from my love of entertaining friends at our house, and my husbands love of cooking for other people. They come from years of wanting to make our house a home, and to me - there is no better place to be - especially when it's clean and inviting. Let's face it, a dirty unorganized space leaves most of us feeling chaotic and uncomfortable. I think it's safe to say that my preferences for cleaning also come from a long line of OCD. Uh-huh. Shocked, aren't you?

~ Ciao Fellow Cleaners


Polar Bear said...

I really need to work on number rule number six! I am the queen of cleaning wandering. Needless to say it doubles my cleaning time.

GREAT List! I love the laundry basket idea. May have to steal that one.


4D said...

You are serious about your cleaning!

Keep smilin!

Stephe said...

omg! I can't get past #6. I'm a 6!!! I'm in trouble! Great post!

Anonymous said...

Great tips! Didn't know you were into cleaning so much or I would have hired you to come clean my house when you lived out here!! You know I am a clean freak too, but one room can take me a whole day, too much detail, Hi, my name is Nadine and I am a clean-a-holic!! Great stuff

Anonymous said...

Wow, I love the basket tip. Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

I would like to see ok, I really WANT to see a B home tour! Any before and after pictures and in ONE post would be awesome.

An auction/cleaning fund raiser to help with your adoption costs would probably net you some $$$$$$$. People could bid on you to come help, like a professional organizer but you would be a professional cleaner. Not a cleaning lady for others but to help them do it and you are along side pitching in. I would bid on you!!!

Kim said...

I am right there with you..
My children and my husband DO NOT...
And the other problem I have is I like to do it my way..SO I end up doing most of it so it is done to my standards...
It is sad.. but it is TRUE..

Christy said...

OH MY GOODNESS!!! I AM TOTALLY SHOCKED!! 11 rules???? NO WAY!!!! Ok I totally suck at all of those rules. I am one of those "I hate to clean and pay a house cleaner to do it so I dont have to" type of person! I keep things picked up but HATE to clean. I totally envy people like you. I have always wanted to to be a clean addict but I can never get into it. Your rules make me want to try but-- ahh-- no thanks-- but love your rules!!

Christy :)

Robyn said...

Feel free to come to my house and clean ANYTIME!!!!!!

You crack me up with your informative yet hilarious posts.

Love ya!!

Anonymous said...

I tell you, this is ANOTHER reason I love my wife so much! It's true that I need to get out of the way
*ahem* when she cleans, but on the other hand - I HAVE been pressed into service on occasion.

(Side note: replace the vaccuum filter every six months?!? HA! *IF* I get pressed into service, It's going to be to vaccuum. So, one time, I am doing so, and I went to empty the beforementioned canister. Shake it out, look at the date on the filter:"change Apr. 2006" Uhhh .... WHAT?!?! This was Summer of 2007! -- Sorry to expose the only little secret I know, babe!)



Anonymous said...

Hey Girl, all I can say is enjoy it while you can. Once the wee ones come they have no concept or respect for our way of living. I clean repeatedly throughout the day, and somehow stuff just keeps accumulating throughout rooms Lil Dude doesn't even go into!

I appreciat your addiction.

Love V

Elise said...

I should be cleaning....but I am blogging. Now I feel guilty;)