Saturday, August 26, 2006

Dirt Guilt

As a child, I was taught that any woman who ever allows her home to be dirty is a bad person. Having a dirty house is the moral equivalent of drowning kittens or feeding crack cocaine to your children for breakfast. If you can’t keep a suburban house clean at all times, you may as well go live in a van down by the river, because you are a complete failure as a human being. By this standard, I’ve been a complete failure as a human being for most of my life. My cleanliness comes and goes in spurts and waves, never covering everything at the same time. If the kitchen is immaculate, odds are good that there is laundry piled to the ceiling or the bathroom resembles a Louisiana swamp. If the bathroom sparkles then there are probably dust dunes in the corners of the living room and lacey cobwebs hanging from all the light fixtures. I’ve just never been able to motivate myself enough to get it all done at once, and for that, I’ve always felt a little guilty. Not guilty enough to actually do anything about it, mind you, but just enough to poke myself with that pointy psychological stick every time I walk by something that needs to be cleaned. It’s just a little tug of guilt, but it’s always there.

Recently DC and I did something we’ve thought about on and off for several years. We hired someone to clean our house. It fell into our laps really. A friend moved out of town a couple of weeks ago and offered her every-other-Monday cleaning appointment with her cleaning lady to us. I took it without a second thought. I figured it was a sign that the time was right. Clearly, the universe did not want me to spend my weekends cleaning the house anymore.

I didn’t think much about it at first, but as our first Monday appointment approached, DC and I both became increasingly uneasy. We both are pretty self-sufficient generally and tend to feel weird about other people doing things for us that we can do ourselves. When dining out, I don’t need the maitre d’ to pull my chair out for me or put my napkin in my lap. When checking into a hotel, I don’t really want a bell boy to come and take my suitcase-on-wheels to my room for me. I got it this far, and I can get it to my room unassisted. My legs aren’t broken. DC’s self-sufficiency extends even further, into plumbing and carpentry. Last summer we hired a roofing company to put a new roof on the house, and I know he was thinking that he could do it himself and it was silly to hire someone else to do it for three times as much. So, needless to say, the thought of a stranger coming into our house and cleaning our dirt freaked us both out a little. We spent the Sunday before strategizing. What will she need? Should we get a new mop? The one we have is looking a little ragged. What if she doesn’t like paper towels and would rather use Handi-Wipes? We don’t have Handi-Wipes! Maybe we should move all the furniture into the extra bedroom so she won’t have to vacuum around anything. Maybe we should clean the stove before she gets here to save her some time. OMIGOD, somebody is going to see that there is dirt in our house!

Finally on Sunday evening, after some more strategizing and some squabbling and a quick trip to Walmart to pick up a few things, our preparations were complete. One corner of the kitchen was stocked with every cleaning supply available. We did our best to pick up all the clutter without actually cleaning anything. We were ready.

On Monday morning I was tense even before the doorbell rang, and when it did my throat closed up a little. As I headed downstairs to answer the door, I gave myself a pep talk. “It’s OK. She’s a cleaning lady. She makes her living cleaning other people’s dirt. We’re not making her do this. We’re giving her money to do it. She wants to do it. Everythingisfineeverythingisfineeverythingisfine.” Esmeralda was a warm, pleasant lady who didn’t seem to mind that I spent the first 5 minutes of her visit apologizing and making sure she had everything she needed, over and over and over again. After a quick tour of the house, I left her to work her cleaning magic and went to work.

When I got home, it was all rainbows and sparkles. The entire house was clean. All at once! All the rooms were clean AT THE SAME TIME. I’d never experienced this before, so I walked around dazed for a couple of minutes, every now and then finding something else that was clean now. The mirrors in the bathroom were clean. All the crud had been removed from the burners on the stove. The blinds were dusted. HOLY CRAP, there were points folded into the ends of all the rolls of toilet paper in the house! I think I may have cried. It was all so overwhelming.

Even now, almost a week later, I still have that “clean house” buzz. I can walk around in my own house without feeling any guilt whatsoever. Oh, the freedom! I feel so light and unburdened! Does anyone understand the ramifications of this??

I am no longer a failure!! MY HOUSE IS CLEAN!


Anonymous Joy said...

Does she do apartments in Indiana? I would love to be guilt free for even a second or two.

11:03 PM  

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