Friday, January 18, 2008

I'm In: The Housekeeping Quiz.

I'm dogged tired--see post below--so I'll do my best to keep it brief. As usual, I could tell you my life history here--and it'll be hard not to ramble. (It takes energy and focus to be brief and pithy but tomorrow will be worse than today, so....)

How would you describe your housekeeping style (3 words)?
1. inconsistent
2. slovenly
3. insane

Who is your housekeeping Iconic Figure? Martha Stewart? Felix Unger? Oscar Madison? (Edit : Those are just suggestions, it could be someone else entirely.)

1. No clue. Maybe Don Aslett. Nah. Erma Bombeck who wisely said "Cleaning the house when you have children is like shovelling the snow while it's still snowing." Or something like that.

Why? (Aha! Caught ya. You thought you weren't going to have to explain anything. That isn't how this works.)
'cause I think I ought to be able to keep the house clean, neat and orderly (Don Aslett) and because I know that that minimum is a mean feat of extraordinary effort and organization.

Who would you consider a role model when it comes to housekeeping? That differs from the question above in that I want you to think about someone you know, whose style you might want to emulate in some way.

1. Oh dear. Here's the temptation to write the tome.
My grandmother. I spent a LOT of time with her as a child. Every summer from the age of four to fourteen and one six month period when I was 11. She never sat down. She had a routine for everything. Take the dirty clothes to the washer everyday. (I was to put my dirty underthings outside my door every night before bed. Couldn't do it). Do the dishes after every meal and before bed, then sweep the floor. (My job was to dry them, wipe down the drainboard when I was finished and hang my towel up to dry.) She vacuumed everyday. Dry dusted. Made her bed. Kept two gardens and hung the laundry out by hand.

She cooked every meal, served as the Church Secretary, a secretary/book keeper for the small claims court in her county (my grandfather was a part-time process server) from home. She worked part time at the "Ag" office (The agricultural Office in her farming community) two or three days a week--and she would walk everywhere. All this, and this was when she was fifty--sixty? She also volunteered for meals on wheels, hosted bridge parties every Saturday night and played golf, shuffleboard and curled.

She didn't sew, knit or do handicrafts in any way. She hardly ever read a book--no time. Relaxation was the crossword. She didn't like accepting help and so, other than dry dusting and drying the dishes (and once cleaning the crystals on the chandelier) I never learned to do anything. I certainly never learned how to keep house.

Why? (You knew that was coming this time, didn't you?)
Because she told me too. Because, even though she didn't tell me how to do it, she taught me it was possible and pleasant to have a neat, clean orderly household where you always knew where everything was.

All this leads up to -- what do you want from the way you keep your home? What level of cleanliness/tidiness is important to you on a daily/weekly basis? What purpose (other than keeping the health inspector from pounding on the door) is this to achieve -- for example, do you need to be company-ready at a moment's notice?

I don't need to be company ready at a moment's notice. I did Flylady consistently for three months. At the end of it, I was wandering around the house with very little to do--and afraid to do anything that might make a mess--like crafts with the kids, my scrapbooking. I even resented the fact that my kids were going through that "don't mix food" phase, so I couldn't cook everything in one pot. I went insane if anyone spilled anything. (I'd think, "The work, the work, why doesn't anyone respect my work?" Junk thoughts like that.) It wasn't workable and I really didn't like living in a "magazine-ready" house.

On the other hand, things aren't working now. Let's see, at supper--pancakes and bacon--on the table we had a five inch thick pad of construction paper, a history encyclopedia with loose pages sticking out of it, butter, two dirty glasses from another meal, a half filled coffee mug, a box of craft paint, a colouring book, a container of coloured pencils, a shelter magazine, the phonebook, a candlestick, a math book, homework from Stomp's obedience class from last night, a napkin holder with napkins (which no one used), newspaper, the book my husband is reading, the book my son is reading, a glass of coke, a plate of toast, peanut butter and chocolate chips from breakfast, a comb, a tube of vaseline, a package of blue tacky stuff used to fix stuff to the wall, a travel mug, a folded twin flannel sheet, and a box of six glasses purchased from Ikea this afternoon, unopened. We actually had a pleasant meal. Nobody fussed. The problem was finding enough cutlery for everyone to eat with. There wasn't room on the stove for the frying pans.

One word: function. I want things to come up to the level of functioning well. No midnight trips to the basement to find socks and underwear for the morning. or pants. or toilet paper. or lightbulbs.

What, if anything, is standing in the way of that level of cleanliness/tidiness being achieved? Are the obstacles
1. Physical -- is there something about the way some part of your home is arranged or organized that isn't working for the function(s) that area needs to fulfill?


Yep. Not enough counter space. Not enough storage space. Traffic patterns are bad (there's always somebody in the way of where I need to go). The back door area is a psychological black hole and now that we're down to one car (and kept in the garage) that's the door we use. The kitchen table, as noted, is ample, but it's difficult to clean underneath it. The dog loves the broom and chases it across the floor.

2. Psychological -- is there something within yourself that's keeping you from dealing with what's necessary to keep your home the way you want to?

Hmm. Probably.

Is there some form of motivation or reward that might help?

Now here, I almost refuse to even consider this. We set up a traditional household. He works outside the home, I work inside. It could have been otherwise. I've gone from being an independent single hard-working woman to a 50's style stay at home wife and mother with none of the perks (afternoon chats with others in the same situation), children who can be left to play in packs with each other, unsupervised in neighbourhood parks, or even at school.
But, you see, I chose this. I shouldn't chafe. My husband doesn't think he should get a "reward" for getting up and going to work every day--why should I? It's my "job." (Though I do tell him that putting away the peanut butter wasn't in the marriage contract).

3. Equipment -- is something not working for you, e.g. vacuum cleaner not up to par, or somesuch?

Vacuum cleaner is fine.
Feather dusters are shedding.
Broom is trashed, time for a new one.
Mop is terrible. Leaves far too much water on the floor. Hard to clean between washings, too.
Toilet brushes are unattractive but serviceable.
Dish cloths need replacing. (Why is it so hard to find decent dish cloths?)
Scrub brush needs replacing.
And my bottle brush is missing.

Hmm. I think I need new cleaning supplies!

4 comments :

drwende said...

Oh! I am so relieved that I'm not the only person who was flogged to housekeeping madness by Flylady!

When I did the Flylady thing back in SF, I felt like I never stopped wiping. Every time I turned around, I was supposed to be wiping some speck on the faucets. Thanks to diabolical ambient black dust that can't be avoided in downtown SF, there was an infinite amount of wiping to be done, and honestly, there was not going to be any MORE of it if it wasn't wiped for a couple days.

scb said...

Well done. Since the kitchen table is HomeSchooling Central, I can see where it gets tricky.

You reminded me about my floorwashing mop -- I don't like the one I bought, "but it's still *good*"... Sigh.

What is it about grandmothers that they can run rings around us? I think about my grandmother's house, and then I remind myself "She had Tina". A live-in helper. If I had Tina, I'd have no probs in the housekeeping arena. Your grandmother did it all, *without* Tina. Wow.

1950s traditional Stay at Home "Housewives" weren't also homeschooling their kids. That makes a big difference, in my opinion...

lorijo said...

I too am trying to find that spot between clean and fresh and neurotic clean and fresh. I want my kid to be able to have toys all over, art supplies about and the dog and cat running around- but I want it cleaned up and put away at the end of the day.
I used to tell the stock people where I worked that I knew that they would get dirty doing their job- that was fine- as long as it was TODAYS dirt. Start fresh again tomorrow even if you know you'll get gross again. I think that's how I want my house to run too...

Alana in Canada said...

Lorijo--that's brilliant. Keep it down to today's dirt. I'm going to let that roll around in my brain a bit, see what happens. Housecleaning is demoralising and difficult precisely beacuse it'll always get dirty, usually right away. When's the only time I ever drop an egg on the floor?

Right after it's mopped, of course.

thanks.

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