Master or Slave?

I was going to title this post “Master of My Domain” but honestly, part of me has been wondering who the hell had this big Clean House idea anyway, because shit is this some work!

My house is clean. Not immaculate, but pretty darned clean, even in the unders and behinds. It’s been more or less clean for about a week, but the upkeep takes all my spare moments, and then some. Including, significantly, those moments where I’m just dog tired and want to take a load off. On top of the upkeep, even though I feel like I am “done” with the deep cleaning, every day I seem to think of something else that I haven’t gotten yet, and had somehow told myself I didn’t need to get. But then I can’t stand to have the house clean except that one stupid little projects, so, okay I’ll clean under My Man’s desk/wipe down the weird brown drool in the freezer/move the kitchen cabinet and clean underneath because what is that rotten smell whenever the heat comes on and blows under there anyway…?

At first I thought I was just taking a long time to truly finish up, but a couple of days ago I realized there will probably always be something. Every day will have a “project” in addition to the hours it takes to keep all the toys picked up, floors swept and vacuumed, counters wiped, clothes washed/hung/folded/put away, every. single. god. damned. day. Are you kidding me? This is ridiculous. It’s not driving me crazy yet, I’m still high on the thrill of having a clean house. But christ, when the buzz wears off, I fear the sloven I will revert to.

The only reason I’ve been able to clean and keep clean in the first place is that everything else is going kind of easy right now. The Babe (dang, Toddler now?) has really hit his stride lately, advanced to where he can truly interact with his environment, and is therefore soooooo much easier to keep pleased. The 3YO has been easy for awhile now (knock on wood) and can happily play solo for hours on end. She was playing with just her hands today for 25 minutes, some elaborate pretend, rife with dialog. Don’t get me wrong, they are both every bit the passionate, opinionated, feisty little bites they always have been. They just seem to be getting what they need and want lately, and it shows.

To really spoil me, My Man had another 5 days off of school after we got back from our trip, in which I was a Tasmanian devil of rags and hot water. And even since he started back, it’s the begining of the semester and life is easy.

Breaking point or no, I truly don’t think I would have been capable of this sort of Filth Recovery in November, or really any other month since The Second was born. Until now. All the forces converged, and my house is clean and it’s great, and I’m proud and cleaning house is so much more satisfying when you have a clean house at the end of the day, yaddah, yaddah.

But nevertheless. Seriously? This is how much work it takes to keep a clean house? Day in and day out? There can only be one word to sum it up, sorry to any tender ears out there.


I don’t know if I have it in me.

I want to have it in me, I really do. I want to have a home clean enough that it’s relaxing and inviting. I want my kids to grow up in a reasonably clean space, where the tables have space for a coloring book, and floors for rolling around. I want them to grow up thinking that people put things away when they are done, generally, instead of leaving them in piles to fester for weeks or months to come.

So, in an attempt to make cleaning the house a bit more efficient, I’ve devised a small plan. Conveniently, we have six rooms in our house, just as there are six days in a week (minus Saturdays, which are my day off, not to be used for cleaning). My idea is to give every room a good clean once a week. This won’t keep my whole house spotless, but I never asked for that. I’ll start at the front on Sundays, and work my way back. The bedroom is an easy one, so I’ll use that day to catch up on laundry, which I’ve been known to leave clean in the basket for weeks at a time.

I don’t know how I will like this. I am a hopeless creature of habit, but have never been a creature of scheduling. We’ll see. I just want a way to streamline the whole caper, so I’m not feeling like I’m cleaning the entire house every day. My efforts will be concentrated for maximum punch. One room at a time, right. A 6 Step Program?

I’ll keep you updated.

I posted Someone Has to Wear the Apron over at Homegrown yesterday, and after I did it, I felt a bit awkward. Homegrown is all about gardening, homecooking, preserving, crafting and other DIY goodness. Suddenly my post on cleaning the house seemed so very prosaic. But as unfashionable as it may be, life is a messy business, and someone really does have to wear the apron. Every DIY exploit ends in someone cleaning up. In fact almost everything that’s good in life ends with cleaning. Without a doubt topping the list of messy business? Kids. God love ’em.

A few months back the 3YO said to me, out of the blue one day,

“Mama, are you the cleaner?”

I laughed humorlessly, “Yeah, I guess I am.”

“Oh. I’ll be the mess maker!” she said joyously and started throwing her crayons on the floor.

10 thoughts on “Master or Slave?

  1. Hi-lar-i-ous. What a great rant. I feel like I’m going through all these same things as you but in a different order. I tried the ‘one room each day of the week technique’ but bored myself silly after two weeks – hope you have better success with it. My current approach is to mostly throw/give away everything in my house that makes it messy! I’m thinking the problem is too much stuff. I’ll probably lose steam on this approach after a while too – but you know what i reckon; each one of these partially successful approaches are part of one big decreasing spiral bringing me closer to the goal in the centre of it all. What’s the goal? – a moderately clean and tidy house with minimum effort and time outlay, all whilst keeping my sense of humour intact and successfully failing at becoming an boringly obsessively clean-freak. Possible? I’ll get back to you. Good luck to you Miss Calamity Jane

  2. Yeah, Flylady – she’ll make you giggle with her over-enthusiasm, but she has some good stuff.

    She opened my eyes to the really obvious fact that if the kids throw ALL the toys out of the toybox every day, then if they only have half the number of toys, that’s half the amount you/they have to pick up.

    So I’m with toasted and am doing ‘de-cluttering’ for five minutes every day – getting rid of so much useless junk so I don’t have to clean it, or under it, or around it.

    And if you schedule becomes a habit then you’re all good to go.

    PS, I think of you and de-clench my teeth frequently whenever I’m cleaning these days ;)

  3. Yeah, sister! Here I am, shouting ‘Testify!’ and shaking my fist at the computer.

    I am so with you on this struggle. I am at a loss to understand how people manage to keep houses clean. Houses with small people in them, especially. Clutter-management, washing-up, laundry, cooking and shopping take up all the time I can give. I am defeated to understand how people can also manage the dust-bunny wars, the cupboard-wiping, the window-cleaning and all the innumerable jobs that it actually takes to keep a house CLEAN. I manage ‘tidy’ on a very, very good day.

    I can only think that when I collapse at the end of the day to watch the box, or sew something, or surf the net, others are still scrubbing, tidying and sorting. But I need to be lazy sometimes too. Otherwise I would go postal on the family, and then myself. Yet like you, I still desire to live in an ordered, clean universe.

    It’s like the Middle East. There’s no solution.

  4. I have been carrying around mountains of guilt. For the past couple of months I have totally dropped my bundle! I have even been having conversations in my head “Tarn, do you think you might be a little bit depressed?” and then my alter answers (again in my head) “Course she’s not, nobody else seems to care why should she? He leaves dirty marks all over the white cupboards and doesn’t care…totally thankless job, stuff it” and I won’t bore you with what the other 4 inside my head said! I can only come to the conclusion that it is probably a bit normal to have these ups and downs. For this down period I am currently experiencing I think your room for a day option might be the answer. At the very least it will provide variety. When we had the house on the market it nearly drove me mad.

  5. Various classic quotes

    ‘the dust doesn’t get thicker after the first five years’ Quentin Crisp

    ‘Housework is just about surfaces’ My mother – who did battle with the forces of cleaning and retired more or less from the fray once we were at school

    ‘If it doesn’t get done today, it might get done tomorrow’ my husband.

    So it goes. I enjoyed your post! Personally I would rather pick up dead leaves on the lawn than the dogs’ toys from where they have been strewn all over the house. I feel I am helping the grass to live; the carpet on the other hand doesn’t need me in quite the same way. And who am I ? Someone who bakes bread for a hobby and creates a terrible mess in the process. Sometimes I aquaplane on the build up of flour on my house shoes. So it goes.

  6. Hi!
    I also do the FLY Lady routines, I’ve found it really works for me. :)
    Good luck, I do sympathasise, every now and then I wonder when it will end and when I can have a clean home for more than 5 secs. I keep telling myself, soon, soon it will happen!


  7. This reminds me of a line my husband used one Christmas as he spent hours putting together little robot type guys for our two boys on Christmas morning (and of course the little robots had itty bitty parts. He looked at me and said “Merry Fucking Christmas!” in a tone that suggested anything BUT!

    You’re rant made me laugh out loud! My small children are now teenagers and let me tell you–I gave up on trying to conquer “the clean routine” when the youngest reached about ten. I can truthfully admit…if I could go back and do it over again–I would have tried to stay on top of it. The more you let go the easier it is to get lost in the mess. Now the mess has bred and multiplied and I’m unable to get it back to spotless. What I wouldn’t give to go back and keep the spotless or at least maintain the illusion of spotless. There has to be a way to do it without giving up your sanity or selling your sole to Mr. Clean. I obviously failed at that.

    So…I’m pulling for you and hoping that you’re able to overcome the enormity of the situation. My best friend did keep everything spotless but she also has become neurotic about it. Haaa! Don’t want that either. Look for the happy medium.

    Thanks for the laugh!

  8. Yep, I don’t clean that much, and both husband and I pitch in. I mean we try to have the sink clean every night and laundry not pile up too high, and we make the kids pick up the toys every few days (not daily), but dusting, vacuuming, and mopping are not as frequent. There are two reasons for this:

    1)I am no comfortable in a very clean home – I mean it’s nice for 10 minutes but it sort of brings me down.
    2)life is too short, and I have things I need to get done in other domains.

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