Monday, April 18, 2011

Cleaning House

It was 6 months ago that I said to my husband, “Gee, our bathrooms are pretty grimy. I’m going to make it a priority to clean those.” Babyboy was 3 months old, and it seemed normal and reasonable that the bathrooms would be less than spotless. We were new parents. I had a hard time breastfeeding. I was tired. My husband was working, which meant traveling a lot, and he was pretty tired. But I really thought that we would get around, somehow, magically, to the cleaning of the bathrooms...and to mopping the kitchen floor, wiping down the refrigerator, reorganizing the cellar, laundering the curtains. But I went back to work in the clinic, and we fell into a busy rhythm... and all those tasks that so need to be done so never got done.
We did the basics: the essential laundry (especially when there was poop or spitup involved), an occasional vacuum of areas that guests might see (usually five minutes before they were to arrive), a hasty wipedown of the downstairs half-bath (ditto), and picking up the cat puke (generally within 24 hours of seeing it). You know, the basics.
So, nine months after the birth of our first child, my husband and I realized that if we ever wanted a truly clean (or even minimally hygienic) house again, we needed to pay someone else to do it. What really spurred us was the idea of a CRAWLING BABY. All the magazines say that to prepare your home for your exploring infant, you need to get down to your child’s level to look for potential danger: uncovered outlets, small objects, sharp corners.
Well, I got down to ground level in our dining/living rooms one day and scanned from under the dining room table to under the sofa. I saw: crumbs, identifiable bits and pieces of dried-up food, scattered kitty litter, massive dust bunnies (bunnies is too tame a term, these were more like dust-beasts), mangled cat toys, and dirt. Lots and lots of dirt.
So at a neighborhood get-together, I took a poll. A lot of my neighbors use a cleaning service. Good, I thought, they won’t think we’re THOSE kind of people. One lady was very happy with her service, and she gave me their contact information. I called. The next day, a woman came by to give me an estimate. She was Brazilian, dressed fashionably, even elegantly. As she walked through the house she occasionally wiped her index finger along a surface (my bookcase of medical reference books, for example). Her finger left a stark streak in the thick layer of dust.
“Hmm,” she said. “Yeah, we can do this. The first clean will need to be a deep clean. Really heavy. The works. But after that, I think one time every two weeks, we can keep it just so. Maintenance.”
She quoted me her price and I took it, no bargaining. I think I was supposed to bargain, but the price seemed so minimal compared to living in guilty filth. I was ashamed of the state of my home.
So they came. The Elegant Brazilian and her crew descended upon our little home and spent three solid hours; they did a good job. After they left, I walked around in awe, and I again felt guilty: It only took these people three hours to scrub this entire home spotless? Couldn’t we have done this and saved ourselves the money?
But these regrets faded fast, as the cleaning job faded fast. It took us (and our pets) about 24 hours to create visible clutter. Two weeks later, the countertops are again sticky and crusty, kitty litter has again migrated to the sitting room, and the bathrooms... well, I’ll spare you the details.
And I am SO excited that they're coming tomorrow!


  1. Do you really need those cats?
    Yikes. After reading I am more confident than ever I should not be having cats in the house.
    Yes! Brazilian women are probably most elegant in the world! I still own a few clothes I bought in Brazil 10 years ago and continue to get compliments.

  2. I dream of the day I can convince my husband that a cleaning service is worth the money...

  3. Haha. Our deep clean took them 6 hours.

  4. My mom taught me that the first thing you should do when you get a job is hire someone to clean. You support your local economy AND your mental health. Good for you! And once more I am so grateful to have grown up with a sensible working mom.

    Do you have a garage? We put in a cat door to the garage and the tray is now out there. No fuss, no muss.

  5. Your story sounds so much like our descent into the addiction of house cleaning services that it is uncanny. We have used the same cleaning service for about 14 years now and it is almost like they are part of the family. One of them even assisted in my attempt to civilize my then 12 year old son by taking everything off of his bedroom floor, dumping it into a trash bag, and taking it to the garage. When I asked her why she was willing to do this she said, "This is what I do to MY son!" Best of luck with your cleaning service! I hope that they turn out to be as reliable and as good as ours has been.

  6. I was slightly embarrased when a neighbor asked what I use to clean my hardwood floors... and I had no answer. It occurred to me that I have NEVER cleaned them. Cleaning service is a MUST.

  7. Has anyone else had trouble *keeping* a cleaning person? I do. I've realized that part of the problem is that they find me intimidating and that as an emerg shift worker, I'm often around when they come, making us both uncomfortable. Maybe I'm a big beeyotch too, I'm not discounting that, but all I can say is, turnover. I should probably get a service instead of hiring individuals who get sick, have their cars break down, etc. Regardless, it's. So. Worth. It.

  8. I came home from a day at the office to a shiny clean home. Ah, the mingled scents of Pledge, Murphy's Oil Soap and good old-fashioned bleach!!

  9. haha. I love this post! It makes me feel so much better about my house! we've got two huge dogs who help us make messes, and it's bad.
    We also got a cleaning lady when g started crawling. my husband decided we couldnt afford her long term on our teacher and med student incomes, so it's back to dirty for us. :) still, until I can afford one, I'd rather be plating w my baby in a messy house than missing time with him to clean.
    great post.

  10. We've had home cleaning now for 9 months, and i will never go back. We work too hard to waste our precious spare time cleaning the bathroom. I'd much rather play with the kids. And like you, ours just never seemed to get done!

  11. Kellie (General Surgeon)April 19, 2011 at 5:41 PM

    I'll ditto the above. We have a cleaning service. I think we should have one weekly, but it's every 2 weeks. Just don't have time after work, etc. Who wants to spend their weekend cleaning?

  12. Ha. Despite the extreme desire, tt's still a struggle for me to pay for cleaning services. Great post.

  13. The thing that sucks about being a freaking premed student with a family, is that I have all the need for a cleaner and none of the funds to pay for one. LOL! One day, though, when I do have the money for it, I'll do it for sure. No guilt!


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