On the weekend when I’m home for more than an hour before and after work, I get to see the task that’s been waiting for me all week. Dust bunnies lurk, clutter stands out, dust is visible as the afternoon sun flows into our rooms. I make the bed and clean the dishes everyday, but turn a blind eye to other more daunting tasks, until I can’t ignore them anymore.
The dilemma of a small space is that once you start cleaning, you have to clean all of it. While that shouldn’t be hard, it can seem overwhelming. Part of the problem is that I’ve abandoned routine. When I was growing up, I cleaned the house every Friday afternoon. It helped earn my allowance, but I’m sure my mom wanted me to contribute in a meaningful way and gain an appreciation for what it took to make the house the way we liked it. I dusted and vacuumed, mopped the kitchen floor, and cleaned bathrooms. I wonder how accurate that memory is. Maybe it wasn’t every Friday, maybe it wasn’t every room, maybe I wasn’t that good at it. But I remember being proud of the work, and excited to sit down when it was done and enjoy a Coke and the newly arrived Life magazine.
Dorm rooms and apartments never had the same cleaning routine, other than my trying not to be the messy roommate. Fast forward to life with small children and cleaning became a bigger challenge. I finally caved and hired a cleaning lady to come once a week. During this magical period, Donna would come while we were all at work and school. We’d return to an orderly gleaming home: toys put away, surfaces cleared, vacuum tracks in the carpet. Meanwhile, my children did not acquire a cleaning routine other than my pre-cleaning day rant that they at least pick things up off the floor because “it will make Donna cry.”
We did not hire a cleaning service when we moved to Chicago, so began my delayed and ultimately failed attempt to bring the whole family into a cleaning routine. Sure, many hands make light work, but it’s hard to find that moment when everyone is able to do it, fitting cleaning around school and sports. And in the process, I’ll admit that my standards dropped as well. Time at home is precious, and I don’t want to spend it all cleaning. Still, I like that feeling of satisfaction when it’s done. Sitting on the couch, surveying a clean carpet, shiny surfaces, and a fresh smell. Sigh – it’s time to close the computer and pick up a sponge.