I don't like to say that my house is disgusting and that I only clean it when I start seeing creepy faces in the patterns of mold on the shower curtain. What I like to say instead is that I live a life of the mind. Nice, huh? I worked pretty hard on that. I like how it communicates a certain superiority, as if the reason I don't clean is that I am preoccupied with higher things, as opposed to that I don't like to.
Floors are my biggest struggle. Vacuuming enrages me, the way I always have to be yanking the canister behind me, or finding another outlet because I'm out of cord. Then the nozzle thingie doesn't fit under the furniture, or it does fit but I can't put it under there because there are so many little toys and marbles and so on that will get sucked up into the vacuum cleaner, but now I have to move the furniture and clean up all the little toys first, and oh forget it. And mopping! You're supposed to vacuum first, then mop. But by the time I've done any vacuuming at all, my face is red and I feel like I'm about to start throwing chairs across the room, so I'm not getting out the bucket and the mop and perhaps moving the heavy pine table and chairs because otherwise I'll slop the mop all over them and surely that's not good for the finish, and oh forget it.
The method I use for cleaning my house is this: Ignore it until I freak out. I go on cleaning binges that leave corpses in my wake, and then neglect everything for another year. The cleaning binges tend to coincide with visits from my mother-in-law, who still remembers a time 30 years ago when an acquaintance implied that her house was not kept as well as it could be. She gets red in the face and her voice gets loud as she tells me the story for the hundredth time since I met her.
Paul, I know, would prefer the house to be a little cleaner. But his mother did him a grave disservice when she taught him that sparkling cleanliness is the only right way to live but also that his personal efforts need never enter into it, and I don't see it as part of my wifely duties to keep him in the style to which his mother foolishly accustomed him. I have had to remind him of this periodically over the twelve years we've been together: if he would like the kitchen floor washed, I see no reason in the world that he can't wash it. The floor is not bothering me.
I have also tried to be sure to teach my own children in a way that will not make them a curse on their future partners: that certain levels of cleanliness are pleasant but not necessary to sustain life; that there are things I would rather do than clean and that that is a fine choice for a person to make; and that men and women are equally able to clean. I worry, though, that example is more important to a child's learning than lecture. Paul is certainly capable of cleaning, but he learned from his parents that women clean and men never do, and a dozen years of me carefully explaining otherwise hasn't changed him. If I teach the kids that cleaning duties are not assigned based on genitals, but they see me doing all the cleaning that gets done, it's hard to see how we're not just repeating the training that has given me some of the worst fights of my marriage.
Gift ideas for an 8-year-old, part 2 of 2 - Last week I talked about the gifts we were getting/considering for Edward, who is turning 8 next month. This week it’s Elizabeth’s turn: not “girl gifts,” ...