All In a Day's Work


Cliché or not, I want to talk about resolutions for just a minute. And not because I ever bother with any; I don't. But because I know that there is at least one person around my house who wouldn’t mind if I resolved to try to clean my house occasionally this year.

The thing is, I don’t not clean my house. I just rarely undertake the rigorous all-day effort required to have the whole place clean all at once. Maybe it’s because it only builds up smoldering resentment in me when everyone then comes home and ravages our home in a matter of minutes; or perhaps my psyche can take it better one meager clean-then-trashed room at a time. Or I OCD clean, which takes ten times as long (no hired housecleaner will devote hours to baseboard cleaning, and if I do that, by the time I work my way up days will have passed!).

We do sometimes have folks come to clean, when things get desperate. I’d love to have a regular housecleaner, but I think I might be too populist to have someone doing my dirty work for me all the time, like I feel as if I need to pitch in. I'd be fixing meals for the maid, donning my own pair of rubber gloves when done with that to help scrub things.


Don’t get me wrong, I adore having a sparkling home, but it’s a moot point, as it’s not in the budget for the next, oh, say, rest of my life, anyhow. So I’ve resigned myself to picking up the broom, and yes, even the toilet brush, all in the interest of avoiding COPD or whatever other breathing disorders my family might succumb to if I don’t clean the place.

In honor of my birthday a few days before Christmas, we had cleaners come in. More because we had 18 people coming for Christmas Eve dinner and there was no way I’d have time to cook and clean for that lot. In truth it wasn’t for my birthday, but ended up being an unexpected bonus. See, I cleverly tried to get them to come clean on my birthday as a self-gift, but they refused, saying they were too busy. I had to settle instead for two days earlier (meaning I'd have to re-clean again before company came, because my family would have dismantled the cleanliness by then). But then they forgot to come on their appointed day. Which is problematic, when you spend hours preparing for the cleaners.


See, preparing for the cleaners is almost as hard as cleaning the place yourself. You have to pick up a houseful of stray mess, discard the piles of trash the kids have left lying around, clean up the clumps of dog hair in the corners (too embarrassing for them to witness), wash every dish, put away any hint of your slovenly self. For me, that takes about, oh, ten hours (I’ve been known to dump the motherload of extraneous mess into laundry baskets and hidden it in the garage; out of sight, out of mind).

So to my chagrin, the cleaners forgot me (which isn’t as bad as the time a surgeon forgot to release me and left me stranded in the recovery unit till he was tracked down by a nurse while mingling at a cocktail party that evening). But the upside was I got them as a booby prize for my birthday! Hurray! Which meant a completely clean home, which was indeed a lovely birthday gift.

NOW, IF I LOOKED THIS GOOD CLEANING, MAYBE I'D DO IT MORE OFTEN (or at least do it in sexy lingerie that I wouldn't mind bleach splattering)
Occasionally I’ve hired cleaners expecting to smell the heartwarming aroma of the freshly-cleaned, only to be accosted by the most offensive odors imaginable. Once, it was the unsavory fragrance of cat excrement permeating my entire home. The cleaner vacuumed our unfinished basement, the one piled high with boxes and only occupied by the cats, and sucked up the kitty goodies our antique feline failed to leave in the nearby litter box. This in turn clogged my new vacuum cleaner, and for some odd reason they continued to sweep the entire house despite the ghastly smell. Thank goodness I didn’t have to clean the house, because I then had to spend about four hours trying to de-cat poo the vacuum. It was not a pretty sight. Or scent, for that matter.


I blame powerful cleaning agents for them not smelling the stench. See, another time we went out of budget for a cleaners treat. These occasions usually occur before unexpected houseguests, so that we can delude these friends that we are not slobs. I left the cleaners to do their thing, then returned home to the noxious scent of a cheap hooker. One in dire need of an olfactory system transplant. Seems the cleaner had used a product called Fabuloso, something that is apparently very popular amongst Latinas who clean, but the aroma of which had me running for the gas masks, if only I’d stockpiled them post-911 and the anthrax-in-your-mailbox-scare. This confirmed my suspicions that cleaning a lot of houses with powerful toxins has rendered the noses of many cleaners basically dead zones. Because the smell of Fabuloso is so not fabuloso; rather it is so vile, toxic and lung-searing, that I had to fumigate my house when they left, re-cleaning with something more mainstream.


Back in the 80’s, when a flood of Salvadoran refugees fled to America, many of these immigrant women became housecleaners. We occasionally hired a cleaning company managed by a country gal from West Virginia who was under the impression that if you added enough vowels, very loudly, her Spanish-speaking Salvadoran workers would understand her implicitly. Her commands of “Moppo el flooro” usually fell on uncomprehending ears. And their use of a Chlorox-infused cleaner on my teak dining room table cemented the notion that I should’ve just done it myself.

I suppose I could turn this clean-house resolution on its head by suggesting the one around here most desirous of the spic and span mode perhaps pony up as well. After all, we need a lot of painting on our aging house, and I’m way too short to reach all those high places. Plus, last time we had housepainters, you should’ve seen what those folks destroyed. It’s either that, or fire the maid, and I’m pretty sure I can’t fire myself.


be sure to stop by and visit my website (where I desperately need to do some housecleaning), blog (ditto), or over on Twitter and Facebook (here and here) where I try to stay on top of things in a more timely manner...

Oh, and I think we're still doing giveaways, right? I've got a copy of WINGING IT: A MEMOIR OF CARING FOR A VENGEFUL PARROT WHO'S DETERMINED TO KILL ME for someone leaving a comment today!


  1. Fantastic post Jenny!

    And so incredibly true it hit close to home for me. I do everything you do, which is why I am glad no one has to share my apartment with me... I can clean in my own time and not hear about it. And I've carved a niche for myself by keeping my furniture and trinkets to a minimum... Being a minimalist is definitely next to cleanliness.

    Anyway, I also prepare for days for the coming of the maid and then offer to make coffee, lunch and help clean, rubber gloves in tow. Amazing! Which is why I giggled aloud when you wrote that.

    And last point, my Super, the guy who takes care of the hallway and garbage for the building where I live, insisted on using Fabuloso, he's Puerto Rican, and that smell was vile, with a capital V!

    Hugs and thanks for sharing and brightening up my day!!

  2. Hi, Jenny. I totally relate to everything you said about cleaning. I do try to maintain some semblance of order here and do the necessary cleaning on a weekly basis. The thing I don't like is you clean and then next week you have to do it all over. If only you had to clean once a year. Sometimes my husband says I should scrub the kitchen floor on my hands and knees because that's the best way to clean. Yeah, right?.What decade is he living in? If he wants to do it, be my guest.

  3. I think your husband needs to get down on HIS hands and knees! Maybe he just wants a good view of your butt LOL
    Yes, that fabuloso is brutally nasty isn't it? But better than cat poop ;-).
    thanks for stopping by you guys!

  4. just leaving this so it sends me follow-up comments!


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