Monday, October 03, 2005

House Proud

When I was living in Ireland, we used to say about people, particularly our next door neighbors, "Oh, that wan is house proud." It wasn't a good thing. "House proud" people were forever cleaning their homes, and thus not taking times for the really important things in life, like tea and biscuits with friends. "Can you come 'round this afternoon?" you'd ask a house proud person, and the answer would be something, "Ach, no; I've got some cleaning to be doing." Cleaning-schmeaning! We cleaned once a week: Saturday morning. The hoover came out, the dusting rags were given to the girls, the toilet was sincerely swirled with washing liquid, and the kitchen lino was scrubbed. And then we mussed it all up again with crumbs from the sandwiches from lunch and Hob-Nob remnants. But we weren't house proud. And proud of it we were.

I had a lot of laughs in that house. I was telling stories to Partner about it last night as we returned from camping. I was relating one story that had me in the sitting room, and I realized as I was telling her, I didn't sit in that room all that much-- Television took second fiddle. I sat in the kitchen where we told jokes, drank a few cans some nights, and we sang songs-- Fergus on the bodhran via the kitchen table, and all of us belting some good old tunes. Everyone had a chance to solo.

The house was never unclean. But if I was in charge of that house, I fear I would have less singing and more cleaning.

Last night I didn't sleep well again-- and at one point I thought very clearly, "We need to move to a smaller house." I haven't been able to clean the whole house at one time in a few weeks. Either the upstairs is clean or the downstairs is clean, but not at the same time. Who cares, right? Doesn't this symbolize some horrible house pride on my part?

I love the way the house feels when it's all clean, the laundry hung and ironed, and the smell of wood polish in the air. It's means I can sit down and relax then. Take up a book, flip on the XM, and breathe. Not to say I don't do that if the house is not clean-- I do-- but it's not the same.

Last Thursday I was horribly late getting into the office. Not because I slept in-- I was awake at the usual 6:45, but because as Partner was springing out the door to an all-day seminar, she dropped that the people from the lighting store were coming over in the afternoon to investigate why our low-voltage stopped working. It was quarter to nine. I looked at the kitchen. I saw filth. Now, let me be clear about this: There were no dirty dishes stacked in the sink, no rotting food on the counter, no fruit reeking with decay or fruit flies. There was some mail on the island. A few magazine. The granite countertop? Well, there were streaks in it! And crumbs! Crumbs!! On the floor!! And some cobwebs between the cabinet and floor. I just had vacuumed one week previous to the day, but still, there were the cobwebs marking me as a slovenly housekeeper! Not to mention the smudges on the appliances... (I will never get stainless appliances again.)

So what did I do? Go to work and think, oh well, it's not that bad? Or did I pull my hair up and start scrubbing? I scrubbed. And swished. And polished. Bleached and went down on hands and knees. The kitchen, I have to tell you, gleamed! And I kept going into the powder room, the foyer, the kitchen nook, the dining room. I missed the family room and study, but I'd get that later. I was sweating bullets. I was a whirling dervish. I wanted to call the entire day off work to keep cleaning my home. And maybe I could even get those 500 bulbs we bought at Costco planted too! (Okay-- it's not 500; it's only 250.)

Later when I came home to meet the lighting store people, the first thing they wanted to do was stand on my island to get closer to the light. I watched as men took of their shoes and walked across my polished granite. I realized the only one who knew the kitchen was clean was me. Even Partner didn't seem to really notice. (Although she commented later, saving her soul.)

If I had had children when I was younger, my house would probably always been a version of clutter and crumbs, but somehow as I aged, I have gotten more anal about it. Or house proud. When we were building this house, our neighbors came through the rough framed version. As we were walking down the stairs, the woman next door asked, "Who's going to clean this house?" and I blithely chirped, "I am!" Uhg. I have some serious concerns about how I am going to handle kid mess. I have some friends who swear back and forth about their cleaners-- how wonderful it is, such a burden lifted, something they would cut other things out to keep. I have other friends who make broad statements full of pride about never needing a cleaner-- how they themselves always clean their own homes. I've always seen both sides really quite clearly, and have traditionally come down on the second side.

Let's just say I think I've switched allegiances.

Edited: 10:17 am-- Panic that started last night is officially over. I will stay in this house and not move to smaller one. No, Partner did not call and say, "Let's get a cleaner." (Ha!) My panic last night started when I was thinking of the laundry that needed doing and I thought I had left a tablecloth and flannel sheet in the washer for a week. I couldn't imagine the smell, and I was sure I had ruined not only the sheet and tablecloth, but also the washer. But when I went to confront the moldy mess this morning, I discovered that the washer was empty: I had put both into the dryer and they were smelling most delightfully fresh. (Is this memory loss a Lupron side effect?) Serious panic over. But still would like a cleaner.


Blogger Soul Searching said...

Oh no! I hate this post!! I am sitting here looking around my pad o' filth wondering where the hell to start! You sound so completely clean and I'm jealous. I do have dishes piled in the sink. No rotting food, but plenty of clothes covering the guest bed, the hamper, the floor, the dresser, everywhere. It's out of control!!!! help!!!

7:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thinking of taking a trip to Ireland soon... any suggestions?

11:15 AM  
Blogger amyesq said...

This post is cracking me up. The thing is, I have a house cleaner who comes every two weeks and I am never less frantic than the night before she is due to arrive. I must make sure the house is PERFECT for her. Totally picked up, nary a stray dish, nothing out of place, the clean sheets ready and waiting to be placed on the bed. Why? Well I would just DIE if the housecleaner thought I had a dirty house!

I am so with you, K!

12:49 PM  
Blogger Trista said...

Wow, you know what, you better schedule a regular cleaner right now because you are going to have problems. Our house is, I'm sure, much smaller than yours and we can't keep it clean. I mean, yeah, the dishes get done and the laundry gets done and we don't have trash around (all at the cost of precious, precious sleep) but the floors only get vacuumed once a week (and with two dogs and a cat the hardwoods need to be vacuumed at least thrice weekly) and nothing gets scrubbed or bleached or dusted regularly. It bugs the hell out of us but we just can't do it. Even during the pregnancy we started slipping in our cleanliness just because the pregnancy was so hard and Kristin was so often sick and then on bedrest. You never know what'll happen during the pregnancy. Once Kristin goes back to work and we can afford it, we're getting a cleaner ourselves even though only a few months ago we would have scoffed at such a display of (what we would have thought as) middle-class conspicuous consumption of services...

3:57 PM  
Blogger Katie (WannaBeMom) said...

Oh you guys... I don't want to make anyone feel bad! I just want a house cleaner!! But I know that I will react just as Amy. Is that more or less stress?

And yes, Duffey, suggestions galore!!!

6:30 PM  

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