I really rock at cleaning floors.
To understand the full impact of this statement, you need to understand that I grew up in a home where cleaning house meant company was coming. My mother has many, many wonderful traits, but she was a homemaker and not a housekeeper. My childhood memory of “home” is warm and loving and fun, but not clean, neat, or tidy. I don’t think anyone would ever describe my mom as a “domestic goddess.”
It wasn’t that we were too lazy to clean house. It was just that there were way too many more interesting things to do than dust, wash, polish, or sweep anything that needed dusting, washing, polishing, or sweeping. We didn’t live in squalor or anything, but having clean floors wasn’t ever a dream that seemed worth pursuing. Dog hair tended to be part of the décor. If there were too many dirty dishes in the sink, we could always use the oven to whisk them out of sight. We also were the kind of people who formed sentimental attachments to just about everything we touched, so there was always souvenirs of vacations, questionably adorable figurines, crumbling old furniture, children’s art projects, clothes worn for momentous occasions (like my first day of second grade or something), etc. hanging around creating clutter and dust bunnies.
My mother was a working mother before it was fashionable. Before that, she volunteered with the Parent Teacher Association for more hours a week than most people spend at a real job. While I think she enjoyed working outside the home, I have a sneaking suspicion that part of her motivation for getting a job was to have a socially acceptable excuse to not do something as boring as housework.
When I began living on my own, I intended to replicate the housekeeping habits of the women I saw on reruns of 1950s television shows. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that I was failing miserably. I either missed the housekeeping gene or just never learned how to do housework in a way that would efficiently and effectively result in a clean, tidy house. Who knows if it was nature or nurture, but I began storing dirty dishes in the oven within an embarrassingly short time. I spent most of my adult life trying to do better, with almost no success.
When I retired and was getting ready to move, I was a little worried. I was going from a tiny one-bedroom, one-bathroom 600 square foot condominium to a 1500 square foot, 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house. Since I was never very successful in keeping 600 square feet clean, how would I cope with so much more space?
As it turns out, the answer is pretty darn well. I have found that having the extra space is actually helpful. There are more places to put things. Our clothes actually fit in the closets and bureaus and don’t end up on the floor. The garage can not only house two cars, but has shelving for items such as Christmas decorations. Being retired also means that taking half an hour to clean a bathroom or an hour to dust isn’t anywhere near as onerous as when I was working for a living and really resented housework for eating up my few moments of unscheduled time.
And the floors. In my little condo, I had carpet through most of the rooms. There is very little satisfaction in vacuuming carpeting. Pretty much, the floors look the same after you vacuum as they did before. You never really know if the carpets are clean. My new home has hardwood in most of the rooms. When we first moved in, I was a little intimidated by those floors and put off doing anything other than sweeping them. Finally, I decided to just throw caution to the wind and try to do a deeper cleaning. I swept, dust-mopped, applied hardwood floor cleaner, and, ultimately, hardwood floor restorer and polisher. Those floors absolutely glowed when I was done. I felt soooo accomplished. I was taking pictures of the newly cleaned floors and sending them to everyone who knew me. I faced my fear of housework and prevailed.
The really big lesson in my journey to becoming a domestic goddess is something I learned in the workplace years ago. Quality is “fit for use.” In other words, if my home is reasonably sanitary and the air is breathable and the occupants feel comfy and happy, whatever level of housework that has been done is quality. I am the queen of my own domesticity and, if I can look out over my realm and be happy, that is the triumph.
Maybe my mother was a domestic goddess after all.
What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your perspective. Please leave a comment and share your perspective. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a terrific day!