Clean sweep...

I'm not sure where it comes from.  I like things tidy.  Quite tidy.  Or least the appearance of tidy.  Most of my stuff is tidy.  And if I have to result to stuffing stuff somewhere to create the 'state' of tidy, then I'll do that.  Behind closed doors, whether they be cabinet, closet, garage (or ancient carriage house in our case), works just fine for me.  Out of site means... it can wait.

There were four squirrely kids in our family.  Mom kept a very tidy house.  I don't know about my brothers, since they each had a kid-cave upstairs and I was on the first floor, but I had to clean my room and the bathroom weekly.

Flash forward.  After I'd been in the real estate biz for a year or so, my husband gently asked if "we" should get some help.  He wasn't talking marriage counseling.  He was talking about the house cleaning.  I thought he asked that very diplomatically.  "We."'    He did tons more around the house than my dad ever did.  Carl did dishes with out a dishwasher, some cooking (the target was two dinners per week), did some laundry. I guess some things weren't getting done.  I didn't even notice it!

Hhmm.  Cleaning help. That might be interesting.  "We" hired a guy who came over every other week.  And that worked out well.  I made sure the house was tidy for him.  I felt I had to clean up for the clean up crew-of-one.  That guy was with us a long time,  moving to the next house with us (the job, not in with us).

Then I realized that the cleaning had become token.  When I was around there was lots of movement and fussing about but the real cleaning wasn't getting done. And supplies seemed to be missing.  Awkward.

Cleaning folks can become like family.  I've seen it many times.  I know my dad and step mom had a lady who would come over for a whole day!  Their place wasn't that big.  Fingerprint marks on doors and dust on baseboards never changed.  A couple of times I was there when it was her "day."  After watching discreetly,  I still couldn't figure out what she did.  I do know she brought her lunch and took an hour break (from what I don't know).    AND they had to pick her up and take her back to wherever she lived!  But that was not my business.  

Back to my dilemma.   I decided to come up with a long list of things I wanted done each time, once per month, every quarter, and semi-annually.  I presented the list.  If he agreed, great.  We had a tidy list. To my relief though, the guy said he had decided to take some classes and had branched out into office cleaning, and wasn't going to be able to work for us anymore.  Awkward all gone.

Now what?  Who would clean?  I decided we'd all been spoiled by having "help."  The kids were becoming wimps. Cleaning was about to be a family affair.  I realized that if our kids didn't know how to clean, how would they know what to expect of and how to direct someone they hired to clean for them?  This was not rationalization.  This was reality. 

Sunday Family Cleaning Night was born.  Sunday was good because it wasn't a night out.  School and/or  work was the next day.  TV and radios could be on but we just couldn't stop the work.  Carl prayed for Sunday night diversions in the form of invitations for a quick trip to an ice cream shop. And we would accept.  But the work still had to get done. Usually we were finished within 30-45 minutes. 

I made a couple of carrying kits of supplies: dusting devices, wiping cloths, glass and surface cleaners, dusters for crown moulding and baseboards, and floor cleaning aids.  There would be no excuses about not having the right tools.  It started out with me saying and showing what needed to be done in each room.  Each week we'd get room assignments.  A rotation of rooms was part of the game plan since then we'd all have to learn the ins and outs of each space.  Literally.

The upside?  It saved us some bucks.  We did a better job than any pro.  We learned to be efficient and accountable.  The downside?  The rotation didn't last too long.  Everybody got into routines working rooms they became familiar with.  The ultimate downside as Evan was quick to note was he was left with a bigger share of the cleaning pie when Sutter went off to college. We each had more to do but I think there was less bickering.

Life result? When messes come along, whether it be in the middle of huge earthquakes in New Zealand, or other physical or emotional challenges known as just life, we all seem to be able to see beyond the mess, stretch for the end result, and plow forward.

The cute and ultimate confirmation we'd done the right thing with Sunday Family Cleaning Night came when Evan was graduating from college.  Asked what he would like for a graduation present, he presented a list of not-extravagant items.   Reflecting his college roommate experience, on the list was "cleaning supplies."   

Live richly,  marilyn

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