March 24, 2020
Americans spend, on average, six hours a week doing this? With the recent pandemic, however, the amount of time may be even greater. What is it?
Cleaning their house.
The last Sunday in March marks the beginning of National Cleaning Week. While the origins of this week are not entirely clear, the term ’spring cleaning ‘ is common and for our pioneer ancestors involved many back breaking tasks. One was the removing the stuffing of one’s mattresses, washing the cover, and then refilling it. It does not take much imagination to envision how those beds may have smelled or what sorts of critters also used them when they were only changed every six months.
In fact every inch of the pioneer home was scrubbed into submission with the cleansing of curtains and bed sheets, the scrubbing of all walls and floors, the polishing of stoves, and the cleaning out of drawers and cupboards.
For many people, the task of cleaning is onerous. While a full time, live in housekeeper and even maids was once common for a wealthy household and even upper middle class ones; today’s American middle class has embraced the weekly or every other week, house cleaner. This is especially true for those where a job outside the house takes up the majority of daylight hours or the physical demands of cleaning are not possible.
Rather than quoting from the Infallible Wikipedia, the National Day’s Calendar shares this advice on how to ‘celebrate’ National Cleaning Week:
“Clean. The folks at Home Team have these recommendations to make cleaning week less intimidating: Tackle one room at a time, start from the top and work down, dusting ceiling fans door moldings and window tops. Don’t be afraid to move furniture. Donate to (a) thrift store those things you gather when you clean out closets, basements and storage space.”
Hmmm… that sounds a lot like what the pioneers did. With the exception of thrift stores.
Over the years, I have been lucky enough to have had housekeepers to help me stay on top of cleaning. I’ll never forget the first… the hubby and I had recently purchased a 1910 fixer upper in West Seattle. We were both working full time and this housekeeper was recommended to us.
I imagine this woman took one look at me and thought (not incorrectly) that I was a snotty 24 year old who knew nothing. So she shows up on week one and tells me HER rules. I could live with her rules since I really, really wanted her to clean the house so I didn’t have to. Especially the bathrooms. Did you know that for 52 percent of people that’s the most dreaded task? But I digress.
When she arrives, she is thrilled to learn that we have a cat. His name was Porsche. She immediately picks up Porsche to pet and cuddle him. Then it’s time for me to leave for work, so I put the cat outside. This sparks a conversation as now said housekeeper is upset that Porsche has to be outside for the day. I explain to her that he is the worst thing that ever happened to furniture and point out our badly damaged, and fairly new, couch which has been shredded by cat claws.
I leave for work. When I return later that afternoon, I do discover a cleaned house… and the cat is inside. Upon examination, I also discover that the new housekeeper has given Porsche a pedi.
In a subsequent conversation with her she refused to not cut the cats claws and refused to leave the cat outside per our instructions. I think we had the housekeeper for some three weeks before it was back to no housekeeper.
I’ve had others over the years. My favorite was a woman named Karen who only worked for people who appreciated her. She helped me when my children were little and I just couldn’t keep up with everything. One day she said to me that she liked coming to our house because she felt like her services were very much needed! Hah! Yes, I was truly a horrible housekeeper.
Now that I’m older, I don’t worry quite so much about having the house spotless and neither does my current housekeeper. She is, actually, rather lazy. I never quite know when she might show up and clean the dreaded bathrooms or mop the hardwoods. It’s very hit and miss. Eventually, she gets it done even if she grouses about how her back hurts, or she sits for a while, claiming she needs her frequent breaks.
These past couple of weeks with ‘social distancing’ edicts has really thrown my world into a tizzy. My lazy housekeeper says she won’t come in to clean and has instead declared that she’s staying at her own home to watch Hallmark movies, read trashy romance novels, and eat Bon Bons.
So it’s back to me having to clean the house once again. The hubby pulls out the vacuum when it gets bad. And I’m on constant vigil for signs that the bathrooms need attention. But a funny thing has happened with being forced to stay home. I’ve gotten through a number of boxes of stuff which needed sorting. I’m catching up on some mending projects. I’ve gotten the hubby to take on the task of fixing the barbecue table and plan to have him help me hang a few pictures and a display cabinet I brought back from my Dad’s house.
All in all, The Great Quarantine of 2020 and National Cleaning Week, have coalesced into the week when – I’m pretty sure – households all across the nation are at the Zenith of being clean.
Cats, however, cannot figure out what the fuss is all about. They wrote the book on social distancing and being clean… experts at staying six feet away, only interacting with their favored family members, and spending hours licking their fur clean. Just don’t trim their nails.
Our most dreaded of cleaning tasks:
- cleaning the bathroom (52 percent)
- kitchen cleaning (23 percent)
- dusting (21 percent)
- mopping (20 percent)
- doing the laundry (17 percent)