The cleaning curve.
I never dreamed I am or would ever be a forerunner of the new cleaning phenomena, termed speed cleaning in a recent Wall Street Journal article (Meet the Speed Cleaners by Ellen Byron). The latest approach to cleaning is performed by women (mostly) with a lot on their plate. It is part of their crazy busy, multitasking, too-much-to-do and too-little-time-to-do-it life style.
After reading the article I realized I was a speed-cleaning aficionado years ago. Wiping down counters as I quickly passed through the kitchen on my way to do another task – pick up after the kids, yell at the kids, find the kids, cook for the kids, clean up after the kids – is one simple example of how the system works.
Apparently years ago people - and more specifically women - spent one day a week cleaning their house. Carefully, consistently, really, really cleaning. Week in and week out, month in and month out, year after year after year.
These women learned cleaning skills from their mothers.
And that is where my life as a cleaning woman differs from those of women exercising their cleaning skills regularly.
My Mom taught me a lot, and was a role model for many things, but cleaning was not one of them.
My parents’ home was not exactly a disaster, but neatness and cleanliness were not a priority. Mom worked and Dad worked. Sister and I led busy lives, playing, going to school, playing, hanging out with friends and partaking in activities girls of the 1950s and 60s did. And, at least in my universe, little girls did not clean. We might straighten our rooms after being yelled at enough, or occasionally clean up after dinner, but basic housecleaning chores were ignored, never learned and rarely, if ever, experienced.
I did not realize what I was missing.
There is a difference between dirty and neat. My Mom did not let the house get quarantine-dirty. But she was a collector and anti-trash. Over the years piles of papers, books, magazines, and assorted other items spread everywhere. We lived in a small home, at least by today’s standards, and when the kitchen, living room, and bedrooms overflowed piles accumulated in the basement.
Anyway, I digress. The point is Mom never taught me the finer points of cleaning.
I never liked to clean. I do not know if women of the past who spent so much quality time cleaning enjoyed the task. My guess is some jobs were more enjoyable than others. Ironing, for instance, is rarely performed nowadays by scores of women, probably because no one enjoys it. I know this because my friends tell me so. I own an iron and use it rarely, occasionally running the iron over a blouse or pair of pants when I am going out. Usually, however, I opt for the casual crumpled look. I have friends who do not own an iron.
So where am I going with this?
I remember. I was an early convert to today’s speed cleaning trend.
Drawers filled with miscellany I had no time to properly organize, waiting for some future time to carefully peruse and take care of, while clearing and washing tables and counters.
I could empty the dishwasher, wipe down countertops, and prepare lunches at the same time (not exactly a cleaning task, but a good way to systematically clean out the refrigerator).
I could fold and put away laundry, pick up and put away toys, and spot clean simultaneously.
I became a master home speed cleaner without knowing it.
One day my son, a little tyke of perhaps three or four, asked,
“Mom, who is coming over?”
“How did you know we were having company?” I inquired.
“Cause the vacuum cleaner is out,” he innocently said.
So you know how often – or not – I cleaned the house.
And still do. After all, old habits are difficult to change.