Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cleaning Triage

There comes a time in every person's life when they are going to have to clean the house. No one, with the possible exception of my Polish grandmother, no one likes to do it. In my case I really super hate it. It wastes my valuable time to be washing a floor that A. I just washed six months ago and B. I'm going to have to wash again in six more months. There is so much I could be doing with that time instead such as cooking and spending great quality time with my family. I could even be solving the Navier- Stokes equations for a million dollars, but instead I am stuck chipping crusted cereal off the legs of the dining table. The final nail in the coffin however, is that I am stuck cleaning for guests that are not even mine. People with perfectly good homes of their own far far away, relatives of the other half of this parenting team. It's the kids I tell you, kids. No one cared about The Husband and I when we were a little "dink" family and for sure no one cared about visiting us, and we were fine with that.

So, tick tick tick, time goes by and all of us in this house know that these guests are on their way. For months in advance we know. Certain of us start to poke and prod others of us that a massive cleaning needs to be underway. Others of us are well know to complain they are too sick or too tired after working all day to clean or are reading something fascinating about an obscure religion from a billion years ago and cannot possibly get up off his butt to scrape bug guts off the walls.

(A side note. My preferred method of dealing with insects in the house is to spray them mercilessly with toxic chemicals from a very safe distance until they fall off the wall and convulse into death. The Husband does not care for carcinogens being sprayed all over his air (fussy man) and so the compromise is that I will slap the bugs with a super long fly swatter (I love to slap stuff) and he has to clean the guts up off the wall. That's the deal.)

The result is "we" wind up waiting until the expected guests are practically on their airplanes before we start to clean up. Suddenly, we have to winnow down a very long list to only the highest priorities. Take for example the blinds. With the dust and hair provided by 3 girls and 2 cats our window blinds usually have an extra layer of protection on them. Don't judge, it can look pretty in the right light. Kind of fuzzy and soft. It is assumed that cleaning blinds sucks. I have discovered though that with just the right precise tilt, they look fine without being cleaned. And if you do it right, the fact that the windows are not clean either will be obscured. Good enough.

See? Pretty!

Beware the tilt stick! How come the dust and stuff lands so evenly over the span of the blind louvers?  Why wouldn't it collect in some spots and be invisible in others? Mysterious. This is what we are obscuring.

Then I take into account who my guests really are. On this non-occasion, they are a 65 year old woman and an almost- 90 year old woman, neither with great eyesight. Plan to pull all the curtains and put on no lights at all. The dimness hides a lot, even the streaks of spilled coffee on my kitchen cabinets! Even the stove hair collection is difficult to see with no lights on (why does so much hair and furry stuff get stuck on the stove? Anyone?). Forget it that I can't see either, I know where stuff is, I'm the one who hid it there.

Need to dust and vacuum everything? No time. Dust the side that shows and vacuum the part people will see. I went to jam a bunch of random junk under my bed when I discovered to my horror that it was full under there from the last three guest visits. Close the door. Clean. As for the bathroom, well, it doesn't have to be clean, it just has to look clean. I think it counts if I run a rag over the toothpaste hills in the sink. The hill is clean right? The things my children can do to a single innocent towel are vile. Turn all towels around to the other side. Clean.

I don't have time to pull out dishes from my open shelves in the kitchen to clean out the cabinets. My guests are short- both of them. I squatted myself down several inches and realized I only needed to wipe down the first visible shelf. Neither of them would be able to see the other shelves without a step stool, and I certainly would not be providing one. HA! Clean.

Way- hay- hay too high for anyone to see. Ignore dust bunnies and dust giraffes. Clean-ish.

Now here is something I don't mind cleaning- my antique Fiesta collection! It is fun to play in these dishes and move them around. Sadly the collection has not been added to since the first child put in her appearance. See how shiny and happy they are? Clean!

I used to be a  person who felt like, if you have nice stuff you should use it! What a waste it is to have wonderful things you love only to have them hidden safely away, unseen for years. How terrible! So what if you have kids- whatever happened to teaching your kids not to touch? Teach your children NO. If they don't get it- slap their hands a few times, they'll get it. Sigh.  *pain, I am getting a pain* Seems that somehow while I only have 2 children, they have been blessed with eight arms and legs apiece and they do not coordinate. 

This teapot is the Marlon filler. I just use it to heat water for Marlon Jackson the Hot Water Bottle. What is that gunk on it? I have no idea. All I know is that it does not respond to chemicals that promise to strip paint and clean the oil spill off your driveway. There is no hope here. Hide this teapot when guests come over.

Okay, so what do you do to "tidy up" when company is coming? Share your tips and tricks with me!

PS this is somewhat in sarcasm (but not totally *ahem*) but my house is safe if you were considering coming for a visit or letting your kids come to play!


  1. Our newest foster children are just priceless...I was vaccuuming one morning shortly after they joined our home when the Middle Little says "somebodies comin' over?" Even at just 4 he knows the drill: moms vaccuum for company - not for the dust bunnies big enough to sadddle!

  2. I had a tea kettle like that. Ended up throwing it away. There was just NOTHING that would clean it. But, in those days I hadn't found those white Mr. Clean magic cleaner pads, which I now swear by. They clean everything.

    You make me glad we have no relatives. The only other time this seemed like such a good thing was when the older kids graduated from HS and I could smilingly tell the high-priced photo guy, and the high-priced invitation guy, that we only needed their very smallest, teeniest, cheapest joke of a package. I was probably the only person ever to only buy 5 HS graduation invitations, and STILL have some left over.

    Of course, I do have to admit, that didn't pan out too well in terms of gifts.

  3. I love this post... so well written and touching 'close to home' as I have been known to do some of the same when I have visitors coming...

    I know all those tricks, being a surface cleaner... and leave all the rest to my husband who is a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to cleaning and gardening..!!

  4. Wow. That sounds so familiar. I don't feel so alone in my family's messiness.

  5. Wow, I could have written that...except that I can't write as well as you can.

    Love it!

  6. Don't forget to run around the house and spray febreeze, it makes it smell as if you've cleaned for days.

  7. Don't forget to run around the house and spray febreeze, it makes it smell as if you've cleaned for days.

  8. I am the queen of the "half" clean house. You see, I start a project (i.e., cleaning) and never finish it because I've started on so many other projects that may or may not be related to the first project. It is now approaching Thanksgiving, where 28 glorious people will be entering through my house of doom, and of course, it must be cleaned.

  9. Oh, hell, now I have to clean my stupid keyboard because I'm drooling over your Fiesta collection. . . thanks a lot.

  10. I think next time we'll just move, lol!

    I can't imagine having 28 people over for anything! Yikes!

    I will try the febreeze thing. I have used other non-name brand and they don't work very well. I lit some fancy candles but they didn't cover everything.

  11. Mama Drama reminded me of when my sister and I were kids. My mom would tell us to go clean our rooms and every time we would ask who was coming over.

    I have decided that once you start dusting, you have to go all the way. Just never start, don't move anything, and by God don't let the kids touch anything, or you will have to do it because it is SOOOO noticeable.


  12. We host a lot of events. I like having people over, I'd rather host than visit.

    But the real reason? Without guests my house would *never* be clean. Never.

    My husband will help to clean for a party, he will vacuum the basement, he will sweep the main floor, he will take the empties out of the cold room (well, to the garage, but out of sight). But pick up a beer bottle the day after the event? Wipe the counter post chili-cook-off? Oh no. He worked the day before, why would he clean post party?


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