Whole Home Resource
The Whole Home
Spring Cleaning or Confronting Vacuum Phobia
The dog has started his serious shedding, the outsides of the windows are fogged with salt mist that is obvious now the sun is streaming through the windows. It’s clear there’s work to be done.
Since a recurring topic in my house is who vacuumed last, I’m thinking about hiring someone to vacuum, maybe even to do the spring cleaning. My knowledge of housecleaners comes from Jennifer Anniston’s performance in ”Friends with Money” and Barbara Ehrenreich’s experience in Nickeled and Dimed. Neither inspires confidence.
In the name of research, I call my sisters. All three of them have some one coming in to clean their house: What am I missing?
The first sister has had a cleaning lady coming in every week for twelve years. Every other week she’s there for two days. Dora vacuums, cleans the bathrooms, the floors, washes sheets and changes beds, dusts. This is sounding great!
Searching for the downside, I ask, what’s the worst thing about hiring someone to clean for you? “It’s having to clean up for the housekeeper. I never leave any dishes in the sink. I keep things organized so she can do her job. Sunday afternoons and nights are spent getting ready for her.”
How about the spring cleaning I ask, does she do that for you? “No, spring cleaning for me is clearing out the closets, washing the hallway walls, waxing the floors. I look at spring cleaning as an opportunity to shake up life.” This is my type A sister, the other day she washed the bathroom ceilings.
I call another sister. Her house cleaner comes in every other week. She and her husband refer to her as their marriage counselor. Hmmm. Sounding even better.
I ask my sister what she does before the cleaning lady arrives. “A lot. That’s one of the worst things of having a house cleaner, and, I guess, also one of the best.” Sister two picks up the clutter, makes sure the dishes are washed, gets everything off the surfaces, and picks up the toys.
So what about spring cleaning? “For me that is washing the windows. I want to wash the hallway walls. I plan to line the cabinets...that will be ambitious.” This is not a type A sister.
I talk to another sister: “Oh yes, I have a house cleaner. Her name is ‘Thank Goodness for Fabiola’. She comes every Tuesday for five hours and cleans three floors of my house, cleans the bathrooms, does laundry. She’s been coming for ten years. I like having a cleaner I’ve known for a long time and can trust. I must admit though, for some reason, my baseboards never seem to get cleaned.”
And before Fabiola arrives? “I organize the piles that accumulate during the week. I don’t want her to waste her time picking up. I’d rather have her cleaning.”
And spring cleaning? “Fabiola and I are overdue to clean the windows together.”
Results of my research so far? The good news is that the cost of hiring help is less than I expected and much less than a marriage counselor. Rates are around $14 an hour, no matter what part of the country.
All my sisters have children. With no children, a very small house, and both of us capable of wielding the vacuum cleaner, can I justify hiring a house cleaner?
I call my parents, whose house cleaner comes for four hours every week even though we’re all long gone. “Phyllis is a lifesaver,” says my father. It’s true. I’ve seen Phyllis in action—she’s amazing. Since I’m sure my vacuum phobia is genetic, I can understand why he’s happy she’s there.
A clean house, a happy marriage, and motivation to keep the piles manageable. Why do I continue to think I (or we) should clean my (our) own house? The only excuse I come up with is weak: the long-term relationships my sisters have with their house cleaners include cups of tea, sit-down lunches and often, family counseling. I’m not sure I can invest the time.
I’m currently in Downeast North Carolina spring cleaning our 1880s house. This is dust of the ages, dust that sifts from the beaded-board walls with every stiff wind off the bay. If possible, the dog is shedding even more here than he was in Maine. I’m on my knees developing a relationship with a shop-vac. This is not shaking up my life, this is simply maintenance.
Now I understand my sisters. Why not hire some one to do the maintenance? Why not invest time in doing something productive, like washing the bathroom ceilings?
In spite of the ah-ha moment, I’ve finally talked myself out of hiring some help. I have a very small house and I can clean on my own schedule. When I return to Maine I’ll start spring cleaning there. I’ll wax the kitchen and bathroom floors, clean the windows, put on the summer slipcovers, and start once again on the attic. Then I’ll shake up my life and improve my marriage by making a spring resolution to do at least my share of the vacuuming.