Friday, June 15, 2007

Clean up your act.

I've only just noticed how many magazines I have around the house with covers advertising articles like "Tips for Spring Cleaning" or "Quick Cleaning Tricks." I'm not talking about Better Homes and Gardens or Martha Stewart Living magazines--I'm talking about magazines aimed at the young women's demographic (like Domino and Blueprint).

I'm really concerned about this apparent push toward a new domesticity. Am I the only person not wondering how to better clean something? Or more succinctly, am I the only one asking, "Who cares?"

Now, I've done my time with the sociology of housework and the second shift. When Muffin Uptown was small and ate everything that didn't run faster than she could crawl, I was very conscientious about the condition of the floors. One really could eat off them, and often did. But now? The only time I can work up an I-care about what's on my floor is if I've just dropped an earring back or a hormone pill. My nonchalance about the floors' cleanliness has increased as my ability to see said floors has decreased.

To my mind, if you no longer have an impressionable young person for whom you need to set an example, it's perfectly okay not to think too much about getting the house clean. As long as Oprah doesn't show up at my door with two snobby British cleaning experts, I'm fine with a little dust. (And actually, I'm okay with the snobby cleaning experts, too; it's having my slovenliness featured on ABC with which I have a problem).

If this is a new idea for you, or if you are the newly liberated parent of a slovenly teenager who has finally left for college, you may need some tips to get you started on your new lifestyle. So, in place of "How to Get Your House Spic and Span in Only 16 Hours," I offer the following set of suggestions:

1. Don't bring crap into the house that you will have to clean, dust, polish, vacuum, steam, fold, iron, or otherwise touch in any way.

2. Never buy anything with slats or louvers. I am amazed at the number of people who can't seem to remember to pluck the stray hair from that small section of skin between their eyebrows, but who feel up to the challenge of cleaning between the slats of a houseful of miniblinds.

3. Cooking is for everybody (else). I once went for a year and a half without cooking anything on top of the stove, because my kitchen had a black glass cook-top. While all the kitchen appliance propaganda experts were busily perpetuating the myth that such cooktops were easy to clean--they never mentioned that all you had to do was look at one while thinking about what you were going to cook for supper to render it in need of cleaning. Very, very clever, I say.

4. On a related note, eat all your meals over the sink. This small tip will save you hundreds of hours in clean-up time and thousands of dollars. No dishes to wash, no fancy linen napkins to launder and iron--and--you can leave that skirt pattern you've been trying to cut out on the dining room table until you're good and ready to finish it.

5. Eschew horizontal surfaces. If you really must have such surfaces, pile them high with books and CDs, sprinkled with an occasional handwritten note on which the word motif appears. This will in no way hide the dust and stray pet hair, but will suggest to your visitors that you are too busy enriching your mind to think about something as mundane as cleaning house.

And that's it really. Now, you'll have a little bit of extra time to actually read some of the magazines you have lying all around your house. That may be a problem, too, though--if you really do fall within that 18-34 demographic. Because I'm fairly certain that the only magazine I've seen lately that didn't have a cleaning tip touted on the cover was the one published by AARP.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

and, tip # 432: Leave your salt and pepper shaker in the living room. Saves steps and clean up when you over shoot your food.

You always deny telling me this but we both know you did it.

Deb, I love your writing. I love it as much as "This American Life".

Anonymous said...

As a matter of fact, a recent AARP had an article on how to help your parents with the final housecleaning before they move to assisted living. Even getting older doesn't get you away from the "must get clean" mantra.

Jane who? said...

Well, maybe that's not such a terrible idea. I like the notion that MU will have to help clean up the mess I made AFTER she moved out...
MJ

Livia said...

You write very well.