Friday, May 16, 2008

Clean Sweep

I really don't mind cleaning, and I'm pretty good at it. The problem is, I am a model of inefficiency. In fact, if Inefficiency was an Olympic Event I could take at least the silver medal; unless, of course, there were competitors from Guam. The Guam Motto is, "We're Guam, and We're Inefficient!" The motto, on a flashing billboard, is the first thing you see when your plane taxis to the gate at the A. B. Won Pat International Airport. It is on the sides of garbage trucks. It is stamped on Styrofoam fried chicken boxes left to disintegrate (or not) at the beach. I like Guam. I like Tumon Bay, and all the Japanese Indoor Rifle Ranges, and bubble tea, and Shirley's Coffee House where you get rice with your eggs. But I could never beat someone from Guam in an Inefficiency Competition.

Here is my cleaning system: I wake up knowing that it is Friday, which is Dust-And-Vacuum day. Start the coffee. Get the duster and head for the bedroom. Where I notice that the stick from the incense I burned last night is still in the burner. I pluck it, to toss before dusting and realize that dusting would be much more pleasant with fresh incense burning. It's off to the incense drawer, and I remember enroute that I have no more matches in the bedroom. Matchbooks are in the kitchen, in a drawer. Next to the drawer where we keep the dog pills. Did I give the dog her pills this morning? Check the pill drawer and it appears I did not. Gather dog pills, hunt the dog who knows what's about to happen and slithers behind the sofa. Move the sofa to get to the dog, and THERE are all the cats' pom-poms! Take them into the laundry room so cats can find them when they use the litter box, also in the laundry room. Oh, no, I did laundry yesterday! It is sitting in the washer. Smells a little funky. Set it to rewash, get the stuff out of the dryer (as long as I'm there,) take the dry load to the bedroom, fold it and put it away. As I'm shelving sheets, I see that we are nearly out of TP. Better head to the grocery store while I'm thinking about it - a bad thing to run out of.

Remember the bake sale on the way to the grocery store, pick up the ingredients for brownies, find a nice piece of fish for dinner. Go home, stopping for the mail on the way, remember that yesterday was Bill-Paying Day, and I didn't. Bake brownies while On-Line Banking loads. Pay bills. Wrap brownies attractively, put in basket, put basket in car.

Feed milling dogs and cats, cook fish, put now non-funky wash in dryer, answerphoneanswerphoneanswerphone, crash in bed in state of exhaustion and wonder what a duster is doing in the bed.

Now that I look at it in black-and-white, I might just give those folks on Guam a run for their money.

I have tried hiring out the cleaning. First there was Belinda. She needed six weeks off every nine months to have her next baby. The first 3 months of each pregnancy she felt like throwing up and had to go home. The last 3 months she had contractions and had to go home. And the three months in the middle - well, every Thursday morning one of the brood had an ear infection. About the only time we saw Belinda for more than 10 minutes was when she came over to pick up clothes our kids had outgrown. She finally gave up "cleaning" to homeschool.

Then, there was Maggie. She would only clean houses on HER side of Spaghetti Junction, the infamous highway interchange that defines Atlanta. She made that clear in her ad in the paper. She made it clear in conversation. She had never, and will not ever, ever, drive across Spaghetti Junction. Fortunately, she could safely get to our house without encountering The Beast. Unfortunately, she didn't work from 1 PM to 3 PM because she had to watch her "stories." She left us notes that said, "You know that Bureto in the refrigerater? I ate it." And she occasionally called us from the bowling alley in the middle of the night, because she had consumed "a little white wine." Also, she was certain her lovely daughter, Shayree, was the perfect match for our son. Luckily, Shayree had other ideas, and Maggie had to stop cleaning and stay home with her "stories" because Shayree's boyfriend got kicked out of his house and moved in with Maggie and Shayree and there was too much laundry and cooking to do (when you added in "story" time) for Maggie to work outside of the home.

Patti came next, and she was far-and-away the favorite. Yes, she brought the toddling Baby Grace. Grace was pretty and sweet, and except for the time she shoved a sandwich in the VCR (which later, in revenge, ate her Barney tape) she was no trouble at all. Patti had dogs. Lots of dogs. Hair on the furniture was no match for her, and she did not rest until every fuzzy was gone. The house sparkled when Patti was finished. Sigh. We loved Patti. And so did her ex-husband; his stalking became a bit of a problem so she moved out-of-state and changed her name.

Again without help, I could conquer the laundry and dog-pilling and bill-paying and grocery shopping, but still managed to distract myself from vacuuming even while wearing my new (and quite stylish) Professional BacPacVac. Yes. I was wearing a vacuum, and I would forget to vacuum. No. I don't think I am suffering from dementia. I am just observant (and I hate to vacuum.) Example: See that frayed cord on the antique lamp? I'd best remove BacPacVac, head to garage for lamp parts, notice that the stuff for the next yard sale is in a messy heap. Rearrange it for a couple of hours until it is too late to vacuum because the natural light is gone and I miss too many spots by lamplight. Capiche? Easy Peasy.

And then I whined and whined about the unfinished vacuuming. Friends and family made the outlandish suggestion that I find another housekeeper. I had every excuse in the book - a cat would escape through a door left open (not likely when they are all quaking under the bed,) a dog would bite someone (no, the dog only bites when she doesn't get Gorgonzola on her dinner,) and the above-mentioned examples of Housekeeper Horrors.

My friend Penelope had heard enough.

"I'm sending over The Swarm Of Locusts."

Everything Pennie hates about her cleaning crew makes them perfect for me. They don't spend all day with their clients. They don't do laundry. They don't pay bills, or arrange the cereals by box height.

And they don't bring children, or watch stories or have stalking husbands. That I know of.

The Swarm blows through the front door, waving rags and plugging in vacuums on their way. They disperse like an Alka-Seltzer. Like Whirling Dervishes. No one speaks, but the noise is deafening. Furniture flung to the center of the room. Clunk, thunk, vacuums blaze. Every surface is sprayed with something. Rags and mops dance in perfectly choreographed formation. Not a cat in sight. (Dogs are shaking in the basement. They have only been down there a few times, when tornadoes threatened the neighborhood. They are sure this is "The Big One.")

And, before you know it, The Swarm is gone. Vaporized. It is eerily silent, like the wake of an F-5 tornado. We emerge, like Dorothy and Toto, from our shelters. Things are out of place, but there is no dust! There are no dust bunnies under the bed! (Well, yeah, the bed is in the middle of the room. But it's freshly made.)

The house is very clean. I might be pleased with The Swarm. But I'll reserve judgment until I see if I get a late-night call from a bowling alley.


High Desert Diva said...

OMG! What a funny post! Off to read more

Kerry said...

The same thing happens to things leads to another leads to nothing getting done.
I am far to fussy, though, to think someone else could do better.
Silly me!
Maybe turn the ringer off before bed? No calls from the bowling alley or anywhere else...

Cicada Studio said...


You should write a book. You could be the Erma Bombeck for the this generation.

Nancy said...

Thanks, you guys. I am going to write a book. Right after I finish the vacuuming.

Anonymous said...

OMG!! I'm crying over here! This is one of the best blog posts I have ever read! I can totally relate. So glad you got yourself a good brood.

thecaffiend said...

Hey mom, isn't being really inefficient technically being efficient @ being inefficient? Take that brain! (I only had to use spell check once for that last line...I'm kinda proud).

Try listing things that must be done as you realize they must be. Do them later, not now. I find post it notes (or the computer equivalent...personal wiki, sticky note programs, etc) to be invaluable. I have a line on the dead tree versions (office supply closet!), or you could reuse some of the 10 million expired ones all over my office.

Or, keep doing what you're doing because randomness can be fun, and apparently makes one a champion of efficient inefficiency.

Nancy said...

Dear Caffeind - if I took time to write stickynotes to myself I wouldn't even get the laundry folded. Plus, these days I need 11"x11" stickys in order to read them. Those thumbnails that you could write the Declaration of Independence on just don't work for me anymore.

I guess another idea would be to call my children over to clean the house. Wonder how that would work out for me?

thecaffiend said...

It wouldn't.

shannon said...

Here's how cleaning goes in my house:
Me: I'm off to clean the bedroom
Hubby: Okay, good luck!
Me (after entering bedroom with cleaning supplies and sitting thm on the bed next to the dog): Oh look! Something shiny!
..two days later..
Me: I'm off to clean the bedroom!
Hubby: I'll believe it when I see it.

So, I can totally relate. :-)

Crystal said...

That was hilarious!

You clean like my husband cleans. :)