It felt decadent. Decadent and indulgent. Hadn’t I been
raised to clean up after myself even if I hated it? What kind of spoiled brat
was I becoming at 39, I wondered, as I dialed the number that I’d resisted calling for
months, maybe years.
But it was my birthday and I was giving myself a present: a
clean house. OK, a cleaner house.
Honestly, I was sure that Mary Poppins herself
couldn’t make our 1,000-square-foot, 1950s ranch look even close to pretty. I mean, our
family of four shared six small rooms and complete disinterest in
confronting the accumulation of crap and dirt.
Not one of us got the clean gene that drove my
mess-abhorring mother to vacuum daily, or my father to line up his shoes like
soldiers along the kitchen floor and then systematically polish each pair.
My family is not that. We are piles and crumbs and scuffed
shoes and a sink full of last night’s lasagna dishes. We are dust bunnies and
coffee mugs on top of magazines, on top of Monopoly, on top of “Oh there’s that
paper I’ve been looking for since last week.”
Which is why, after I booked that
house cleaning, I knew my family had some serious work to do. I’d heard
of people “cleaning up for the cleaners”
and this was that—on steroids.
With all hands on deck that Saturday morning, the four of us
put away toys, folded clothes, shelved books, recycled papers, paired socks, until we
finally got the house back to neutral, with everything mostly in its place. In
fact, it looked good enough that I considered cancelling the cleaning job, but
my husband convinced me not to.
The next day, as I worked, I felt different.
Then, that Monday while I was out, two women came and did
something that I appreciated more than any other birthday gift that year. With
muscle and might, they cleaned the hell (and everything else) out of that
house. It cost $120 dollars and it was worth every cent.
When I walked in that
evening, I was greeted by floors that gleamed and crud-free counters. The beds
were made—and not in their usual haphazard way, but with the pillows fluffed
and sheets tucked in tight. Under the bed, there were no dust bunnies. Not
The next day, as I worked, I felt different. With the space
around me clean, something cleared out inside of me, too. “It’s feng shui,” my
husband joked when I tried to explain it. Whatever it was, I wrote more easily
and focused better. And, when the kids came home, we all felt inclined to keep
the space tidy. Best of all, when it was time to eat dinner, we had a few clear
surfaces available to us.
We all had space that we didn't even know we were missing.
When the cleaners called the following month to ask if I
wanted to set up a time, my first instinct was to say no. Again, it seemed decadent and
indulgent. But then I did the numbers and realized that, yeah, I was going to find
a way to make a monthly cleaning work. And I did.
It’s helped us all. My kids have learned to keep ahead of
the mess, so “cleaning for the cleaners” doesn’t take hours. Plus, I’m totally over the “decadent and
indulgent” part now and see that it’s perfectly OK to hire someone for a job
that they want to do. I mean, we pay people to do any number of things for us,
so why not this?
For years, I had some sexist stuff stuck in my head that I’m a
woman, so I’m supposed to have a clean house. And it’s supposed to be that way
because I make it so. Well, I’m over that.
For $120 a month, I now buy myself some space and serenity. And that is 100 percent worth it.