Clean what? Seriously?

I’ve been a loyal reader of Prevention magazine for years — starting way back when I was a kid and my parents subscribed. It was kind of a freaky, crunchy, vitamin-obsessed thing then, but has morphed into more of a healthy-lifestyle, woman-oriented magazine today. It has pretty much perfected the “bite-size chunks” approach, offering lots of little health tidbits in addition to short articles, beauty tips, recipes, and exercise regimens.

I look forward to getting it every month, but had to laugh at an article in this month’s issue about how to foil the “10 Worst Germ Hot Spots.” A few pearls (you do these already, right?)…

  • Take the aerator out of your faucet (the little metal screen when you unscrew the tip) and soak it in a diluted bleach solution (here’s the kicker) once a week.
  • While you’re at it, keep the bleach solution out and clean the rubber flange thingy covering your garbage disposal (yes, every week).
  • Squirt hand sanitizer on the outside of the ketchup bottle in a restaurant or swipe with a disinfecting wipe (no doubt the salt and pepper shakers too). (Sorry, grabbing it with a napkin isn’t good enough — the little germies squeeze right through.)
  • Don’t trust that public soap dispenser either — germ magnet (actually the article said “fecal matter” UGH.) Wash your hands with soap and hot water and use hand sanitizer to be safer.
  • And of course you’re wiping down your refrigerator seals at least once a week with that bleach or a disinfectant?

Really, I’m used to living on the edge. I still ask for lemon in my water and iced tea at restaurants. But I had no idea I had one foot over the precipice even at home. The heck with having guests remove their shoes — it better be cleanroom suits all around (for your safety, not ours). 250px-cleanroom_suit

In another story this month, a vet offered suggestions for how to break your cat of  bad habits. I skimmed eagerly over how to stop kitty from jumping up on the counters (clearly not a problem at my house, too clean), attacking your ankles (they do this?), or scratching the furniture (only recently a problem, and only with one chair we are planning to get recovered anyway).

But, alas, no advice for how to stop the early-morning wake-up calls (4:00 a.m. this morning, thank you).

If it had told me how to solve that little puzzle (in a way that didn’t involve violence), I’d have renewed my subscription for the next 20 years…and maybe even wiped out my bagless vacuum with diluted bleach and sprayed the doormat with Lysol to boot.

Vacuums don’t clean houses. People clean houses.
~ Marie Barone, Everybody Loves Raymond

Where IS that Swiffer…?

We are excited to be seeing dear friends we haven’t seen in nearly 2 years, since they first moved to Alabama. They’re passing through next week between visits to parents in Michigan and Central PA, and taking time to see a Pirates game with us and spend the night.

Of course we’re excited. These are special friends. We love them to pieces. But five people (mom, dad, 3 kids) at our house? Overnight? They’ll see how we really live.

Sure we have a guest room — until 2 days ago when a frantic clean-up ensued, the bed was covered in clothes, the floor was covered in bags of clothes to be donated (bagged up months ago and never dropped off because, you see, maybe we’ll find more to donate) as well as being a dumping ground for stuff we will need eventually for house projects, but not yet. Things like crown molding for the upstairs hall, doorknobs for the new cubby doors we had built for the third floor, a ceiling fan to be installed, and several unfinished custom picture frames that still need paint, glass, mattes, and pictures inserted. Now at least, the clutter has been redistributed (and the ceiling fan installed!). Unfortunately, the room itself hasn’t bubbled up on the to-do list and still sports the previous owners’ girly pink and green color scheme complete with hideous mauve carpet. (We can clean, but we can’t work miracles.)

Sure we have a finished attic — a great space for spillover guests, complete with a queen-size futon! Unfortunately, there’s barely space to walk up there. It’s a holding ground for still-unpacked boxes (3 years after moving), piles of collectibles awaiting sale on eBay, cast-off office equipment (because you can’t just throw it away — bad for the environment doncha know), the previously mentioned cubby doors (4 of them; bulky), and assorted “no other place to put it” items. (The good part: It’s in the midst of a massive clean-up effort. The kids might even be able to see the floor when we’re done!)

I know, I know. People understand. They just want to see you and spend time. Who cares about clutter, dust, dirt, grime? So what that the floor of the lovely new kitchen is all aflutter with cat hair bunnies (and plain old dirt). Isn’t it cute that you can write your name on the dining room table? And those 25 magazines and catalogs all over the coffee table — how interesting.

It’s all true, but it’s all lies. People may not care, but they do notice. And I for one, would rather be noticed for how nice the house looks, not how sloppy. 

Oh, don’t pretend you’re any different. Tell me YOU don’t run around like crazy cleaning when someone’s coming over. Tell me YOU don’t want your house to look like grown-ups live there instead of a pack of frat boys. Tell me YOU haven’t been influenced by Martha, Emily, Heloise, Miss Manners, HGTV, BH&G to feel your home has to be “gracious” and “perfect for entertaining.”

You don’t? You haven’t? Darn.

You must be one of those people. Everything always in the right place (preferably a place neatly labeled with a label maker), floors swept every night and with a good hands-n-knees scrubbing every week, no dust on the window sills or soap scum in the shower… 

Oh well, my house gets there eventually. All it takes is a little push from an impending visit and days of back-breaking effort. The place’ll sparkle. I may fall asleep at 8:30 the night they come, but the place’ll sparkle. And (sadly?), that’ll make me really happy. I love a clean house. And it may never get that way if it weren’t for visits from dear friends. So come see us soon, OK?

You sometimes see a woman who would have made a Joan of Arc
in another century and climate, threshing herself to pieces
over all the mean worry of housekeeping. 
                                                    ~ Rudyard Kipling