When your kid starts sweeping the floor, it’s time to clean house

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colour palette : Housekeeping...

colour palette : Housekeeping… (Photo credit: emma lamb)

We just got back from being on holiday for two lovely weeks. We had a great time, but it was nice to be back sleeping in our own beds.

Being chronically disorganized, we left the house in an untidy rush. Of course, we made sure the fridge was (almost) empty and the garbage was emptied, but otherwise, it was the same messy chaos we live in every day. I knew our cleaning lady was coming at least once while we were away, so I figured we’d come back to a sparkling clean house.

Except she had a family emergency and wasn’t able to come at all. So we arrived back to the same mess we left, pl;us 2 weeks worth of dust on everything. Talk about bursting the vacation bubble.

The first couple of days were spent unpacking and finding places for the mountain of stuff we seemed to accumulate while we were away (for some mysterious reason, we always come back with more than we left with). My husband and I noted the rather sad state of the kitchen floor, usually as we were passing through. I did get out the vacuum yesterday to clean up dried up bits of an asparagus fern that fell on the floor when I cut off some stems that died off while were away. I even wiped a couple of spider webs off the plant stand. But I left the vacuum sitting in the dining room and went onto something else.

This morning, I came into the the family room to find M sweeping. Having checked his forehead and determined that he was not running a fever, I asked him why he was sweeping( M will occasionally sweep if the broom is out, but I didn’t know until this morning that he actually knew where it is stored). M looked up from pushing dirt into the dust bin and said that the floor was disgusting and he kept getting stuff stuck to his feet. So he decided to take matters into his own hands.

Far be it from me to discourage my kid from cleaning. but he did have a point. The floors were pretty gross. Upon closer inspection, those surfaces that weren’t covered in stuff, were pretty dusty. And while we had made some progress in terms of putting things away, the house was still pretty messy. My husband decided to start with the basement and I headed upstairs to the bathroom, where I remembered that while having tile on the walls and the floor is nice to look at, getting in between all those cracks takes time. I eschewed commercial cleaning products in favour of baking soda diluted in warm water. I did have to rinse fairly often, but baking soda, along with a little elbow grease, got the job done.

House-cleaning is a bit like eating potato chips – it’s hard to stop at one room. Having scrubbed and polished the bathroom from top to bottom, I started in on the bedroom by dusting the woodwork under the windows. This led to washing the window frames and the baseboards (the visible parts) on the entire second floor (except M’s room) and all the way down the stairs and into the front hall. Our house is over 100 years old, so we have lots of woodwork. I discovered that a cotton swab dipped in baking soda and water will get into all those hard to reach corners. I am not a conscientious housekeeper – if I was, I probably wouldn’t have needed to clean so much crud from the cracks and  that come with an old house.

Our cleaning lady does a good job but she concentrates on the high traffic areas which need to be cleaned regularly. She does vacuum the baseboards in most of the rooms, but I tend to have stacks of books and magazines piled near my side of the bed, making it impossible to see the baseboards. So before I could wash them, I had to edit down the piles and get rid of useless crap like old receipts and empty shoeboxes, as well as books I had finished.

It took me about 3 hours to clean the woodwork. I had already spent at least an hour on the bathroom. I probably spent more time doing housework just today than I usually spend in a month. I even pulled out the bed and vacuumed up the desiccated apple and gigantic dust bunnies that were lurking on the floor. M confessed to tossing the apple back there – apparently not a preferred snack. It’s a wonder we didn’t get ants or (shudder) mice.

M didn’t escape the cleaning binge unscathed. He had to pick up various games and books that were scattered in the family room and take them back up to his room. He’s running out of shelf space to store all his books, so he and his dad went through his shelves and purged them of books M no longer wants to read. He still needs to put away his laundry and pick up some of the games on the floor, but that can wait for another day.

So it’s back to work tomorrow. The house still has some messy pockets. The floors still aren’t mopped. Now I know why I avoid doing housework as much as possible – it’s never finished.

Maybe I’l just ignore the floors and go upstairs and admire the gleaming woodwork.

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