House Cleaning for Dummies

Last week while I was slowly perspiring to death in the piney woods of Alabama, my home began to take on the unkempt appearance of a frat house.  Dust bunnies scampered  around the wood floors, playing games of hide and seek.  The TV screen slowly disappeared under a thick coating of dust.  The laundry mounded up so that we had to harness ourselves together to ascend its mighty heights.  The kitchen floor became a sticky wasteland, treacherous for anyone making a midnight snack run.  The bathrooms became a microbiologist’s dream, a breeding ground for all sorts of disease causing microorganisms.  The nominating committee for Slumlord of the Year started leaving messages on my machine.  It was a scary place.

Today is the first day I am really able to address these issues.  So I sat down with pen and paper to make the dreaded…….CHORE LISTS….(high pitched screams in the distance….)  I was also reading the paper and anyone who knows me knows I live for the Wednesday paper.  It contains the crime reports.  I realized, as I read the list of homes that had been robbed, that my slovenly housekeeping is a deterrent to criminals. 

Imagine it’s 2:00 a.m.  The house is shrouded in darkness.  We are away, vacationing at our summer trailer in the swamp.  A shadowy figure sneaks up to the deck and stealthily pries the door open.  Our home alarm is not set.  He enters the family room and immediately trips over a pile of shoes and smashes his head into the goddess’s Lite Brite.  Pegs fly everywhere.  He curses quietly, gets up and bashes his shins into the coffee table.  He dances around in pain and trips over the pile of dirty clothes John threw on the floor by the stairs.  He makes it into my bedroom and promptly becomes entangled in the hangers on the floor by my bed  (I leave them there so if I get the urge to hang up Tom’s clothes, I don’t have to look hard).  He waltzes around and trips over the vacuum cleaner and falls into the basket of socks-to-be-sorted.  In disgust, he gets up and makes his way out, thwarted in his attempts to burgle by my piles of crap.  So see, it pays to be messy!

Despite the brilliance of the messy-home-as-a-theft-deterrent theory, I made lists for my older children, designed to guide them in their efforts to help me restore our home to its former, yard-sale chic glory.  John’s list was fairly simple:  unload the dishwasher; pick up the dog poo in the front yard; and pick up all the garbage in the garage.  Unfortunately, our garage is overrun with garbage and this was no easy task.  He came upstairs after ten minutes and told me he was done.  Yeah, right.

“Did you pick up the garbage by my car?” I asked him.  His face fell and he turned around and went back downstairs without a word.  Five minutes later he was back.  Yeah, right.

“Did you pick up the garbage on both sides of the car?” I asked. 

“You didn’t tell me I had to do that,” he whined. 

“Let me be specific,” I said cooly.  “Pick up every scrap of garbage that you see in the basement and garage.”

“But MOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMM,” he said in despair.

I just looked at him and he turned around and trudged back downstairs.

Next, I called for Amy to give her her list.  Anytime she is given a list, she immediately launches into a homily about how she does all the work in the house, no one else does anything, and specifically, her younger sister has no duties whatsoever which is a direct violation of Amy’s constitutional right to slothfulness.

“She does have a job,” I told her.  “Anastasia is over and they are being quiet and leaving me alone.”

“I CAN BE QUIET AND LEAVE YOU ALONE!!!” she shrieked.  There really is no adequate way to convey the tone and pitch of her voice in this blog; suffice it to say the dogs in the neighborhood started howling.

I stared her down and she shrieked “FINE, I HATE YOU!!!!” and walked out crumpling up her list.  I calmly called her back in, forced her to uncrumple the list and instructed her to begin immediately.  There was some whining and gnashing of teeth, but eventually, she reluctantly began her choring.

In the interest of fairness, I did reassign one of her chores.  I called the goddess and Anastasia down and instructed them to wash the glass in the front door.  It took half a roll of paper towels and 3/4 of a bottle of cleaner, but the job was accomplished. 

As I sit and write this, Amy is now accusing me of violating child labor laws by forcing her to do all this stupid work while the goddess is downstairs being lazy.  John is downstairs, diligently cleaning out my car.  The washing machine is humming and the smell of cleaner permeates the air.  My feet, however, are still sticking to the kitchen floor.  So I guess I better wrap this up and go get my anti-bacterial kitchen floor cleaner ready! 



  1. Nancy S
    Posted June 21, 2007 at 1:41 am | Permalink

    Jen, you know I work full time and am a single mom. I have put an excel spreadsheet on the refrigerator with chores on it – I only do this during the summer when they are home and I am working. The chores are assigned by day, and consist of – clean the kitchen (takes 5 minutes because I’ve already done most of it the night before), let the dog out and give her food and water (3 minutes tops), vaccuum the house – 20 minutes every other day, fold laundry (I have washed and dried it), dust, and take the garbage and recycling out. EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE SUMMER, I get home, and at least one of the chores is not done. If they would just do them, the chores would take up a maximum of one hour per day, and that’s if they take their time! There’s no way to win, working mom or stay-at-home mom, we can’t catch a break.

  2. Kiki
    Posted June 21, 2007 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Nagging is a way of life at my household! I tell my girls to spend just 5 minutes every day straightening up their room and it wouldn’t turn into an hour long cry-fest once a week! Do they listen? NO! And i do most of everything around here. They aren’t scrubbing the toilet, or any gross jobs like that!

  3. Renee
    Posted June 21, 2007 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    I left a list for the little maids this AM with 2 items. Change the dog’s water and empty the dishwasher. We’ll see if it happened when I get home this evening.

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