Iím lucky this year. Both of my sons and my daughter in law are coming home for Christmas. In anticipation I started airing their rooms, putting on fresh bedding and dusting. And then things started to get out of hand.
Have you ever noticed how a house that feels pretty clean gets dirtier the more you clean it? You sweep the floor and then realize it could use a mopping. While youíre mopping you notice the baseboards could use a wiping. This leads to washing walls and pretty soon youíre scrubbing down the tops of cupboards and doors. After that itís just a matter of time before Q-tips and old toothbrushes are called into action.
I think it was Erma Bombeck who claimed that housework, if done properly, will kill you.
The weirdest thing about my cleaning frenzy is that I am cleaning the house to impress my own children. You know what this means...my children have achieved guest status. The same children who helped throw clutter under the couch when unexpected company pulled in the driveway. The same children I once waged epic weekend battles with over cleaning their rooms. The same children who are as likely to inspect their bedroom door tops for dust as they are to set their heads on fire.
Whatís more, it wonít last. Within an hour of their arrival all the cleaning will have come undone. But such is the nature of housecleaning. It has often occurred to me that it would make more sense to clean house after an event instead of before. Once the guests have infiltrated the building with their scattered coats, boots and bags you scarcely see any surfaces. In a matter of moments of gathering around the table there are crumbs on the floor and beverages being spilled.
Wouldnít be great if it was socially acceptable to hand your guests cleaning paraphernalia as the party was wrapping up? Dust rags for Grandpa, a vacuum cleaner for Grandma, some Windex and cloths for your siblings. The tall Uncles could take care of those door and cupboard tops in no time. Good friends might even clean the bathroom. It would be sort of like an old fashioned barn raising only better...because theyíre cleaning your house and you donít have a cow.
As a result of the rampant stress in todayís society, studies show people no longer entertain, or even get together for coffee, the way we used to. At the end of a long work week the last thing most people feel like doing is making their house guest worthy. House cleaning parties could change all of that. We could get the face time weíve been missing and a sparkling house in the bargain.
Iíve often thought the same concept could be applied to garden tours. As visitors come through the gate they would be handed a tool and their instructions. No one leaves without at least pulling a dozen weeds. Think of the earth you could move, the rocks you could pack and the deadheading that could be done over the course of the day with a hundred helping hands! It would be educational too. Youíd actually be doing your visitors a service.
Sadly, thatís not how most humans are wired. Itís certainly not how I am wired anyway. In the unlikely event I even considered hiring a housekeeper, I would still end up spending the week before cleaning the place myself so he/she wouldnít think I was a slob. And I would be more comfortable running naked down Main Street than asking guests to help clean my house. Unless...unless those guests were my own children. Oh my goodness! I have completely messed up. Or rather, I have completely cleaned up. Instead I could have handed my children/guests cleaning tools as an early Christmas gift; a gift to me, but a gift all the same.
Ah well, it might be too late for the pre-cleaning but itís definitely a tantalizing idea for the day before they leave. If nothing else it will make the day of parting easier for all of us. Theyíll be tripping over themselves and their dust cloths to get out of here while I will have a sparkling house to admire in their wake.
Though the truth is I am a bit like that Monica character on the old sitcom Friends. Obviously not in looks but in character. I use cleaning the house as therapy. When the kids leave it helps to wield a few cleaning weapons over the next couple days to help fill the silence and the ache. And if they leave a few thoughtless messes behind, so much the better. It looks like theyíll be retaining their newfound guest status. For now.
Shannon McKinnon is a weekly columnist from Northern BC. You can catch up on past columns by visiting www.shannonmckinnon.com