FREEDOM IS NOT DUSTING FURNITURE
That’s it! It’s official. I am no longer going to my grave with a clean house. I am not even going into next week.
I’ve been on strike before, with all the militancy of a wharfie and most of the accompanying language, but not this time.
As long as there are children, husbands and pets living in this house, not a finger will be wiggled in the direction of a duster. I shall tilt my chin to avoid noticing the grey layer of dust covering every surface. And if they can’t be arsed removing the skid marks from the toilet bowl why on earth should I?
A clean house is an overrated hangover from a bygone era when the only way a woman could survive the tedium of the day was cleaning the house followed by a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down.
Just as you’re standing there, hands on aproned-hips, admiring the sparkling vanity basin and the shiny food- free floor, in troops the family. Five minutes later you’ve kissed your clean house goodbye.
The question is, why has this taken me until the age of 46 to figure it out?
I blame my mother, her mother and her mother before that. This insidious need for clean derives from a time when Monday was washing day and Tuesday was ironing day. No machines, all muscle to bring a house to order. Women’s lib sent us off to work and forgot to tell us that the price of economic freedom was that you still had to come home from the office and whip up a pot roast, wash the footy team’s gear and help the youngest make a bonnet for the Easter Parade.
My mum ran her own business for 40 years. She at least evolved enough to have a cleaning lady. It was a little luxury she afforded herself with her own money. It also introduced to my impressionable young mind the concept of outsourcing.
But paid help or not, mum still carried the bulk of the cleaning burden.
Leaving home at 19 meant there were years of sharing hovels with students, where the furniture was hand-me-down complete with red wine stains and what I hoped was dried custard. Student life was about survival – essays, menial jobs, and navigating numerous failed relationships. What it most certainly not about was making sure the bathroom floor was clean enough to eat off.
And then I married. Amongst the Royal Doulton dinner service and the electric gadgets, someone (I know not who), gave me The Women’s Weekly Complete Book of Home Hints. I was 24 and still getting over the shock of staying in and cooking every single night impoverished by our $60,000 mortgage and interest rates of 18.5%. Furthermore, we had purchased a Renovators’ Delight which is code for s***box.
Perhaps if I had bothered to read the book of home hints that marriage may have survived, but it did not and nor did the book.
As a single mother with a career, I justified the expense of a series of cleaning ladies. God how I worshipped these women, even the bad ones were better than having to clean the house yourself. In they paraded with their buckets of fluids in a lurid rainbow of pinks and purples and labels that resembled the fight scenes from Batman and Robin.
KA-POW! Toilet Cleaner. SMASH! Window Wipe. KRUMPFF! Floor Polish.
By the time I married again, I had a new weapon in my cleaning arsenal: teenagers.
My logic was that since they were the source of most of the mess that they should contribute to its removal. I replaced $40 an hour labour with free labour. Or free-ish.
Out went the cheap, nasty vacuum cleaner, barely able to pick up a dust ball let alone a bowling ball. In came the Dyson with its cyclonic action. Despite the incentive of pocket money, the results were somewhat slapdash. If I dared suggest that perhaps it might be easier to vacuum the floor if one first removed all the objects, they snarled and proceeded to vacuum around the mess as if it were an obstacle course. Plus, they never did toilets.
And then Shannon Lush wrote Spotless and made cleaning chic.
Armed with vinegar, bi-carb soda and metho. I swear that girl can clean anything and I was determined to follow her clean, green example. Out went all the fluoro chemicals and my house sparkled and shone with virtue. Once I realised that spending five hours vacuuming, scrubbing and dusting equaled 12,000 steps, my virtue shone so bright I needed sunglasses.
But I have now reached the point where I can no longer maintain the façade. Shannon Lush might be able to fold a fitted sheet into neat quarters but I can’t. Only this week, the pet shop man told me that goldfish excrete four times their body weight every day.
I have been brought undone by two small children, a selectively deaf husband and a fat fish.
Don’t come to my house unless, like justice, you are blind. Do not wear your white gloves with which to swipe tops of cupboards. In fact, don’t even open the cupboards. This is now an abode where sheets are changed and towels are washed on a whim. In a stroke of genius, I now send my young son to pre-school in pre-stained clothes. “Polishing” is reserved for polishing off bottles of wine, “sweeping” is for under the carpet and “scrub” will be what the garden returns to once I stop doing that too.
The house might not smell so good but freedom sure does.