Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Housekeeping Guide for the Rest of Us

In exchange for Charlie's on-again-off-again afternoon nap battle of misery, Wesley takes epic naps on the days Charlie is in school. This leaves me with a large block of time Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning when I am not caring for a child, but cannot leave my house. It was during one such block of time on Friday, that I decided to test something out that had been bothering me.

You see, in my mom group at church, these two ladies had a lengthy discussion about housekeepers. What do you pay them? How many (!!) come to your house and how often? How long to they clean?

I have nothing against hiring a housekeeper. I think it would be AWESOME. However, it's not something I want to pay for at this point in time. Because I think (thought) my problem is mostly clutter, which is not something the housekeeper is there to handle.

One of the ladies, who intimated that her house is nearly twice the size of mine, said that it takes one housekeeper FIVE HOURS to clean her house, every two weeks. FIVE HOURS! No wonder my socks turn black when I spend a day working in my kitchen! I've never spent more than an hour at a stretch maintaining my house. And in spite of the evidence to the contrary (funky smells of mystery from the kitchen/bathroom/playroom, a shower door you could etch your name into), I've always felt that it's fine. If people come over unexpectedly, I can always invite them in and feel confident that no one is going to contract staff from my kitchen counters. Thankfully, most non-family guests have the good sense to not go poking around upstairs where the double black diamond Laundry Pile of Doom is.

So Friday while Wes was sleeping I thought I would clean everything I could possibly think of and see how long it took. And, I thought smugly, there is NO WAY it takes five hours to clean a house.

I started in the kitchen/bathroom/laundry room area, which takes the most abuse and shares the same gross brown linoleum floor. I emptied the trash cans, shook the rugs out in the back yard, swept everything carefully (since I was trying to do this in a professional manner, I actually moved all the chairs into the other room to facilitate thorough sweeping, but I usually skip that step, which is why we only have to feed our dog once a day), wiped down all the really gross sticky spots (behind the dog bowls, high chair, and trash can) with a wet rag, and then mopped the heck out of that sucker. I also dried it with a bath towel because Rossby and I were leaving dirty footprints all over the place and I didn't want to wait for it to dry.

I stood back and admired my work and noticed that nearly an hour had passed. Hmm. Next was the toilet and bathroom sink and mirror, which took about fifteen minutes (most of which was spent on the toilet thanks for nothing potty training). And then the kitchen, which required unloading and loading the dishwasher and clearing out the drainer before I could get started with the actual cleaning (see "clutter" above). The drainer side of the sink was completely stopped up with who knows what in the drain. I think it was food at one point. I lost five minutes trying to scrape it out with a spoon and another two minutes doing deep breathing exercises in another room in an attempt to compose myself. Once I wiped down the counters and the appliances, I think the kitchen alone took almost an hour and a half. And Wes was still sleeping.

So I started washing the windows. I've always found window washing to be a particularly satisfying chore because our windows get really, really disgusting what with the six sticky little hands/paws and three wet noses that leave slimy marks all over them. Plus I like the way Windex smells. When the windows were done I picked up all the toys and vacuumed. And--got out the hose attachment and did the baseboards--professionalism, remember?

Two hours in I was only done with the first floor and I was exhausted.

Wes was still sleeping so I had to keep moving along with the experiment. Upstairs I went to put away the laundry. There was clean laundry folded neatly (or at least it started that way before Charlie performed his one-act play "Naked Tornado" before bathtime one night) in baskets in the hall and our bedroom and at least three other random piles that I had to smell to figure out where they belonged. Would you judge me if I told you that putting away the laundry took almost forty-five minutes? By the time I did that and made Charlie's and my beds Wesley was awake. THANK GOODNESS.

All told I spent almost three hours non-stop cleaning and STILL wasn't finished! I estimate another hour of work remains including vacuuming upstairs and cleaning the upstairs bathrooms, neither of which can be done while a child is sleeping, which is why those jobs get done approximately once a fiscal quarter.

In conclusion, when all my little birdies fly the nest, Ryan and I will be moving to an efficiency with a shared bath in the hall.


Sarah said...

Our weekly cleaners spent and hour, and there were 2 of them, and our house is only 1200 square feet, and it was always picked up and pretty darn clean before they came.

For awhile when I was totally psycho after I had Jack, we had them come TWICE A WEEK, and 2 women spent 45 minutes each time cleaning.

Soooo, my point is housework can fill all your available time. We clean every Sunday, and it takes as much time as we give it, you know?

I admit to having a cleaning problem, by the way. The reason we don't have housekeepers anymore is because no one cleans as well as I do (or so I tell myself). SO maybe I LET housework take too much time...

Leslie said...

Michael and I live in about 600 square feet and I still find it impossible to keep clean (NYC has a major dust problem and I HATE dusting). And, of course, there are only 2 of us and both of us have the ability to clean up after ourselves...theoretically.

Kim said...

I too went a little cleaning crazy after Zoe was born -- I was cleaning all our floors every night, which is a losing battle with how much Franklin sheds. After we moved back in this time though, we rearranged the furniture and luckily, this design minimizes the dog hair dust bunnies, and I've been happily cleaning the floor only twice a week.

Also, I loved the "three hands/paws" and "three wet noses" mess on the windows. So true!! There is a line of dog snot on my dining room window where Franklin paces while hunting, and just last night, Zoe realized the joy of licking/whatevering the window! I was outside in the garden and got to the "the other side" which was funny until it dried, of course.

AmyMusings said...

I ought to try that some time. Timing myself. I get my best cleaning done just after surprise company leaves. I think in my mind I'm pretending it was that clean BEFORE the company came. Nothing to awaken house blindness like someone else's viewpoint. Oh, God! I bet she saw the bra hanging on the doorknob of the front door. I don't even remember how it got there. That was, what...two? Three weeks ago?? Is that even my bra??

Nicky said...

We have ~1400 sq ft, and it takes 2 people a little over an hour to clean it, every other week. Totally worth the expense. Hubby and I tried to time ourselves, and it took us much much longer. The main selling point for us is that yes, we COULD do it ourselves, but we wouldn't. We vacuum regularly, but left on our own, things like scrubbing out sinks and mopping floors would be ignored until we noticed them looking particularly gross. With cleaners, we know that nothing will ever get to the growing-something-gross stage.

Also, we had a major clutter problem before we hired cleaners, but the cleaners actually solved that problem for us. They only clean what they can reach (if there's crap on the floor, they vacuum around it; if there's paper and junk on the table, they dust around it). We pay them the same amount no matter what, so we always declutter before they arrive so that they can do a better job. It's a great forcing function for us.

AJU5's Mom said...

We are like you and pick up and take care of "obvious" mess regularly. We ate actually getting good at keeping the house presentable at all times (with at most 10 minutes of throwing toys into bins). But real cleaning - that happens before guests arrive. And it is an all-day affair! Now, we do take breaks and have to re-clean after AJU5, but it still takes a long time to wash floors, clean bathrooms, and really scrub things down!

Bonnie Y said...

My favorite cleaning story -
Back when my daughter was about 3, she and the neighbor's little girl were sitting on the front steps while the rest of us were frantically cleaning, because we'd invited guests for dinner. Hanne told her friend, "We're going to have guests! You can smell it!" - which the friend didn't understand at all, because her mom had cleaning mania, and cleaned the entire house every day!