There once was a time when we retained the services of a Cleaning Lady. She came to the house every two weeks, on a Thursday or a Friday, but usually on Thursdays. She charged a reasonable price, and the house looked and smelled great when we came home at the end of the day.
We met over an initial visit about what the mutual expectations would be. Her fee would be left on the kitchen table, she would clean the living room, the kitchen (floors and cabinets, no dishes), the dining room and the powder room. The living room and dining room involved dusting, furniture polish and vacuum the carpeting. The coffee table in the living room was almost always cluttered with magazines, newspapers and the TV guide. Well, actually the TV Guide is always in the room with no TV, the powder room. They call that ‘reading material’.
When she cleaned the house the first time we were genuinely impressed. It was really nice to see how everything looked so clean and organized. The magazines on the coffee table were neatly stacked, the sofa cushions were fluffed up and lined up neatly across the back. Everything was dusted and polished. All the odds and ends that she could not identify a ‘place’ for, were left on one of the end tables. These were usually an afghan, or sweater that was casually left lying around. It was a relief that the chore of housecleaning had been crossed off the ‘to-do’ list before the start of a weekend. I thought to myself, “I could really get used to this”, and we did for a while.
Every two weeks we’d look forward to coming home to a cleaned and straightened house along with the neat little pile of ‘things’ she would stack on the end table. That neat little pile she left for us was soon being left on the coffee table. This really did not send any kind of message to us, if that was her intent. It was our ‘stuff’, like the blanket pulled up around you while watching TV, the extra sweater I left on the back of the sofa in case I felt a chill, the kind of things that one just leaves around as part of living in the living room.
I am not sure of the exact time frame, but at some point she began to make remarks about the clutter she had to wade through before she got to her cleaning of our house. We soon found ourselves straightening up the night before the cleaning lady’s visit, so as not to make things too messy for her to clean up. The eve of the Cleaning Lady visit was now almost as much work as if we were doing all of the house cleaning ourselves.
However the remarks continued about the things we would leave lying around. For instance, why are there always magazines and books sitting on the coffee table? (um, we read that stuff) Why is the TV Guide in the powder room?(more reading material)Why isn’t the sweater ever hung up in the hallway closet? Why are things not as organized as she left them?
With this last go-around of questioning our living habits, I responded to her, “We LIVE here. It’s not a show case like Architecture Digest or anything.”
She replied, “Clearly.”
So now my cleaning regime is a collection of a Swiffer Wet Jet and a variety of Dollar Store furniture polish, Awesome Orange degreaser and a feather duster.
No more judgmental questioning on our living habits. And the TV Guide is still found in the powder room.