I grew up in a household in which we all learned and took responsibility for the care of our home environment. Even as a pint-sized human, I had already learned the basics of cleaning. These skills were developed with the help of my grandmothers and supported by my experience in Montessori which focused on experiential learning based on real life activities.
For years, every Saturday morning after a proper sleep-in, breakfast and cartoons, my family of four would get to cleaning the house. All tasks were divvied up and completed by the afternoon. No big deal.
When I moved to Toronto at the age of 17, I kept up the Saturday cleaning schedule while living in residence. I lived with 2 fellow U of Ters in my 2nd year of university. Both boys. We had no problems in the cleaning department. Everyone pitched in. But that equal division of labour disappeared when I moved out to cohabit with a boyfriend . For 3 years, I struggled with the imbalance of having to care for a home of 2 all by myself. It wasn’t for lack of trying. My experience with two female roommates in NY was not all perfect but we had an explicit and fair cleaning arrangement. And that made all the difference.
I set this goal for myself as part of my Thirty by 30 project not simply as a way to check it off my list but mostly, to help me develop coping mechanisms to address the on-set of anxiety that has come with my current living arrangement. It is not an easy task for me to clean up after 3 people (plus a dog) all on my own in a 2 floor 1400sq foot home. Furthermore, my definition of clean is not everyone’s definition. And that has made things even more difficult because I actually SEE the fingerprint marks on the light switches and the layer of dirt on the railings and the fresh coat of dust covering the TV stand. But I’m the only one who can SEE it.
Sell crazy some place else, we’re all stocked up here.
(As Good As It Gets)
Here’s what I have tried. I did, in earnest, attempt to assign basic responsibilities to each one of us. And what did I get in return? I slipped and fell down the stairs on my way to put up the schedule. I had a painful lemon-sized bruise on my right butt-cheek for a month. Not a promising beginning.
I tried hiring a cleaning company with the intention of having them help me do a more thorough cleaning every few months. I spent more time on the phone or email trying to schedule the damn appointment than the cleaning staff were actually on-site. That only stressed me out more so I stopped attempting.
Then I went on to sharing tasks by verbally requesting things like loading/unloading the dishwasher. This works about 50% of the time. So long as I am: a) mindful of my tone (i.e. not when I’m already frustrated or overwhelmed), b) frequent and consistent with my request (i.e. once is not enough), and c) accepting of the fact that someone else will do it differently. A different approach I can handle but I don’t do well with waiting 3 days for clean dishes or clothes.
So I have learned to accept things as they are and rely on my own drive to get stuff done.
The Ten Minute Tidy: To keep myself sane, I created a bit of a framework and time limit for cleaning. TEN minutes. Each room. That’s it. I cover the basics only like these.
The Seasonal Clean: I love to purge and de-clutter every 3 months or so. I spend the day or more doing a top-to-bottom clean each season by following the Elements of Clean.
Occasionally, people will come over to my home for a planned meeting, get-together and/or event. Some will tell me that my home is “immaculate”. (Truthfully, some won’t say anything at all.) It is at that moment that I look around. If I realize that I wouldn’t describe it in the same way, that’s when I know it is time to dial down my crazy.
#15 is as good as done.