Making a virtue out of necessity…

Last evening, over a meal of chicken paprikas, broccoli, salad, french bread, lubricated with glasses of red wine, old friend Diana, her daughter Deborah, Rumpole and I were discussing the virtues of housekeeping. This is a sore point for Rumpole, mainly because he is frustrated with pointing out to me daily the festoons of spiderwebs on ceiling edges and corners (very Miss Havisham, I prefer to believe) and bits of detritus of contrasting tone on the patterned Indian rugs in the living room ( all of which I cannot at all see these days, so there seems to be no discernible difference, to my eyes at least, before and after vaccuuming – the rug surfaces look exactly the same to me).

Rumpole was quick to announce to these lady friends that he is trying to inveigle me into accepting the services of a house-cleaner. All to no avail, because back some twenty-five years ago, I had succumbed to his pressures to get in a house-keeping service and it did not work out at all well. I, then, spent three days cleaning up the whole house before the cleaning-lady was to arrive. There was no way anyone else should have to sully their hands with our piggish leavings, so it behooved me to clean up in readiness of household help. I was so exhausted after that experiment and so surprised at how quickly the cleaning lady passed through two floors of our house, that I pointed out to Rumpole that the whole exercise was not cost effective. She had made thirty dollars, and I was exhaused and sans shekels.

Deborah cast me a conciliatory glance as she launched into her recent experience with a cleaning service. She and her husband Mardon, both working full time, decided to hire some household help. The woman came in and spent three hours licking clean their upstairs bathroom and didn’t get anything else done. And the bathroom was passing clean, before she had begun her travails. The net result was that Deborah and Mardon were reluctant to make use of their bathroom for the next week, lest they besmirch the operating-room level of cleanliness. Talk about the loo becoming a shrine!

Poor Rumpole had no rejoinder. Really, what could he say? If I got our living area rugs so clean that I would not permit access to that room to anyone, that would negate the use of that room. I would not permit Jessica, the dog, to wipe clean her Scottie beard on the rug, nor allow The General to groom himself at his favourite corner and leave big clumps of hair and the inevitable coughed up hairball, and definitely not leave Rupole free to deposit his gum-wrappers in tight little balls on the floor around his end of the love-seat. Imagine harrassing those three to clean up after themselves? I’d rather stick needles into my eye!

There must be a “Better Homes and Gardens” gene that is missing on my DNA strands. But Rumpole has it in spades. Only he is missing the gene that causes him to do something about cleaning other than complaining.

His favourite mantra is: “My mother was such a good housekeeper that one could eat off her floors and out of her toilet.”

To which my reply is: “Go right ahead , my dear. I dare you to do that.”

Oddly, he has never taken me up on that suggestion. He is persistent though, trying to elevate necessity into a virtue. So far, after thirty odd years of marriage and living together, I have resisted his exhortations to virtuousness. The fatal flaw? That darn missing gene.

5 Responses to “Making a virtue out of necessity…”

  1. The Querulous Squirrel Says:

    My eyes are fine and I can see the fur-bunnies and cobwebs fine but have zero motivation to remove any of it. I am much more finicky about germ infestation: bathrooms, kitchen sinks, dishes and table tops. The rest, I fear, is barely fit to walk on in socks, much less lick. I am shunned by an extended family who have enslaved cleaning ladies for decades. I cannot bear to even think about it. My attitude: no one should live in a house bigger than they can clean themselves or cleaner than they can keep it themselves unless they are so disabled they are bedridden, at which point they are likely to care even less.

  2. Christine Says:

    Well, I’m going to have to admit that I have a couple who comes to my home twice a month to help me clean. I work alongside them. My house is not large, and I could easily clean it myself, although never in one fell swoop as this couple does it. And I do tire myself cleaning up before they come.

    They helped me when I was working full time as a teacher, and I just can’t bear to tell them I don’t need them anymore, even though the expense is a bit of a pinch these days. They are like a part of my family. I trust them more than I’d trust a lot of other people in my life.

    G, my cleaning skills are like yours. My father’s mother was the same way, doing a slip dash job so she could get back to her books and her poems. I think you’re right,it is in the genes.

  3. suburbanlife Says:

    The querulous squirrel – I’m with you on the dislike of household help as indentured servants. In Hungary times we had a cleaning lady, a laundress, a kitchen helper, a nanny etc. and my mother rather looked down on all these women giving her so much help in running her household. It may be why i am reluctant to accept help myself. I agree on the bathrooms and kitchens cleanliness thing – the place of in-go and out-flow must be clean or else i cringe. i like my little 800square foot house, but it is the lack of vision which makes it tough for me to be aware of what might need doing. Old eagle-eye Rumpole is not so afflicted so he takes exception to my lapses. G

    Christine – I’m with you in maintaning expenses to help support people one has had long relationship. In the case of your old helpers, as they age, you have to make it easier for them to maintain dignity in having been helpful to you, even if it makes for much prior work for you. You are a good and kindly soul and they probably look forward to coming to your house – as much for the contact as for the wage. G

  4. lookingforbeauty Says:

    I’ve had cleaning ladies, or inherited them, from time to time and don’t know how I could have worked full time and managed without their assistance; but how many times did I find the last one cleaning the carpet for her whole “visit”; or taking an hour when it would have taken me ten minutes, to polish a bit of silverware.
    Besides, I never had the nerve to ask someone to do something I hated to do – so it was I who cleaned the bathroom fixtures. I didn’t want her to see that we were so messy.
    If I worked alongside of her, then we got the work out of her that we needed. If not, I got what she wanted to do – not what was asked. It was frustrating.
    I just try to keep things clean as I go; and the only proper time for dusting, I figure, is when you can actually see a layer of dust. If you can’t see it, why would you do it? Our actions are supposed to make a difference. If you can’t see it, what’s the point?

  5. suburbanlife Says:

    Lookingforbeauty – I have had three jobs as a cleaning woman – one in a hospital, as housekeeping staff; one at Forsythe Steel a office and warehouse janitor; and, one in a private home where weekly i had to clean 3000 square ft. house with three bathrooms, kitchen, laundry room, 5 bedrooms and living areas in a three hour alottment. Once given my instructions, clearly, and understood what was expected to be accomplished – i worked totally on my own. If the ‘supervisors’ had elected to work alongside me and micro-manage my performance, I would have been extremely insulted to be thought so unreliable and would have quit these jobs without a second’s pause. At no time had I ever to clean silver, but did have to clean antique persian rugs, vaccuuming with the nap vs. against it, and learned how to clean antique lacquered serveware without ruining it – all unsupervised. G

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