No longer swept up in a cleaning frenzy

Cleaning the house once a week is part of my DNA from my mother’s side. She cleaned once a week, her mother cleaned once a week, and I have always cleaned once a week.

We’re talking thorough cleaning: toilets, tubs, showers, bathroom sinks, kitchen sink, countertops, appliance fronts, dusting, windexing (that’s a verb for my people), vacuuming, sweeping, emptying trash cans, shaking throw rugs and wet mopping floors.

Clean on Saturday and collapse on Sunday.

My husband came from a more casual line of DNA. My mother-in-law, bless her sweet, sweet heart, was of the “pile it higher and deeper” method, along with the “don’t throw that away, we might need it someday” line of genetics.

My better half’s approach is: Wait.

Wait until the sink is full. Wait until the countertop is covered. Wait until the laundry basket overflows. Wait until you can see a thick covering of dust on a flat surface—then take your finger and write, “Send help!”

Our first argument as newlyweds was about cleaning the house. He said if we cleaned once a week, we would wear out the furniture.

To which I said, “I’ll dust; you vacuum.”

To which he said, “Right after the game.”

Now I’m thinking of amending the thorough cleaning once a week. Who am I kidding? I’ve been on a slow slide for ages and have the dust bunnies to prove it.

The other day, I heard myself say, “We were out of town two nights this week, let’s just wash the pillowcases and not bother with the sheets.” My husband was ecstatic.

I find myself losing enthusiasm for sparkling clean windows. I think about cleaning them, then I think about grandkids coming over and I think, “Why bother?”

My next thought is, “The little ones like playing with spray bottles. Why not let them clean the windows?”

It’s a win win.

I’ve also questioned the frequency with which I wet mop the kitchen floor. The only real answer to that one would be to get a dog, and that’s not going to happen.

Despite visions of my mother holding a cup of coffee in one hand and swiping her index finger through dust on the console with her other hand, I have shifted from “a place for everything and everything in its place” to “casual is nice.”

You don’t slip from top tier clean to hitting the high spots without serious rationalization. I have several ready answers should someone give the place the white glove test.

“I’m busy; I’m still working.”

“We have a lot of grandkids. Don’t judge me.”

“Cleaning products can be bad for the environment. I’m saving the earth.”

“It was a great party. Sorry you couldn’t make it.”

The cleaning gene has weakened in the next generation. It skipped our son entirely, but the girls have a good measure of it. When our oldest daughter was out of college working long hours, she offered to pay her younger sister, who was still in college, to clean her apartment.

She gave her a two-page list of instructions, including specifics on how the vacuum tracks on the carpet should align. Her younger sister cleaned for her once and then quit.

There’s an easy way to permanently solve that vacuum track issue.

Get hardwoods.

Following are a couple of the many delightful emails I received in response to the column on dishes. There are a lot of dish lovers out there!

“A number of years ago, a started a thing (can you call a new habit a tradition?) that has become near & dear to many people.  For just as long, I have been buying the reusable, hard plastic plates, same kind that children’s plates are made of, whenever & wherever I find them on sale.  One day, during a “friends” dinner, I decided to have everyone choose one of my mismatched plates, handed them a Magic Marker & told them to write their name on the back of their chosen plate.  I told them this meant that from that point on, they would always have a seat at our table.  This has become a ritual for both old & new friends alike.

It’s kind of neat to hear from the friends of our kids & grandkids to ask if we still have their plates. They remember when they were little & they got to pick out their plate, & that plate was always there for them whenever they came to visit.  We’ve even had a few of the kids, now all grown up, come over just to have dinner on their plate.  As we’ve gotten older, we’ve been blessed to add so many new friends, & plates, to the tradition.”

Judy N.


“I come from a line of dish lovers.  During the pandemic for 15 weeks, two times a week, I posted a different set of dishes on Facebook telling the story of how they came to live in our house…..complete with glass and stemware tales.   Twice a week my husband and I shared a meal on the different sets during those long months.”

Deborah K.


“I have eight sets of dishes.  And I live in a 900 square foot house.”

MaryLou R.


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