How a slob learned to clean the
Whyte · August 24, 1997
My wife and I, we don't quite see eye to eye on neatness. She likes everything to be
in its place. She can't stand to let the dirty dishes sit for a while after dinner during what
I like to think of as tooth-picking time. She likes things squeaky clean. I do, too, as long
as it's not too much trouble.
I've always been something of a slob. My bedroom when I was a kid was the sort of
juvenile jungle into which only the stoutest of hearts, the bravest of parents, would venture.
My office at work can be that way, too. I'm sort of a pack rat. My boss came in the
other day, asking about how we store and distribute our office supplies in the Editorial Department.
"What's in that closet?" he asked.
"Oh, mostly old newspapers."
Fortunately, the folks from the corporate office visit several times a year, so I have to
tidy up once in a while. And, over the years, Erin and I have always managed to make our
two different approaches work.
I made messes. She made me clean them up.
Erin did most of the house work, and I tried to make up for it by kissing up and buying
nice dinners on the weekends.
But there was a shift in our Felix-and-Oscar pattern when Luc was born nearly two years
ago. All of a sudden, Erin had to deal with TWO messy boys.
She nearly cracked.
As any new parent can vouch, those young 'uns are just about a full-time job. Erin and
I both work, and between the jobs and taking care of the little guy, we were pretty much
spent by day's end, and neither of us spent as much time cleaning house as we used to.
Erin became, well, tense.
So, after a while, we agreed to pay someone to come clean our house every couple of
weeks. It was the ultimate admission of defeat: "Uh, hi, we're too lame to clean our
own 985-square-foot, two-bedroom condo, so could you come do it for us, please?"
We agreed that, before she started, we'd try to give Mariana a clean slate -- so before
her first visit, we cleaned the house from top to bottom.
Or so we thought.
That first day, Mariana spent four hours on just the kitchen. By the time she was done,
that baby glowed.
After a couple of visits, Mariana got everything to her liking, so now she can do the
whole house in less time than it took just to do the kitchen that first time. With the
exception of my big, messy "computer corner," where we've told Mariana not to
even bother trying, the house has never looked better.
I figured I had it made. Since we had someone cleaning the house, Erin wouldn't have
to worry about things like shower scrubbing and vacuuming and toilet bowl cleaning, and
I wouldn't have to worry about feeling guilty for watching "Frasier" while she
dusted the coffee table and glared at me.
But something funny happened last week. Luc was asleep. I was watching
"Frasier" and tinkering with my hockey cards during commercials.
After a while, I noticed Erin hadn't joined me in the living room. I investigated and was
shocked to find that SHE WAS CLEANING THE HOUSE!
"What are you doing that for?" I asked, doe-eyed.
"Mariana's coming tomorrow. We have to clean up."
At first, it seemed ludicrous to me. Why should we clean up? I thought.
Mariana's going to do that tomorrow, and she does a great job. Let's kick it.
But then, something strange happened: I bought into it. I found myself tidying up. Not
the full-blown house-cleaning, mind you. Just a quick pickup to make the place look a bit
better. And the next morning, when Luc and I left the house to go to day care and work,
respectively, I found myself lugging a few things downstairs that normally would wait until
I had the usual stuff: My camera bag. My lunch. My brief case. Luc's diaper bag. (I
leave with quite a load every morning.)
But in addition to that, I carried: Two bags of newspapers for recycling, two bags of
trash collected from the kitchen and bathrooms, and one bag of assorted cans and bottles
I had gone from pack rat to pack mule.
I was quite a sight, let me tell you. I darn near lost the recycling on the way down, and
Luc looked at me like I was an idiot.
But it was worth it. After all, I wouldn't want Mariana to think I'm a slob, would I?
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Tim Whyte is the magaging editor of The Signal. His commentary appears on Sundays.
© 1997, THE SIGNAL -- ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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