Saturday, April 21, 2012

Mom's Household Tips

When I think of "mom", well, I think of my mom.  But I, too, am a mom.  Not a mom like my mom, because she worked like hell taking care of her house.

The only things I ever remember my mom doing were cleaning, washing clothes, cooking, gardening, and canning.  Oh, she would stop every day at 12:30 to watch, "As The World Turns".  That was her "break", I guess.  She did also sometimes gossip on the phone; the party line, where anyone and everyone could listen in, and generally did.

Oh, and she also helped out in the fields, or, when my brother was old enough to help my dad, she carried lunch out to the fields every day at 12 noon. 

My mom scrubbed and waxed all the floors.  And she didn't have one of those Swiffers, either, let me tell you.  She was down on her hands and knees, doing all this by hand. 

At harvest time, dinner supper would be around 9:00 or 10:00 p.m.  And it wasn't no Stouffer's frozen dinner.  It was all made from scratch....with dessert.

We didn't have air conditioning, either.

I wonder sometimes if she liked doing all that stuff.  Not that it would have mattered.  It all had to be done.  But I wonder.

When my folks retired from farming, my mom finally got a break; a physical one, at least.  She still had to manage their new business, but it was a different kind of work.

My mom was a great cook, and a great cleaner.  I, on the other hand.....

I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I never got into the whole cooking/cleaning razzmatazz.  My mom never made me do much of it at all.  In fact, when I got married, I didn't know how to cook anything.  She should have made me help.  Maybe I would have just been in the way, and maybe that's why she didn't make me, but she should have.  For my own good.

I was more into my little make-believe world when I was a child.  Drawing my little fancy designs; walking around outdoors making up my little songs.  Playing my little record player.

I was a dreamer, and she was a realist.  Maybe that's why we never saw eye to eye.  

However, despite my lack of domestic expertise, I did eventually become a really proficient motel maid.  The thing about cleaning motel rooms, though, that is different from actual household cleaning, is that there is a set list of tasks involved with cleaning a room that a tourist has just vacated:  strip the beds, change the sheets, make up the beds, clean the bathtub and the toilet and the sink, dust the bedside tables and the desk, clean the mirrors, vacuum, empty the garbage....and voila!  Done!

Nobody left a cache of trinkets and do-dads that I had to dust around (and believe me, I would have dusted around them if they had).  So, it's not like a real house.  Not like your real house, or mine.

We just have too much "stuff" to clean around, or stuff to move from one spot to another, and things never stay as neatly placed as we proudly originally situated them, the last time we cleaned.  No, things get messed up, and there's also all manner of trash to deal with, and then there are the pets.  Don't even get me started.

I keep trying to get rid of stuff (not the pets!) and my husband keeps bringing more stuff home.  He's a collector.  But, lord!  It makes cleaning just that much more difficult.

I always use that old excuse, if I didn't have a full-time job, my house would look just as good as my mom's did.  But I really doubt that that's true.  I'd probably waste a whole lot of time on the internet, playing various games, or blogging (!), and I would take a bunch of naps, and then I'd get up from my nap and play more computer games, and think, gee, I really need to clean the bathroom......

Like today.  I kept saying, well, I really need to clean the bathroom.  And then I laid down in between loads of laundry (not physically between the loads of laundry; I mean, well, you know what I mean.)

But I did finally, actually, clean that bathroom.

And as I was doing it, I was thinking, "Gee, I hate these cheap paper towels."

So, Mom's household tip #1:

Always spend the money to get good quality paper towels.

My husband now does the grocery shopping for the family.  He does a good job, but for some reason, he loves buying those cheap, disintegrating generic paper towels.  He'll spend wads of cash at the grocery deli, buying his luncheon meats and deli sandwiches and chicken breasts, but paper towels?  Oh no.  We must remain within our budget!

So, I'm left to clean the bathroom mirror with paper towels that leave little remnants behind, and leave visible streaks that make the mirror look like a streaky little rainbow.  (Yes, my mom would say, use a soft cotton cloth.  Really, Mom?  You know that just creates more dirty laundry, right?)

Household tip #2:

Get a non-shedding cat.

Our cat, Bob, likes to drink out of the bathroom faucet.  He does not drink like "normal" cats.  Thus, whenever I'm taking a shower, or putting on my makeup for work in the morning, I must turn on the cold water faucet to a little trickle, so that Bob can get his daily quota of fluids.  So, when I'm cleaning the bathroom vanity (at least three times a year!  Just kidding!), I have all these little fur "balls" (or strands, or whatever the heck they are) clinging to my sponge, and I always repeat my mantra:  "Damn cat!"

So, when shopping for a cat, try to get a non-shedding variety.

Household tip #3:

The task always goes better if you talk to yourself while doing it.

Perhaps it's the sheer monotony of cleaning.  I, at one time, would turn a radio on, and distract myself with music as I was doing my chores.  I'm too lazy to do that now (and really, the radio is all the way downstairs, and I'm not unplugging it and hauling it upstairs just to keep me company!)

So, now, I just talk to myself.

Swearing also counts as talking.

Some of my favorite conversations with myself, as I am cleaning, go like this:

"Well, this is gross!"

"Damn cat!"

And my favorite:

"Well, this is as good as it's gonna get."

You see, I am not striving for perfection.  I am striving to just get the job done.  I am not Mom.  My philosophy is, it's the effort that counts.  I am not taking a toothbrush to the bathroom grout.  If the overall result is a relatively clean room, then what more do you want from me?  I'm tired.

And, you know, I never once heard my dad say to my mom, "Wow, this house is really clean!"  So, nobody, in reality, really appreciates the effort anyway.  Oh sure, they'll make little snide remarks if things have really gotten out of hand, but appreciation for the cleanliness?  Dreamer.

Tip #4:

Cut corners whenever and wherever possible.

House dusty?  Dust only the parts that show.  Don't mess around lifting up those heavy lamps to dust underneath them.  Who looks under lamps anyway?  Some kind of psycho-cleanliness fetishist?  

Buy paper plates and use them religiously.  I own four china plates.  There are two of us.  If each of us used a china plate once per day, well, you do the dish washing math.  I'm saving the environment by not continuously running my dishwasher.  Oh sure, it creates more garbage for the landfill, but I mean, if you're going to split hairs....

And speaking of the environment, I refuse to wash my garbage before I recycle it.  It's garbage!   They call it garbage for a reason.  If the recycling police do not like the fact that I have not rinsed out my milk jug, well, fine me! 

I can barely keep the stuff I want to keep clean.  Now I'm supposed to make sure my throwaways are all spiffy, too?  What, to impress the garbage haulers?  I don't even know them!  Are they going to leave vicious comments about me on Facebook?

My best tip is one that I have never actually used (yet), but I think it's a good one:

Tip #5:

Always leave the vacuum cleaner in the middle of the room, plugged in.

That way, if you suddenly have unexpected guests showing up on your doorstep, you can answer the door, wearily, and say, "Oh, I was just cleaning!"

This is what we call a win-win.  You don't actually have to clean, and yet, everyone thinks you do!  Thus, every one of your acquaintances feels inferior and guilty.  This is what we're aiming for!  Fake superiority!

My mom would most assuredly not be on board with the majority of my tips.  I think she'd concede the paper towel rule, but as for cats, well, those belong in the barn!  Not indoors.  For heaven's sake! 

This is the 2010's, however.  Things are different now.  Time is of the essence.  We do what we can do.

I don't wax my kitchen floor (Do they still sell wax?)  I have tons of cleaning products in my bathroom closet, most of which do not actually work.  Especially those "environmental" ones.  What a crock.  I could just as well spit on a rag and use that to get the same results.

Our house came with a set of cleaning instructions (thanks!), and one of them said, "Don't use harsh abrasives when cleaning the bathtub."  Really?  How, in God's name, then, do you expect me to get it clean?  Give me the old Soft Scrub with bleach and a nubby sponge.  That'll get the job done.

So, Soft Scrub, a spray bottle of Windex, some of those Clorox cleaning wipes, some Scrubbing Bubbles toilet cleaner thingies, a can of Pledge, and I'm pretty much good to go.

Oh, and good paper towels.




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