Saturday, April 16, 2011


It is that time of year again, the season of housecleaning and cooking…

If there was an Olympic medal for housekeeping, my mother would have been an eternal undefeated winner of the gold.  Our house was always spotless when I was growing up.  One of the most dreaded tasks of my childhood was crawling around under our huge dining room table cleaning the dust out of the elaborately carved feet.  And my mother would check to make sure it was done properly.

I never really understood why it was so important to clean in places like that. No one ever looked under the table, under the sofa, or on the top bookshelf…except my mother...

Pets, obviously, were not  very compatible with this attitude, and so we rarely had any.  Although I did try to bring home dogs a few times, they never lasted long.  But for some reason that was never clear to me, my mother did have a parakeet that she loved dearly, and he, named “Feathers”,  was allowed to fly freely around the house and leave feathers and other little souvenirs behind, and even to walk around on the kitchen table; my mother cheerfully cleaned up after him without a word.

The “good” furniture was always covered with clear plastic slipcovers, so that you could see how beautiful and comfortable it looked, but couldn’t get it dirty.  No one sat on it anyway, those slick thick plastic covers were not at all comfortable.  They came off only when we had really special company coming.

The genetics of this insatiable drive to clean seem to have skipped a generation.  Even though she has cats, dogs and children, my daughter’s house is always immaculate and looks like it could be featured in a perfect homemaker’s magazine.  Mine does not at all fall into the same classification.

It’s not that I don’t clean, I do like my surroundings to be clean and in order…reasonably… It is just that cleaning is definitely not my first priority.  In fact, if it is anywhere in the list of priorities, it would be towards the end.  There are a number of reasons – for one, there are a lot of better things I can think of to do with my time, for another, probably no one is going to come to visit in the next few days and see the place, and even if someone does, they probably won’t notice a difference, and anyway, in a few hours it will look the same again.

It’s not that the house is “dirty”.  Actually, at first glance it looks pretty good.  As long as no one decides to look under the bed (after all, why would they?) or pick up one of the trophies on the shelf, which have accumulated about a three year dust layer around them, I can get away with it.  And with the dogs coming in and greeting everyone, and rubbing off hair on all of the visitors’ dressy clothes,(I always find it hard to understand why people come to visit a kennel dressed in white and fragile materials...), no one really bothers about the state of the house.

My house has glass doors.  I like to have things light and bright, and I like to be able to see the dogs when they are outside and for them to be able to see me.  But when I put the doors in, I forgot about a very important point – nose prints and puppy licking.  When I first installed the doors, I would clean the glass every day, sometimes even several times a day, so that I had a bright and unimpeded view.  And as soon as I came back inside, the dogs’ noses would be pressed up against the glass, and the puppies would start pawing and licking, and the doors were ready for cleaning again.  By now, I have gotten to the point where, if I can still see the dogs through the nose prints, and there is still some light coming through, it is good enough.  If the nose prints are so thick that I can’t tell which dogs are standing there, it is time to clean the windows again.

Cooking is another task that I am not prepared to spend much time on.  It is not that I don’t enjoy tasty food or a variety of styles.  But I simply can’t see the sense of spending hours of meticulous preparation, involving multiple pots, pans and other utensils, all of which need to be washed, precise cutting, dicing, slicing, marinating, and the constant danger of fingers being in the wrong place, to produce something that is completely consumed in ten minutes.  Even the enthusiastic raving over how good it was is not enough to compensate for those long hours spent wasted over the kitchen stove.

And then there is the washing up after. I don’t mind washing dishes, but washing a lot of dishes, along with pots, pans, and other utensils, is another story.  Of course, I could follow the method of an old friend of mine – when she had a lot of guests and a lot of dishes and such to wash, she would simply put them on the floor for the dogs to lick.  This method also works to lower the number of guests who come to eat at your house in future, therefore resulting in less dishes to wash…

Sometimes I am just tired or busy, and I try to tell myself that I can skip the housekeeping this week;  no one will notice ...  But the lessons of my mother are indelible and the guilt feelings if I don’t at least do the minimum are hard to bear.  So I do a quick once over of the things that are apparent – not under the beds or behind the refrigerator, of course – so that my conscience can tell me that I did clean the house. 

Habibi watches through the glass door,  waiting for me to be finished so he can come back in.  Somehow he always manages to step in a puddle just before he steps through the door, happily renewing the pawprints on the floor and making  the place feel familiar again.


  1. I have a lot of sympathy for the views expressed here!!! As I have had a bad back for years, I have a home help who is meticulous - what fantastic luck. She comes once a week and not much escapes her.The day after her visit, everything reverts to normal - four dogs in and out continuously - muddy paw prints, sandy deposits from the garden, nose prints, HAIR and Luke's slurps - I have never seen a dog slurp like him unless it was a mastiff or other open jowled dog.

  2. This is very funny and sweet Myrna, Habibi there you go pretty boy : )

  3. How familiar and comfortable this all sounds. Habibi and puppies and activity going on in the house. I couldn't imagine life without my animals, so the dirt and hair is just the price you pay. What did I do before Swiffers? Those lovely little cloths pick up most of the hair, at least enough to keep the place somewhat presentable. Some of my friends live in "House Beautiful" but they seem so sterile. No plants, no pets. Not my style. It takes the life out of life.