Saturday, June 17, 2017

Finding my Housework Muscles

The living room, ready to show.

I have never been known as a crackerjack housekeeper. I mean, I keep all the fundamentals clean, but our place generally is a little untidy, in a cozy sort of way. And anything above my eye level doesn't get dusted very often. Seeing as I am short, quite a lot of dust escapes my notice.

Anyways, that was the old me. The new me, required to keep the house sparkling because it is on the market, has become rather obsessively perfectionistic about cleaning. Actually, both Rob and I have become cleaning demons, racing around before every showing or open house, scrubbing, polishing, mowing, and weeding until the house is gleaming like a Mr Clean ad, and the yard looks like Better Home and Gardens. (Full disclosure: Rob actually has become the primary housekeeper the last few years, wonderful person that he is.)

So one thing that I have discovered with all this cleaning is that vigorous housecleaning takes a fair bit of physical effort. Not that I am going to drop my regular exercise, consisting of walks, hikes, cycling, and yoga, but on days when we have put in a few hours of housecleaning, I don't feel especially interested in going for a walk afterwards.

So I was complaining on the phone to my Mom about how tiring housework is. She just laughed. My Mom always has kept a lovely house. I remember as children, we used to ask my Mom to show us her muscles. She would flex her biceps, and even though she weighed only 98 pounds, a tiny little woman, her biceps were as big as grapefruits. Or so it seemed to my child's eyes. We all wanted to grow up to be as strong as Mom. Maybe if I had realized that those muscles came from housework, I would not have grown up to be such a lackadaisical housekeeper.

But, I came of age in the seventies. I read Betty Friedan, Nancy Friday, Kate Millett, Marilyn French, Alice Walker, Ms. Magazine, and Virginia Woolf, and joined the women's centre at my university. I was proud to describe myself as a feminist (and I am disappointed but not surprised that forty years later, feminism is still considered an f-word by some people). To my twenty year-old self, housework was a trap for women, a pointless endeavour that distracted us from more important and useful occupations. Housework, throughout my adult life, was an unpleasant necessity relegated to the corners of life: after the kids were in bed, or Saturday mornings, when the whole family would do chores and then forget about it for another week.

So lately, as well as discovering that it can be a bit of a workout, I also have discovered the meditative aspects of housework. It is a relaxation for the mind to just focus on the mopping or window washing. It pushes all the other frantic squirrel-mind thoughts away for a little while. It is satisfying to make things nice and clean.

The kitchen, all shined up.

I guess I have to rethink my previous negative attitude toward housecleaning. It does have its worth. It turns out that Mom knew best.

Although, I need to note that Mom was more than a housekeeper; she was a trailblazer in her own time, the repressive 50's. She was the first person in her family to pursue post-secondary education, and when she was in her early twenties, she moved with a girlfriend to take a teaching position in the Canadian north. The highways were unpaved. The teacherage was a tar-paper shack. And during my childhood, when all the women in the neighbourhood wore house-dresses, my Mom wore jeans. She was adamant that I would have the opportunity to attend university. So, my Mom has been a great role model all round.

Now, if the house would only sell so we can get back to our more relaxed approach to housekeeping!

10 comments:

  1. We are pretty relaxed housekeepers too! And I am not looking forward to keeping everything shining for showings next month. I just got up and am sore from painting. It seems silly but you definitely use different muscles doing housework, weeding, and cleaning! I hope your house sells soon, Jude! We hope to be on the market by mid-late July so that our in-ground pool is a big feature in the middle of summer. Hopefully by fall, we'll all be enjoying new views each day!

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    1. Yes, I am using muscles that I forgot that I had! I'm sure it's actually good for me. It is so interesting, Vicki, that we are leading parallel lives right now. I am sure that your pool will be a great selling point. Good luck with your renovating and selling process!

      Jude

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  2. While I don't enjoy housekeeping per se, I do like the serene feeling it brings when it is all done. I really enjoy a clean home. When things get untidy, it is a bit disconcerting to me.

    I personally find the yard work to be the most distasteful, trying to avoid the snakes that keep popping up and all.

    Your home is beautiful! I am sure it will sell quickly.

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    1. Carole, I do like it when the house is nice and clean. At the same time, a bit of clutter makes the home feel more comfortable to me. When I first put all the pottery and knickknacks away out of sight, the house seemed so stark and empty!

      On the other hand, I like working out of doors. I am as happy as can be digging, weeding, clipping, and turning over the compost. However, we rarely see snakes here. Slugs are more likely.

      Thanks for your kind words. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

      Jude

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  3. I'm trying more and more to relax with life and trust that things happen as and how they are supposed to. That belief would, however, be put to the test if I were trying to sell my home. I well remember in my younger days when my parents were trying to sell our family home and we did exactly as you are doing, scrambling to polish before people came through.

    At the time, I just found that stressful, conscious of always keeping things show home ready. But now, reading your post, I can see the advantages to that time.

    I think it's great, Jude, that you are able to experience both the physical and the meditative benefits to housecleaning. Perhaps your house not having sold yet is a 'meant to be' wonderful part of closing out one chapter of your life as you transition to a new one. Purging, cleaning, and polishing as goodbyes - to your house and your career.

    I know, easy for me to say from the outside looking in. Time to finish those goodbyes and start selling hello to your new life. I hope your house sells soon!

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    1. Karen, at first we found it a bit stressful, but now we've just settled into this new pattern. We keep everything clean and tidy up after we do anything. And then we race around, as described in the post, doing a thorough extra cleaning before each showing or open house. This is the way our life is now, for the time being.

      Nope, nothing is going to make me like purging the old stuff. I am just way too sentimental, I guess. But I am becoming more relaxed about going with the flow, realizing that I can't control everything.

      But, perhaps superstitiously, I can't start moving forward into our new life until I've wrapped up the practicalities in our current situation.

      That said, I'll be very happy when the house sells!

      Jude

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  4. Hope your house sells quick! We've more or less settled into a close enough is good enough, hey the house is lived in approach - rarely needs to be spotless. However, just like you, we're only months away from listing it and I know we will have to change our approach when it is listed. Not looking forward to that part.

    Good luck!

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    1. Hi Scott. I have never aspired to have a "show home" and feel most comfortable with piles of books heaped around, and all my current half-done projects laid out where I can see them. But, for now, we'll be model housekeepers, doing everything we can to ensure the house shows well.

      I guess everyone goes through this when selling a house. Good luck with listing yours in a few months!

      Jude

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  5. Your living room and kitchen look gorgeous, Jude! I look forward to be neighbors soon!

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    1. Aw, thanks Donna. It is a really nice house, and we have enjoyed living in it. But we are also looking forward to our new place, and I know we will love Island living! And being neighbours 😀

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