Housework, if you do it right, will kill you. ~ Erma Bombeck

Recently I read a blog by a fellow blogger, A Gripping Life, about how she’s a bit obsessive-compulsive about certain things, most notably about cleaning her house. I love reading her blogs, but it wasn’t until I read this particular one that I finally understood why I enjoy them so much. It’s because she’s completely different than I am, and I’m most attracted to those who are the least like me. For example, I want to be the domestic goddess and I envy to some extent those who have accomplished certain domestic skills that continue to elude me. In truth, I’m finally beginning to accept that I may be doomed to failure; and she is the domestic goddess I wish I was, “doomed” by an obsessive-compulsive desire to clean.

To be honest, I do clean; I just don’t like it. But because I want to excel at it so much (without doing any real work), I greatly admire those who do. Among those is one of my oldest friends, Holly. In a phone conversation with her one day, she was commenting on having visited someone’s home and noticed a ginormous cobweb hanging from the ceiling above the bathroom toilet. She didn’t think too much of it at the time, except that “Oh gosh…she (the lady of the house, of course) forgot to get that cobweb when she cleaned.” Unfortunately, Holly visited that same home some six months later only to notice that the same cobweb was still in the same location and that “Oh my gosh!!! This person only surface cleans!”

Surface cleaning? Really? Is there really a difference, or is my dear friend Holly a nut? At the time I cast it up to being a nut, but of course I’d never tell her that!

Holly went on to tell me that the cobweb drove her crazy and she wanted badly to remove it, but decided it was best not to for fear that her hostess would think that she’d found her housecleaning skills lacking and possibly take offense. To myself I was thinking, “Would that be so bad? To have someone love you enough to clean your home for you?”

This conversation was almost forgotten when, shortly thereafter, I was reading one of my favorite parenting message boards and one of the posts was all about cleaning and how to do it “properly.” One woman whose posts I really enjoy (which is probably not surprising since she is clearly my polar opposite) said, “Mopping the kitchen floors with a mop is nothing more than pushing dirt around. To do it properly, you have to get on your hands and knees with a rag to clean in one hand, and a rag to dry in the other. Otherwise you can’t get those nooks and crannies and you’re just shoving dirt into them.”

Seriously? There’s a right and a wrong way to clean? There’s a difference between surface cleaning and just…cleaning? If you use a mop, you’re just “pushing dirt around?” Who knew?

I guess I should’ve known I wasn’t doing it “right” as early as my college years. I was working as a nanny and, besides the care and keeping of the children, I was charged with the task of minimal house cleaning. Nothing heavy; I just had to pick up the odds and ends that the kids had left around the house and run the vacuum cleaner once a day. I really thought I was doing a great job until the day my employer came home from work and said, “Oh. You didn’t vacuum.” I was a bit confused and so I responded, “Yes I did. Just an hour ago in fact,” and then showed her some of the lines in the carpet left behind by the forward and backward movement of the vacuum cleaner. After looking at it for several moments, she just smiled at me in a patronizing way and said, “Yes, I see. It’s just that nobody has taught you how to vacuum properly.”

Huh? Properly? Is this a conspiracy?

One late night in the wee hours of the early morning shortly after we were married, I awoke to my husband attempting to give me subliminal messages in an attempt to improve my cleaning skills. In an eerie ghost-like voice I awoke to hear him saying repeatedly, “Cleeeeeean the house…Lysol is your friend!”

Okay, fine. I get it. I don’t know how to clean properly. It must be something that one is born with, like double-jointedness or the ability to do the splits, or some other such freakish skill.

But that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped trying. These days I hear voices in my head when I’m cleaning. As I’m mopping the floor (with a mop and not on my hands and knees…I’m not trying that hard!) I hear the voice in my head of my online friend yelling “You’re not doing it right! You’re just pushing dirt around!” When I clean my bathroom, I hear my friend Holly’s voice in my head screeching “That’s not right! You’re just surface cleaning! Surface cleaning isn’t really cleaning!” Really, folks…it’s enough to give a girl a complex!

A couple of summers ago, my good friend Lori had called to say she was coming for a visit. Lori is awesome; she and I have often commented that we’re a lot alike except that she’s she’s sane and likes to clean. But it’s the clean freak in her that always makes me nervous when she comes to my house. I like to joke that Lori “twitches” when things are out of order and, honestly, that’s only a partial exaggeration. Lori is an organized person who has an organized schedule, with a husband and two boys who are terrified to defy her regimentation. And, that’s as it should be! But, alas, I was nervous about her visit because the last thing I’d ever want is to have her “twitching” at my house.

Just before she came out, Lori and I had one of our long phone conversations. Before we hung up, I warned her: “I’ll do my best to clean “properly” for your visit. I’ll try not to surface clean, and I won’t just “push dirt around” with a mop. But, just in case, if you’ll just let me know what your favorite cleaning supplies are, I’ll go out and get them and have them available for your use when you get here. You won’t offend me at all if you decide to clean my house; in fact, I might just love you forever!”

With a note of complete excitement and maybe just a smidge of hero-worship, Lori exclaimed, “You’d do that for me?? You’d let me clean your house if I didn’t like how it was done?? Oh thank you!”

All of this leaves me with one conclusion: You people seriously need to get some help!