Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘don’t look a chore horse in the mouth’

The original subject line of this post was simply “Chores,” but adding “Chat” really takes it from drudgey to cheerful doesn’t it? No? Just me?

It is a dreary, chilly morning, which feels like a betrayal after the sunny warmth of the past few days. I was awake off and on during the night due to horrible nightmares involving my loved ones. I have to go renew my driver’s license, which is on the Top Five list of Things I Enjoy Only Slightly More Than Dental Work. Plus, I have postponed Bathroom Cleaning Monday for no reason at all beyond my absolute gut-twisting hatred of cleaning the shower, and it can be postponed no more.

When we are feeling so dreary, what better topic to tip us right over the edge cheer us is housecleaning?

I scrubbed the floors yesterday, which is a very satisfying chore. My back hurts a bit, though, and I think I once again have chemical burns on my fingers from the bleach, will I ever learn, which is both painful and also somehow apt. “Satisfying” is, of course, a far cry from “enjoyable.” I am trying to think about whether there are any chores I ENJOY. (Are there any chores YOU enjoy?) I suppose I enjoy the results when I clean the kitchen: The gleaming expanse of freshly-scrubbed counters. The shiny reflective surfaces of the stainless steel appliances. Everything ready and waiting for another meal to be made. Which will inevitably upend everything into disaster once again.

My mother was telling me recently about her own mother’s cleaning schedule. Every month they would deep clean the kitchen, which involved emptying out all the cupboards and drawers and scouring them with Murphy’s Oil Soap. EVERY MONTH. I do this… quarterly, maybe, on a good year? Is that horrifying? How often do you do EMPTY your cabinets and wipe them down, inside and out? While we’re at it, how often do you empty your refrigerator and scrub the inside of THAT? I do it far less frequently than I should, even though I have no idea what the Ideal Refrigerator Cleaning Frequency even is. There is possibly some sort of checklist available online, that would tell me exactly what to do when, but I don’t care to be bossed. I will instead remain fretful and slovenly, thank you very much.

Everything I know about cleaning, I learned from my mother. Well, that’s not entirely fair: I learned about dish washing from my father. And about scouring the sink with Soft Scrub. But everything else was my mother’s domain. She was much better about sticking to a strict housecleaning schedule than I am; see above RE: the bathroom cleansing delay. We cleaned the whole house every Saturday. I remember being awakened by the sound of the vacuum. My job was a) cleaning my room and b) dusting. (I also did most of the dishes on the daily, and did my own laundry and ironing. I REFUSE to iron as an adult, but as a middle schooler I ironed my Z-Cavaricci jeans. The heart wants what it wants.)

At some point, I did learn how to scrub a bathroom as well, so I’m sure I helped with that on Cleaning Saturdays. I don’t mind cleaning a toilet, really. And there’s nothing difficult or daunting about wiping down a counter (for me, I recognize and support those for whom it is either or both). By the way, my very best (only?) cleaning tip is to keep a toilet scrubber in EVERY BATHROOM. And if your bathrooms have cabinets, keep a container of toilet cleaner, 409, and a roll of paper towels in each bathroom as well. That way, even if your cleaning supplies are all the way in the laundry room, or you aren’t in the mood to do a Full Cleaning, you can do a quick spot clean and still feel accomplished and virtuous. Hot tips like this keep you coming back, I just know it.

My mother used Endust on a rag to do her dusting, so I also use Endust on a rag to do my own dusting. Swiffer dusters were not available back then, and, frankly, are hugely wasteful although I do still use them on occasion.  I have a Swiffer-style sweeper with reusable pads for the floors. We had hardwood floors in the kitchen, so my mother never scrubbed the grout (no grout to be had). But she did use some sort of Pledge-type liquid to mop the floors until they shone. I use Mr. Clean on my hardwood floors because a housekeeper requested it specifically, and then I kept buying it whenever it was on sale, and now we have more Mr. Clean than any one person should. Bleach is my best friend in the bathrooms, and when it comes to cleaning the grout. I like vinegar and baking soda – or baking soda and Dawn – when it comes to cleaning my sinks. I love 409 for counter tops. Who knew adulthood would mean amassing so many Preferred Cleaning Items?

I suppose How to Properly Clean a House is an important life lesson for a child, and sometimes I fret (because I will literally fret about anything) about whether I am On Track in teaching Carla how to keep a house. What kinds of cleaning chores do your kids do? Or, if you don’t have kids, what were your housecleaning responsibilities as a child? 

Carla’s main jobs are tidying: She must make her bed every morning. She must clean her room once a week. She must pick up any toys she leaves out, although this is a moving target; right now, for instance, there is a bunch of play-doh and various play-doh tools out on the kitchen table, which shows you both how good I am at enforcing her tidying responsibilities and how often we eat together at the table. 

I also have Carla zoop the floors on occasion. Most of the kitchen debris comes from her (at what age do children stop shedding crumbs?), so it seems only fair that she help dispose of it. She also has to clear, rinse, and place her breakfast and dinner dishes. And, if we eat together, she clears, rinses, and places ALL the dishes. This is a very pleasing improvement in her Skills and Abilities, now that she is seven. She is responsible for putting away her folded laundry. Sometimes, if she is in The Right Mood, she will help me dust. I especially appreciate her dusting skills when it comes to wiping down the banister and stairwell baseboards.

When I was a kid, I also had to clean out the barn. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed that chore. I would crank up the country radio station and get out a big, stiff-bristled broom, a shovel, and a wheelbarrow, and remove all the manure from the barn to the shelter belt. Talk about a satisfying chore. You had the pleasure of not only seeing something go from filthy to clean, but also the satisfaction of pleasingly sore muscles. And it was nice to be out in the fresh air and sunshine. The horses did not enjoy it as much, sometimes nudging over the wheelbarrow in defiance or pushing past me to dirty the newly cleaned floor with an abundance of scorn. 

My husband does most of the vacuuming, and he takes care of the bathroom floors. (He can vacuum the entire house and clean all the bathroom floors before I finish cleaning the kitchen.) (I suspect that he does not move the furniture to vacuum under it, but one can only ask for so much.) (He will vacuum under the couch cushions if I remind him.) He also does the VAST MAJORITY of the laundry folding, for which I am deeply grateful. I excel at washing clothes, and sometimes even putting them in the dryer, and sometimes even moving the clean, dry clothes up to the laundry room guest room. But unless I am VIGILANT about folding the clothes immediately, I grow overwhelmed and dizzy and choose to shut the door on the ever-growing pile until it threatens to take over the house or my daughter runs out of underwear, whichever comes first. My husband, on the other hand, is never daunted by a mountainous tangle of clothes. He LIKES to fold, and listens to music while doing so, and it takes him SUCH a short time I think he is a magician every time he does it. He is also very good at the mechanics of folding: his shirts are always creased just so and identical in size, a feat I have never been able to master. 

Folding laundry is one thing. But my most hated chore, by far, is cleaning the shower. It requires scrubbing, which is physically draining. Plus, since it’s a small shower with a sliding glass door, it requires some bodily contortions that I don’t love. Plus, rinsing the shower always results in my shirt and socks becoming completely sodden. Plus, it is impossible to get every single bit of either the doors or the track on which they slide fully clean. PLUS I cannot handle hair in a drain. I JUST CANNOT HANDLE IT. Hair on a head, fine. Hair anywhere else, I will pass out or throw up or both.

Well, I had hoped that talking about chores would get me all fired up to go do some cleaning. It has not had that effect. Perhaps you will share what your favorite/most hated chores are, and/or what the breakdown of chores is in your househould, and/or your Hot Tips for cleaning. In the meantime, I am going to trudge up to the bathroom anyway and see if I can clean the shower without getting totally soaked.

Read Full Post »

This post is about that most controversial of marital subjects: division of chore labor.  Well, a sub-category, at least. So prepare for some boredom and talk of folding.

As the person who, for most of our relationship, works from home, I am typically the Main Laundry Person in our household. Over the years, we have developed a pretty solid laundry routine, wherein I have no trouble washing the clothing but then when it’s dry I leave it stuffed in the laundry basket or on the guest bed for months on end I fold Carla’s clothes and my own clothes, but only some of my husband’s clothing (underpants, socks) and then leave the rest of his stuff in neat piles so he can deal with it the way he wants to.

He’s not being weird. It’s just that there are specifications that I can’t meet.

For instance, he keeps all his undershirts in a specific drawer and he folds them in identical rectangles so that they all fit in the drawer.

Back when we were first married, I tried desperately to fold the shirts for him. I would go so far as to grab an already-folded shirt out of the drawer and try to use it as a folding template. Seriously. Is there anything more pathetic (or anti-feminist???) than a grown woman fretting over the perfect way to fold her spouse’s T-shirts? Picture me, setting a neatly-folded white Hanes T-shirt on the bed and then placing a recently (yes, we’ll go with recently) cleaned shirt on the same bed underneath it, and then trying to bend each sleeve into the center of the collar until the width matches the sample shirt, and then turning both shirts ninety degrees so I can then fold the bottom of the shirt up in such a way as to meet the desired depth and then triumphantly turning the newly folded shirt over to admire my obviously perfect work only to discover that I’ve somehow folded one sleeve in so far that the collar is not so much centered as all the way to the right, and the act of turning the shirt over has untucked the bottom and the finished product looks nothing like the template AT ALL, they are not in the same universe, this is a Picasso rendering of a folded shirt, maybe a raccoon wandered into the bedroom and tried to make a nest in it, it’s unclear. Certainly the raccoon could have done a better job. So I shake out the “folded” shirt in frustration and begin again. Ad infinitum.

Listen, it is no secret around here that I am terrible at things like folding. Anything that requires precision and straight lines is beyond my capabilities. Whatever. I am good at other things. I type pretty fast. I can load a dishwasher. I’m good with knots.

What I’m saying is, even though I used a template, back in those heady days of trying-to-please-my-husband-in-impossible-ways-early-marriage, the shirts would be too square or too thin or not look in any way like a shirt or whatever and my husband would end up refolding them.

I don’t really blame him. They were ridiculous. Sometimes I’d bury my worst attempts at the bottom of the pile and top them with the one shirt that looked somewhat like a folded shirt should look and less like a deflated smear of whipped cream with a “tagless” tag.  So I knew they weren’t up to his standards.

But I have to tell you something, and that is that I have my own drawer of T-shirts. T-shirts that I folded, all by myself. And they all fit in the drawer. Maybe not perfectly, maybe there’s some squashing. But my T-shirts are for exercise and sleeping, and his T-shirts are for wearing under other shirts, so an errant wrinkle here and there shouldn’t be a big deal. What I’m saying, I guess, is that while I understand his T-shirt folding preferences, I don’t think that they are necessarily any better than my own. Or… maybe they are better, but not so much better that they should require their own individualized folding process. And that maybe he should have just let me fold the shirts and be done with it.

I’m not saying that he’d chastise me or anything. He wouldn’t. Probably, in his infinite patience slash kindness he would thank me. But when he’d inevitably refold the T-shirts, I would feel such a mixture of emotions. Shame, for the horrid failure of my fingers to assemble his shirts into something resembling folded. Frustration, for spending time and energy trying to do something that he felt compelled to redo. Irritation at my husband for being so particular (as though I don’t have a specific way I fold, sort, and hang my own clothes). Wounded exasperation, because I was doing something NICE for him, and he didn’t APPRECIATE it. And despair, because certainly this was an indication that my marriage was bound for failure and also did I possibly have some sort of neurological disorder that was impairing my ability to fold.

I mean, seriously. If you go out of your way to do something nice for someone else, shouldn’t they APPRECIATE IT? So what if it isn’t perfect? It’s the THOUGHT, right? Whatever happened to not looking a Chore Horse in the mouth????? This Chore Horse is SAD!!!!!!

You may wonder why my husband continues to live in my home with me when I tell you the T-shirt thing is just one example of many. The only other example I can come up with is also laundry related: I wash the towels at regular intervals and, because I enjoy being at Towel Zero, that usually means that they are all in the wash at once. And sometimes I forget to, you know, dry the towels. Or maybe if I do dry them, I forget them in the dryer. And then my husband gets mad because he inevitably gets in the shower and then turns off the shower and realizes not only are there no towels hanging helpfully off of the towel rack but there are NO TOWELS AT ALL in the linen closet.

And when he gets annoyed at me, I get petulant. I WASHED THE TOWELS, MAN. Is that not enough for you? (I mean, I also apologize and go get him a towel. Obviously. Am not a sadist.)

Well.

When I get beyond the stage of exasperation, I completely understand where he is coming from. I am not so morally superior that I don’t have preferences for how I do or like certain things. I can’t think of any examples now, of course, because that would cede too much ground, but I am sure they exist. And I do, really truly, understand the rage that comes from exiting a shower, cold and wet and shivery and possibly late for work, and finding that all your towels are placidly soaking in OxiClean for the twenty-third consecutive hour. Let’s be honest. It’s a wonder he hasn’t divorced me and taken all the towels.

What I’m trying to say is that I get where he’s coming from.

And he is, or at least has been on multiple occasions, right that sometimes there just is a BEST way to do things.  The towels, right. I mean, obviously the Best Way is to dry them and put them back in the closet and maybe even hang one on the towel rack for easy post-shower access.

And, why not, let’s talk MORE about towels. For years, my husband would refold the towels that I’d just folded. Shame, frustration, irritation, wounded exasperation, despair. He claimed there was a Best Way. I maintained that my way got them done and folded and in the closet, therefore it was Good Enough. But then he taught me how to fold them (somehow what I cannot achieve with undershirts, I excel at with towels) and he is right: when a stack of towels is folded exactly the same way, it fits better in the closet and it’s easier to fetch down a new towel when you need one! And the rest of the towels don’t slump all over the shelves in desperation! So I acknowledge that there is a Best Way to do some things. Maybe many things. But not all. NOT ALL. Sometimes DONE is good enough.

Have I established that I understand a) there can actually be a best way to do some things and b) when I don’t/am incapable of the best way, my husband is justified in being irritated?

Okay. So let’s go back to my frustration. The frustration of doing something – perhaps not best but done – and having it rejected.

At what point do you say, I love this person and will exhaust my body and soul trying to execute a task to his exact specifications and when do you say, Spouse, love of my life, accept it the admittedly inferior way I do it as Good Enough, or do it your frogspam self?

The towel thing is something I have to work through; it’s mean, to leave a person dripping and towelless with no recourse. Doing towel laundry half way is most definitely NOT the Best Way OR Good Enough.

As I mentioned above, we have evolved a workaround for the shirts issue. I just don’t fold them. I don’t like it, because it makes the task seem unfinished. And it reminds me of my Folding Weakness, and no one wants that shoved in their face week after week. But it works. I don’t have to not-fold his shirts for endless hours. He doesn’t have to refold the Dadaist art I’ve presented to him as a pile of folded laundry. And his shirts are all meticulously rectangled and fitted into their drawer. Everyone wins.

But there are probably oodles of OTHER things where the specificity of the end result is less critical. Like the loading of the dishwasher. Does it really matter that my husband insists on putting the bowls on the top rack of the dishwasher when I would put them on the bottom rack? No, not really, as long as they get clean and don’t prevent other dishes from being included in the wash cycle.

Does it really matter that I leave a puddle of water on the counter next to the sink, when that space is reserved SOLELY for dirty dishes, and when it is washed each night before bed anyway? No, not really.

Does it really matter that I believe the washer can, as it claims to, hold laundry up to the “top row of holes” while my husband believes I am overfilling it and preventing it from agitating properly? (I ask you, when have I ever prevented something, including my own self, from agitating properly???) Since neither of us has ever unloaded the dryer and found a still-dirty item of clothing, not really, no.

My personal opinion is that there is very rarely a Best Way to complete a chore. The person doing the chore should, within reason, have freedom to complete it in his or her individual way. Complete it being the key term; I would be the first to agree that washing a towel and then NOT DRYING IT is not “completing” that particular chore. And if someone is kind enough to do a chore – by it’s very nature a thing that few people actually want to spend their time doing – the other person should be grateful and not nit-picky. And if doing it in some perceived Best Way is such a big deal to the other person, well then, he or she can take it on him- or herself for the future.

This is where I want to hear what egregious errors your own partners have made under the auspices of Doing A Chore. And I want to hear your examples of which things have a clear Best Way and those that can be completed successfully in many ways. And your squabbles about Best vs. Good Enough. Tell me all of them!

Read Full Post »