Home Ownership Lesson #12

I am no Suzy Homemaker.

I do not enjoy housekeeping. I know people who love it. I have enjoyed having had roommates who love to clean. I have friends who enjoy the satisfaction that comes with completing a task or enjoying the break it provides from their normal routine. These things do not appeal to me.

I am neither good at cleaning nor do I wish to make time to do it (I work at work, I don’t want to work at home – I want to read and watch more episodes of The West Wings on Netflix). When I mop it seems that there is always something left lingering on the floor. My “clean” house never seems to look as good as other people’s “clean” house. I clean because I must. I clean to maintain a reasonably healthy home and to prevent dog hair, laundry and gluten-free crumbs from swallowing my house. Or, guests are coming over. Guilt is an effective cleaning motivator.

I am very grateful for my dishwasher.

I am very grateful for my dishwasher.

People have asked me why I don’t just hire someone to take care of it. Why? Because I am a walking contradiction. I hate to clean, but I am ashamed to hire someone because my house is so small. It seems spoiled of me to have someone else come clean my 1600 square feet that I live in with only a dog, especially since I really only use about half the house. So, I cleaned.

Recently, much to my delight, a friend was looking for some side work cleaning. This was perfect – I wasn’t so much trying to pawn off my work on my little house, I was helping a friend! No shame in that, right? I quickly let her know I’d welcome the help. Everyone wins.

Then, after the deal was done, I started thinking. Actually, obsessing might be a better word. In order for her to clean she would have to come into my house. Usually visits are preceded by me dusting, vacuuming, and clearing all the flat surfaces of laundry. The situation begged the question: should I clean the house before she comes? Of course, I would pick up the dirty clothes off the floor, put away the laundry hanging out on the dryer, and clear the door handles of bras and jackets. But should I really clean before she comes?

I surveyed the house. It needed dusting. The floor needed a sweep. The mirror in the bathroom was dotted with toothpaste splatter. The windows had not been touched since I bought the place. I reasoned that these are the very things she is coming to clean. This is normal. Then, I thought of the microwave. Ahh, the microwave.

I do not buy paper towels (I prefer using cloth rags). Also, I do not own one of those little domes to cover food in the microwave. Now take a moment to think about what the condition of the inside of the microwave might be when you use it for months, without covering food up, or cleaning it. My mother is cringing with embarrassment right now. I hope my Brother-in-Law is sitting down. It was not good.

It took me two days to decide whether or not to clean the microwave. In the end, I decided that I would prefer to endure the shame of someone seeing the inside of it rather than cleaning it myself. Telling, huh? I just hoped that my friend would pray for me rather than judge my housekeeping skills (or lack thereof).

The cleaning day came and went. I arrived home super late that day and was welcomed by the smell of cleanliness (lemon scent with a touch of Clorox, very nice). It was wonderful. The house looked great, including the microwave. I checked it first since I needed to know if she knew.

In a note to my friend later thanking her for the help I apologized for the state of the microwave. Yes, I was fishing to see how awful she thinks I am now. I am just a wee bit of a people pleaser. I am sure you could not tell. To my apology she responded “I actually said ‘woah’ out loud when I opened the microwave!” I thought for a moment of asking how hard it was to clean but I decided to spare myself more self-induced humiliation. I had kind of hoped she would say it was not so bad; clearly, where the microwave is concerned I do not live in reality. It was bad and I knew it. But, I am very happy that it is clean now and that I did not have to do it. I think my cleaning age is around 17.

The lesson? Until I can make it to a box store to buy one of those dome things I am using a paper plate to protect my microwave from my dinner. Promise!

If you are no Suzy Homemaker it is best to just get help.


Indiana Winter: Cold, Flat, & Windy, Part II

It seems that I’ve been fooled. My first winter in Indiana, 2011-2012, was incredibly mild. Not only was there not one single large snowfall there was not much snow at all. Additionally, the temperature, while cold, was not consistently and continuously bitter. Oh, and I lived in an apartment with a garage. So, I never had to encounter snow directly: no shoveling, no sweeping, no cleaning off the car. All I had to do outside was walk the dog.

The Eel River frozen up to the falls.

The Eel River frozen up to the falls.

Everyone I’ve talked with about the weather (which is nearly everyone) told me not “get used to it.” I am afraid I did.

This winter is different. There have not been any giant snows, but we have had more snow and the temperatures have been way (at least it seems to me) colder. Days and days of temperatures under 20 degrees. Wind. Constant, cold wind with wind chills repeatedly below -10. Oh, and I now have a driveway to shovel, a walk to sweep, and neighborhood streets to try to navigate safely.

I have prided myself on the fact that I can handle cold weather and drive in the snow. I was raised in the mountains! It does snow in the mountains and it does get cold. However, it doesn’t stay this cold for this long, the snow doesn’t hang around for weeks from one storm, and it doesn’t snow this often. And, there is no wind there, at least not constant, extremely cold, and sustained winds.

This has been much more of an adjustment than I am comfortable admitting. It is not in my nature (or raising) to concede weakness or discomfort. Every time I walk out into the piercing cold wind I cringe. I long for some mountain cover. The question – why do I live here crosses my mind. Regularly. If I missed home when it was warm here, I miss home 1000x more now.

Luckily, I had the chance to escape the Midwest winter briefly. I spent part of the last week in Puerto Rico, where it was sunny, warm, and, like Fort Wayne, windy; there the wind blows warm. It was a much needed break even though I worked most of the trip. But that trip taught me a very important lesson. I now know the key to surviving a Midwestern winter. Take a break.

I learned how to use the panorama feature on my phone in PR.

Seasons change and I have access to airplanes. So, my new vacation window is going to be January to March, just in time for a nice break from the Midwestern winter.