Monday, November 29, 2010

Room of Doom

In an act that I can only blame on menopausal hormones, about two years ago I got rid of my cleaning people. Sure, I had my reasons. It was a husband/wife team and the husband used to creepily follow me around while I got ready for my exercise class in the morning. Then I'd get home after they were gone, lift up the ottoman in the family room, and find out that they'd shoved a bunch of junk under there. Was it them or was it hormones?

Either way, they were gone. I was sure I could handle it myself. I have two big strapping children and a  helpful husband, right?

Now, looking back, I want to kick myself with this insane thinking. Husband was once in the mindset that a cleaning crew was necessary our existence. I mean, he had one before I met him! Before I fired them Husband had no idea that wives actually could clean houses. Now? No longer.

So that leads me to this week and the Hannukah party I'm having here on Sunday. And the absolute ruin I live in.

Since I can't really handle all the mess in all the rooms at once, I've worked out a method over these last two years of being the housecleaner. I call it Room by Room, similar to Anne LaMott's Bird by Bird. I only tackle one room at a time. I don't get sidetracked. And one caveat: once I'm done with that particular room,  Bar Mitzvahzilla and Daughter aren't allowed to walk into it again until the party is over. Even if it's, like, their bathroom and there are three days till the party. Go to the neighbor's house.

Now I know I've got five days still but right now our house is basically a tear down and I need to use my time wisely. So I plan to start with the rooms no one uses at all, like the dining room, my art room (haven't used that in awhile), the den (where I can easily clean around Bar Mitzvahzilla sitting frozen staring at the TV screen with only his thumbs moving on his Xbox controller), and my office (thank goodness for my months-long writer's block!)

The rooms we really live in - the family room and kitchen - I have to treat carefully. I can't completely move the kids out, right? And once they're cleaned I don't want to be chasing the kids around and watching each cookie crumb fall to the floor with a wild-eyed look in my eye. So I'll hold off on that and use the kids wisely. Have them do their own rooms. I'll assign chores to them that will be done badly, all in a mad, crazed dash to get to whatever's been promised them in return for those chores.

Then, in one last herculean effort, I'll unclutter the rest of the house and move every last piece of remaining junk, by putting it all into my bedroom - the Room of Doom. Then I'll blockade the door so no one can get in there.

When I greet my guests on Sunday night, our house will look like a house that actual human beings live in. I'll  demur when the few people who've never seen the house before ask for a tour that includes my bedroom (Sorry! It's kind of messy right now!) and then wait for the inevitable outcome of the Hannukah party: a destroyed house. Wrapping paper everywhere, food sloshed and dropped, ground into the floors, babies running and drooling.

And then I'll clean it again. Maybe in time for next Hannukah.

Do you clean just to let things get messed up again or leave them messy and clean afterwards? Do you have a method for cleaning? Do you have cleaning people or do it yourself? Ever have one "Room of Doom" where everything bad is hidden?


  1. I got myself a cleaning lady about five years ago and it is the best thing I ever did. I HATE cleaning! Truthfully, if I had to decide between eating or the cleaning lady, the cleaning lady would win, hands down.

    Now, this no way implies that my house is orderly. I have three boys that make messes faster than I can clean them up. But at least I don't have to scrub toilets, you know?

  2. You got RID of the cleaning people? Mon Dieu! It must have been a burst of insanity.

    Your description of your son, with the XBox controller in hand, was eerily familiar. I laughed out loud!

  3. I finally had to make peace with the idea that my house would never really be clean. Between the pets and the kids, my freshly mopped floor lasts about three minutes. I get all worked up when I let myself think about it, so I just strive for blind acceptance! =>

    But I still prefer to clean the house myself. Until someone starts a cleaning business specifically for people with dogs and toddlers, no one can clean it like I can. I mean, the coffee table needs to be vacuumed regularly. Seriously, it does.

  4. When hubby worked, I splurged and had someone clean half of my house... the bedrooms and the bathrooms. I found it easier to do the main rooms myself or I'd let them go for two weeks until the cleaning lady came. Now, hubby and I are both home all day and the house should be clean but isn't! The best thing about hosting company is that the two of us get the place clean for just a short time. But certain things have to wait to the last minute or be redone.

    Happy Hanukkah!

  5. Years ago, after getting splashed, I decided that I was never going to clean another toilet again, no matter how much it cost. So even though sometimes we have to go without food and even though by day 11, 12 and 13 the toilets, the floors and the rest of the house look pretty bad, every other Tuesday I leave my front door unlocked with an I-hope-this-doesn't-bounce-check on the counter and little elves come in and do the dirty work. Let me know if you give up and I can send them over!

  6. As a Jewish girl from Long Island I thought cleaning service came with the purchase of the house. LOL. I rather not eat than give up my Claudia. When the holidays come my husband never understands why I give Claudia such a huge Christmas gift. He only knows of the present not the cash that I give her too. Anyone that scrubs my toilets and cleans my house deserves anything they want.

    Happy Potato Latkes :-)

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  8. I hired a cleaning service when I was in my third trimester with my 2nd son and it has become my can't-live-without-it indulgence. Like Maria, I still live in constant chaos with all of my kids' stuff, but at least the basics are taken care of every other week.

    I think your strategy for your party makes a lot of sense - after all, you can stash a lot more in a bedroom than under the ottoman, as your former housecleaners did. :)

    Happy (almost) Hanukkah!

  9. YOU GOT RID OF THE CLEANING SERVICE? Wow. I've never had one... my husband refuses to pay for a service we can do ourselves. He does help- when he's here- he works 12+ hour days and will be leaving very soon for four months. When you were talking about stuffing things into your bedroom- I thought of your post awhile back about your tub and wondered what all was stuffed in it. My room is the catch-all too. I never let anyone into my room... I hope your party is wonderful. Happy Hanukkah!

  10. I feel your pain as I look around my bedroom. It is clutter clutter clutter. Egads.

  11. I would kill for a cleaning service! It's simply not in our budget. I use Marla Cilley's method to stay sane-she is The Flylady. Her book is Sink Reflections.

    Presently I am selling my children's childhood on Ebay right now to earn money and declutter. It feels good to get is all OUT!

  12. This is incredible. I wife who actually cleans. Please don't let the rest of the universe know this. Years ago when I was going through my divorce and couldn't afford to even live in the house let alone have a house cleaner, I made a brash but necessary decision. I kept my house cleaner. In the chaos that was my life, I needed one constant: my house would be clean once a week.

  13. I just wanted to wish you and yours a happy Hanukkah.



  14. Please, please, hire more cleaning help!! I don't have a method, but I try my best to pick up now and then. With a toddler, it's tricky, but it's so much better when I stay on top of things. I try to keep one room clean at a time. And I have cleaning help once a month. I fully plan on upping the cleaning help as my family grows.

  15. Oh, and we've totally had the room that we just throw stuff in. Our apartment now is too small for that luxury!

  16. I live in House of Doom. Small house. Small rooms. Five people. Tons of stuff. No cleaning people. I hear you. I feel your pain. I have no solution. But if I were coming to your latke party, I would say, "Don't clean. Don't declutter." (I know. It wouldn't work. But I'd mean it!)

  17. I actually made some progress last summer. Three months I worked at making strides in three rooms. All it took was one week of senior year of high school Finito.

    I give up. We eat standing up at a little bit of counter, or on the couch with a tray. Maybe I'll try again next year. Oh shit. Next year is in a few weeks.