I spent almost the entire weekend cleaning my house. Like major cleaning. This was the first time since probably December that I’ve scrubbed baseboards, cleaned out closets, and actually made my house look the way it’s supposed to. I hate cleaning with a passion, but the house was finally messy enough that it was driving me insane.
I wasn’t raised to be a total slob. My mom, who is diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is a one-woman cleaning service (we call her the Stain Master behind her back). We weren’t allowed to wear shoes in any part of the house when I was a kid. I couldn’t eat or drink anything outside the kitchen, not even water. I couldn’t even set my car keys on the counter; Mom would whisk them away to a cabinet or closet before I had time to blink. To this day, it’s impossible to tell that anyone lives in my parents’ house because it looks like a museum. I would eat out of my mom’s toilets without hesitation – that’s how clean the house is.
So since I’m not adopted (as far as I know), how did I end up with a house that takes an entire weekend to clean?
I never learned how to clean growing up. Mom was afraid my sister and I would fail to keep her impossible standards, so we never really had chores. Or she would assign them and drive herself nuts trying to monitor and redo what we’d done. I guess she expected us to learn by watching, except we never stuck around to watch. As a kid, it was awesome to stick my hands in the dishwater and immediately be shoved out of the way by my mom. Oh, you want to do these boring chores while I play outside? Sweet! Until I got married at 19 and moved out of the house, I had seriously never washed a dish, done laundry, or cleaned a bathroom.
Living independently was glorious. I could leave mail on the coffee table for an entire week if I wanted. Unlike my mom, I could easily fall asleep at night knowing there were dishes in the sink or unfolded clothes in the laundry room. Sometimes I even ate food in the living room. With upholstered furniture and carpet and everything.
After a few weeks of being married, I looked around and realized there was junk everywhere. WTF? Where did all this stuff come from? I thought. Realizing my mom wasn’t there to clean up after me was a rude awakening. So I called her to ask what kind of cleaning products I needed to buy. Seven billion dollars or so later (a conservative estimate), I left Walmart with rubber gloves and a thousand bottles of cleaners with names like Mean Green and Zap-It! (Seriously, who comes up with these product names? They should be fired.)
For the first five minutes, it was sort of fun to clean stuff. I sprayed my little bottle, scrubbed with my cute pink sponge, and watched the yucky stuff magically disappear. Then I started to realize why my mom was so obsessed with keeping things clean. Nah, just kidding. Honestly, I started thinking she needed to be committed.
Cleaning SUCKS! You get all sweaty, then you rub your eyes and get cleaner in them, then you have to rinse out your eyes with water, and naturally you get a shower since you’re already sweaty anyway. Then the phone rings and you get distracted and the next thing you know it’s time to pick up your kiddo from preschool. You come back and you’re going to resume cleaning, but it’s dinnertime and then American Idol is coming on and you don’t want to clean the tub before bathtime, lest your little one be exposed to bleach and other harsh chemicals. When you finally do get something clean, these little dust fairies come out and ruin it again.
Please tell me again why anyone would enjoy doing this.
So what does this have to do with personal finance?
Well, I need to pay off my debt so I can hire a cleaning lady, for one thing.
My attitude toward cleaning is a lot like the attitude I used to have toward keeping track of my finances. It was gross and boring and not fun at all, so why would I do it? I would wait until disaster struck to take action, then I would find every reason in the world not to follow through with what needed to be done. In the end, it took way more time and effort to fix the problem than it would have taken to avoid the problem.
I’m stiff and sore this morning after busting butt cleaning all weekend. I’m tired and don’t want to go to work. I didn’t get to do anything exciting ALL WEEKEND LONG because I had to clean. I remember feeling this way after spending the WHOLE weekend figuring out how to make a bank deposit before a check bounced. Or arguing with my ex about who spent the money that was supposed to pay the electric bill. Or trying to buy groceries knowing we had more bills than money.
I have a choice: I can either work a little bit each day to maintain the major overhaul I just did on my house, or I can let it go for months and months and spend another weekend cleaning frantically.
I also had a choice when it came to my finances: I could pay attention every day and keep up with what’s going on, or I could wait for a catastrophe and wear myself out to try to put a Band-aid on it.
My finances are a work in progress, but they are much better now that I’m actively involved in improving them. I’m working very hard to do the same around the house – I know it will never be as perfect as my parents’ house, but I can at least make an effort. It will seem like a huge hassle at first, then after awhile it will become habit (i.e. less of a big deal). I know this but I’m still working on finding the motivation to actually do it. Maybe I could get my mom to do surprise inspections or something.
What kind of housekeeper are you? Does your cleaning style (or lack thereof) say anything about how you deal with financial issues? Let me know in the comments!