Why I clean before the cleaners come

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Today will be a good day. Because by early afternoon, the kitchen and bathroom counters will be clean, the floors shiny and there’ll be fresh vacuum cleaner tracks throughout the house. Every other Wednesday by 2 p.m., life is good and orderly and smells like lemons. It’s wonderful.

But before that happens, I’ve got to clean up around here. Why? Because the house cleaners are coming!

Tom always thinks I’m nuts when I fly into my pre-cleaning routine before our bi-weekly Swat Team of Clean arrives. But women understand the two reasons why we clean right before the house cleaners come:

  1. Because we don’t want the house cleaners to think we’re slobs.
  2. Because the cleaners will be able to clean more thoroughly if they’re not dodging our clutter.

That last one is the only good reason to pre-clean before the cleaners come, but the truth is that the first reason has a lot more to do with it. I’m not sure why women worry about whether or not our house cleaners think we’re slobs, but we do. If I asked our housekeeper about it, I imagine she’d say she rather likes the job security slobs provide. Dirty houses have allowed her to build her own successful business.

After I got married 14 years ago, I never thought I’d have a house cleaning service. I assumed I could do it all myself and worried that, if I didn’t, Martha Stewart would show up at our door with a judgmental stare and revoke my “good homemaker” card.

But after our first two kids were born, I was barely keeping up with laundry, housework and writing deadlines. I was driving myself crazy trying to get it all done. When I got pregnant with our third child and was put on partial bed rest, I finally ripped off the Supermom cape and hired Diana, the house-cleaning savior who swooped into our lives and showed me what I’d been missing.

For the first few months that Diana and her crew came to clean, I felt terribly guilty about it. Part of me wanted to follow her around apologizing for the glob of toothpaste dried onto the kids’ sink or the apple juice that had made the kitchen floor sticky.

But over time I learned to let go of the guilt and instead appreciate how great it was to have the whole house cleaned in a few hours’ time instead of the week it would have taken me to do those same things on my own.

By the time my due date arrived, I was officially in love with my house cleaners. They were like my own magical fairies who flew in to make everything beautiful again.

Shortly after our third baby was born and bed rest was over, Tom asked if we should discontinue the house cleaning service. I laughed – a good, hard laugh – and told him we could discontinue it as long as he promised to take over the round-the-clock breastfeeding I was doing. He saw it my way after that.

Of course, having a house cleaning service does add another expense to the budget. Many people decide to deal with a little domestic dirt or clean it themselves rather than pay that fee. But I’ve decided that, as nice as a newer car might be, I’d rather skip the car payment and keep the cleaners. The sense of calm I get from the gleaming floors makes it worth it.

Now I better get busy straightening up around here. The house cleaners are coming and this place is a mess.

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