Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Domestic Blisters

Nothing deep today boys and girls, just a few observations on some very mundane issues.

Because Tom hurt his finger, there are quite a lot of things he can't do right now, and most of them involve cleaning. The agreement we have is that in return for free board and lodgings he would be my housekeeper. It serves two purposes, it frees me up to do other things, and it teaches him valuable life skills. I'm not sure the latter is working, but I'm trying.

The problem, as I've blogged before, when kids are given housekeeping responsibilities, is that it's not theirs. The urge to do a good job isn't there. Their approach to it is to get it done as fast as possible, and just good enough that they won't actually be criticized. This applies to all employees really, and it's probably been a bone of contention since the first slave was told to sweep the cave.

It could be argued that my expectations are too great, but there's no real measure there, because we all have different standards. Mine are not perfection, I think I'm extremely lenient really, but there are certain things I do ask, that my family do know about, and the challenge seems to be not so much reminding them, but getting them to understand the objective.

If it's Michael doing it, the chances are a better job gets done. He's a stereotypical Virgo. You know, those kids who spend a lot of time on personal grooming, and who keep their rooms clean without anyone telling them to. Sometimes referred to as "a bit OCD" although that's not quite right. OCD is a genuine disorder, where real (sometimes disabling) anxiety can be caused by things being "out of order". There may sometimes be a fine line there, but it's a line just the same.

The point is Michael notices mess. He sees it. He doesn't have to have it pointed out. If you say "can you clean up the kitchen", he does so. He doesn't clean up half of it. He doesn't QUITE do the job the way I would, but.....it's not his. I am expecting his own home to be spotless.

When you have a large family, and pets, you learn to overlook certain things or you go mad. I am not one of those people who says "oh I wouldn't want to live in a showpiece". I would. If I was wealthy and could afford staff to polish everything, yep, I'd be quite happy. I could live like that, no problem. But I don't have time to do it myself, I'm not going drive myself crazy trying to achieve it, and clearly, my current housekeeper is not up to the task.

And right now, he's not up to a lot of tasks, so I'm back to having to do much of it myself. There has been, shall we say, some catching up.

This allows me to create a list of the jobs that are getting missed, or done too quickly and not thoroughly. Tom is being presented with this, in an aim to improve his skills. It's an ongoing process, and I make no claims that I have any solutions. If you are dealing with delegating housekeeping jobs, and banging your head on the wall over it, maybe you share my confusion over a few of these.

1. Why is it so hard to clean a sink? It's a smooth surface. All it takes is something mildly abrasive - Vim, or a plastic scouring pad, or whatever, 2 minutes and it comes up like a new pin. This is not a difficult job at all. There's a hygiene issue involved too, considering raw food is often prepared in or close to the sink. It's important, and not frou frou to demand a clean sink. I have told them all that after doing dishes, you clean the sink. I must have said it thousands of times. I do not understand why this one is so hard to remember and not obvious. Why do I see a dirty sink and they don't?

2. When I vacuum, it still looks vacuumed several hours later. At this time of year the dogs shed constantly, so I am under no illusions that it will stay clear for long, but it does look reasonable later the same day. When  Tom vacuums, it needs doing again about an hour later, and I even know why. He misses a lot, and it moves in the air currents. This is a perfect example of where being thourough pays off. But no matter of saying "be more thorough" seems to sink in. I time him. He can do the entire main floor in the time it takes me to do one room. Then he wonders why I tell him to do it again.

3. We have a dishwasher, so there really should never be dirty dishes anywhere. If you put things in the dishwasher as you use them, run it when it's full, then empty it, and repeat this cycle, dirty dishes in a pile on the counter simply shouldn't happen. For some reason, I have never managed to get this cycle to work, despite all manners of encouragement. They give themselves work to do by not following the process. Makes no sense.

4. But this is the one that bugs me the most, because it always ends up being me fixing it. We have a flat-topped stove. It is the easiest thing in the world to clean up spills. But all of them, even my husband, fail to see spills and then cook on them, burning them on. It then takes a lot of scouring and scraping to get it off. I have had tantrums - DO NOT TURN ON A RING THAT HAS A SPILL ON IT. They're all deaf. It takes ten seconds to clean up a spill, but once it's burned on, it takes anything up to half an hour. I just don't get through, it's as if they can't see it.

I know, I should just be grateful for the co-operation and help I do get, I know many women get far less. It just baffles me how intelligent men suffer from the inability to recognize a mess when it's right in front of them, and "get" that it's easier, faster, less hassle all round to keep on top of it rather than leave it for later. There are four of them and one of me. I think they could do better.


  1. I understand the sink thing, I can't get them to do it either.. but the dishwasher? Yikes... even Rhiannon will put dirty dishes in the dishwasher.. and she'll start if it it's full. And empty it when she gets home from school.

    She tries to dust and vacuum... but at 8 years of age, I am just grateful she wants to help.. and she'll get better at it as time goes on. I do wish she'd stop walking on freshly washed floors though.. I think she and the cats take it as a challenge... "how many footprints can we leave on the wet floor?"

  2. It has been my experience that a child's willingness to help is in inverse ratio to its ability to be truly useful. Ah, standards.....an old fight. Mine are pretty relaxed. I used to say that go below mine, and you're looking at squalor. But lately Old Dutch has been fabulous, volunteering timely cleanups without being asked, so I can go nuts outside! That only took 49 years. Good luck with it.