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Cleanliness Is Next to .... Impossible

May 22, 2018 - Betsy Bethel
I like a clean house.

If you dropped by tonight, however, you would call me a liar. And for good reason.

My back porch is the first clue that my statement doesn’t add up, strewn as it is with cardboard to be recycled, broken lawn equipment and last fall’s dirt and leaves. Inside, especially on humid days, you will learn on first whiff that we own a dog. Windows need washing, floors need scrubbing, furniture needs deep cleaning, spare rooms need decluttering.

It’s not filthy, it’s not a hoarder’s nest, but it’s definitely not sparkling. Why don’t I keep it spotlessly clean? Four reasons:

1. I don’t have time. Yes, it’s the excuse du jour, the reason no one does anything anymore. Modern technology has made everything easier and quicker, but somehow we have less time to do everything. That there is called irony.

A friend with four kids and one on the way said she stays on top of things by employing the “do it now” method. A natural born procrastinator, I’ve struggled to adopt this credo for several months now, and I’ve succeeded to a point. It does help me with the little things — a sink full of dishes, a basket of unfolded laundry or a besmirched bathroom sink. Of course, those are dispatched in a few minutes. Mopping floors and washing windows — properly — takes big blocks of time that don’t fit in my life. I really hate washing windows, likely owing to the fact we have 35 of them.

2. I want it done right. Did you catch the key word in point No. 1? “Properly.” If there’s anything my grandparents taught me, it’s that if you’re going to do the job, do it right the first time. So sometimes I just don’t do the job.

For the same reason, it’s hard for me to dole out the big jobs to my child. She has her chores. She cleans her room, folds clothes, empties the dishwasher, feeds the cat. My husband has the right idea, though: Last week, he had her mowing the lawn. That’s huge. Maybe it’s time to teach her to wash windows — and to do it right the first time.

3. I don’t wanna. There are days when I simply don’t feel like doing much. I’m a grownup, and no one can make me. So there.

4. I need a break. After working all day, sometimes 10 or 11 hours, I am brain dead and bone tired. I know, you’re probably thinking: “What’s so hard about writing and editing? It’s not as if you’re a brain surgeon.” No, but now that you mention it, if I were I could hire a maid.

When I force myself to clean, I always feel better afterward, just like exercising. I like the way my house smells when it’s clean. I like the way it feels. I like the way it looks. I even like some of the actual cleaning — I find vacuuming and doing dishes highly gratifying, for example.

The big-time cleaning frenzy always occurs before we have people over, so my husband jokes we should party every weekend. That actually might work. I do like a good party … and a clean house.

— — Betsy Bethel is the Life editor of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register and the editor of OV Parent magazine. She can be reached at


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