Saturday, November 16, 2013

Confessions of a Sporadic, Manic Housekeeper by Jody Casella

This month we're blogging about stuff we've got to get done before the end of the month. My list is long and growing longer. Finish the WIP that I've been revising for months. Put together a power point presentation for a talk at the local library. Plan lessons for an upcoming school visit. But what's really hanging over me is an influx of holiday guests.

In a few weeks I've got 14 people coming to my house for Thanksgiving dinner. The guests include my son home from college, my aunt and her toy poodle Mr. Pepper, my in-laws, my mother, the next door neighbor and his family. Also, his father Henry.

Give me a minute and I will invite you. And your parents.

I'm not complaining about the guest list. I love a full house on Thanksgiving. I love cooking the turkey and all the creamy, fat laden side dishes. I love stretching out the dining room table and adding card tables on each end so we can fit more people around it. (Last year we managed to squeeze in 22.)

What I don't love is having to clean my house before the guests arrive.

Case in point: the dining room table. It's dusty--I'm fairly certain about that--but I can't see the dust because there are so many things piled on top of it. A bag of dog food. Three 12-packs of cokes. A couple of wine bottles. Stacks of papers. Books. A bowl of picked over Halloween candy.

What I should do is pack up the clutter. Straighten. Vacuum. This is how a smart, efficient housekeeper would approach the next few weeks.

I am not a smart, efficient housekeeper.

And I blame an incomplete transmission of my über-clean grandmother's Italian Cleaning Gene.

First, a few words about my grandmother. The woman set the cleaning bar high for our family. She had a schedule and she stuck to it, despite having seven kids underfoot. Once a week, for example, she emptied out her kitchen cabinets and cleaned them. She cleaned the floors and ceilings. She cleaned the walls. She cleaned the inside of the washing machine.

Sadly, I have only received a handful of molecules of the Italian Cleaning Gene. How this plays out is that every so often-- before I'm going out of town, or, um, faced with an influx of holiday guests-- the molecules will flare up inside me, and I will whirl around my house like a tasmanian cleaning devil.

The results tend to be comical. In retrospect. One time out-of-town relatives were coming to visit and I had the overwhelming urge to clean all the mini blinds in my house. I should mention that these mini blinds had never been cleaned before, so simply swiping them with a dust cloth wasn't going to cut it. I spent a morning (when I should have been getting the guest bedroom ready) removing all the blinds, soaking them in baby pools set up in the backyard, and laying them out in the driveway to dry. Side note: it was like, 95 degrees that day.

I spent the afternoon putting all the blinds back up and discovering, to my horror, that they had been broken during the process.

A few hours before my relatives were to arrive, I frantically called my husband and asked him to buy blinds on his way home from work. With minutes to spare, we were stuffing the clean, yet broken blinds in the garbage and hanging all new ones in the windows. Ah, fun times.

Today, my clean gene fired up again.

Instead of clearing off the dining room table, I did this:

Yes. Much better.

And I still have a few weeks before the guests arrive. Which means it's the perfect time to reorganize the garage...


  1. Thank God I'm not the only Italian-American woman missing that cleaning gene. Also missing the mother-of-daughters hair fixing gene.

    1. Sigh. I forgot to mention that I am missing that hair fixing gene. Also, the gene that goes with setting the table and decorating the house for the holidays...

  2. Ha! I love this! Great post, Jody. I'm missing that gene too. Cleaning was like a hobby for my Italian grandmothers. A hobby they were passionate about. I feel so guilty whenever the clutter gets out of control, or a I buy jarred tomato sauce. Although Giada's is pretty darn good.

    1. I'm not gonna lie, Jen, when I read that you sometimes buy jarred tomato sauce, I gasped out loud : )

  3. Once one starts cleaning, there is no end to the jobs that need to be done.

    Aren't blinds an absolute pain to clean? In my last apartment, when "blind cleaning" was one of the incentives for lease renewal, I jumped at it.

    Also, if you send the poodle to grad school, he can become Dr Pepper. ;-D

    1. I hear you on never-ending jobs. Don't get me started on how I feel about laundry. Sometimes I wish I was a nudist. PS. (don't tell my aunt, but Mr. Pepper probably would not make it into grad school.)

  4. Oooh, cleaning. I just got through with a whirlwind rewrite, which means my office looks like my brain puked all over it...

    1. The office slash guest bedroom. That's on my to-do list today...

  5. Nice cleaning! Can you come and do my house too? :-)

  6. I also missed the cleaning gene, although now I can blame it on not having an Italian mother or grandmother. The only time I love to clean or iron is when I have a huge deadline looming and I'm sinking. Somehow I decided to sink even more by taking a day to clean. But usually it cleans out my head, too, and I can get back to work.