I don’t have children, but I’ve heard parents joke that with the first baby, they were meticulously hygienic. If the pacifier dropped onto the floor, they rushed in to wash it off in hot water. Same for sterilizing bottles and certain stuffed animals. With the second child, the hygiene standards were loosened a little, and there wasn’t all the rushing in and disinfecting. Also, the kid was allowed to drool more and pick his nose.
By the fourth kid, the child was lucky to get the pacifier back at all since the parents weren’t paying such close attention to the kid’s needs because they were busy gabbing about more important things like bargain designer clothes and PTO commitments.
The same situation exists in the evolution (or I should say deterioration) of housecleaning criteria for the average homeowner, whether that home be a house, condo, or apartment.
The first few years you and your significant other are in love with your new enclave. Your love affair encompasses sparkling bathroom and kitchen amenities, gleaming oak floors, polished mahogany cabinets, and voluminous walk-in closets. All these new-fangled (to you) extras fascinate and titillate. You vow to keep them ship shape, and with the help of a monthly maid service, your new home looks lovely.
After about two years, the novelty has worn off. The bloom is off the rose. In short, you’re bored with your lodgings, and your attention to housecleaning chores has diminished, noticeably. You no longer vacuum every week or dust. You clean the refrigerator when it smells a bit stinky
You still are scrupulous about cleaning the toilets and washbasins, but the refrigerator is not the pride and joy it used to be. Some sticky jelly and chocolate syrup have gummed up the back wall of the fridge, an uncovered onion has left a pungent odor throughout, and a package of swiss cheese you thought you’d used six months ago has materialized. Unfortunately it is moldy, although you have yet to dispose of the contents.
Four years into your lease or mortgage, you look around the interior. The walls need to be repainted, especially thanks to little Henry’s crayola-crazed interpretation of Halloween on the den back wall. The wooden floors need to be sanded and waxed, and dust has collected in places that haven’t seen a mop in many a month.
You are, however, still holding up your end of the hygiene model regarding the bathrooms. You scrub the toilets every week, but you procrastinate with the shower and tub areas. Calcified deposits are as thick as the grout, which also needs to be cleaned with a toothbrush and one of those double-strength cleansers that hopefully will fight mold.
It’s obvious to your mother-in-law and all your friends that you are taking your home for granted, neglecting it in a way that 75 percent of all consumers consider “liveable.” Your kids and spouse are used to the grimy mess that has accumulated, but you know that your criteria for cleanliness have depreciated, and you are nothing but an average slob. It used to be a joke, but now no one’s laughing.
You now have two options. You either can hire a housecleaner for a weekly visit or resign yourself to being classified by your relatives and other loved ones as a slob. They may use euphemisms like “piggy,” “messy,” “cluttered,” or “scatter-brained,” but it all translates to the same thing: slobby.
If you deny it, you face crude jokes from your family members about “the gym smell” or “funky sweat odor” at the back of dad’s closet or the unkempt condition of mom’s walk-in closet, where half the garments are strewn on the floor awaiting hangers most of which have mysteriously disappeared for Junior’s science project.
At least 50 percent of homeowners have trashed (literally) their housecleaning criteria. The house is a wreck-in-progress. You clean, but only before you entertain, when your parents come to visit, or when the smell on Baby’s behind has seemingly permeated throughout.
The other 50 percent either have six-figure incomes and hire weekly housekeepers who straighten the mess you’ve made during the week or have assigned their children to various house-cleaning responsibilities such as emptying the wastebaskets in every room, running the vacuum over the floors, and replacing the odor eaters you have “inconspicuously” attached to the electrical outlets in every room.
Those of you without children old enough to do your bidding have two options. Either you must hire neighborhood children at a disgustingly low minimum wage to haul out the “extras” and hold a garage sale, or you will have to learn to live with giant cockroaches and flying crickets. Those of you in this last group no longer have housecleaning criteria to maintain. You have totally abdicated responsibility.
Your address: the low-income neighborhood in and around the seventh circle of Dante’s hell.