See that face? What does that say to you? Yep, Lucy’s face pretty well sums up my feelings about housework. Meh. Blech. Sigh. I am not a domestic goddess. I hate to clean. But, you probably already know that if you read my blog regularly. I wrote about my lack of domestic skills back a few months ago. Okay, not so much lack of skills, as I said in that post, more like lack of motivation.

Lucille Ball's look expresses just how I feel about cleaning

I tried role-playing. Maybe if I look like a fifties housewife, I’ll be better able to clean cheerfully? Ha. In the absence of anything that resembles fifties housewife attire, except capri leggings and a head scarf, this is my attempt to play the part. “Now, I just know one of these thingies is supposed to be for dusting.”
My fifties housewife imitation.
Hey, the red stripe in my apron matches my vacuum cleaner. So, not a happy homemaker, but a colour coordinated one.
Okay, not funny. I’m not that useless. Truly. All joking aside, that post I wrote last winter was partly about the problem of the division of household chores in families, and the impact of that division on marriages and relationships, and some interesting statistics around the issue. And it was partly about me and my lack of desire to clean which is, ironically, inversely proportional to my desire for a clean house. Sigh. A conundrum right up there with being a control freak who has out of control hair.
Readers of that post shared some great ideas. Riley’s comment introducing me to “Fly Lady” was very helpful. Riley said Fly Lady’s suggestion that we can do anything for for fifteen minutes changed her life. Even if, in that fifteen minutes, we don’t fully complete a task. Like cleaning the fridge. I hate, hate, hate that chore. Pulling everything out and stacking all the food, and bottles and jars on your counter. Dragging drawers out and washing them in the sink, slopping soap and water everywhere in the process. Wiping all the shelves down. Then when you pile everything back into your pristine fridge, your kitchen looks like a cyclone has hit it. Now, after Riley’s suggestion, I do it a shelf at a time. Yah. And… and… this is my own special newly invented trick. When a bin is empty I vacuum it out, then wipe it with a soapy cloth, then dry it. Presto.  And… I’m on a roll here people… I thought if that works for fridge drawers, why not kitchen drawers? So when the cutlery drawer, for example, is mostly empty because the dishwasher is full, I take out what’s left, vacuum the drawer of all those little crumbs etc and wipe it out. Gad, I’m a genius. I’ve cleaned my fridge and my kitchen drawers, not all at once mind you, and I’ve hardly noticed.
Another one of Fly Lady’s suggestions is to “take your time and enjoy the process.” Okay, a fair enough idea. But I can “enjoy” only if I can take my mind off of housecleaning, which I will never enjoy… let me make that perfectly clear. This is my secret (or not so secret) cleaning weapon. I’ve been doing this for years. I figured if listening to books on my i-pod helped me to stay on my exercise bike, it might help me to do mundane, boring tasks like dusting, or vacuuming. Works a charm. This month I’m listening to the latest Rhys Bowen book in her Royal Spyness series. I love Kathryn Kellgren’s narration. And Bowen’s light-hearted stories are kind of Nancy Mitford meets Agatha Christie.
My secret to stress free cleaning. Books on my i-pod.
Maybe not a happy homemaker… but happier, listening to books on my i-pod

And as for the suggestion to “take your time.” Like the fifteen minute thing, I can’t think why that didn’t dawn on me years ago. When I was still teaching I was always super organized about getting my marking done…not super fast, just organized. I would sit down and list all the class sets of tests, essays, projects etc that were coming in over a two or three week period, then draw up a schedule to get them all done. I’d plan to mark maybe 5 or 6 big essays every night after dinner, at fifteen minutes an essay that was about my maximum concentration time. Then if I was still feeling fresh I’d mark an extra one or two. I’d squeeze marking shorter assignments into spare moments during my day at work. That way I didn’t find the constantly towering pile of papers too daunting. I had a plan to get it all done. And I always apprised my students of how long it would be before their papers were returned. They knew not to ask if I had their essays marked the day after they submitted them. Ha. Because I could go home after work and mark for six hours. Ri-ight.  But back to my point. That’s what I do with housework now. I don’t wait for a day to clean the whole house; I chunk it up. I might clean the bathroom on the day I do laundry. But after the bathroom is cleaned and the first load of laundry is in the washer I get out of the house. And Hubby and I go biking or for a walk. If the rest of the laundry doesn’t get done that day. I finish it the next. Then I don’t get exasperated, and resentful that I’m not doing something else I enjoy more than housework. Which would, of course, be most anything else.

This week Hubby is off in the wilds of Algonquin Park. And I’m home alone. Getting my domestic goddess on. I made a list of everything that needs to be done. Today I did stuff that I only do occasionally. I shampooed the sofa cushions, I pulled all the furniture out from the walls, in order to dust and vacuum behind and wash down the baseboards. Then I dusted book shelves with a damp cloth and in the back of the television and the stereo stands, where all the cables and stuff are. I did this only in the living room and sun room. Took me a good while. But I had “Her Royal Spyness” to keep me company.

So that’s enough for today. I’ll clean the bathroom, dust, and vacuum on another day. And I’ll save the moving the furniture kind of cleaning in the other rooms for next week. Or the one after. I’ve got my list, and if everything doesn’t get checked off right away, it will eventually. In the meantime, I can’t wait to start the new Julian Fellowes book which I’ve been saving for when Hubby is away. My treat for my week at home alone.

After the cleaning, comes the reading.
After the cleaning comes the reading
I know, what you’re thinking… why doesn’t she just hire someone to clean her house? Well, Hubby and I did discuss hiring a house-cleaning service the other day. You see, he has finally capitulated and is hiring a lawn service for next spring and summer. Hubby hates mowing grass, and with the flower beds, and the large vegetable garden something had to give. So, feeling guilty that he was avoiding a job he hated and I was not, he suggested we get a cleaning lady again. I always had one when I worked full time.
“Nah,” I said, “let’s leave it for now.” It’s hard to explain, but sometimes a cleaning lady is more stress than I want. Every cleaning person that I’ve had in the past has been great for a time. Then they start not doing certain tasks that were agreed upon. And I have to leave notes to do, or redo, certain jobs. And they rarely clean like I would, or do things that you might expect someone to do in their own home. I mean who dusts and vacuums the living room and doesn’t plump up and replace the sofa cushions? Or not notice that Hubby has tracked mud from the garden down the basement stairs and maybe they should be vacuumed? I had one person who I discovered, thanks to a particularly convenient ray of sunshine, only dusted around the ornaments in the bedrooms. And here was I thinking how good she was in putting everything back the way I liked it. Ha. The stuff had never been moved. Sigh. And then I always have to have “the chat” with them. How I hate that. I spent thirty years in the classroom making kids do things they didn’t always want to do, and having conversations with parents when they didn’t always like what I had to tell them. I’m so done with that.
Sheesh, I sound whiny, don’t I? And like a demanding control freak. So… maybe it’s better if I just clean my house myself. For now, anyway. And the upside of Hubby’s not doing the lawn… is he might have more time to help.
Now. I have to go and start my fall wardrobe inventory. I’m pretty sure what I need to put on my list. New white shirt. A couple of tee shirts. And a coat, maybe tweed. Tomorrow I’m shopping. All day. And maybe having coffee with my friend Liz at Nordstrom. Then it’s home for dinner, a nice glass of pinot noir, and that Jane Eyre film that I ordered from the library.
Hubby may be away fishing with his buddies this week, but being home alone doesn’t mean I have to suffer. Now does it?
What about you my friends? Do you have a cleaning person? I know I already asked you this in that other post… but do you have any tips to make house cleaning more… if not enjoyable, than at least … palatable?


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From the archives


Splurge Report: The Bag Edit

I’m doing my splurge research, my friends. Planning to buy a new bag. Once I review what I own. And decide what I want. Hence the “Bag Edit.”


Merry Christmas, From Us

Christmas always makes me nostalgic. How about you?


Conjuring Spring with Spring Fashion

I don’t know about you, but I am sick of winter. So I’m adding a bit of spring fashion to my winter wardrobe. That’ll cheer me up. Hopefully.

40 thoughts on “Getting My Domestic Goddess On”

  1. You're just so darn cute! I seem to get more enjoyment out of cleaning than the average person so it never bothers me to do more than my share. With your time off, do what you want and let the rest go. 🙂

    1. Ah, thanks, Stacey. I think part of my problem is my perfectionism. I want everything perfect… and once started cleaning, I go overboard…oh look the deck is dusty… and can't get stopped. Or I never start and get overwhelmed by the number of things that need doing. Learning to apply the same organizational ideas that I used at work has actually helped with that.

  2. I actually don't mind house cleaning….yes, you read that correctly! However, since we moved down here, and since husband "retired" (in quotes, as he still works full time but now it's for his enjoyment..) he does ALL the cleaning. He loves it. And he's very very good at it!! I don't think I have vacuumed once in six years. I do all the cooking, planning,entertaining etc but then he does all the dishes and even dries all the pots and anything that doesn't go in dishwasher. He's a keeper. Yes, we too tried cleaning people and yes, it was more of a burden than just doing it ourselves!

    1. Oh, you are lucky, Libby. I think I'd better learn to love cleaning a bit more. My husband doesn't do much of the cleaning..but he does do most of the grocery shopping and a good bit of the cooking:)

  3. Had a fabulous housekeeper for 9 years, she ruined us for anyone else. Tried several, just too frustrating. Now we do it ourselves, hate it and have lowered the standards on dusting. Bathrooms must be clean, otherwise meh!
    So many other more interesting things to do.

    1. Good house cleaners are very thin on the ground. And for our small house not worth the cost, actually. Must have been hard to lose your wonderful housekeeper!

  4. First off, I note your Miele vacuum. That alone is a wonderful cleaning tip. 🙂 I bought one with my first bonus in a past job, and I think it's my favorite tool ever. We had just moved to a house that is all wood and tile floors with a few rugs, AND we have a dog. It is SO wonderful for every task.

    I'm one of those crazies that loves a clean house and doesn't mind cleaning. Upbringing, I guess, as I am the oldest of six and Saturday mornings were devoted to cleaning. When my kids were young and we both worked, I had a great cleaning lady. And then she decided to move away…waaah! Like you, I have had others with various problems, and now find it easier to just do it myself. And I want it done my way! ha! (Hubby is what I like to call cleaning impaired. He cleans sometimes when I'm away or ill, but he was raised in the '50's by a mother whose interests were not in housekeeping, so he's never really learned to clean and it ends up being what my mom called a "lick and a promise.")

    Since I've retired, I have become a bit more lax. I do laundry and bathrooms, plus vacuuming dog hair, but the deep cleaning tasks slide a bit more, especially in summer. The Fly Lady did convince me to clean my kitchen each evening, though, and I love pouring my morning coffee without wrestling my way around last night's dinner mess. (Her emails got overwhelming and I unsubscribed. But she has some great ideas.)


    1. Growing up Saturday's were also devoted to our "chores"… but that didn't help me to love cleaning. Like you I love to make my morning tea in a quiet and clean kitchen. My problem is that my husband is always up with the chickens, so no matter how clean the kitchen is at night there's always a pile of freshly picked garden produce waiting in the sink, or his latest idea for supper that night, all chopped and in piles on the counter. I know it's great to have fresh veggies and a husband who cooks…I just wish he'd give me a half hour in my clean kitchen first.

  5. I hate dusting. Always have, always will. But I read something that changed my life – don't "dust". A dust rag just pushes it around and it's still there to settle back on every surface. Instead, use the soft brush of the vacuum cleaner and suck it up. Now I can get away with "dusting" every other week – I have the vacuum out anyway, so it doesn't take much more time. Between that and the new UV filter on our furnace, we are less sneezy and sick, especially during the winter when we're stuck inside.

  6. When I was young , & in our first house , I spent every Saturday cleaning & did an annual spring clean ( serious stuff ) .Now I wonder why as there's only two of us & we are pretty tidy people . It's all more relaxed now . The kitchen food area & bathroom are seen to regularly , dog hairs gathered up weekly but the rest …. I have an energetic , house proud friend who lives some distance away & visits . We have a blitz before she arrives then relax again . So the only advice I can offer is to ask picky friends round . Now the garden – that a different matter , it's a picture .
    Wendy in York

    1. Ah yes, Saturdays growing up were always devoted to chores…and even when I grew up I still felt compelled to follow that schedule. And get all stressed about the yearly big clean which I did just before school started in September. I ditched the yearly big clean, one year…and the world didn't stop turning. Now with my fifteen minute rule and the other one suggested by a reader above to use the vacuum to dust… not sure why I never tried that one…. I may be free from cleaning guilt. BTW… our garden is a picture because of you know who… not me!

  7. Every Tuesday I have a wonderful housekeeper who swoops in and takes care of all the 'smootz '…and yes we are retired 'kinda' but this is something that I won't give up…Hubs hates yard work, we have a service, I'd prefer to to have our housekeeper than eat extra meals a week out..yes we do!.

  8. I have never had a housekeeper although I have friends who have had one. I am retired now so think I should be able to do it since I have the time. I have also found that doing it in time segments seems to have helped. I have read Fly lady before and I have set the timer actually for 15 minutes. You will be amazed at what you can do in 15 minutes. We also have a second house which is on a lake so I get to clean two houses. It is actually easier to keep clean as we don't have our daily living mess there. I am also an avid reader but would prefer to sit down to enjoy the book. I have used that as a reward when I am doing a hard cleaning job!

    1. Oh, lucky you to have a house at the lake… not so lucky to have to clean two houses:( Reading as a reward at the end of chores, does help soften the blow, though.

  9. I hate house cleaning as well. I do have a housekeeper once a week. You are right on all points about having one. It is ALMOST more trouble than it's worth. I have 5 bathrooms and I have no intention of being down on my knees cleaning all those toilets even though there are only 2 of us in the house using only 3 out of 5. I am ready to downsize! Moving is overwhelming. No good answer.

  10. We have always done all our own housekeeping. Yes, I say we because my husband has always helped. Now that we're retired, he actually does as much or more of it than I do. Both retired teachers, we used to be more organized than we are now. When we were working, most of our weekly cleaning tasks were done on Saturday mornings. Now, depending on the season, we fit what needs to be done in between traveling, playing golf, etc!

    1. It's funny but we still do a lot of house and yard chores on Saturday… since we tend to do our fun stuff during the week when everyone else is at work.

  11. I take no pleasure in cleaning or ironing. A necessary evil. Sounds like you've found a system that works for you. Great outfit and that splash of Miele red, the perfect accessory. Iris

  12. I'm exactly the same way having someone clean. Save for one true gem many years ago (an R.N. who'd got tired of hospital politics — sadly for me, she decided to go back to her real calling eventually), there always comes a point when I've had to have that talk, and once you have to have it, you can be pretty sure you'll have to have a version of it again. . .

    I use some similar techniques to yours, plus my husband does a good share, plus I can accept a relaxed standard in certain areas that don't threaten order or hygiene. . . .Enjoy your reading and the luxury of an empty house.

    1. Thanks Frances. I AM enjoying the empty house. Breakfast at 10, dinner at 8 or 8:30… I even started my housecleaning the other night for a half hour after dinner. If I loved alone I might become one of those people who is a total night owl.

  13. Hi Sue
    We have lawn care who I bumped up to weekly due to fall leaves and a cleaning lady twice a month. It's a lovely treat and it allows me to tackle other jobs around our home that I would normally put off.
    I listen to the "Vinyl Cafe" and let Stuart McLean entertain me while I work or walk.
    Kind regards

  14. I too absolutely hate housekeeping (but love a spotless house.) I would never get any cleaning done at all if it weren't for audio books – they are my secret weapon also! I am lucky to have a husband who was one of seven kids so he grew up learning to pull his weight in the house. It's never been an issue in 39 years of marriage, in fact, he probably does more than I do if we tallied it up. Let's not tally it up, though, ok? 😉

    When our sons were young and the upkeep was more of a challenge, we had a cleaning service for a while. But it didn't work out because I couldn't bear for anyone to see our messes, so I would frantically clean *before* the cleaner came! Kind of defeated the purpose! –Catbird Farm

    1. No…let's NOT tally it up! Last night I hosted my book club for a meeting and most of the ladies had never been to my house. They admired the vegetable garden…"Oh, that's Hubby's territory," I said. They admired the flower beds. "You do a lovely job on your flowers," one friend said. "Ah. Not me. Hubby does all the gardening." And I'm sure some of them were thinking… "So, just what do YOU do??" So…let's NOT tally things up, okay?

  15. Since I've retired it seems like I could spend all day every day cleaning and doing household chores. I must have been in denial about the state of my house while I was working. It's not that I particularly enjoy it; more like 'how the heck did things get this messy and out of control?'. Although it does feel good to get a big task completed, you know it's just going to have to be done again. I can't justify the expense of a regular cleaning lady but I have considered getting a service in one time just to get things back on track. But as Catbird Farm said, first I have to declutter and tidy the mess!

    As far as yard work, I am very lucky that my neighbour does my front lawn. It's postage stamp size but still I don't need to worry about a lawn mower. I've managed to make a good start on weeding the gardens; next year it should be easier to keep things under control.

    1. I know! The problem in being at home more is that I can now see my house in more daylight…thus identifying all the areas that need cleaning. Stuff I never noticed when I was working. For instance there is a time around ten in the morning when the sun shines into parts of my kitchen and I can see all the marks on my kitchen cabinets. I never saw that when I worked. Blissfully ignorant, I was.

  16. Just love the "Lucy" pics of you! Maybe if I put a scarf in my hair and get into the spirit, housework will be more fun ….who am I kidding!!! I've mentioned on the blog before how I dislike the fact that doing housework is like a hamster on a wheel, going on and on and never finishing!!! Realised we have the same Hoover 🙂 I also have an older Dyson one with a dusting attachment …. Much more effective than a cloth …and easier too! I've never had regular help with the housework other than when my children were little and I was unwell …I really didn't feel comfortable, maybe as I was in the house at the time ( not well enough to go out) and yes, "the talk" when some weeks I literally found they wanted to talk more than actually clean!!! Or when after they left I realised the dust had been moved around rather than actually removed …you know, little piles around pictures, under the tv etc. I wish I loved housework as I do love a tidy organised house, just not doing what it takes to keep it like that ….day in, day out!! There's so many more pleasurable things I could be doing ….
    Hope you're having a good weekend ….I had the best day with my daughter, wedding dress shopping …lunch ..and a glass of champagne or two!

    1. Trust me…the scarf didn't work:) I remember when I was still teaching and was occasionally at home sick when the cleaner came… it was always awkward. So I'd get up and move into my tiny office with my tea while she worked. I always felt lazy just sitting there…. longing to be able to go back to bed. Sounds like a great day shopping with your daughter. I'll be interested to see what you finally choose for your own outfit for the day.

  17. I've actually used FlyLady too. I started full of eagerness but after work and a commute of an hour and a half even 15 mins is too much. I clean my fridge when it's already empty btw just before a shop. I learnt to regularly clean the microwave from her. I did a blog on my style site on her a few months ago.

    1. That long commute after a day at work certainly drains you of energy to do anything when you get home, doesn't it? Gad I'm cringing remembering my commute before I transferred to a school nearer home. Loved my new school, partly because I was home in fifteen minutes!

  18. I hate cleaning too. But I gave in and hired a cleaner, every other week. Because I don't mind the polishing, I mean, the little niceties of keeping a house in order.

    You crack me up:).

    1. Part of my problem is I get sidetracked. I lose focus…like if I'm dusting a book shelf… I'll go, oh look I haven't read that in a while… and then I'm gone for a half hour. Takes me a week to finish:)

  19. I don't like to clean either! I love the 15 minute idea! And the way you describe you organized and graded assignments is exactly the way I do it. I divide all assignments by the days I give myself until I return them. And then I try to grade one or two extra ones per day and always feel so accomplished! I really should do the same when it comes to cleaning!!!

    We used to have someone who cleaned our place, but I agree with you that it is stressful in its own way…

    Hope you had a fabulous shopping trip! Did you get a white shirt? A white shirt is on my list as well. Someone recommended the one from Madewell, and it's on my list to check out…

    1. I used to do the extra one or two…then I alwyas "surprised" myself by finishing them earlier than planned. I did get a white shirt as it happens. From Massimo Dutti.

  20. Let me preface this comment by full disclosure: I am a cleaning woman. I have been a cleaning woman for ten years. Some of the houses I clean are, frankly, beyond belief. (No names here in order to protect the scruffy and skanky.) The comments I've read regarding this topic seem (no, DO) come from women of privilege who, I suspect, like most of my clients, could not compliment or appreciate the work cleaning people do if their lives depended on it. I truly enjoy cleaning houses and providing a clean, neat and tidy environment for my clients to come home to. My personal motto is "order from chaos", but most of the chaos seems to originate from people who leave a mess and then complain that the hired help is lazy and shiftless. Most of us take great pride in our work, and I am so lucky that I have some clients who appreciate hard work and a good work ethic. Perhaps it is their willingness to comment good work and tactfully provide constructive criticism that guarantees my going the extra mile for them. Just a thought.

    1. Thanks so much for weighing in on the other side. Not sure if all the comments come from women of privilege. I certainly don't. My mum was a single mum raising four kids, until we moved to the farm when Mum married my step dad. Still not a privileged lifestyle. As a hard working professional I paid $70.00 to have my small two bedroom, one bathroom house cleaned twice a month. This was several years ago, and it was a pretty respectable salary, I thought. I speak only from my own experience which was not entirely positive. I expected cleaners to take the same care with my house that they would with their own. This was not always the case.

      Having said that, you are totally correct in saying that hard work, and a good job done should always be complimented or noted. We are often too hasty to criticize and not as willing to praise. Your point about tactful criticism and praise guaranteeing that you go the extra mile for your clients is a good one.

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