. . . and that’s why I don’t clean more

By Mir
July 19, 2006

I love to have a clean house. I love clean towels. I love clean sheets. I love floors clean enough to eat off of (not that I’m in the habit of eating off of floors, but you know). I love a clutter-free living space, and I wish everything in the world was lemon-scented.

Clean is good.

Unfortunately, Clean has a kryptonite. And that kryptonite likes to call me Mama.

Let’s be clear: It’s not that cleaning was my favorite activity, pre-children. I am a basically lazy human. While I like things TO BE clean, I wasn’t necessarily all that interested in ACTUALLY CLEANING THEM. I mean, I would do it, because I’ve yet to figure out how to WISH things into tidiness. But it wasn’t something I LOVED.

And then I had kids.

So take an activity like cleaning—which I already wasn’t all that wild about—and consider the cost/benefit ratio. I hate to clean, but I like things to BE clean, so I do it. I spend whatever time it takes, and then I have a clean house. It works.

But once you add kids into the equation, everything is skewed. I hate to clean, and now I have to not only clean larger messes, but fit it into an already overpacked schedule. Then, once I’ve finally managed it, how long does my house stay clean?

(If you said: For less time than it took me to read that sentence, you are CORRECT!)

So what happens? I continue to change sheets and towels. That’s easy. I continue to clean bathrooms, and the kitchen, because that’s just gross if I don’t. It’s not like my house is a PIT or anything. But my house IS two things:

1) It is cluttered. I throw away items by the bagsful in a seemingly endless stream, and yet the trash factory produces more and more, all accompanied by protestations of, “Don’t throw that out, it’s MY FAVORITE!”

2) It doesn’t have the cleanest floors ever.

We used to have a dog, and I miss him. Dogs are very useful creatures to have in a house with small children. Children are perforated, you know. You hand them something to eat and it really LOOKS LIKE they’re just happily munching and that food is entering their stomachs. But a closer look reveals that they’ve simply broken down the foodstuffs into irregular chunks and left them either in a ring around a kitchen chair or in a trail throughout the house. A dog can take care of that for you.

We don’t have a dog anymore. What we have is really gross floors.

Oh, sure, the Dustbuster gets a good workout. And I even remember to vacuum semi-regularly. But there’s a lot of wood and tile on the main level of my house, and I hate to mop. Hate it.

But there is food. And mud. Lord, the mud. And grass. And other stuff I can’t identify. I don’t know. The floors are not the finest testament to good housekeeping. We do not adhere to the 5-second rule, here at my house. We adhere to the OHMYGOD DON’T EAT THAT IT TOUCHED THE FLOOR, THROW IT AWAY THROW IT AWAY rule.


Tonight, I reached the threshhold at which I can no longer stand to live in this house. I’m left with two choices: Move, or clean.

It was a tough choice, but I decided to go with cleaning.

As soon as the kids left with their dad, I got to work. I went through and picked up everything that didn’t belong on the floor and prepared to vacuum. I got out my twelve-ton Kirby vacuum and checked the bag and started vacuuming at one end of the house and worked my way to the other end. I was feeling good and happy and productive until I worked my way back to the kitchen.

While working the hose tool into a crevice, I pulled back and tried to re-angle myself. In doing so, I held the tool at a funny angle, sort of up into the air…

… and suddenly there was a tremendous CRACK and CLATTER…

… and after a moment I stood up from the fetal position I’d assumed and realized what had happened.

I’d stuck the vacuum tool into the (running) ceiling fan.

(And I’m allowed to raise children. Think about that for a minute.)

I examined the vacuum and found the tool unharmed. Rather, I found the tube piece unharmed. The actual TOOL that had been at the END of the tube? Was missing. Gone. Vanished. Vaporized in the ceiling fan blades, perhaps.

Okay; vaporization seemed extreme. I started looking around my kitchen. I checked the sink several times, sure that’s where it had landed. It had not. I widened my search circles. The vacuum tool remained hidden. I finished vacuuming without it.

An hour later, I found it underneath my roll of paper towels. Obviously.

Once the first floor was vacuumed, I started mopping. After that I did dishes and started laundry and cleaned the downstairs bathroom. And when the kids returned from dinner, the floors were dry, pristine, and all relocated furniture had been set back to rights.

Within 60 seconds of their return, Monkey had left a sticky trail of chocolate ice cream across the kitchen tile. I only asked him to sit down with it twice, so I guess that’s what I get.

It’s just so little return on my investment, sometimes. I want to savor the lemon scent, not return to my life of being hunched over with a Clorox wipe in my hand, muttering under my breath.

Oh well.

You should come over. Like, um, in the morning. While the floor is still kind of clean. I’ll lock the kids outside, and we can have breakfast off of the tiles that are still sanitized. It’ll be great. Afterwards, we can experiment with throwing different objects into the ceiling fan.


  1. shannon

    yeah, even though i don’t have kids…dogs leave fur balls the size of hippos if you are lucky enough (i do suppose the two cats add to that phenomenon). although dogs do clean up after husbands quite nicely (and you should have seen her last night after i got done with dinner…well, we won’t talk about all the schmutz that had dropped on her as she laid under me while i ate my taco/burrito thing). get a dog.

  2. Jennifer

    Man! I totally get this! I am considering a tarp for under the highchair, the kitchen is way too small for it and no way am I shelling out $40+ bucks for a highchair mat made of oilskin!
    I also can’t wait until my little pirate is old enough not to be deathly afraid of the vaccuum (sp?-I haven’t used itin so long I can’t remember!)the cat can fend for herself on the avoidance front!
    I completely agree on having a dog to help clean up after a toddler or small child!
    Spot on Mir! (psst…You missed a spot!)

  3. foodmomiac

    Oh I hate cleaning too. And I feel like I never have time to do it. Actually, I should say that I hate STRAIGHTENING and putting things away. The actual scrubbing is kind of fun to me, but I never have any cleaned off areas to scrub, so it’s basically a moot point. I feel your pain!

  4. daysgoby

    Jemmifer – Go to the dollar store and buy a shower curtain. Cheaper, easier to handle, and toss-able.

    Mir – Great post! Do papers multiply at your house while you’re sleeping too?

  5. Bethany

    Oh, I totally get this too. My husband will take the kids on a Saturday and I’ll work myself into a frenzy getting it all back into shape and within moments of their return — right back to where I started. I try to tidy each room as they barrel through them, but who can keep up that pace??

    We too adhere to the “Don’t EAT IT!” rule once something hits the floor, but luckily the dog takes care of that for us.

  6. EverydaySuperGoddess

    At least you didn’t break the fan. I once took out the one in my kitchen with a mop handle. It takes talent.

  7. carolyn

    I have 2 dogs, 2 kids, twice the “fun”. The kids leave cups, plates, trash all over, not to mention their “stuff” that they leave everywhere. Then I have the dogs leaving hair all over the place. Luckily, the kids are old enough to vacuum the dog hair, and the dogs do a nice job of keeping the floors picked up. Now if they could just grow thumbs and figure out how to put things away, I’d be all set.

  8. She-Ra

    But choose your dog wisely… We have one of the world’s pickiest dogs. Won’t eat anything that falls on the floor no matter how many times I tell her that it’s her job as a DOG! Of course she does climb/jump up onto the kitchen counter and eat my steak. Grrrr… no dinner for me last night. Well except for the veggies that of course she wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.

  9. Theresa

    The twins went through a period of tossing various objects up into their bedroom ceiling fan and ducking, to see who could avoid being hit by said objects the longest. The TV remote and a big black eye ended that.

    Clean floors…I am trying to remember what that is…

  10. Denise

    I feel your pain! I do! Cleaning the floors and laundry are my two least favorite chores. I can’t understand why the food thing happens. I serve my children at the table. On plates. After each meal and I have to get down on my hands and knees and clean the floor under the table so that we don’t get ants…or worse. My fear of bugs in my home makes me keep the floor clean. I’ve contemplated just keeping the kids in the tub. Feed them and bathe them…all of the dirt and food bits will go down the drain.

  11. April

    This is why I don’t clean. With 4 kids and 2 dogs cleaning actually just makes my house messier.

  12. Mom Nancy

    The Dustbuster is my friend…I don’t miss the dog so much now. Really, though, I know exactly what you’re talking about! My husband taught our 8yo how to vacuum so now I just pawn it off on her.

    Now if I could just figure out how to contain the Barbie stuff – shoes, tiny dining utensils…GAH!

  13. MommyHam

    Oh. My. Goodness! I found my cosmic twin! I love clean houses, lemony scented and crisp too. I DO NOT like to clean though, for all the above reasons stated. Though, one thing I have found to help, when the house gets like yours was, is that my dd will mop for HOURS thinking it’s just so noble and fun (and we only have linoleum in the kitchen), and ds, 3, LOVES to run the vaccuum. So, if I occupy them with those two activities, usually I can get the rest done…
    Now, if only they would clean their toys/rooms with such zeal?!?

  14. Elleoz

    Oh I can so feel your pain. Luckily, I have passed on my OCD to my daughter so she is fanatical about “clean up time”. All toys are nicely put away (the ones I see on first inspection anyway) before the little ones are in bed. My floors on the other hand…ewww! I can’t remember the last time I mopped but I do try to sweep at least once a week :@

    I try to keep my house at least presentable, but certain things go until I can’t stand it anymore.

    I can almost smell the lemon-y freshness from here.

  15. dad

    We don’t love you for your clean floors.

  16. Cat

    I like vacuuming. I hate mopping. I have lots of hard, smooth floors. I love my Floormate. You get to mop with a vacuum! It can sleep in a closet, unlike a dog.

  17. Melisa

    My husband accidentally put our 3 year old daughter’s head into a running ceiling fan once-IN PUBLIC-in the waiting area of a restaurant. (Tip: Always look up before putting your child on your shoulders.) He’s a pretty fast learner though. It never happened again. Girlie is now 11 and a straight-A student; no permanent damage.

  18. Chewie

    Don’t make me THINK about cleaning…you are a BAD person for even writing that you cleaned so much…I can’t be your friend anymore.

    Four kids and a semi lazy mom = floors you do NOT want your friend’s babies crawling on

    Floors shmores…..oh…that sounds really good…smores…

  19. Cele

    I love having a dog. He cleans up after my husband, except under the recliner – because no matter how hard he tries his tongue doesn’t reach there. But he’s a bassett so there are loads of hair drifts behind the doors in rooms with hardwood floors – and under my computer desk.

  20. Brian

    Ceiling fans are great for “dispersing” things. You never know where they will end up. We had a ceiling fan that had a pretty high speed. Back when I was younger and not so bright, I would toss those little rubber super balls into the blades just to see where they would end up. I still don’t know how I didn’t break anything.

  21. Kira

    Dogs are indespensable. My children thing it’s good housekeeping, when food drips on the floor, to lean back and bellow, “CARMI! COME HERE, GIRL!”
    And actually, I agree.
    Good dog.

  22. Kira

    Think. My children THINK it’s good housekeeping…ah, never mind.

  23. Vicky

    Our dog left us in the spring. I don’t miss sweeping and swiffering “enough dog hair to knit a new dog” off the floor every day, but I sure do miss having that instant vacuum that removes food particles from the floor almost before they have time to hit the lino (except for vegetables…she was never helpful in that department). I’ve tried to get my eight year old to fill in, but he won’t eat ANYTHING anyways…especially vegetables.

    When I finally get a room spotless, I will walk in and admire my work every five minutes…if I can manage to keep it clean for that long afterwards.

  24. Ben

    What is cool is to have a dog AND children that throw FOOD at the ceiling fan to see how quickly the dog can find said food and devour it.

    Ask me how I know this.

    Better yet, just enjoy your clean house (don’t blink or you’ll miss it, kinda like youth – clean houses are wasted on the young, or wasted by the young, or something)

  25. Elleana

    Oh gosh – I was just muttering to myself something along the very same lines. How I wish I could clean and it would just stay clean for, like, a day. Or two. But in order for that to happen I’d have to sell the kids. And my husband.

    I love a clean, uncluttered house *sigh* and maybe someday I’ll have one again.

  26. Jenn2

    WAIT A MINUTE!!!!! Floors are supposed to be clean???? Damnit, Mir. I have to go mop my kitchen now.

  27. Sarah

    OK, so this morning I was cleaning house and thinking I should so rant about it my blog today, and lo and behold you took care of it for me. I have gotten to the point that if my feet aren’t sticking to the floor it is clean enough. :-)
    I miss my dogs cleaning abilities too but not enough to get another one.

  28. Kari

    My sentiments exactly! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE a clean house. But I don’t care so much for the cleaning part of it. But, I’ve got a 3yr old who LOVES to vaccuum. She will also sweep and when I make a “game” out of how much dirt she can sweep up. Evil, I know. But hey, it gets done.

  29. WheresTheCoffee

    You said it all. I just can’t feel guilty for the messy house when hubby comes home and looks around with that “So, what did you do all day?” look on his face. Some days I do find that my happy pills work well enough for me to convince myself that it’s worth trying. The next day I feel the need for a double dose :)

  30. Barb

    I was just ranting and raving to my clueless hubby about this last night! He had looked around the toy-strewn living room, sighed, and made one of those statements which makes me want to instantly vaporize him “What do you do all day long? Why is the house always a mess?!?” After I spit his head back out and gently reattached it to his shoulders I tried to explain the utter futility of cleaning with 2 and 4 yr old sons trailing you around. Seriously, I can get one room clean, move on to the next and come back in less than 10 minutes to find the first room is messier than when I started! It’s like the boys wander the house saying to themselves “Well….I can’t play in MY room cause I can’t see the floor…oh LOOK! Nice empty floor space, let me go get every single toy I can carry and throw it around aimlessly!” Hubby’s less than helpful suggestion? “Tell them to stay out of the room once you have cleaned it!” Um…ok…so by the end of the day they are going to run out of rooms and be locked outside in the 100+ heat but the house will be CLEAN!

  31. Mel

    I can so relate to this post! The “too many things in a small space creating clutter” is my everyday life. I fear that someone is going to call the Clean Sweep team on me some day! I can’t even pick up my boys toys without them coming behind me and saying they want to play with each and every thing… But we do have a couple dogs, so the food trail clean up is a minimun at least!

  32. Heidi

    It’s all true! All true! The dog thing, all of it! My blogbuddy Kari sent me here and I’m so glad. (I too Am A Writer!)

  33. Kym

    A whole post on cleaning is sorta like erotic porn to someone with OCD.

    Not that I would know.

  34. Susan

    My husband once lifted a child into the ceiling fan. No, I’m not telling which one, but he lived. And so did my husband. Barely.

  35. Lisa

    Hey Mir:

    I am finally delurking after months of reading your blog. You truly are smart and pretty.

    I too love a clean house but don’t love the cleaning. Unfortunately for me I am the only one in our family of four that cares if the house is clean so for the most part I have given up!

    I decided to have a few friends over on the weekend so was forced to clean (not for my best friends of course but for the more casual acquaintances) but my family cannot be trusted with a clean room so I taped an “Out of Order” sign on the bathroom once it was clean and then took them to Wendy’s for dinner because-um hello-clean kitchen wouldn’t be clean for long if I let them eat in it!

    As for the dog – well he will eat anything that hits the floor except all his stupid fur balls. Next time I am getting a beige dog to match the carpet!

    Never tried the ceiling fan thing – but boredom may hit yet this summer!

    Keep on writing girl – you are the bright spot at the end of a long day with the messy people!

  36. Charlotte

    Oh how I love a clean house. And oh how I hate to do the cleaning. Too bad I can’t afford to pay someone else. With 3 dogs, a cat, and a toddler, we have no crumb problems but the hair balls may eat us alive. My toddler thinks they are toys and chases them. We don’t use our ceiling fans because it only makes the hairballs angry.

  37. Jess

    Here’s a great thing–Roomba! The little “robot vacuum pet”, as we call him in my house, goes around and does the vacuuming for you. It takes a lot longer than a regular vacuum, but it’s kind of cool, and it motivates the kids to pick up all the stuff off the floor, so they can use the vacuum pet. Poor children don’t have a dog–they have to chase the vacuum.

  38. MamaDuck

    Ha ha ha ha, I have similar issues!

  39. Missi

    Oh, that is so true! I hate clutter, I feel like I have a cluttered mind when my house is cluttered. But let’s be real. I have 5 kids. I have NOTHING BUT CLUTTER in my house. So, I have nothing but a cluttered mind all day long.

    I too wish for the wish it clean house. Maybe in the future?

    And, (blushing) I have stuck the broom in my ceiling fan more than once.

    Great blog! I am glad Denise referred you

  40. Kathy

    This morning I realized that it was time to mop my kitchen floor when I was standing in front of the coffee pot – willing the coffee to just be there – and when I turned away, my feet stuck to the floor.


  41. Brenda

    I’m reading this instead of cleaning because the house has reached that stage where it is sooooo messy I start cleaning and give up after 5 minutes. Seriously. I had a BBQ last weekend and the house still hasn’t recovered.

  42. Laury

    Dogs are great. So are cats. When I was one of the perforated ones (long, long, LONG time ago), I had a cat that developed a taste for zucchini. Quite convenient.

  43. Terri

    I caught a glimpse of the “true” condition of the kitchen floor last night when I bent down to pick something up. There will be much cleaning before my daughter’s 1st birthday party this weekend. Oh and a dog is a great get when you have kids and a husband. Especially one that is obsessed with licking the floor.

  44. Ben

    Where can I find a husband that licks the floor?

    (okay, SOMEBODY had to ask)

  45. carson

    Unless you are the biggest slob in the world, my floors are worse than yours. And my son considers it his personal challenge to taste every crumb he finds. Of course I try to stop him, but the county won’t let me use duct tape any more. So now I just consider it “building his immune system.”

    Don’t burst my bubble.

    Oh, and your vacuum story reminded me of the time that I swung my INFANT DAUGHTER into the fan blades.


    Those of you who remember the first Indiana Jones movie will be glad to know that she survived with just a scratch. The crib was moved to a different spot, and I’m sure that I’ll have to deal with the guilt somehow.

  46. Elizabeth S.

    One word: FlyLady ;)

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