Not too long ago, my son James was telling me a story about an episode in his life. He was trying to get across the importance of thoroughly cleaning a house to someone. His words were, “Trust me. I will know if it isn’t done right. I have a white glove that I will use as a test. And if that glove ends up dirty, you will be faced with doing it all over again.”
I cringed. There is just something about having your own words come out of the mouth of your child. These are almost the exact same words I used to say to him when he was assigned the chore of cleaning the living room. I didn’t really have white gloves, but I did have a white cotton dishtowel that served the same purpose. My goal was to teach him not only how to clean, but how to pay attention to detail. To dust the entire table, which included removing anything on it – not just dusting around everything. It meant vacuuming the edges of the room, not just the rug in the middle.
There is not a room in any house that my two kids cannot clean. Once they are through, you could do emergency surgery in any room, including the bathroom. To this day, when they help clean up after dinner, my kitchen sparkles. James has even been known to clean the stove. It may not be their favorite thing to do, but at least they know how.
It causes me to cringe when I walk into a young person’s apartment and see that their housekeeping skills are non-existent. I am not talking about disorganization. I am not talking about stacks of things on the counter due to lack of storage. I am talking about dirt and grime on walls, floor and cabinetry. I am talking about a ring around the bathtub thick enough to hold together a rickety cage of wild monkeys – without threat of breaking. Have they not been taught about the wonders of bleach and a sponge?
Unfortunately, most have never been given chores in their younger days, so they have no idea how to simply wipe down a kitchen counter, much less refrain from mixing a red shirt with their white undies. Basic cleaning is a matter of hygiene, and makes for a happier home. It also requires some basic skills:
Chemistry – I love my bleach. We use it so much around the farm that I have often been tempted to buy stock in a bleach manufacturer. I also like using ammonia, especially for cleaning my windows. But I never, ever, EVER, use both products simultaneously – or even within an hour of each other. And I make sure every window in the room is open, and that the room is aired out completely if it is necessary to use the two chemicals in the same room. Bleach and ammonia mixed together create a toxic gas called chloramine that can be fatal once breathed. Notice I said ‘once’, not ‘if’. You have no choice but to breathe, no matter what you are doing. Even with a mask in place, there is too great a chance you will still inhale these gases. The same thing happens when you mix bleach with acids – and you would be surprised just where acids can be found – window cleaners, vinegar, urine and some toilet bowl cleaners, just to name a few. There are many ways to use cleaning products in a manner that can be harmful. So you need to understand the basic chemical make-up of anything you use to clean. This goes for ‘homemade’ cleaning products as well.
Math – I love using as many home-made cleaning products as I can. But I also have to keep in mind the monetary end of it, in order to stay on budget. Some homemade products aren’t as effective, or you have to use three times the amount to get it clean. So I do some ‘ciphering’, using cost, ounces and estimated number of uses to determine which is more cost efficient.
Physical Fitness – there is a reason that Cardiologists will tell a patient not to vacuum or sweep after a heart procedure. The physical effort that those chores require are substantial. In properly cleaning a house, you will find that you do bending and lifting, arm strengthening, and over all muscle workouts. It is an aerobic exercise that is strenuous. Even if my a/c is on full blast, after a thorough cleaning, I find I have sweated almost as much as if I had spent the day outside, in the middle of August, fixing fence.
Psychology – nothing feels better than to step back and see the accomplishment of a clean house. It smells better. It looks better. There is a sense of pride in having done a job well. A clean house just lightens your mood, and is one of the greatest stress relievers I have ever found.
You may be waving a red flag in front of a bull, but it is time to grab ahold of those horns and teach your children how to properly clean a house. Start small, with their bedroom. And as my Mama used to tell me, have them clean it from floor to ceiling. Have them strip the bed and wash the sheets. Hand them a bucket of warm water filled with Mr. Clean and a sponge, and have them wash the woodwork and baseboards. Add to that window cleaner, dust spray and cloth and a vacuum cleaner. By the end of the day, their room will smell better and be a healthier place for them to hang out.
And who knows? They’ll probably be so tired after all that exertion they won’t have the energy for any back talk and arguments for the rest of the day. Wouldn’t that be nice for a change?