I am a functioning claustrophobic. Not only do I have trouble with tight places, I also have trouble with constrictive clothes, and God forbid if my ring gets stuck on my finger! But as I said, I am a FUNCTIONING claustrophobic, and I can usually avoid the situations that really set me off. When talking to a friend about it the other day, including possible origins, I shared this story with her that I had written for One Generation to Another March 4, 2008. The post was 1 part claustrophobia and 3 parts cleaning. Not only will it give you an insight into my phobias, it also shares my general philosophy on house cleaning. Hope it makes you smile 🙂
When I was 7 years old I was “accidentally” locked in a closet. Actually, my older brother had a hand in it, but, hey, big brothers, right? Can’t live with them, can’t get out of the closet without them! Anyway, this event precipitated two unique outcomes…first, claustrophobia, and second, a life long aversion to housecleaning! The claustrophobia thing is a no brainer…trap a 7 year old in a 3 x 3 foot closet, crammed with snow gear for 4 children, assorted adult coats, extra grocery store bags, a vacuum cleaner, and, according to my brother, a vampire…then remove the knob so that your mom can’t even get you out, and the stage is set for a lifelong, debilitating disorder! The housecleaning thing is a little harder to understand. For those of you who know me, or have regularly read the blog, you know I have an acute sense of smell. While “calmly” waiting in the closet for the termination of my incarceration, yeah, right…the one smell that permeated the air was the musty odor of an engorged vacuum cleaner bag. You know the smell I’m talking about, right? It’s not exactly a bad smell, kinda like little kids socks at the end of the day, but not one you want forever associated with fear! Anyway, every time I smell a vacuum cleaner, my palms get sweaty, my heart races and I feel light headed. I can’t help associating it with the 3 days I spent in that closet…okay, so my mom said it was only half and hour…time enough to find someone in the neighbor with tools and the knowledge of how to pop hinge pins…but long enough to generate a repugnance for any activity associated with using a vacuum. Yeah, yeah, I know, there are other ways to “clean” besides using a vacuum, but that’s my story, uh, more like my excuse, and I’m sticking to it!
To make matters worse, my mom is some kind of household whiz. Next to her I feel like a genetic mutation! I can never, ever remember our house being messy. She had that Stepford Wife ability of maintaining a home that was a showplace, despite the fact that she was raising 4 children, while smiling! (I’ve always secretly hoped she was doing some illegal drugs that gave her super human strength and Pollyanna optimism! It would make my comparable ineptness much easier to endure!) Anyway, she insisted that we kept our things “picked up and put away”, and was in a constant state of “straightening up”. (I was always afraid when I got up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night that I’d return to a made bed!) When I was growing up, if you had snapped “before and after” cleaning pictures of our house, they would have looked remarkably alike. The only tell tale signs that the house was just cleaned was the new vacuum cleaner marks on the carpet and the renewed scent of Pine-Sol! I, on the other hand, especially when the kids were young, would start my cleaning by bringing in the snow shovel and forging a path down the middle of the room. When I cleaned, you would walk in and say, “Wow, I forgot there was wall to wall carpeting in this room!” It would not be greatly exaggerating my disposition to say I really dislike cleaning…even “loathing” may not be a hyperbole, however, I certainly appreciate and desire a clean house…a complex dichotomy that has been the bane of my existence!
After many years and numerous embarrassing situations with unexpected visitors, I finally stumbled upon a housekeeping system that seemed to work for me. I would “regularly” clean my house…my litmus test for knowing when to clean was when the kids began naming the fuzzy things that were growing in the shower…but allow the day-to-day mess to give our house, what I affectionately refer to as a “lived in” look. I was comfortable with the house if it remained just 30 minutes away from being “company ready”. If I got a phone call from someone saying they wanted to stop by, I could say, “Sure, just give me half an hour.” In half an hour I could FLUFF the house. Fluffing a house is totally different than cleaning a house. Fluffing involves no direct cleaning…it is picking up, throwing things in closets (actually, that’s not true…I usually kept my closets very organized…you never know when you might find yourself stuck in one…) putting pillows back on the couch, raking toys into a corner, and loading breakfast dishes into the dishwasher. (Okay, and sometimes last night’s dinner dishes, too!) It’s stacking the magazines and newspapers in a pile…my discussion of “piles” will be addressed another day…and it’s plugging in the “tart warmer”, if it wasn’t going already. Stick a pot of coffee on during this condensed housekeeping foray, and ta-dah…the house looked surprisingly presentable! The word “fluff” became a part of our family’s esoteric vernacular. I could say, “Hey, guys, we need to fluff,” and everyone took their stations. In a mad dash we ran around, fluffing and folding, stashing and storing…but in a short time the house felt organized and comfortable. I found it was much easier to get the kids involved in “fluffing” than cleaning. And, when the house was fluffed, it made it easier and faster when it was time to pull out, gulp, the vacuum, and actually clean.
In a perfect world I’d have a housekeeper who’d clean for me. Actually, there were brief moments in my life when I did, but I found you still needed to “fluff” between cleanings. I also found, with occasional “fluffings”, I could postpone full fledged cleaning, which, to my way of thinking, is highly desirable! And, although I find it mind boggling, I know that there are people out there who actually enjoy cleaning! I am envious and stand in awe of them given the fact that through early childhood trauma or some chromosome deficiency, cleaning has always been a challenge for me. Over the years “fluffing” has become a way of life. No, I’d never win an award for cleanest house, and if you look closely, even after a good “fluffing” you’ll still notice vagabond fur balls and a fugitive Lego here and there, but for the most part, a quality fluff is appropriate for most situations!
We all seem to have definite feelings about housecleaning, and these feelings are often emotionally charged. Perhaps, as a teenager of the “60s”, my avoidance of housecleaning is a latent rebellious commentary to my mother’s values. Perhaps it was the closet…or perhaps I’m just lazy! How would you classify your housekeeping dogma? Are you a fanatic, a slob, or content with mediocrity?