Many of us have an activity or two in life that transforms us. We change from generally likeable, easy-going types in cardigans, into red eyed gremlins, waving pitchforks. For some, it’s the supermarket shop, for others, driving (I know a clutch of normally gentle, mild-mannered people in the latter group). Whatever our intentions beforehand, the breathing quickens, the pulse begins to hammer and we become the worst versions of ourselves before breakfast. What does that for you? For me, it’s cleaning.
I’ve been trying to work out why I’m like this. I can understand the gremlin-shoppers, particularly these days (slow-coach browsers, trolley-reversers, dreamers) and the drivers (sudden manoeuvres, tractors, slow-lane over-takers). It’s other people who are the problem, obviously. If we were the only shopper/driver, all would be sweet. But cleaning doesn’t involve interaction with other people. Only with their left-overs, so to speak (bacteria, bits of skin, well you get the picture).
For whatever reason, I put it off and put it off until it’s got so big in my head that the very thought of it has me hyper-ventilating. Last week, I was stamping around the house jabbing random bits of floor with the hoover when my husband came in, took one look at my red face and burst out laughing.
“I’m in such a bad temper!” I told him, “You don’t say,” he replied.
Who’d have thought that books with subtitles like ‘All the best cleaning tips to shine your sink and soothe your soul’ would be at the top of the bestsellers list? I do get how some people would find cleaning therapeutic, I really do. I’m just not one of them. What would soothe my soul would be to return to my house after a couple of hours quaffing coffee and cake with a friend, to find it disinfected, hoovered and ironed to within an inch of its life. By someone else.
I’ve been researching cleaning companies lately as we need one to Covid-clean a building before and after a family event. All the pictures on the websites have photos of smiling people in yellow gloves cheerfully scrubbing things or brandishing mops. Or standing in front of vans, looking useful. How do they do it? .
It occurs to me I could start a Bad Tempered Cleaning Company, a kind of antidote to the resurgent interest in cleaning. This is what I would offer: –
- A complete detox of your vacuum cleaner, after I randomly hoover up anything left on your floor – marbles, small children, indispensable screws
- An introduction to inhaler use, which I can demonstrate after being too generous with cleaning fluids, creating a cloud of fumes likely to cause wheezing
- Replacement window keys, after I unlock a window in order to disperse said fumes and accidentally drop the key straight down a drain
- Interesting picture angles, after I’ve wiped layers of dust off the tops of pictures causing what-I-call Modern Art i.e. you have to turn your head on one side to really see it
- An introduction to auto-dusting, where you too can learn how to create effortless dust-free zones (pick things up and put them down again. Watch the dust fly away)
Life is basically cleaning up mess, our own and other people’s, I think Eeyorishly, while stabbing the toilet pan and dodging the splashes. It’s enough to make you tight and mean, like those hard little balls we used to use in PE. The ones that rearrange your face if it gets hit.
But later, as I walk upstairs, I admire the stain free carpet, the smell of Clean. I walk around the house smugly admiring the shine. It occurs to me that the amount of effort required to do something disagreeable may be directly related to the amount of pleasure received. I have been testing this theory most of my life but keep forgetting the secret. Of course cleaning isn’t really hard but there are lots of things around us that are: – public transport, returning to school, saying a long goodbye …
It’s said that every time we face something hard, and go for it, we grow a little. Like a plant toughening in the wind. Let’s hope we all have a bit of a growth spurt in the next month or so (and not of the scales-related kind). As usual, prayer helps, as does chocolate and a quantity of back-up hand gel the size of Switzerland.
In the meantime, let me know if you’d like to book the Bad Tempered Cleaning Company. My rates are very reasonable and I’ll come to your house dressed like this : –
You’ve got to laugh haven’t you?