Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mi casa, La mia casa, Ma maison. (Non pulire la mia casa.)

For years, I had people clean my house. It started just after my son was born. Though I cannot tell you how I found Elizabeth - I just can't remember - I can say that she was a blessing. Elizabeth was a woman who moved to New Jersey from Poland, and started her own cleaning company. At first, she cleaned with one other woman. Later, as her business grew, she hired other Polish women to clean her clients' houses for her. She would drop off and pick up the cleaning girls, say hello, and take the check. There would be one or two girls for a few months, who would inevitably leave Elizabeth and get replaced by someone else. Maggie was our favorite. Still, I miss Maggie.

They were great. They would knock first, then use the key to open the front door. When my son was little, we called the cleaning ladies "Ding ding boom boom" because they would ring the bell twice, knock twice, then yell "hello?" I would reply to them, "Hello" then look to my son and say, quietly, "Ding ding boom boom." I could leave dirty socks on the floor and they would pick them up. They washed dishes and also floors. They put my son's toys away. I could leave my diamond ring out, or even cash, and nothing was touched. They were completely trustworthy, and always showed up.

Two houses and nine years later, however, I started noticing that they didn't really clean, they just tidied up. They mopped, yes, and vacuumed, but not under things. The couch had a family of dust bunnies living under it, and the space between the cushions and the base were full of a year's worth of crumbs. The shelves weren't dusted; things were just moved around and out of place, which drove me nuts. And the house stunk of bleach and toxic cleaning products. (They blew through and hated my natural products, and asked, no Begged!, "Windex, please... and bleach!" until I submitted.)

The method of cleaning hadn't actually changed. I had. I wanted my house to really be mine. I wanted to know where everything went, and wanted my photos and prized items to remain where I'd left them. Week after week, I would rip though the house complaining about the fact that my grandmother's photos had moved, or the blankets weren't where they were supposed to be. My son couldn't find his guitar picks, or the sketches he'd left on his table. 

It was clear that I needed to start cleaning my house. My soul needed to know every nook and cranny of it. I called Elizabeth to tell her I no longer needed her services, and then I began to clean my own house. I was fearful that I wouldn't be able to keep up, so I was constantly cleaning. After about six months (when I thought the phase would wane), I got more into it. And now, after about a year, I cannot believe that I ever chose to let somebody else have the pleasure of cleaning my house.

It's so strange to me. What once seemed like a luxury later became an issue to be resolved. Now, when I look around and see a clean, well-organized house, I take great pride in my job well done. 

My house. It's my house.

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