So this revelation has been one that I’ve struggled to share. This is one of those flaws that I feel I should keep to myself, but in the interest of being true to myself and my quest to find balance it’s something I need to get off my chest. The truth is I’m a terrible cleaner. There it is, it’s out. I’m messy, untidy and can spread items across a room in very little time. You know when you go to someone’s house and they say “oh don’t mind the mess” and you look for said mess but it’s not there, and then you have a small heart attack and leave there reassessing your life because when you say that there is actually mess… Well when I say “don’t mind the mess”, it’s actually a warning. Leave your shoes on, it’s probably safer.
Let me be clear, I am NOT dirty. I do clean, I clean a lot, I’m just not very good at it and I’m definitely not fast at cleaning which appears to be a skill the finest cleaners I know possess. I’ve heard that creative people are untidy and messy. I’m creative. And for the record I do not function well in mess, I love tidy, clean spaces. I just find it doesn’t come naturally to me. When I clean my bathroom it takes me hours. I open a drawer and then decide I need to sort all the items in that drawer and then I have to do all the drawers because they’re all jumbled and then I have to wipe them all out and then I find a lipstick from when I lived in London and it makes me all nostalgic so I go searching for the photo album that has a photo of when I wore that lipstick. Once I get that album out it’s all over. Then I pull all the albums out, then I decide that cupboard needs rearranging and it continues. Eventually I get the bathroom clean, but it has taken hours and it looks as if it’s been cleaned by absolute specialists as I’m a perfectionist. But the whole experience is exhausting and quite depressing. My husband can walk in and give the whole room a quick once over in 20 minutes. I can’t do that. I keep seeing things that need more attention and I can’t half do the job.
It’s something I’ve had to hide from people, because apparently being messy is not favoured by the majority of the population. I’ve heard so many friends claim that they know a certain person with a filthy house, and I have to sit and keep my mouth shut knowing that there’s probably one of those people out there telling that story about me. Except that they wont because I won’t let them see that.I can walk into a house and feel at home immediately. Actually the tidier it is, the less relaxed I feel. It’s my absolute main reason for loathing drop in visitors. I hate drop ins. Unless I’ve just scrubbed my house from top to bottom, but there’s never drop ins when that happens. Drop ins can sense fear and I’m sure they’re attracted to it. Drop ins themselves are the tidy ones, so they can’t understand why anyone would hate a random drop in visit. I’ve even been known to move my children when taking a photo to hide the washing on the lounge, the kitchen bench covered in plates, or the heavily smudged windows, because no one wants to post their messy house on Facebook. Goodness no.
Now I have 3 energetic boys, two of which have inherited my “creative” gene. The other can quickly blitz a room in 5 minutes (but creates piles of shit that need to be sorted and that drives me crazy). I could easily blame them for the mess, and most of it is due to them. They can rip a room apart in seconds. We once bought one of those robo vacuums and we had it repaired 3 times in 3 months. We had that little guy working around the clock picking up the mess from these boys, it couldn’t keep up. I fantasise about their toilet being built of rubber so that I can just pressure clean it every night (I’ve found wee on the walls, behind the toilet, behind the door), and apparently I’m the only one who can flush their poo. But I’ve been to houses of families with 3 boys, 4 boys, 5 kids, 3 girls- all sorts- and their houses look nothing short of a show home. I don’t know how they do it. I have holes in my wall, actual holes. There’s handprints, drawings, scratches, scuff marks, sticky tape and unidentified markings. I’ve cleaned them, some of them, but honestly I don’t even notice half of that anymore. It does feel “homely” to us, but I would love a nice unscuffed house, but I’ve convinced myself that these creative markings are a sign of this stage of our life and I’m trying to be grateful for this stage. We’ll repaint in a couple of years. Or move.
So when my dodgy back got really bad I decided it was time to get the help of a cleaner. I noticed that I actually cleaned a lot more than I had realised, and when I could no longer do it all the house looked even worse and I didn’t like it. This cleaner was great, but she treated me like a very special needs cleaner. She even spoke slowly when she talked to me. She kept telling me that she could “help” me and teach me a few things. I just wanted her to clean. So the months went on and we needed to save some dollars for my surgery so we had to let her go. In her text responding to me ending our cleaner/employer relationship, she told me that she was very proud of me and that she could tell I had learnt a lot from her. She could see that I had improved. Ummm. No.
Time went on and I couldn’t keep the house clean with my dodgy back so we found the money to find a cheaper, less patronising cleaner. We found a beautiful spanish lady who cleaned like a machine! I had never met her (my mum let her in on her first clean and gave her a set of keys), I hate meeting my cleaners, I’d rather they not know the face of the woman who runs this household. One day she left her mobile phone here and so I had no choice but to meet the woman who cleans my toilets and possibly curses my filthy little creatives. But it was fate, she was the kindest most gentle woman. She said she loved cleaning my house and she was smiling when she said it. No shame. It was a match made in heaven. That was until she needed a break…
The week before my big back surgery, after which I wouldn’t be able to do a thing for 6 weeks (no sweeping, picking up, wiping, bending, twisting etc) my cleaning soul mate had to go back to Spain to visit family for 3 months. For real. I was desperate. Lucky for me I was able to find another beautiful cleaner through a friend and this one was equally as great. So now I have both of them on rotation each fortnight. And I have ZERO shame.
My recovery from back surgery meant I couldn’t do a thing. At first this was so frustrating because I could see what needed to be done but couldn’t do anything about it. But I had to just let it go. Something brilliant happened then. I let people come over to my mess. I let them pick up and move the basket of washing to sit, I let them see our “stuff” and I didn’t care because there was nothing I could do about it. And nothing bad happened. People visited me and sat and had cups of tea (clean cups, we’re not animals) and didn’t appear to be too distressed by my creative household.
I don’t think I’ll ever let go entirely of my desire to live in an immaculate house, but I refuse to carry the anger, guilt and bitterness that comes with trying to be something I’m so clearly not. I wont yell and scream at my little creatives to clean up when I know someone is calling in. They’ll still clean up, don’t get me wrong. But I’m not doing that mad, crazy, frantic cleaning frenzy in a desire to hide our
creativeness messiness. I’ll still give you a warning, something like “my house is a mess” or “don’t look at this filthy pig-sty”, but I will no longer distract you in the first room of the house to avoid you seeing the rest of the house. So now it’s out there and you all now the truth. I’m creative.