Recently, on a boring drive to the middle of nowhere, I happened upon a radio show from another city. Two women were talking in giddy tones normally associated with free chocolate truffles or a George Clooney sighting. But their topic was much more mundane: house cleaning.
I listened with slack-jawed amazement as they traded details on such things as making pretty designs in pile carpets with a vacuum. Instead of hurrying through the tasks with a clothespin on their noses, these ladies talked about ways to make the experience more effective and, dare I say it, fun. They were excited about the process, not just the result.
Their approach to these chores was so far away from my own that it was as if I had accidentally tuned into a frequency from another planet. I had to know if there were more people out there who really get a kick out of cleaning up — and apparently there’s a whole segment of the population that does.
Several recent surveys show that Canadians not only like to keep their homes clean but also that a good number of us actually prefer the tidying process to other activities, like sex. In response to one poll, a third said they actually derive more satisfaction from changing the sheets than getting between them.
An Ipsos Reid survey conducted last year on the subject of house cleaning showed more than half of Canadians actually enjoy scrubbing down their homes, with the majority saying the kitchen is their favourite place to clean. I enjoy the smell and feel of a clean home as much as anyone, but my weekly (or — let’s face it — biweekly) disinfecting ritual is just a necessary evil. It’s the unpleasant process that eventually yields the result that gives me pleasure. Admittedly, there is something soothing and satisfying about hearing the whir of a vacuum and watching it gobble up bits of the flotsam of life.
And if you have the right kind of rug, with a nap that slightly changes colour depending on which way it’s bent, vacuum marks are telltale signs that cleaning has taken place. But some professional cleaners actually create a happy face or a star formation in their clients’ rugs. I mean, I enjoy it when the staff at an island resort twist my beach towel into a swan, but I’m not about to attempt it at home or expect anyone else to do it.
A professional cleaner I consulted (who declined to be identified for this column) confirmed, in hushed tones, that some of her competitors create vacuum patterns for their clients but that she thinks that’s going overboard. However, she did explain the importance of backing out of a freshly vacuumed room so that all that remains on the carpet are brush marks and no footprints. Many of us want to make cleaning our home as quick as possible so we can free ourselves for things that really interest us. One tip offered on the clean-freaks radio show was helpful: if you don’t have enough time to properly tidy up the whole house before company comes over, put a few drops of bleach into the toilet and down the sink drains. The reasoning is that most people equate the smell of bleach with cleanliness, so if you fool the nose into thinking the house is clean, it will appear so to a visitor. Another idea that was shared tongue-in-cheek in a mass e-mail: keep get-well cards on a table or mantel so visitors will think you’ve been too sick to clean.
I’ll do what it takes to get my home clean, but shortcuts are an awful lot more appealing than spending precious time creating temporary carpet art with my Dyson.