Housecleaning ... bah, humbug

Let's get one thing straight from the get go: I hate housecleaning.

It's one of those necessary evils of life generated by a universal truth, in this case, the fact that places of human abode, whether luxurious or humble, all get dusty, cluttered and just plain nasty the longer we humans occupy them.

The need for housecleaning is also no respecter of persons or places. Whether you're rich, poor, or somewhere in between, whether you're young, old, or claim to be neither, whether you live in a tiny apartment in New York City, a huge mansion in Beverly Hills, an ancient farmhouse in the south of France, or a mud hut in Timbuktu, they all need regular cleaning. And there's the rub, pun intended.

Knowing I hate every aspect of housecleaning, I still try to keep up with it. Doing a little each day keeps the enormity of the task in perspective. I know that if I want to avoid becoming a perpetual scullery maid I can't afford to get behind.

I also can't do it alone. I used to have three ready, though seldom willing, assistants. However, somehow, they all eventually got the idea of moving out.

Ah, but universal truth followed them as each acquired an abode of his/her own with its own propensity for getting dirty and cluttered. Then each of my children discovered that living in squalor is an open option, but not the best one if you plan on having any friends.

Suddenly, the training they'd endured every Saturday, when Mom insisted they clean their rooms and help with other household chores, came in handy after all.

Yes, I felt vindicated but also abandoned. I felt wonderful that there were fewer bodies to clean up after, but betrayed when I discovered that there were still just as many carpets to vacuum, just as many meals to clean up after, and even more dust bunnies under the beds. How could that be?

Enter another universal truth, two people can generate just as much mess and filth as five. Dirt still gets tracked in. Dust still blows in and settles everywhere. Cooking still creates grease and spills, just as it has for the last million years. Housecleaning is still a necessary evil.

Fortunately, John is usually able and willing to help. Mind you, he doesn't like housecleaning any more than I do, but he understands the inevitable nature of the task. You see, he was raised by his grandmother who was already 65 and slowing down when he was born. Consequently, he grew up doing a good share of the housework. So especially on occasions when a lot must be done in a relatively short time, John pitches in even without being asked.

That happened to be the case today, when guests were due in a short time. We both rolled up our sleeves and dived into getting the place in shape. It's amazing how much can be accomplished when the threat of embarrassment before friends or family looms an hour away.

Ah, and now we get to sit down and enjoy a clean, neat and totally presentable house. Yes, for the next 55 minutes, there will be no dirt anywhere. No greasy surfaces or bad smells, no gritty floors or dusty lampshades.

No mess ... till the guests arrive bringing dirt on their shoes, dust on their suitcases, hair to clog the bathroom drains, and a weekend full of laughter, good conversation, old memories shared and new ones made.

Sure housecleaning is not much fun, but invariably it has its rewards. Maybe that's not such a bad tradeoff after all.