Inefficiency At Its Worst


Some people are born knowing how to clean, some learn from others or are self-taught, yet others don’t really much care and live at various levels of clutter and crumbs in the kitchen and dog hair on the floor and piles of books and papers all over the place and bathroom lint stuck to the mirror and heaps of things in the basement… and perhaps you can guess which category I might fall into.

I’ve never been any good at cleaning, as most of the people who have come into anyplace I’ve ever lived can tell you. While I enjoy having a clean and clutter-free house, I have no earthly idea how to a.) get there, or b.) maintain it in such a state.

Mom never really taught me how to clean – she simply told me to do my chores. She has moderate OCD, and perhaps was one of those people who intuitively knows how to give a house a good and thorough cleaning in an efficient manner.

Because I’m not very good at it, and because having a clean house is such a temporary, fleeting, ephemeral state, I loathe the process of cleaning. Because I hate it so much, I avoid it. While I know intellectually the task will be much easier if not put off, if regularly performed, the immediate gratification is Not Doing It.

In a house full of white carpeting, two humans, and four dark-haired animals, this does not go over well. The carpets continually have a black fuzzy layer, particularly around the edges – should one of us decide to vacuum, neither of us is very likely to break out the edge attachments and spend that extra twenty to forty-five minutes edging.

I know this makes your skin crawl just looking at it – I’m sorry.

Further confounding my house-cleaning apathy is the complete inability of vacuum manufacturers’ abilities to design a truly great appliance. To wit: The Dyson Animal has such tremendous suction, it got within a half-inch of a power cord, sucked it in, ripped the cord off its adapter brick, wound it around the brush rotor, ripped off the adapter tip and started chewing through my bedside lamp cord before I even knew what was going on.

No kidding.

The EngiNeir is currently in the basement working to fix this little snafu. The powerful suction is a huge plus (when not destroying things,) but the Dyson’s wand and attachments are the absolute suck. My lower back is shrieking from being all hunched over and bending awkwardly to accommodate its peculiar ways (all of my friends are trying not to burst from giggling to themselves right now, as I talk about suction, power wands and attachments.)

The Eureka “Pet-Buster” vacuum I bought a few years back does a great job with pretty much everything, including its long wand and powered attachments. Where it utterly falls down, however, is in the dirt receptacle – it is less than four inches tall. My husky mix sheds more than that in the time it took me to write this paragraph. I have to empty the bin every two to three minutes with that one. Fail.

This entirely-chock-full vacuum is just from doing the stairs and the getting the fuzz off the kitchen floor. Seriously! There is no room left in this giant container.

And what the hell is this? What does this sticker even mean?!

“If the attachment is vibrating, listen to some angry German industrial music while bending the laws of physics? Oh, and be sure to unplug properly.”

I’ll end my vacuum ranting there, and get back to my point – if I indeed had one.

The cleaning, yes. I hates it.

If I had money, I would hire a cleaning service without a second thought.

Because I don’t know any better, I am a Pile Sorter.

That is to say, I attack the area or room I’m cleaning, and sort things into piles – one pile for recycling, one pile/box for trash, one pile for “goes in this room and needs to be put away,” one pile for “goes elsewhere,” one pile for “take to Goodwill,” and so forth. While this saves me the trouble of getting up and carting something off to its appropriate place every ten seconds, by the time I’m done sorting and cleaning, I’m often out of energy and those piles might sit there for a long damn time.

This pile was created on Saturday, and may well be there until June:

Judging by the trash bucket full of dead leaves, I suck at houseplants.

I don’t even know what to do with this room anymore – notice the walls are not yet the nice, soothing green color I chose.

I glance in the door and the energy drains from my body.

Some of the chaos and clutter I attribute to Having Dogs, much like parents will tolerate a certain level of child-related clutter:

Dogs will be dogs, and there will be toys and skewed rugs and balls and hair and stuff out of place. It happens. After I clean up the living room, it will be completely cattywampus and in utter disarray within 24 hours. This is… discouraging.

Other areas I have more control over. I cleaned off my bedroom dresser top tonight, and pile-sorted it into the craft room. This is the result:

While the cats do enjoy nesting on the sewing table (not visible here, it’s the surface all that crap is sitting upon,) they usually leave the stuff alone, except for knocking over a thing or two. I can get this settled and under control. It’s just the doing of it, the getting started. Ugh.

So, Internets, what are your favorite pro-tips for housecleaning? Please help me learn how to tame my home.

Now that my net energy level is increasing, thanks to no longer being employed in the computer industry, and now that my schedule has a bit more flexibility, I’m slowly beginning to tackle the long-put-off chores.

I have visions of inviting other actual humans over to our house and not dying of complete shame. Also, visions of them not leaving with the screaming heebie jeebies, dying to wash their hands for twenty minutes straight, muttering, “get it off… must get it off… the dirt, get it off.”

Time-savers, organizational ideas, things your mother taught you when you were a little kid, anything. I will take whatever tidbits I can.


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8 responses to Inefficiency At Its Worst

  1. The journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step. Pick ONE room, and finish it. Then move onto the next.

  2. Michigan Heather

    No real tip from me. But how you describe your attitudes about cleaning matches mine! This year we’ve been working on decluttering and organizing — our renovations are making us want a better house!!

    But honestly, right now the thing that’s helped the most??? I hired a cleaning service. I spend up to 2 hours straightening up so they can clean. And the house *looks* great — better than ever. Then they come and clean and it smells clean. And I feel clean. And it helps me want to keep the house neater.

    Okay, so you wanted a tip. It may not be “green” but I love Mr Clean Magic Eraser.

  3. Will

    Bin More Crap. Those piles of important things? That have been there for a year? They aren’t important.

    Phone a Friend. Have a friend, neighbor or even a stranger come over and help with something. The energy sucking power of a room can be discharged by a helpful third party.

    Buy Help. Call independent cleaning services. Ask them if they can come over one time and give you tips or training while cleaning.

  4. -B

    The room-at-a-time this is also how I work. The major pit in my house is always the “computer room” (spare bedroom). I can shovel it out and 6 months later it’s as bad or worse.

    The “getting there to begin with” is always the hard part. After that, I’ve found that being ruthless with what gets tossed is the only solution to entropy. Once a room is close to being done, then if you’re walking through an area and see something out of place (or a bunch of stuff), grab the thing(s) that belong where you’re headed and take them with you. It’s the little things that add up to a big chose, so doing a few little things all the time helps stem the tide.

    This works excellently when everyone else is out of town on their visits with family. Once I get something done, it stays that way. As soon as they get back home though, their entropy can nearly overwhelm my little-bit-at-a-time counter attacks.

  5. SLneir

    I) Have EngNeir put in all the storage for your closet. Then work on getting you craft room done. 2) Use the shelfs in the basement for more storage. ( not just computers) :). 3) Make EngNeir help out moe. He knows how to clean . I taught him.:)

  6. SLneir

    I’ll come up and help. Just tell what to do.:)

    • Erin D.

      Lol! I don’t think I couldl put you through helping me get it into shape, but thanks so much for the offer. 🙂 Mike does help out from time to time for sure, but since he’s the primary breadwinner, I feel like it’s more my responsibility to do stuff around the house – and I’m pretty ok with that.

      I’d love to have that closet storage system in place – it would seriously declutter the craft room for sure. 🙂

      Bownse, that’s a sensible approach, thanks. Mostly, I fail at motivation (in many areas of life;) I procrastinate and walk past the same shit day after day and don’t put it away properly. I have to Just Fricking Do It, and use some of the advice you nice folks are giving me!

      Will, “binning more crap”/giving away more crap is definitely the plan. I’m trying to de-sentimentalize some of the stuff I honestly know I’ll never use again.

      Heather-sweetie, I often wish we could afford a cleaning service, but alas, it’s not in the cards right now. Thanks for the tip about the eraser, I don’t even know what that is. I’ll look into it! 🙂

      Mwatters – good advice, thanks!

  7. -B

    Re: Procrastnation

    Don’t I know. I keep meaning to send my dues in to the Procrastinators Club but I get busy with other things.

    The grab-and-go deal was my way around the procrastination. It’s not realy “cleaning” since I’m going that way anyway.

    One labor saving trick I found that worked really well this past week was how to clean stainless steel (sink, appliances, etc.). Grab your high speed drill, a buffing wheel, one of those long wool pads, and some Ajax. Soak the pad, apply the Ajax, start the drill slowly so you don’t POOF the whole room (think Alton Brown and a mixer of flour) then, once everything it wetted down, put the hammer down. Our kitchen sink is amazingly sparkly now! Wear old clothes because there can be some colateral impact. 😉 I’m thinking more things I learned from working on cars/bikes can be useful in the house too.

    Dusting with my air compressor seems reasonable… right?

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