Cleaning The House: A Study in Procrastination
by Marjorie Dorfman

Do you put off cleaning your house until you cannot possibly stand it one moment longer? Do you dream of coming home and finding it all done without lifting a single dish-panned and/or lazy finger? Read on for some hope and a smile but alas, no help.

Nothing is impossible for the person who doesn’t have to do it.  – 
Weller’s Law

Samuel Butler once referred to cleanliness as being next to godliness. I wouldn’t dare to argue the point, but if you are anything like me, the very last thing you would choose to do out of a list of a hundred possibilities, is clean the house. Don’t get me wrong. I am not a dirty person; I have to clean and I know it. It’s just that I have more excuses than anyone I ever met for putting it off to the last possible moment.

I hire a man who comes to clean every other week, but with five animals and a lot of traffic in and out of the house, I have to do my part in between his costly visits. This includes vacuuming, washing the floors, doing the dishes and, the hardest part for me, putting things away. Whoever referred to a place for everything and everything in its place was certainly not talking about my house!

Let’s start with vacuuming. (I would say, better that you start, but it is my house, after all.) I have the best vacuum on the market and I paid a lot of money for it. I did so because I burned out two or three others (famous brand names too) that could not withstand the constant cat hair. The vacuum works fine and offers me no excuses. Everything looks great after I do it, but there is always something that I have to do first, (bake a cake, make a call, take a nap, check the lid on my cousin’s garbage can who lives in another state, make sure the fall-out shelter isn’t locked; anything!) When I finally do it, I am usually very angry with myself because it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, everything looks so much better and, worst of all, I am thrust into the clean-up mode where I didn’t want to be in the first place!

Washing the floors is another matter. It takes a little more prep time and thus is easier to put off. (I can’t find the bucket, I can’t find the mop, I can’t find the pine-sol, I can’t find my life, they all eloped with Mr. Clean, etc, etc.) When I finally get down to business, I grit my teeth and tackle the task at hand. Once I make eye contact with the dirty water in the bucket, I chide myself for not getting started sooner. I have also found it a great chore to do in tandem with a diet because who can eat anything after looking at all that filthy water?

I do the dishes because if I don’t, they pile up in the sink and are in my way. If I didn’t have to look at them, I might, in all honesty, put off doing them as well. I have a dishwasher, so I will never understand why I just can’t find the time to shove them into the machine. (I suppose there’s simply no accounting for genius!) Putting things away though, is what I put off the most and for me it is more difficult to do than the vacuuming, the floors and the dishes.

When I was a child, I used to take off my school dress and crinoline all in one piece and leave it standing on end in the corner of my room. I don’t know how I managed to do this, but even today, many years later, I leave my clothes over things. I never do under; under isn’t good. Over the banister always seems best, but I will never know why. I sometimes fold my clothes and leave them on my dresser (particularly tops like t-shirts). Why don’t I put them away in a drawer or closet, especially since they are already folded? I have no idea. I write stories. When I started writing, some twenty years ago, I would finish a story and place it on the counter next to the television in my studio apartment. It wasn’t until the pile was level with the antennae that it occurred to me to get a file cabinet.

Am I a hopeless case? Probably. Does that mean that I will continue to clean my house? Yes, but not if I can put it off just a little bit longer. By the way, what are you doing this afternoon and do you happen to have a garbage can lid or fall-out shelter that needs inspection anywhere at all in the world?

Did you know . . .

Copyright 2003