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Just Thinking: Cleaning advice not worth more than good laugh

Margo Bartlett
Guest Columnist

I just came across an internet list titled, “How Often You Should Clean Everything in Your House.”  

I don’t know how funny it was intended to be, but I rate it between knock-knock jokes and hilarious. 

Margo Bartlett

For instance, in a list of chores to be done “Every Day” is the item “Clean coffeemaker,” whereas under “Every Three to Six Months” is “Vacuum and Clean under furniture.” That knee-slapper could put me under the table, where I’d notice all manner of crumbs and lint and unidentifiable specks if I didn’t vacuum way more often than twice a year. 

Granted, a more general “Vacuum floors and furniture” is listed under “Every Week.” I grasp the distinction – that once a week you should sweep the center of the rug, what’s visible inside the circle made by the sofa, the comfortable chairs and the dog, but every six months, you should shift the furniture and the dog forward or back enough to suck up the detritus underneath – but do people really clean that way? 

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They might. I wouldn’t know. But I think once a person has the vacuum cleaner in one hand and a dust cloth in the other, you might as well move some furniture and do the job right.  

The importance of this was demonstrated recently when my nearly 8-year-old grandson spent the night so he could devote eight hours straight to building Legos. At one point, when he couldn’t find the piece he needed, and I, his parts manager, took to feeling around under the couch, he suggested we move the couch entirely.  

So we did. The couch is heavy, and moving it is the sort of job people hire themselves out to do, but he and I managed it by working together, each of us intent on finding a black piece like this one here, only thinner. 

We never found it, but the point is, if I hadn’t cleaned under that sofa for six months, we would have revealed such desiccated food and insect bodies as to make my grandson repeat the words he had spoken the first time he heard our landline ring. “What is that?” he said. This time, he would have followed up with “And that? And that?” 

Then there’s the coffeemaker. Now I don’t know what they mean here by “clean.” Do they mean, “Rinse the pot and put it upside down on the dish rack until your husband makes another half-pot in the afternoon?” Or do they mean, “Combine coffeepot cleaner crystals with fresh spring water and use the mixture to scrub the inside of the pot with a soft brush used only for that purpose for at least 20 minutes?”

Because if it’s the first one, I already meet and perhaps exceed the standard. If it’s the second, this list maker and I are not living on the same plane of existence. 

If I were using the coffee pot for other things – say, for split-pea soup or life-saving serum – I would understand the obsessive cleaning. But we use our coffee pot for coffee only. We do toss it in the dishwasher from time to time, usually to fill out the load, but that’s it. 

Back to this list.  

According to it, we should clean the refrigerator every week. Again, I can’t speak for others, but refrigerator cleaning always has been an ongoing chore around here.  

Take out the milk, wipe away the milky square the container left on the shelf. Take out the broccoli, gasp at the vegetable drawer and wrestle it into the sink so you can wash it while the pasta cooks.  

In my experience, a person can no more clean a refrigerator once a week than she can empty the wastebaskets once a year. Some jobs are meant to be done steadily, like driving and removing somebody’s appendix. 

But I’m already feeling better, thanks to the comments people posted about this list. Several have announced that they have never vacuumed their mattress. Another scoffed at emptying the vacuum cleaner monthly. “Not when you own a golden retriever,” she said. 

My bottom line?  

Anyone who has time to take a housekeeping list to heart isn’t wiping their surfaces enough. You go do that. I’ll read my book. 

Write to Margo Bartlett at margo.bartlett@gmail.com