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By Kimara - Posted on 04 March 2008


            When I was 7 years old I was “accidentally” locked in a closet. Actually, my older brother had a hand in it, but, hey, big brothers, right? Can’t live with them, can’t get out of the closet without them! Anyway, this event precipitated two unique outcomes…first, claustrophobia, and second, a life long aversion to housecleaning! The claustrophobia thing is a no brainer…trap a 7 year old in a 3 x 3 foot closet, crammed with snow gear for 4 children, assorted adult coats, extra grocery store bags, a vacuum cleaner, and, according to my brother, a vampire…then remove the knob so that your mom can’t even get you out, and the stage is set for a lifelong, debilitating disorder! The housecleaning thing is a little harder to understand. For those of you who know me, or have regularly read the blog, you know I have an acute sense of smell. While “calmly” waiting in the closet for the termination of my incarceration, yeah, right…the one smell that permeated the air was the musty odor of an engorged vacuum cleaner bag. You know the smell I’m talking about, right? It’s not exactly a bad smell, kinda like little kids socks at the end of the day, but not one you want forever associated with fear! Anyway, every time I smell a vacuum cleaner, my palms get sweaty, my heart races and I feel light headed. I can’t help associating it with the 3 days I spent in that closet…okay, so my mom said it was only half and hour…time enough to find someone in the neighbor with tools and the knowledge of how to pop hinge pins…but long enough to generate a repugnance for any activity associated with using a vacuum. Yeah, yeah, I know, there are other ways to “clean” besides using a vacuum, but that’s my story, uh, more like my excuse, and I’m sticking to it!  


            To make matters worse, my mom is some kind of household whiz. Next to her I feel like a genetic mutation! I can never, ever remember our house being messy. She had that Stepford Wife ability of maintaining a home that was a showplace, despite the fact that she was raising 4 children, while smiling! (I’ve always secretly hoped she was doing some illegal drugs that gave her super human strength and Pollyanna optimism! It would make my comparable ineptness much easier to endure!) Anyway, she insisted that we kept our things “picked up and put away”, and was in a constant state of “straightening up”. (I was always afraid when I got up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night that I’d return to a made bed!) When I was growing up, if you had snapped “before and after” cleaning pictures of our house, they would have looked remarkably alike. The only tell tale signs that the house was just cleaned was the new vacuum cleaner marks on the carpet and the renewed scent of Pine-Sol! I, on the other hand, especially when the kids were young, would start my cleaning by bringing in the snow shovel and forging a path down the middle of the room. When I cleaned, you would walk in and say, “Wow, I forgot there was wall to wall carpeting in this room!” It would not be greatly exaggerating my disposition to say I really dislike cleaning…even “loathing” may not be a hyperbole, however, I certainly appreciate and desire a clean house…a complex dichotomy that has been the bane of my existence!


            After many years and numerous embarrassing situations with unexpected visitors, I finally stumbled upon a housekeeping system that seemed to work for me. I would “regularly” clean my house…my litmus test for knowing when to clean was when the kids began naming the fuzzy things that were growing in the shower…but allow the day-to-day mess to give our house, what I affectionately refer to as a “lived in” look. I was comfortable with the house if it remained just 30 minutes away from being “company ready”. If I got a phone call from someone saying they wanted to stop by, I could say, “Sure, just give me half an hour.” In half an hour I could FLUFF the house. Fluffing a house is totally different than cleaning a house. Fluffing involves no direct cleaning…it is picking up, throwing things in closets (actually, that’s not true…I usually kept my closets very organized…you never know when you might find yourself stuck in one…) putting pillows back on the couch, raking toys into a corner, and loading breakfast dishes into the dishwasher. (Okay, and sometimes last night’s dinner dishes, too!) It’s stacking the magazines and newspapers in a pile…my discussion of “piles” will be addressed another day…and it’s plugging in the “tart warmer”, if it wasn’t going already. Stick a pot of coffee on during this condensed housekeeping foray, and ta-dah…the house looked surprisingly presentable! The word “fluff” became a part of our family’s esoteric vernacular. I could say, “Hey, guys, we need to fluff,” and everyone took their stations. In a mad dash we ran around, fluffing and folding, stashing and storing…but in a short time the house felt organized and comfortable. I found it was much easier to get the kids involved in “fluffing” than cleaning. And, when the house was fluffed, it made it easier and faster when it was time to pull out, gulp, the vacuum, and actually clean.


            In a perfect world I’d have a housekeeper who’d clean for me. Actually, there were brief moments in my life when I did, but I found you still needed to “fluff” between cleanings. I also found, with occasional “fluffings”, I could postpone full fledge cleaning, which, to my way of thinking, is highly desirable! And, although I find it mind boggling, I know that there are people out there who actually enjoy cleaning! I am envious and stand in awe of them given the fact that through early childhood trauma or some chromosome deficiency, cleaning has always been a challenge for me. Over the years “fluffing” has become a way of life. No, I’d never win an award for cleanest house, and if you look closely, even after a good “fluffing” you’ll still notice vagabond fur balls and a fugitive Lego here and there, but for the most part, a quality fluff is appropriate for most situations!  


We all seem to have definite feelings about housecleaning, and these feelings are often emotionally charged. Perhaps, as a teenager of the “60s”, my avoidance of housecleaning is a latent rebellious commentary to my mother’s values. Perhaps it was the closet…or perhaps I’m just lazy! How would you classify your housekeeping dogma? Are you a fanatic, a slob, or content with mediocrity?        

Surely you've have a good plan for your house and me here as one of the readers had greatly enjoy reading your post. - Flemings Ultimate Garage

My house is seldom 'fluffiable" at the moment during daylight hours... I definitely need more than a 30min heads up for 'real' company. The kid stuff can be overwhelming at times - I guess if I just threw it all in the toy room and shut the door it could be done but I try not to do that or the toy room becomes a lost cause and the kids won't go in there. I do run around in the evening after the kids are in bed for 15-30min trying keep some semblance of order and that does help. And the bigger house with more storage just meant that we accumulated more stuff. It has been three years now and there are still unpacked boxed under the new clutter in the basement. Maybe a good spring cleaning is in order.

Thanks Sarah! Clears that up! And I agree with you...boys!!!

And Tina...I forgot about the central vac thing. Had it when I lived in New Hampshire...but haven't seen them in the midwest. Maybe it's a New England thing. Hate to say it, can't remember vacuuming more with it either! Ah well, can't do it all, right :)

Ah, you caught that! My dad died when I was in 6th grade, and I was the only child. She wound up marrying her best friends husband, after her friend died, he also had an only child. We grew up together but I had a huge crush on him. (He's 2 years older than me.) I was in 9th grade when our parents married. It's amazing how quickly I went from having a crush on him to "yuck"! We are really, really close. He was my husband's roommate in college, that's how we meet. Well there you have it! More than you asked for. "Talk" next week!

Okay, Sarah, have to said your mom had 1 child but then you mentioned your older brother...just curious ;)

OMG!!! Got me to laugh out loud this morning which is a good thing. The kids are on break this week and the weather has been awful so I needed to grin. I know I keep saying this but I love how you write. Your so funny but you sound so intelligent. (I do need to look up some of your words sometimes but that’s a good thing!) Makes me think that here’s someone I should listen too.

Boy, your older brother sounds like mine. If we are ever sharing big brother stories I’ll tell you one about duct tape. It’s not pretty! About cleaning. (Sigh) My mom and I have a deal. She is NEVER allowed to stop by my house without calling. Just makes both of us crazy. She had 1 kid and a maid. How hard could that have been? I have 3 six and under. She can’t even begin to understand. I’m like Tina and you. I would love to have a clean house, it’s just really low on my list of priorities. Below waxing my upper lip. (I’m Italian!) I never knew I FLUFFED my house, but I guess its what I do. (Sometimes I call it sweeping the crumbs under the rug!) I TRY to keep my kids out of the living room so if someone stops by I’m not brushing pop tart pieces off the couch before they can sit down! Every couple of weeks my husband takes ALL the kids out. He usually goes to McDonalds and lets them play while he reads. During that time I run around like a chicken without my head and clean. I always start with the bathroom because they can get so disgusting so fast! I don’t have a perfect house, but one of us makes sure all the dishes are cleaned at the end of the day, and that we pick up the toys in the family room before sitting down in the evening. Seems to work for us. (Until I can afford to hire a maid!)

Have a good week everyone. BTW not surprising but my hubby went out and bought a lock for the door. He told me he was ok if I wanted a “red room”. Boys!!!

Kim, maybe you need a central vac. Not a smell of musty, condensed dust and dog hair anywhere! I can vacuum my entire 2 story house (carpet and wood/tile) in about 30 minutes. This whole subject is quite the conundrum for me. I so love a clean and orderly house. It makes me feel peaceful and productive, and just generally gives me a feeling of "Wah" (Japanese - harmony). I just find it difficult to get to that place in life. Cleaning tends to be sort of low on my priority list, but the clutter does tend to reach a point where I can't stand it anymore. I think we all have that "point", it's just different for different people. Our old house had minimal storage (no basement, mini attic, and anything in the garage turned moldy in about a week), so it was hard to keep the house clutter-free. Things just tended to accumulate in places like corners because they had nowhere else to go. Now, with a bigger house, a basement, a big attic, and a huge garage, plus many closets, I have found the house much easier to keep clean and uncluttered. It's amazing how much easier things are when you actually have somewhere to put something! (And it also helps to have an office with a door that you can shut.)

I always think about trying out that Fly Lady stuff, but I'm just not interested in spending my time doing it. I have to agree that it is amazing what 30 minutes of good fluffing can do to a messy house!

Hope you like Waldorf Craft! There are great ideas floating around there!