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Why I Clean My Own Home

Clean My Own Home

Do you look forward to the day your housekeeper comes? Or do you rush around frantically, cleaning up the clutter so the cleaner can actually clean the dirt?

Most of my friends and coworkers have a lot of help at home. They have housekeepers, pool cleaners, nannies, landscapers, and meal subscription services, and it works for them, which is fantastic. They have busy careers and hate doing some of these tasks, so they buy back their time and it’s worth every penny.

We don’t have kids or a pool, though, and we truly enjoy cooking, so those categories are easy for us. We enjoy spending mornings outside gardening, so while we tried hiring a landscaper, we prefer to care for our yard ourselves.

But who enjoys scrubbing toilets and mopping floors?

It’s Not About The Money

If it were a priority, we’re lucky and grateful we could afford to hire a housekeeper.

If there were no other benefits to cleaning our own home, we might even work extra to pay for the service and never fight nag animatedly negotiate who cleans what. But for me, the benefits include so much more than just saving money.

Every family has different priorities, so this isn’t the path for everyone, but here’s why I made this choice.

Satisfaction Of A Job Well Done

Most of my days are spent working at a computer. I talk to patients, then I type. I click. I scroll. Then I type some more, make a few hundred phone calls, and type and click some more.

At the end of the day, the computer and phone look exactly the same as at the beginning (my dreams of their demise have not yet come true, but see how Mrs. Groovy’s did). I might be physically exhausted and decision-fatigued, but all that remains of the day’s events is the same nondescript heap plastic and wires. The patients have gone home or upstairs. Not a single physical item remains from the shift and it can seem as though the day never happened.

Happily, cleaning offers immediate and tangible results. After a few hours’ work, my surroundings transform from dull and depressing to shiny and energizing. The air feels fresher, and my spirits are restored. I can stand back and appreciate the obvious progress. When my husband helps, we bask together in the glow of successful teamwork.

Choices,  Choices

Am I more thorough than most hired housekeepers? Probably. My standards for myself are high (too high???) in all areas of life. Even if I’m not, though, I am now keenly aware of the time and effort required for each task and have consciously decided whether scrubbing each seam of grout this month is worth it (usually not).

It’s also easier to keep toxins out of the house by making our own cleaners–water, vinegar, baking soda, Dawn, and elbow grease can work wonders. We’ve chosen to use these green ingredients whenever possible to minimize harm to both our health and the environment.

We also clean what is dirty and nothing more. Some people clean on a schedule, needed or not, but there’s no compelling reason to take out the trash if it isn’t smelly or full. Since we recycle and compost, one kitchen trash bag can sometimes last for months and we rarely have a dumpster full enough to merit taking it to the curb for pickup.

We prioritize our time and effort as much as possible, and eliminating unnecessary tasks leaves more time to spend with family and friends.

Owning My Messes

Cleaning my own home also forces me to come to terms with my own messes.

There’s no magic cleaning fairy here, so I can’t just let it all build up until someone rescues me from the disaster. It keeps me humble and responsible and helps me stay mindful and learn to take better care of my things.

If I turn on the blender without its lid, I learn the lesson and grab the sponge. You can bet that only happened once.

If I spray toothpaste all over the mirror, I wipe it down and remember to put my electric toothbrush all the way in my mouth before turning it on. If I dirty every bowl in the kitchen while baking, then I get to do all the dishes. When my hair clogs the shower drain, I pull it out.

Just as you’d clean up your own mess in a public place out of respect for others, when you clean up after yourself at home it shows respect for yourself–and you get to enjoy the resulting peace and tidiness.

Finding More Messes

Several times, the process of cleaning has unearthed evidence of major problems that a housekeeper might not have interpreted as the red flags that they were.

Drip stains on the inside of our dining room window heralded yet another leak. Water spots on the floor of the kitchen revealed a leak from the upstairs bathroom. Little black specks on the porch signified an infestation of crickets. The strange aroma in the dryer exposed a bird stuck in the duct. A pool of water under the kitchen sink clued us in to the cracked garbage disposal.

If someone had simply taken these messes at face value and cleaned them up, the underlying issues would have persisted unresolved. Instead, we were able to intervene before too much damage was done.

All The Stuff

In addition to confronting my messes, cleaning our home forces me to confront all my stuff.

Like most Americans, I have more stuff than I truly need. We’ve decluttered and donated multiple carloads of the excess, but we’re far from being minimalists. Opening our closets and cabinets to see all our belongings on a regular basis helps keep us from accumulating more. Often when I’m cleaning, I’ll even find more items to donate. By looking in all areas of our house regularly, we maintain an accurate inventory so we don’t purchase duplicates or triplicates, and when we’re tempted to buy anything we’re keenly aware of the space we have (or don’t have) available.

Cleaning our own home has actually made me wish for a smaller house. No more keeping up with the Joneses–more clutter just means more time spent dusting and maintaining things we rarely use. While we won’t be downsizing our house anytime soon, we have made a conscious effort to invite more guests and entertain more often so we at least put the space to good use.

First World Problems

This blog is all about choices. Hopefully, it helps you make better choices that lead to a better life more in line with your own values. It’s important to remember, though, that having options is a privilege.

Being born in the USA is a privilege. Access to higher education is a privilege. Having the option to hire help around the house is a privilege. I benefit from and appreciate all of these privileges and many, many more.

Cait Flanders, Mrs. Frugalwoods, and She Picks Up Pennies describe the privilege of choice more eloquently than I ever could, so thanks for indulging me as I write about one particular choice that falls squarely into the category of #firstworldprobs.

What choices do you make that your friends and neighbors don’t understand? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

DIY: Homemade Household Cleaners
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Comments 16

  1. “We also clean what is dirty and nothing more.” This. You know, it took me years and years to finally start to do this!? And now I clean much, much less.

    We live in a newer housing development and we are one of the few that bought small trees, dug the holes and planted them ourselves. We also did all the rock/landscaping around the house. The satisfactory feeling of seeing the results of my own labor made it worth it to me (not to mention the money saved).

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  2. I can relate to all the things you’ve written here. And yet I will still use a housecleaning crew because I am simply in a stage of life where my time is at a premium and it’s much better spent on my children, my job and my friends than on cleaning. 🙂

    My hope is that as my sons grow older and more capable, we can clean together. I think it’s an important life skill for them to have.

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      Their future roommates and wives will thank you for this!
      I totally get why you and others have help with cleaning. Time really is a valuable and finite resource and there’s no wrong answer, just multiple good options as long as they’re chosen thoughtfully.
      My husband and I don’t have kids and pets competing for that time, so it makes sense to choose different options.

  3. We do all of our own cleaning – but mainly on an “as needed” basis too. We are facing the “clutter” demons as I type. My husband is in the garage hauling things out and is re-organizing the shed as well. He is retired, so he can do this at his leisure but he has also found some issues that need to be addressed as well. Darn chipmunks like to get into everything here. You make a great point about noticing things going wrong early when you clean yourself. And yes, you are truly right about privilege and about choices. We have so many choices to make that others do not – and we shouldn’t take that lightly!

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      Aww. Chipmunks are so cute! But you have to draw the line somewhere. We had a mouse once, and while I’m fine with him outside, the inside of our house is all mine. I’m selfish like that 🙂
      Good luck with your decluttering–glad your husband is on board

  4. “Happily, cleaning offers immediate and tangible results. After a few hours’ work, my surroundings transform from dull and depressing to shiny and energizing. The air feels fresher, and my spirits are restored.”

    Oh, the glories of cleaning. I couldn’t have said it better myself, Julie. There’s just something about doing something constructive and making your surroundings more inviting.

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  5. Thanks for the shout-out, Julie. I’m still feeling high from whacking Mr. Phone.

    We devised a cleaning schedule and do a little every day. Our problem is mainly hair (mine and Groovy Cats) and dust. I’ve thought about hiring a house cleaner but it would be silly. I vigilantly watch over anyone coming in and out of the house to make sure they shut the doors to protect Groovy Cat from escaping, so my time would still be involved.

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      Oh yes! I’d forgotten about that aspect of caring for pets. Our cats went in and out as often as they could convince us to let them when I was a kid, but I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with an outdoor cat if we got one now since we have coyotes and bobcats. Thanks for the reminder.
      And if you come up with a good solution for hair, please let me know! I cut a wig’s worth out of the vacuum roller brush every time.

  6. I hired a housekeeper a few years back, then quickly realised I was so house proud that I was cleaning up before she got there for fear of embarrassment! I wasn’t going to change my ways so we had to put it down to a waste of money and let her go!

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  7. We tried out a house-cleaner, once, back in the days when we spent money without thinking about consequences. Now, we wouldn’t dream of spending money on something of which we’re perfectly capable of doing ourselves. We’ve also become more relaxed about the state of our home. With three kids running around, there are inevitably toys EVERYWHERE. But our house isn’t dirty, it’s just messy – there’s a difference. We help each other with cleaning the house, but it never seems to get finished. And that’s okay. Ultimately, I’d rather let the dust webs in the corner survive another day while I take some time to read with the kids.

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      So true! Time together is way more important than the cobwebs. I draw the line at dirty dishes and food lying around, but I’m okay with a little dust sometimes.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  8. One reason I “like” to clean my home is I get to know it more intimately. Only I know about that scratch on the counter top, or that this fridge is easier to clean than the previous one. And even if I’m not the “only” one who knows these things (I do have a SO and step kids who help clean), I’m still glad to know them because I love my home.

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      This is another great reason! And once you know those little details, it can help you learn what to do to keep your house in great shape. I definitely like simpler fixtures now that I know how much trouble it is to dust the detailed ones.

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