Bad Housekeeping
Where are those panties?

June 21, 1999

Truth be told, I'm a miserable housekeeper. I never really learned when I growing up. In the leaner times when I had to do it myself, it would take me forever, and I only did an adequate job.

I'm not focused enough. (The preparatory bong hits probably didn't help--this was a long time ago.) I would start in one room, find something that needed to go in another room, wander off, do a little in the other room, and by the time it was all said and done, a lot of stuff got halfway done. The same pretty much holds true today, but without the bong hits.

While living with my mother, off and on, we had a changing variety of cleaning ladies. If we had no cleaning lady, which was more often, frankly, we split up the chores. We had assignments. I had to clean the bathroom (one for five of us) and vacuum the living room and den. I also had to pick up my room and clean that.

The way my mother let me know it was time to clean my room was that she would come in and do what she referred to as "the clean sweep." She would literally sweep everything off every surface. It would end up in a huge pile in the middle of the floor. Your room was clean when the pile was gone.

When I was 16 I came to LA for summer vacation and never went back to my mother's house. Living at my dad's house we had a housekeeper. Audrey was her name. She came two days a week and cleaned the house. Stem to stern. We had to pick up for Audrey to clean, but besides that, making my bed, and picking up the dinner dishes, I was blissfully ignorant of housekeeping duties.

My stepmother pretty much threw herself into stay-at-home-wife duties. She did all the laundry (or Audrey, I'm not sure, it just magically appeared regularly), ironed (again maybe it was Audrey), made the most incredible lunches for both me and sister #1--every morning (not the night before so the bread would get soggy), and pretty much saw that every detail was always taken care of.

It wasn't until I went off to college that I got a taste of regular housekeeping. But then it was only a dorm room, or sorority house room, until my senior year.

My senior year of college I moved off campus into a house with two roommates. My roommate Pauline was a house cleaning maniac, so again, besides my bedroom I was spared. Except for the kitchen. She would dust and vacuum like a fiend. She also stayed on top of the bathroom (one for three girls, the seat was ALWAYS down) but for some reason hated the kitchen. Nancy and I shared kitchen duty.

When I moved back to LA after college sister #1 and I got an apartment together. It was the one and only apartment I lived in, until I bought my first home. It was a great place, in a great location, with a great rent. But it was generally a mess. Sister #1, having grown up in the same series of households with me was frankly no better at household maintenance then I was. So, we got a cleaning lady.

Actually, #1's boss had a live in housekeeper and since he lived only a block away and was in love with my sister he would send her to our house once a week, Thursday's, to clean. That was the life. She would clean the place and even go to the laundromat if we left her enough quarters.

The place looked great Thursday night so we would generally order in so we didn't mess the pristine kitchen, but by the end of the weekend it was a mess. We could hardly wait for Thursday to roll around again.

My sister eventually moved out and through a succession of roommates I had a succession of cleaning ladies. Since it was no longer a free service I was down to once every two weeks. Frankly, I couldn't justify the weekly thing for an 800 square foot apartment. The roommates ended but never did the cleaning lady.

When Chuck and I moved into our first home, one of the first orders of business was a cleaning lady.

We hit paydirt when we had the baby. There was someone in the house five days a week. The house was pretty much always picked up, dishes and laundry done, floors swept. Life was great.

Then Zoe went off to school, part time, and we were down to two and a half days a week. Still, it was better than nothing. At this point, in addition to the nanny we had to get a real cleaning lady but it was worth it.

I don't do toilets.

Zoe's in school full time now, and we're down to one cleaning lady, one day a week.

This might sound great, and in many respects it is--since I am the world's worst housekeeper, but there are a few major pitfalls.

1. Laundry issues: I prefer that the cleaning lady only wash the towels and sheets but sometimes she takes it upon herself to throw a load or two of laundry in. This generally means we end up with pink underwear. As an example, I found a load in the dryer today of things she'd washed. This load included: one dark purple shirt, one dark blue pair of panties (OK, those two go together, dark load), one white polo shirt, a pair of pantyhose, one pair of Zoe's Little Mermaid panties, a pair of gray leggings, a red towel, and a white towel. It was only sheer luck that everything wasn't pink or lavender.

2. Where things get put away: If she takes it upon herself to do laundry I would just as soon she leave it in the laundry area. Two weeks ago I spent 15 minutes hunting down panties. I knew that all 30 pairs were clean since the hamper was empty, but hell if I could find any of them. I did find a pair of Zoe's panties hanging on Chuck's tie rack but they were useless to me.

The putting away of things extends beyond laundry to household items. We have a large pot rack hanging over the island in our kitchen. All the pots and pans clearly go there. I can't tell you how often I've opened an incidental cupboard to find a pot, pan, or lid stuffed in there. My blue colander has been MIA for three months.

Whenever something is missing Chuck so helpfully suggests looking in the refrigerator. Next time I'm missing panties it's the first place I'll look.

3. Garbage goes in the black bin, not the blue bin, clearly marked for recycling in both Spanish and English.

I guess there's always a price to pay.

The sewing machine saga continues.

I got a call from the lady at JoAnn's with a number to call to the Singer Repair Center. When I called there and got no answer I called over to JoAnn's. She said that the technician said he gave me a presser foot. I told her they did, but not my presser foot. This was the problem. That and the pedal thing. She the proceeded to tell me that this is so difficult to resolve because I waited so long. She was trying to put this back on me but I was having none of it.

Then she said she'd call her manager and get back to me. She called back and said I'd have a new pedal and presser foot, hopefully by Friday. I told her it better be Friday.

Then the tech from Singer called and I had to go through the whole presser foot thing again and he special ordered one and a new pedal and said that it would all be at the store for me by Wednesday.

Every time I had some extra time this weekend and couldn't be working on my quilt I got steamed all over again.

Until next time. . .