Of Dust Bunnies and Deceit

Even in this age of faster, easier and infinitely more thorough methods of keeping our homes all clean and spiffy, let's face it: most of us dread housework. Despite the fact that I don't have to whack my family's clothes against a slimy rock in a glacial stream, I still don't enjoy doing the laundry, nor do I relish dusting, vacuuming, washing the dishes, mopping the floor or cleaning the toilet. Call me lazy, but doing something unpleasant that must be repeated the next day (and every single day after that) doesn't inspire me to greater heights of hygienic happiness. So, after years of conscientious study, I've come up with some sure-fire avoidance techniques.

It's Saturday morning and from all indications, you should be cleaning your house about now. Let's face it; it could use it. It's had seven days (since the last time you should have cleaned it) to accumulate the assorted grit and grime of kids, husbands, pets, and dust bunnies. It's been trampled in, tromped on and trekked through. Unfortunately, you'd much rather be undergoing a root canal sans anesthesia than tending to the business of putting the house back together. What to do?

First, dress in your grungiest clothes--wrinkled, sweaty, grimy sweatshirts and pants are best. After all, you're pretending to clean the house; no sense faking it in your best clothes. Now do the following. Drag out the vacuum and leave it in the middle of the living room floor. Sprinkle some of that smelly carpet stuff around and give the canister a toss in the general direction of your sweatshirt. It should stick to the front of you like cat hair on Velcro. Grab your dust rag and can of lemon-fresh something-or-other and after squirting some of it into the air, walk through the mist. Place the can and rag on the coffee table and position the bottle of window cleaner atop that three-week accumulation of newspapers.

Plug up one side of your kitchen sink, pour a cupful of pine-scented cleaner into it and if you aren't immediately blinded by the fumes, keep pouring until you are. Put the dishes to soak, grab some paper towels, scrunch them up and toss them on the counter. Put a wet sponge on the stove, position the mop and pail in the middle of the kitchen floor, and pull the garbage bag from the trashcan.

Now on to the bathroom and bedrooms. Place the toilet bowl cleaner and scouring powder on the edge of the sink, stick the toilet brush in the bowl and lay a roll of paper towels nearby. Grab the wet towels and washcloths, then strip the bed and toss them all on the pile of dirty clothes festering in the bedroom.

With a little practice, this can all be accomplished in just under 90 seconds. Practice makes perfect. If you want to become an officially- recognized HCA (house-cleaning avoider), you must hone your craft. Remember that nothing comes easy in this life, not even to those who are dedicated to the notion that avoiding something like the plague is equivalent to having actually done it.

Okay, the stage is set. Now here's the drill. Retire to whatever room of the house in which you prefer to spend your Saturday morning. Place a dirty rag within easy reach. (Warning: This is a prop. This is only a prop. Actually using the rag will invalidate this procedure and render you ineligible for any further training.) In the event your nosy neighbor, gossipy sister-in-law, judgmental mother-in-law or obsessively clean mother drops by (and they will), you'll be prepared. Clad in your scruffiest clothes, smelling like lemon-fresh something-or-other, eyes watering from the pine fumes, dusted in vanilla-scented carpet deodorizer, and with dirty rag in hand, you rush to the door. (Note: Rushing is important. Practice your harried "you caught me right in the middle of things" look.)

They will have come to deliver one of the following messages: "Keep your cat out of my petunias," "Our other sister-in-law's house is even dirtier than yours," "I just stopped by to remind you (again) that you're not good enough for my son," or "I just hope you're not killing my grandchildren with all this dirt." Take heart, though. Sooner or later, they'll have to leave, taking with them the distinct impression that in just an hour or two, your home will be immaculate. Ah, the sweet taste of victory!

But what, you may ask, do you do with the stuff you've dragged out? This is where the second part of your training comes into play. As an officially recognized HCA, you'll be able to encourage (translation: con) your gullible family members into putting it all away for you-- and get the housework done in the process. Listen up.

Your unsuspecting children wander in from playing at June Cleaver's spotless house next door. Feign your harried "where on earth have you been all day/am I the only one who can do any work around here/I'm not your slave" look and either sigh, scowl or cry. But keep in mind that when it comes to Mom, kids hate sighing, scowling and crying. That's their job and they're not happy when someone else does it better than they do. Keep it low-key.

Say something like, "I don't expect you to actually help out, for crying out loud, but the least you can do is put the cleaning stuff away for me. And while you're at it, run that toilet brush around the bowl, swish that rag around the sink, push that vacuum around as long as it's out, and would you mind tossing those clothes into the washer?" Get the idea? Do the same thing next Saturday, alternating "would you mind" duties with those you asked them to do this week.

There. Your secret is safe for another seven days. After all, who's going to tell? Certainly not your recent visitors, nor your bamboozled kids, and the last I knew, dust bunnies weren't squealers. All that's left to do now is shower, get rid of all that pretend dust and grim you've accumulated, sit back, and take it easy until next Saturday--when you can pretend to do it all over again.

If you ask me... you're nobody 'til some dust bunny covers for you.

[ Deborah Simmons © 2002 (simmons@pathwaynet.com) -- from 'editor2theheart' ]


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