How not to clean the house

“I’ve got to run. We have guests coming, and you know what that means.”

I did know what my friend Joe meant. He and his wife, Marcie, would have to spend two solid days vacuuming, dusting, polishing, sweeping, raking, mowing, window washing and tub scrubbing so their guests wouldn’t think they were disgusting slobs.

“I know,” I said as I walked Joe to his car. “Why can’t people stay home and let us live in our own filth the way we were meant to?”

Sue’s head popped up from the tulip bed. “Because we’re not cavemen,” she snapped. “We’re human. At least I am. Besides, we do not live in filth, except for your office and bathroom. Bye, Joe.”

“Ever thought of wearing a bell around your neck?” I asked. “You shouldn’t sneak up on me like that. It’s scary. Besides, I’m right. All we do is clean for two days before guests come by.”

“And why is that? Because you leave a debris trail every time you walk through the house. You walk through the kitchen with your muddy shoes, your dust cloud settles on everything, your laundry turns to compost before I can pick it up and put it in the hamper. I shouldn’t wash your clothes, I should spread them on the garden. Sometimes I want to call FEMA and see if they can do anything about the havoc you leave in your path. And ‘we’ don’t clean for two days. I do it all.”

“You know the noise from the vacuum cleaner scares me.”

“You’re worse than a cat. You shed, too. If you’d help, I wouldn’t have to clean for two days; I could probably do it in one. Does the sound of a mop scare you, too? If you helped out around here, I could sit around all day watching ‘Pawn Stars,’ the way you do.”

“I don’t just sit around watching TV. I golf, too.”

“Funny you should mention that. You know what we could do with the money you waste on golf?”

“Go to a casino and play the nickel slots?”

“No, we could hire a cleaning person.” Oh, that again.

“We had a cleaning person once, remember, and it didn’t work out.”

“He worked out fine. You didn’t work out.”

“He answered our phone, ‘Mrs. Everett, speaking. May I help you?’”

“People thought it was funny.”

“He didn’t clean; he redecorated. I’d come home and find a table where a chair used to be, a vase where a lamp used to be, a painting where a mirror used to be.”

“He had excellent taste. I loved what he did with the dining room.”

“He hung new wallpaper.”

“The old stuff was so dowdy.”

“You’re missing my point.”

“It’s easy to do. What is your point?”

“All we wanted was someone to clean and dust. Maybe do a few loads of compost. And you forget the neighbors would call up and complain about his loud disco music. You could hear it three blocks away. Remember when the cops came by to see if we were running a nightclub without a license? Besides, he quit.”

“Of course he quit. He moved on to people who appreciated his talents. They were wasted on you. What we need is some personal responsibility here. You make the mess, you should clean it up. Or hire someone to do it for you.”

This whole conversation was turning out badly for me. If I had never let Joe in the house, none of this would have come up.

“I am not the problem,” I said, trying to reason with her. “It’s visitors. If we just never invited anyone to our house, we could live in peace and quiet.”

“I’ll tell you what,” Sue said. “If you don’t start picking up a mop and a broom real fast, you’re going to get the chance to live in your own filth in total peace. Alone.”

Jim Mullen’s new book “Now in Paperback” is now in paperback. You can reach him at

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