The trouble with over cleaning

When I was young, it was a regular occurrence to wake up to the sound of a vacuum cleaner at 8 a.m. and the scent of cleaning fumes burning my sinuses. I would often wait until the bedroom door opened and my mother pegged me with one of her infamous looks to get out of bed because it was time to clean.

Over time, her cleaning habits became more relaxed and 8 a.m. on a Saturday morphed into whenever we got to it during the week, if ever. We didn’t live in a dirty house; cleaning just didn’t occupy the same amount of real estate in our minds anymore.

When my partner and I bought our house, something clicked in my brain. That earlier memory raced to the forefront with a fervour that would make Martha Stewart squeal with glee: our home deserved a weekly and thorough deep clean. The nod of approval from my Portuguese grandmother when she first surveyed the state of our home gave me an adrenaline rush that equaled riding an epic rollercoaster.

I was hooked on the look of deep vacuum lines in our plush carpet and the chemical smell of citrus. I managed to keep this regimen up for months. I had more cleaning products than I knew what to do with, and enough microfibre cloths to start an eBay business.

I lived to be validated by the cleaning standards of my well-organized Avó (grandmother) who gave me her approval with a sweep of her gaze – her eyes lingering on the state of our spotless baseboards that I had spent the better half of a morning scrubbing with a soft bristled brush. This is why I did it, to possess a home that was always visitor-ready and Avó-approved.

As all adrenaline junkies can attest to, this rush wasn’t sustainable – and what goes up, must come down.

The trouble with any extreme regimen is you eventually find yourself overworked. The housework just never seemed to end. My energy for creative projects took a hit, and whether I wanted to acknowledge it or not – I was using cleaning to procrastinate doing things I knew had a better ROI on my time. It was time to hang up my microfibre cloth.

Our house is still clean, but I no longer squawk when the guest room carpets have been maimed by footprints, or fluster at the sight of a single rogue glass in the sink. In my retirement from being the champion of over-cleaning, I’ve finally found the time to enjoy homeownership – the polished parts and muddy bits, too.


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