I never thought I was the domestic kind of girl. My parents mercilessly teased me during my high school and college years, laughing at how I shyed away from doing dishes or cringed at even the thought of cleaning the bathroom. For goodness sake, I lived in dorms during the entirety of my college years–all so I could avoid cleaning those damn bathrooms.
This isn’t to say there aren’t chores that I enjoy. I love doing laundry, and vaccuming has always held a special place in my heart. Generally, these are chores that don’t involve any nasty bits (re: caked on food particles or anything on the inside of a toilet bowl), and result in progress I can see: the carpet isn’t dirty anymore, and my laundry basket is empty. Dishes and cleaning the bathroom, on the other hand, are renewable resources for filth.
I still think this way, but the past few months I’ve been forced to confront my squeamishness head-on as I dive into independent, apartment living. What has resulted is a new Laura; a Laura that is completely dedicated to cleaning. As a neat freak, things have always been organized. But now, they’re clean as well.
Case in point: I had two days off from Half-Price this past week, the first time I’ve had a real “weekend” since I started working there four weeks ago. The second day I spent lounging around in my PJs, catching up on episodes of The Hills and Grey’s Anatomy online. But the first day, I made a to-do list…and I tackled it with gusto. I vaccumed our living room and hall carpets. I made the bed and changed the sheets. I wiped down the stove and the kitchen countertops. I Windex-ed the insides of all the big windows. I cleaned the bathroom. I swept the wood floors. I vaccumed the crumbs out of the futon. I dusted and cleaned all the large surfaces. All that kept me from doing laundry was the fact that our apartment laundry room is incredibly creepy, and I won’t go down there alone. On top of all this, I cut up and cooked an entire package of chicken breasts, all of which had the bones and skins still attached and were very difficult to handle. I then cooked a package of dried kidney beans–which, if you didn’t know, involves soaking them for an hour, then cooking them for another hour and a half. With all this food, I made a large pot of chicken chili, all in time for my boyfriend to come home.
Where, you ask, did all this energy and motivation come from? And how did I overcome the gross-out factor long enough to cook and clean like a 50’s housewife? I really have no idea, other than my new sense of independence and the pride of having my own space. While keeping my apartment clean and tidy isn’t necessarily the hardest part of moving away for the first time, for me, it’s what makes it rewarding. There’s a sense of accomplishment in keeping your place clean; the state of your apartment reflects back on you, and may even define you in some small way. It’s the same with making grocery lists and menus, shopping and then making food for you and your significant other. Your life is comfortable, happy and ordered because you made it so.
If this makes me sound like someone straight from the 1950’s, I apologize. I make my man do more than his fair share of the cooking and cleaning, especially when I’m the one who usually works late. Instead, I like to consider myself part of the post-feminist generation; a woman can enjoy the freedom of independence, self-sufficiency and education, while also feeling a sense of pride in seeing your bathroom shine. I may do dishes two or three times a day, but I’m still damn smart and proud of it.
That’s why I think my new hobby will be collecting ways to improve the efficiency of the cleaning and cooking process. Since I’m a lazy-environmentalist, I want to learn ways to easily reduce my waste and re-use what I have in the hopes of saving our small cache of money. It’s back to World War II-era cleaning for me, but I think it’ll be fun to see how much I can do. I think I’ll draw the line at knitting (I’m shying away from that pseudo-hippie activity for now), but I wouldn’t be averse to using baking soda to scrub a scorched pan. That is one of the many tips from Rebecca DeLiberto’s new book, Penny Saving Household Helper: Five Hundred Little Ways to Save Big, a book I stumbled across on the Omnivoracious blog this morning. I also plan to use the Busy Woman’s Cookbook: 3 and 4 Ingrediant Recipes, which, surprisingly, belongs to my boyfriend.
I could also appreciate any domestic tips my readers may have, as well as any stories about staying hip and clean.