I have a dirty little secret to share. A housekeeper cleans my home once or twice a month. And….that’s it. That’s the secret. Pretty dirty, I know.
I am not wealthy, but rather house cleaning is something I prioritize in my monthly budget. It’s not as though my house needs to be perfect. I have 2 small children (8 if you count my husband), and a dog, so a perfect house would be quite a stretch at this point in my life.
I do have high standards for cleanliness, however. I thrive on order and neatness. It is what I’ve always known after growing up with a live-in housekeeper.
At this point, you may be picturing a large home with a gregarious lady dressed in a freshly pressed blue and white apron; perhaps she is named “Alice”. While my family’s home was a nice suburban house, it was far from a fancy mansion. And our live-in housekeeper was far from a spunky lady named Alice. In fact, our housekeeper was a man, and he was also our dad.
Housekeeper was my dad’s second job. He had a regular office job downtown Chicago with regular business hours. He wore a regular suit to work each day. Yet when I picture him as a young father, he does not look like the typical dad. He is in constant motion, assessing what needs to be done and doing it immediately, all while wearing a yellow apron with bold, black letters that read, “Between dishes and diapers, I’m always in hot water.” I think the apron was originally a gift for my mom, but he wore it most of the time.
My dad grew up living and working in the motel and restaurant his family owned, so sweeping floors, changing bed sheets, and laundering clothes were second nature to him. As a child, I assumed that everyone’s family was just like mine. I thought every dad meticulously swept and mopped the floors at the end of each evening, announcing “Kitchen’s closed!” when finished. I remember being shocked to learn that some of my friends did not have to neatly make their beds and clean up their bedrooms before leaving for school each morning
As children, my 3 sisters and I were expected to help around the house. We had Saturday morning chores to do – easy jobs like watering the plants or dusting the living room, or wiping the bathroom counters. Jobs that my sisters and I would spend countless hours arguing over and re-negotiating in order to do the least amount of work. But when it came to real housework like scrubbing the tubs and toilets, endless loads of laundry, and picking up after 4 crazy little girls, our dad never missed a beat, or a crumb.
It’s not as though our mom didn’t lift a finger. She cooked and cleaned just as much as the other moms in the neighborhood did. She liked cleanliness and order as well, but she was laid-back in her efforts. She grew up with 8 younger siblings, so she was used to the type of messes that kids create. Sticky fingers and spilled juice did not alert her senses into robot-like clean-up action as it did our dad.
While both Saturday morning chores and daily bed-making taught me some basic responsibility, a lot of “details” were taken care of for me by my housekeeper dad. Everything had its place, and was put back in its place whether I was the one who did it or not. I remember my mom frequently telling my father, “The girls need to learn to do these things for themselves.”
I was in college by the time I realized how much I had relied on my housekeeper dad. Suddenly, things around me were not magically getting cleaned and straightened. If I forgot my towel on my dorm-room floor after showering in the morning, it would still be laying there when I returned later in the afternoon, crumpled and damp. If I didn’t leave my shoes neatly next to the front door, they would not be there when I needed them to go outside.
Locating missing objects like shoes, wallets, and sunglasses became a new challenge for me as a young adult struggling with vision loss. I could not just quickly glance around the room and locate these objects as someone with full peripheral vision could. In fact, if someone moved my things even just a few feet away from where I was expecting them to be, they were “missing” to me.
I soon learned that Joy was having similar realizations. My sisters and I were having a little “reunion” weekend together, and discussing all sorts of funny things from our childhood when Joy told us about her attempts to stay organized.
“It’s strange because I never thought of myself as a messy person, “ she remarked with a perplexed look on her face, “I always remember having really neat organized drawers in my bedroom as a kid, but as an adult my dresser is always a mess.” I nodded my head in agreement.
Our sister, Janine, stared back at us incredulously. “Don’t you remember why your drawers were always so clean?” We stared blankly back at her. “Because dad used to go in our rooms and straighten the insides of our drawers!” she exclaimed, giggling. “You don’t remember dad doing that???”
That memory had somehow gone missing in my cluttered closet of notable childhood memories. But now that Janine said it out loud, the image of my dad neatly folding and arranging all the items in my dresser came vividly into focus.
Perhaps I would still need a housekeeper even if I had a full 180 degrees of vision. It’s hard to say for sure. But RP does provide me with a legitimate excuse to hire someone to clean my home. Not only am I part of the majority of people who dislike doing housework, I am also really bad at it.
I imagine what my cleaning gadgets might say to me if they could communicate. The window cloth would be like “Uh, you missed a spot….no, over to the left….right there….nope, almost got it!” My poor vacuum must be terrified of me. I picture it yelling “Stop! Danger ahead!” as I roll over tiny toy cars, doll clothes, and hairbands.
I know that there are plenty of people with vision loss who keep a very neat clean home and who’ve managed to figure out fool-proof cleaning techniques. I am not one of them. I have learned to keep important items in specific places, though. And while the insides of my dresser may not look as perfect as they did growing up, I do make a concerted effort to stay organized.
And fortunately, Grandpa Clean now lives 5 blocks away, so while most people’s kitchens look atrocious after hosting family gatherings, mine appears spic and span, thanks to my housekeeper dad!