Back Porch: Cleanliness is next to craziness

Back Porch: Cleanliness is next to craziness

The largest and most elaborately wrapped box under this year’s Christmas tree had my name on it. It was from my husband. And on December 25, I opened it with as much gusto as our 6-year-old. I turned positively giddy when I glimpsed what was inside: a vacuum cleaner.

Not any old vacuum cleaner. It was a Roomba, a robotic floor sweeper that I’d been salivating over forever.

Most of the women I know would have coldcocked their husbands with the Roomba had they awoken to find it beneath the tree on Christmas morn. (Thou shalt not buy thy wife cleaning equipment on major holidays has to be close to No. 1 on the Ten Commandments for Husbands.) My first thought? C’mon, let’s get these darned presents unwrapped already so I can charge this sucker up and put it to work. 

While the Roomba energized itself, I gathered all the discarded wrapping paper and took out the trash. Then I made the beds, unloaded the dishwasher, scooped the cat box and ran a load of laundry—all before breakfast.

Yes, my name is Susan and I’m a cleanaholic.

I haven’t always been this way. I clearly remember an out-of-town guest visiting me many years ago and pointing out that the dirty dishes had been stacked in my sink for so long they’d begun to mold. Oh, and by the way, there wasn’t a single clean glass, bowl or plate in the cupboard. Well, wash one, I told my visitor. And while you’re at it, please toss those take-out containers filled with unidentifiable, but fuzzy and foul smelling, substances.

That was then. Nowadays, I’m a less-svelte version of the red-haired Desperate Housewife; a somewhat saner incarnation of Monk; a better accessorized Felix Unger. My surfaces always shine, my drawers are carefully organized and my shelves are never in disarray. I spend hours in Aisles 13 and 14 at Lowe’s, considering all the baskets, bins and containers in which to neatly store our stuff. I live to peruse the cleaning products at Target—just to make certain nobody’s manufactured something fabulous without letting me in on it. It’s pathetic. And I can’t stop myself.

Sure, I’ve hired housekeepers. But I spent so much time “picking up” before they arrived—and then redoing what I felt they neglected—that it cost me more in time than I could afford.

It finally got to the point that on January 1, instead of committing to lose the usual 10 pounds, I resolved to lighten up around the house. I started small, ignoring the dirty laundry piled in the middle of one daughter’s bedroom floor. Eventually, she’ll run out of clean underwear and be forced to carry the entire lot downstairs to the laundry room, right? And who cares that my other daughter hasn’t made her bed in a week? She’s just going to have to unmake it come bedtime.

Walk by the pet hair tumbleweeds, I tell myself daily. Forget about the smudges on the black dining room chairs. Recap the toothpaste and leave the remaining clutter on the counter in the kids’ bathroom.

But as I head toward my desk, I can’t help but notice Roomba’s green light; I’m charged up, it says, and eager to collect all the schmutz that’s accumulated on your floors. I turn him loose, and his loudish whir makes me happier than any CD in my collection.

Then I do something I’ve been fighting for weeks—I Google for Scooba, Roomba’s mop-wielding sidekick. In addition to sweeping, it lays down liquid and washes and dries the floor. With Valentine’s Day only a few weeks away, I know my husband will appreciate me letting him know that if he acts fast, he can pick up a Scooba for the rock-bottom price of $174, shipping included.