Posted by: bullyforme | August 25, 2009

This is why I do it for me

After spending a week doing no housework because of a sprained thumb (don’t ask), I was getting a bit disgusted.

My boys are 24 and nearly 11. They know how to do basic chores. They keep their rooms clean. My oldest does his own laundry. They take out the trash (when I ask them). They pick up their messes (when I ask them). They’ll do pretty much anything I ask them (except clean the toilet – what the!? as if I’m the one responsible for that mess!). However, I do have to ask them. Neither are very good at volunteering their services for anything other than sport or leisure. (One could call it self preservation). I think my older son doesn’t really see the house as his since his stay here is reportedly temporary and he splits his time between here, his grandparents, and his girlfriend’s apartment. My youngest is just plain spoiled, I’ll admit it.

Frankly, I’m usually content to do nearly all the house cleaning by myself. This may not seem fair, but I not only don’t mind cleaning but actually like it; it clears the mind. Cleaning my house gives me an immediate sense of accomplishment, and instant gratification can be hard to come by when your wallet is a portal to Narnia. Plus I’m just so bossy – I like things done my own way.

So I like to clean the house. My kids lucked out that way. Of course I like to have the house clean for my children’s health & welfare, but that’s just fallout from the real reason I do it – I do it for me.

After the Thumb Incident of last weekend (don’t ask), I got an idea. I was just curious, mind you, not trying to set a trap, or a guilt trip, or anything devious, just…curious. If I just stopped cleaning up, and didn’t ask for help, would the boys do anything of their own accord? Further, would they even notice?

Here is an account of the week. Note: My older son was home for about four of the seven days off and on, my younger boy for all but one, and my nephew was with us for two of them. I was pleased to have my nephew participate (unwittingly) in this experiment. This child is of scientific interest in that gum wrappers, soda bottles and dirty clothing literally fall off his person with no conscious effort.

Day 1: Thumb hurts so bad (don’t ask), I can’t even cook, let alone wash dishes, so it’s pizza night again. I decide to buy my coffee and buy take out for every meal today.

Day 2: How the fuck did all those dishes get in the sink overnight?

Day 3: Sink officially full. There are a few random eating utensils left in the container and quite a few dishes left clean but no bowls whatsoever. I think someone’s eating cereal out of the box again. All glasses are in the sink, they’re starting to use my Santa mug collection. There is popcorn and shredded cheddar cheese (?) on the floor by the couch, but the dog just spotted it. I get the feeling the floor would be a lot messier if we didn’t have a dog. The carpet is otherwise layering on the pet hair at an alarming rate. Unfortunately the dog doesn’t eat that.

Day 4: I come home to find a ziplock container with a salad “spork” in it – the remains of a desperate cereal adventure – on the coffee table along with three Santa mugs and a divided baby dish. All dishes officially dirty and in the sink. To add insult to injury, my oldest has carefully balanced his travel mugs on top of the pile. With no clean dishes at all, wha t will they use tomorrow, the measuring cup from the Dimetapp bottle? The odor from the bathroom is starting to invade the hall – although I can empty the catbox, I can’t change the litter. The toilet is absolutely disgusting and I can’t stop myself from wiping it with a bleach rag. The sink is gross too, mostly toothpaste gunk and a little cat fur (she likes sleeping in the sink). I decide to brush my teeth at work. Both boys’ rooms are still well tended.

Day 5: I stay away from home until dark to avoid the mess. I can’t believe no one has even said anything, let alone picked anything up or cleaned anything. The kitchen floor is so disgusting, I have to wear my garden shoes when I’m in there. It gets really bad as it’s the most used room in the house. Three people and three pets are in the kitchen always, and it leads to the back door, where people and dog go in and out of the back yard, only to track mud/grass/dirt back into the kitchen. It’s the first time I’ve seen a dirt bunny, an odd mating of dirt and pet hair. I could swear I saw it move.

Day 6: More of the same. No one has said a word, no one has lifted a finger. I don’t even ask what they’re eating off of. I bought paper plates on Day 2, for when I serve meals, but I’ve hidden them away in support of my experiment. No one ever volunteered to take trash or recyclables out to the curb either, even though they both know when trash day is – so the room where we keep both absolutely stinks, and the recycle bin is overflowing. My younger son’s room is starting to show the strain of providing two days’ shelter for my messy nephew. My son must think he only needs to clean his room if he made the mess.

Day 7: I can no longer stand it, and my thumb (don’t ask) is finally healing. With the boys at the G.I. Joe movie, I dig in. It takes me about 3 or 4 hours total to clean up – dishes, counters, rugs, bathroom, etc. Even though there’s plenty left to do, the house looks 100% better.

Later that day, I said to my oldest, “What do you think? I can’t believe you never noticed how filthy the house was.” He replied, “Yeah, what the heck, I did notice it this morning*. I was going to tell you I saw a mouse…just kidding!”

My youngest was listening. I said to him, “Don’t you notice how much cleaner the house is? Didn’t you see how dirty it was?” He replied, “Not really…okay, I guess I can tell you moved some stuff off the coffee table.” I pointed to the staircase, “Can’t you see how I vacuumed all the pet hair from the stairs? They were covered in pet hair, I can’t believe you didn’t notice that.” He squinted his eyes at the stairs, looking carefully, and said, “Well, you missed some on the bottom stair.”

And this is why I do it for me!

After this past week, I’ve come to the conclusion that although I do enjoy keeping house, I’ve been enabling my sons to become lazy and dependent on me. Why should they notice a mess when they aren’t responsible for cleaning it? Do I want them to either be content to live in squalor or to marry doormats?

So, as of Day 8, some new rules are in place. They will take turns with the garbage. They will put away anything that belongs to them personally at the end of the day. Everyone will wash their own dishes outside of family meals. My oldest is only home a few days a week, and my youngest’s chores usually need retouching, but the free ride is officially over! This too, I do for me, but also for them.

*I’m still trying to figure out what specific thing made him notice it only on Day #7. Was it the absolute lack of any watertight container to pour his cereal in?



  1. Officially busted a gut on this one! 🙂 I have to say, my house is spotless now that my boys are gone and I love it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: