Mr. Half show he's not Mr. Clean around home

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

It didn't take me long to figure out I can't afford a house and a house cleaner.

Working my 60-hour-a-week job in Cape Girardeau, I quickly learned a house cleaner was the only way I could avoid total squalor at home, but it took a long time to get past the guilt. Then I found out virtually all of my older, professional girlfriends had help at home.

It was sheer bliss, leaving the money on the counter and coming home to the smell of Pine Sol and Pledge without ever lifting a mop or dust cloth.

When we moved to Florida, decided to buy our first home and considered the payment, flood and homeowner's insurance plus a few thousand in taxes, it became clear a few things would have to go.

One of them was the cleaning lady, Joyce, who had brought us nothing but sunshine and joy in our St. Petersburg apartment. She understood completely. I'm not sure my husband did, so he and I had a sit-down.

"So ... Joyce won't be coming anymore," I said.

"Uh-huh," The Other Half said, glancing around me to catch the last of "MASH."

"So we're going to have to clean the new house ourselves," I said.

"Uh-huh," he said.

"I mean really clean it. With toilet brushes and stuff," I said.

"Uh-huh," he said.

Turns out the two of us have extremely different versions of "cleaning the house." My mother is half German, and she definitely got the obsessive-compulsive cleaning gene. She believes linoleum floors must be scrubbed on her hands and knees. Toilets must be cleaned by hand with a rag -- no brushes. Only Comet or Ajax works in the bathroom, none of that sissy spray-on, wipe-off stuff for her.

She's a huge fan of feeling the clean, as in, "If you wear those rubber gloves, how can you feel if it's clean?" She's not in favor of any modern, time-saving cleaning devices, because that would be cheating.

I'm a little more advanced. I've abandoned my cleaning-solution-filled-wipe phase and returned to doing most things my mother's way. It's inevitable that all women become their mothers, but I do treat myself to a string mop.

The Other Half is another story altogether. Dust the top of the entertainment center? Nobody sees up there. 'Sides, it's tough to reach with the Swiffer Duster.

Move the furniture to vacuum? Are you out of your mind?

We're supposed to be taking turns cleaning on our separate days off. Coming home from work on a Mr. Half cleaning day sure isn't like coming home after Joyce was over. And my mother would blanch if she knew the light swab the toilet bowl got.

But that's how it's going to be ... at least until I get a raise. I've still got Joyce's number.

-- Heidi Hall is a former managing editor for the Southeast Missourian. She resides in St. Petersburg, Fla.

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