I love the smell of Soft Scrub in the morning


‘An Advertising Executive cleans up’

To be honest, not having been raised with ‘Help’ (Hah! If anything, my sibs and I were the ‘Help’), I am a tad uncomfortable with same. For one thing, I never know where to go when the Cleaning Person is there. I feel a little odd going out for coffee all morning.

And there is that Lutheran Guilt Thing. If I’m not working (as in Earning Money), I feel funny not cleaning. (Though I don’t seem to have a problem spending The Dude’s hard-earned money on Starbucks lattes.)

Besides, I have a dirty little secret: I’m really really good at cleaning. And I kind of like the fact that when you’re done, everything looks gorgeous and smells good. Totally different from advertising.

In fact, I’m so good at cleaning, that one time, when I was ‘between jobs’, I toyed with the idea of starting my own cleaning business.

I have no idea what this sign was referring to. But Mom instilled in us all a strong (house)work ethic

Looks like Mom had my business idea even before I did.

I even had a name. I was going to call my service ‘Executive Cleaning’ because I was, in fact, an ‘executive’ (recent Senior Vice President and Executive Creative Director at Advertising Agency’s Name Goes Here). And I would, in fact, be doing your cleaning.

My rate scale was pretty cool too. Instead of charging by the hour or by the day, I would charge by how clean you wanted your place to be. The least expensive job would be ‘Lick and a Promise’. You know: straightening the piles of magazines, plumping the pillows. It would look good — if you didn’t look too closely. When I was a kid doing a job this, well, adequately, was called ‘close enough for government work’.

Next up in the pricing scale would be ‘Dinner Party’. Which would mean that everything would look good, as long as the lights weren’t too bright. My pricing went on (modestly) up, with choices like ‘Weekend Guests’. (This is where I come to your place after said guests have gone.) There was even an opt-out option (I’d skip your place that week) called ‘Kids Home from School’.

Oh. The most expensive? Where I reorganize the inside of the closets and dust the tops of the picture frames? That would be ‘Mother-in-Law Visit’.

I guess the whole do-your-own-cleaning thing is in my blood. Though, in fact, my childhood home was notoriously messy (but messy in a good-natured, raising-five-children sort of way). But once in a while, all the stops were pulled out, and all hands were on deck.  My Dad once famously drew up a spectacularly detailed to-do cleaning list including items like ‘clean basement’, ‘organize shed’, and ‘kill dog’.

Mom and Me, chilling. Note coffee table piled with everything but coffee

Mom and Me, chilling. Note coffee table piled with everything but coffee

This was in preparation for my first wedding. But that’s a story for another day. Stay tuned. And thank you, as always, for reading.

Right now, I have to go strip the beds. It’s my morning to ‘do’ the sheets.

But first, speaking of reading, more stories about growing up Lutheran can be found under the tab ‘Growing up Lutheran’ in the sidebar.

If going to the sidebar is too daunting, or if you haven’t had your Starbucks latte yet, just click on any of these:

The Incest Mug’, ‘Kissing Daddy Goodnight’, ‘Small Towns, Big City’, ‘My Mom the Party Girl’, or ‘That’s My Bob’.

The wonderfully retro tile at the top of this post is from a bathroom in Memphis, Tennessee, and in a photo by William Eggleston.

New York City. March 2015

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8 thoughts on “I love the smell of Soft Scrub in the morning

  1. Loved relating to your cleaning obsessions, Alice. Although right now I am leaving a pile of dishes in the sink to head out and plant a cactus which requires all my strength. I know – finding somewhere to hide out when the cleaning service comes was so uncomfortable. Have had a cleaning service twice – the first one smoked pot with my kid, the second team – well, the nicer I was to them the more they took advantage and came late and left early. Now I do my own until I keel over. You are right on about guilt and all that. Wish we could clean away the guilt.

    • I agree: cactus trumps dishes (!) Hope you don’t strain anything (especially your funny bone) planting that puppy. Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting. And for the suggestion. Now I know what to smoke when I’m cleaning the pot (!)

  2. Terril

    My coffee table usually looks just like the one in your picture! But you wouldn’t know that because I do the “Uh Oh, Company Coming” clean up before you come to visit which usually entails a hastily gathered shopping bag full of stuff stashed in a closet.

  3. Yeah, Alice. What’s up with the neckties?

    Love this article, thanks! Another reason we’re cut from the same cloth: ability to clean, satisfaction at our skill set, and Catholic/Lutheran guilt about hiring someone to do the cleaning.

    My mom was a nurse and liked things antiseptic. She really COULD do surgery on the kitchen floor after the four of us slaves scoured things to perfection. Don’t get me started on how often the sheets were changed, pillowcases ironed, refrigerator defrosted, cupboards emptied, wiped down and neatly returned to order.

    Lots of guilt.

    I used to clean the apartments of rich friends when I first moved to NYC and couldn’t pay the rent. It Was Humiliating but I needed the money to supplement my teacher’s salary. And word spread fast about how good I was.

    I was young and poor so pretended this cleaning gig was my gym membership — let’s face it, cleaning a tub is a great workout!

    Fast forward to London and a full disclosure: Chelo, which rhymes with Jello, cleans my apartment/office on Thursday mornings. On Wednesday nights I get everything ready and do a nice pre-cleaning so that she’s not overwhelmed and can leave early with a wad of cash.

    Every time I see Chelo I can hear my mom tsk-ing and clucking…but GOD does it ever feel good to come home to that SMELL.

    Thank you, Chelo from the bottom of my heart for helping keep this ship afloat. Thank you, Mom for keeping an absolutely lovely, if slightly sterile home. And thanks again Alice, for reminding us of our good fortune and luck!

    • Thank you ever so, Miss T!
      You are right — we have ever so much in common.
      Full disclosure: when I was fully-employed, I too had a marvelous Cleaning Professional. And I too used to ‘pre-clean’. I didn’t want Julie (rhymes with ‘truly’, as in truly good at her job) to think I was a slob (!)
      These days, I too tell myself that my cleaning is my workout. In fact, I usually save the shower for last so I can clean up after I clean up!

  4. Ruth Meisenheimer

    Loved this one! And, am ‘snickering’ over the picture of you and your Mom trying to look so innocent, just knitting, with men’s neckties hanging over the back of the couch!

    • Great eye for detail, Ruth! The men to whom the ties belong must be hiding somewhere back there. Or maybe they’re hidden by the pile of stuff on the coffee table (!)

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