Confessions of a clean-a-holic

I have a problem. A HUGE problem and I promise it does not concern my weight. For some, such as my husband, it is a behavioural issue. For others, such as myself, it is a blessing. In fact the problem that I have is actually an issue that affects almost everybody on a daily basis. Mothers fret over it for their children’s sake, capitalists have profited from it, hundreds work hard at it for measly wages and it has also evolved into an environmental cause for concern . The issue itself is as old as dirt – cleanliness.

I confess, I am a clean freak. No, that does mean that I am a glittering female version of the elephant man but I am, in fact, addicted to cleaning. Generally women find solace, happiness and peace in chocolate, diamonds, men, shopping and on and on. Nothing pleases me more than a sparkling floor that one can eat off, a kitchen more sterile than a lab, sweet smelling bathrooms that look untouched and crystal clear windows that seem like they’re not even there.

You wouldn’t believe how many times a day we scrape people off.

I blame my genes. My maternal nan, bless her soul, was wed to a zamindar from Multan. They lived in a village where dust regined supreme and well, cleaning was a never ending chore. My nan took that chore and made it into a lifestyle. From dawn till dusk, she would walk with a duster in her, flocked by a team of villagers all armed with jharoos. Her house was a sight to see. And it soon became a legend for it was impossible to find a speck of dust anywhere inside oroutside the house, which was unheard of in a dusty city like Multan. Of course visiting sandstorms during the monsoon season were not welcome but nothing could break that woman’s will for a clean house.

My mother inherited the same trait – except her trusty aide was a mop. When my parents built their house, they decided to go for a marble floor. All the house staff ooh-ed and aah-ed at it. Years later those oohs and aahs – now moans and groans – can still be heard as my mother insists on the daily mopping, scrubbing and polishing of the floor.

When my brothers and I were school kids, we would dread Monday mornings like our peers. Not so much for the beginning of the school week but because we’d be woken by my mother barging in armed with a duster, mop and a temper to match, ready to clean up our weekend messes. The door would swing back and there she’d be, her silhouette much like the BFG’s except her demeanour would be far from friendly – one swipe at our desks and we’d see a a snowfall of papers. Books would be shot back onto the empty shelves. Clothes were whipped into piles “clean” “dirty” “charity”. And shoes were usually aimed at our heads.

His technique was all wrong, you can’t bend your elbow like that and expect to hit much.

But by the time we had changed, wolfed down breakfast and rushed to the sanctuary of our car along with our silently suffering father, she’d have the entire house scrubbed to the point where it looked untouched. And unlived.

And so being of the next generation this clean gene was passed down to me as well. In fact I think the gene has somehow morphed and mutated because I just can’t get enough of cleaning products. Grocery shopping is not something I particularly enjoy and tend to see it as a mind numbingly boring activity. But as soon as I see the aisle where all the detergents and sprays rest I go into a maniacal frenzy.

The desire for those apple-scented Dettol floor wipes is too strong to resist. Mr. Muscle’s power takes impressive to another level. Pledge wipes with their streak free shine melts my heart. Fairy liquid bubbles are too magical to forget. And oh! Those wonderful, wonderful Scotch Bright scrubbies that can be used to clean away almost anything on every surface. Needless to say I stock up on every trip. And we go grocery shopping quite frequently…

Unfortunately my family does not feel the same way. My poor husband comes home almost every evening to a clean house, smiling baby and a loving wife – with a brush in one hand and a cleaning detergent in the other. He is also often the victim of adusting cloth – well, I mean if you’re going to sit in the way of my cleaning I will scrub you up too. There will be no mercy! Let’s just say he’d rather we indulge in other activities when I tell him to help clean up.

And my five month old baby who loves his baths is subjected to being washed to the point where he emerges as pink as a lobster. Its only when his bath is over does he begin to cry, shooting me incriminating looks, probably feeling the after effects of all that scrubbing and wiping. I try to soothe him by telling him that it’s for his own good but I reckon it’ll be a while before he understands though I sincerely hope I have given him the clean gene too.

“Just wait till I’m old enough to toss you into a nursing home.”

Let’s not even talk about my cleaner who helps out once a week. He’s a Bengali fellow and I know he hates me – I suspect his dislike has little do with my nationality. I believe in cleaning in a certain manner and so does he. The problem is we both have our individual styles – he thinks that since I’ve employed him he ought to be able to clean in his own way, which is actually quite sloppy and messy. I think that since he cleans my place, he ought to at least incorporate some of my style which is more precise and tidy. Therefore what ensues is a battle of wills. I’d like to say I win but in between dusting a husband and scrubbing a baby, the sly fellow gets his own way every now and then.

Personally I don’t think my cleanliness is a problem but everyone else around me thinks it is. I console myself with the thought that at the end of the day I know there’s a gleaming bathtub with hot water running from a shiny tap and a warm bedwith crisp, fresh smelling sheets. Pure heaven. What more could I want?



Categories: The World I Know

Author:Mehr F Husain

Mehr F Husain was Features Editor of The Friday Times. She lives out of a suitcase.


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5 Comments on “Confessions of a clean-a-holic”

  1. amna raza
    October 26, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    And shoes were usually aimed at our heads. It amused me!!

  2. Rumi
    October 23, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

    brilliant article! i can sooo totally relate to…ur hubby n the bengali’s predicament…hehehe…having lived with a mom who was a cleanaholic, i resolved at an early age to be happy with a ‘reasonably’ clean house!!! 😛

  3. Alliya
    October 15, 2011 at 8:37 am #

    Mehr, i am so with you!! a clean spotless house pleases me more than anything!

  4. Farrah M.
    October 14, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    Totally feeling your pain, Mehr F 🙂

  5. Fiza Waheed
    October 14, 2011 at 9:45 am #

    Aaah! I can so relate to this:)
    And I’m met with stares of disbelief and exasperation most times, mostly by our cook and cleaning lady. I sense a mutiny coming.

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