I know why the caged bird cleans.

I never understood the phenomenon of cleaning up before your cleaning people arrive. I mean, isn’t the whole purpose of hiring a cleaning service TO CLEAN? Why, then, do people feel compelled to tidy up before they get there?

I’ve never been so balling out of control that I was able to afford hiring cleaning people, so it has always been an abstract outside-looking-in sort of query. I knew that if I ever hired cleaning people, I’d be damned before I started cleaning prior to their arrival. Shoot, I might make it MORE messy, just for GP.

At least that’s what I thought.

This Christmas Eve, we’re hosting the traditional Cook Christmas Eve party. Dinner really, but I digress. Typically, it’s held at the mother-in-law’s place. But as her grands now number 10 (with numero 11 on the way), her space is a tad, how do you say, SMALL. So we’ve moved it to our five bedroom, six bathroom messy ass house.

And since our house is so messy (we try, but the kids relentlessly generate laundry, dirty dishes and dirt in their wake), ma-dukes-in-law offered to hire a cleaning service to get the place in order, in anticipation of hosting the party. We scheduled a few walk-throughs, got a few references, before finally settling on a service we liked.

I was sooo looking forward to someone beside wifey and I doing the major cleaning. Sure, the kids make their beds (occasionally) put away their toys (rarely) put their clothes in the hamper (more like on the floor near the hamper) and clear the table after they eat (by ‘clear the table’ I mean leave everything exactly where it was when they finish eating). But when you’re fighting the war on grime, any assistance is a welcome respite.

Anyway, in the days leading up to the cleaning people’s arrival, the wife started bugging out.

“We’ve got to get this place clean for the cleaning people.” she’d say.

And I’d be like, ” Woman, stop tripping. Why the hell are we hiring cleaning people if we’re going to clean before they get here. What the hell are we paying them for?”

To which she’d reply, “We can’t have people see our house like this!”

And I’m like, “Hello? Walk-through. They already have remember? That’s why they’re coming back, so that it won’t look like this anymore.”

And then she’d be like, “Stephen, I’m not asking you to do anything. I’m not going to let this place look like this.”

Of course, being that the wife is seven (going on eight) months pregnant, “Stephen, I’m not asking you to do anything” is code for “Fool. I’m not asking you, I’m telling you.”

The translation of “I’m not going to let this place look like this” is “You’re going to clean this place up so it doesn’t look like this when they arrive.”

I’m quite fluent in pregnant wife-speak.

So last night (and this morning) what was Stephen doing? You got it! Cleaning before the cleaning people arrived.

Now I know how Cinderella felt.

But as I got the dust-bunnies out of under the bed (where do dust bunnies come from anyway?), wiped around the toilet bowls (what’s up with these kids and their aim?), and tidied up around the house (why would anyone put an apple core in their shoe?), I realized why people clean in advance of their cleaning people.


If you knew that you were living absolutely foul, would you invite folk into your house? Probably not.

Even though cleaning people are there to help you address the foulness of your existence, they are still folk you invite into your house. So the tension is there. To clean or not to clean.

If you’ve got home training (according to the wife, I have none), then even though you are paying people for the service of cleaning, that does not mean that you show them your whole dirty bum. You wipe it down a bit, so that the dingle berries and errant piece of tissue aren’t readily visible.

If, however, you’re an unsophisticated savage like me, you bitch and moan – but clean, lest you incur the wrath of she-that-is-with-child.

When the folks from the cleaning service arrived this morning, I was awash in dust bunnies, bathed in the stench of Pinesol, and glistening with a Martha Stewart sense of accomplishment that comes with not inviting people into a messy home – to clean your messy home.

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