Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Suburban Man: Clean up the house day

By Rick Kaempfer

I’m often asked what it’s like to live in a house run by men and boys. Let me put it to you this way…if you ever stop by my house unannounced, can I request a specific time and day?

Every Friday, my boys and I do something called “Clean up the house day.” Without a strict adherence to this weekly policy, we’d be living in squalor.

When they’re at school, I stop writing about noon, put on my iPod, and begin cleaning up the house (I’m using the male definition of “cleaning” by the way). By the time they come back from school, I’ve dusted, swept, vacuumed, watered the plants, cleaned the kitchen, thrown all of the stray toys and books onto their beds, and done several loads of laundry.

As soon as they walk in the door, they are handed a gigantic pile of clothes to put away, a swiffer, and a garbage bag, and they’re expected to clean up their own rooms (again, I’m using the male definition of “clean”). They have about an hour to tackle that herculean task, before they go to phase 2.

During Phase 2, Tommy (age 12) puts on the rubber gloves and cleans the bathrooms (do I need to keep reminding you I’m using the male definition of “clean”?). Johnny (age 9) and Sean (age 5) are expected to take care of the basement without getting into a fist-fight.

If they finish early, that’s fine, but they are absolutely forbidden from re-messing up any part of the house until their mother gets home. They’ve learned the hard way that this is a completely non-negotiable rule. After mom gets home, life can return to normal.

I just want the weekend to start off well for my lovely wife. It isn’t too much to ask to come home to a house that isn’t disgusting at least one day a week, right? Even if she just sees the house clean for an hour or two, it seems to put a smile on her face.

Also, from a selfish point of view, after the weekend has started off with a “clean” house, then when the house starts to accumulate new piles of randomly strewn toys and books and crumbs and crap over the weekend–it’s not all my fault. She was here too.

Plus, I don’t have to hear her sighing and muttering the word “disgusting” under her breath all weekend long.

So, if you stop by on a Friday, any time after 5 is fine. If you stop by on a Thursday, even if all the lights are on and you can see us inside the house, we’re not home.

It’s for your own good.

This article first appeared on the blog of "NWI Parent," a publication of the Northwest Indiana Times. I'm now a regular columnist/blogger for them, writing a weekly column called "Father Knows Nothing"