Adventures in Imperfection

Tidy vs Clean: The Dirty Truth


Hi friends!

Please allow me to boldly characterize the diverse readership of this blog into two categories:

1) Kind, new friends who are getting to know me and appear to be slightly intrigued and/or disturbed. (Hey Christy and Victoria!)

2) My blessed circle of family and friends who know me well and still choose to tolerate my idiosyncracies.

Whichever category you fall into, please know that I truly appreciate the time you take to read my random thoughts and rambling adventures. More importantly, I hope that this post doesn’t scare you away for good.


Hi, I’m Michelle Terry and I’m addicted to housekeeping.

Some of you have been in my house and may have even kindly commented on how clean it was.  Please turn and cough while I sweep that last bit of dog hair under the rug before taking you on a tour of my deeply demented OCD cleaning (and non-cleaning) behaviors.

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What you don’t know, is that right before you praised my housekeeping and time management abilities,  I had just finished stuffing piles of mail into the baskets under my desk and dirty dishes under the sink. 
In my home, there is a HUGE difference between “clean” and “tidy.”  Even though I manage to keep the house tidy, it’s rarely ever clean.

The funny thing is that I LOVE to clean house.  An unhealthy, bordering on mental instability kind of love. Unscheduled Saturdays excite me more than a new pair of hot shoes and my fingers start itching on Friday night as I carefully plan the attack room by room. I’ve been known to sniff lemon Pledge for inspiration and drool over the Williams-Sonoma homekeeping section.

Being the closet introvert that I am, there’s something soothing and therapeutic about sticking ear buds in and scrubbing my humble abode while blocking out the rest of the world. The only other solitary activities I like to do more are long runs and weeding or digging in the dirt.  Clearly, it doesn’t take much to entertain me.  In fact, I’m still coming down from a post-O high having just spent a good six hours of a snowy Saturday putting in some real elbow grease that resulted in sparkling surfaces and dust-free ledges.

If you have a housekeeper, I don’t judge you and many times wish I had one, too. In fact, I tried a housekeeper. Once.  An experience that quickly backfired because of some deep, ingrained German thing inside me that couldn’t bear to pay another person to clean a house that I want/need to clean myself.  After a 5-month trial, I had to sadly tell her good-bye when hubby continually kept catching me cleaning before she came and then again after she left. 

Which brings me to the schizophrenic middle of this post. If you haven’t noticed already, I vacillate between compulsively cleaning and surreptitiously hiding the evidence when I don’t have time to do it correctly.  Today’s purpose is to share what I’ve learned about housekeeping as well as share deep dark secrets about “fake cleaning” your home in case you have a white-glove-inspection hubby like mine and don’t have the time to fully meet expectations.

Part 1: Universal and Scientific Laws of Housekeeping

1) The vacuum cleaner works better when it’s plugged in.

2) Indoor dogs with white hair will deposit it on dark furniture. Indoor dogs with dark hair will deposit it on light furniture. Uninvited outdoor dogs will deposit everything everywhere. Clean sheets and carpets are favorite places for the most special of their gifts.

2) Kill two birds with one stone and clean the shower while you’re actually taking one.  Avoid mistaking the bleach for shampoo and remember to put on a robe if the FedEx guy shows up midstream.

3) Put in your iPod and clean to some bad A music.  “Hair of the Dog” by Nazareth is a personal favorite and works well when trying to foster enough attitude to keep people off of your freshly waxed floors. It’s also highly effective at drowning out the pleas from off-spring or a spouse who want to interrupt you long enough to feed them.

4) Dance and/or sing to anything playing on said iPod. Bonus points if your teenager’s friends are in the house. Sweet moves and awesome singing will endear you to your child forever. Extra credit if you moonwalk.

5) Be sure to take that iPod out of your bra before leaning over and scrubbing the toilet. Just sayin.

6) There’s no crying in housekeeping. Unless of course, you bang your shin or crack your head on a sharp corner climbing out of the bathtub after cleaning it.  Bleached surfaces are slippery and can cause permanent bodily harm/or leave marks. Speed kills and so does tile.

7) Murphy’s law: A sparkling, sanitized toilet will be used by your husband exactly 3.2 seconds AFTER you finish cleaning it.

8) Speaking of husbands. Train him to do housework early.  Nothing hollers “foreplay” louder than a man folding laundry or running a vacuum cleaner.


Which brings me to my own “white glove” hubby.  While he appreciates what he calls my “hummingbird buzz of activity” he  has an eagle eye for hidden dirt and an outbuilding/man cave that is more pristine than my neatly labeled baking supplies. He’s doesn’t demand a perfect home, but since he has a stressful job I want him to come home to a warm, happy, clean-feeling home. Since I work 40+ hours myself and don’t  have time to keep up, I’ve had to use sneaky alternative methods.

It was Jeanne Roberston,  a comedian I listen to on XM radio,  who ultimately saved me. I was in the middle of a six hour drive to Sioux Falls, SD when she changed my life forever. An epiphany struck me as I listened and laughed to her comedy routine about how she fake cleans her home and tricks her husband into believing it’s spotless.


Even though, she clearly embellished for humor’s sake, I could sense truth, wisdom and experience behind her words. Using Jeanne as inspiration, I devised my own devious and deceptive set of tasks to save my sanity and still have Scott believing he was married to a Martha Stewart wanna be. Because he reads my blog, you realize that I’m risking everything to share this with you. 

Part 2: The Dirty Truth

1. Bleach is your friend. This is the number one rule for a reason. Piles of paper, mountains of laundry and small animals hidden in dusty corners magically disappear if your house has that unmistakable smell of fresh bleach. You don’t even have to clean anything. Pour it down the sink or spray it in the air. Despite obvious signs of bacteria having babies,  the scent will have hubby believing what the eyes defy.

2. Fresh carpet lines. Pick one traffic area and run the vacuum cleaner over it a couple of times to produce the tell-tale lines.  My favorite three words?       “You just cleaned!”

3. Close the blinds and light candles. Not only does it hide the dust the sunlight highlights, it immediately turns his mind to other things (see #2).

4. Effectively use storage. I don’t mean pretty baskets or fancy file cabinets. I mean the holes and cubbies and corners you have  immediate access to but  hidden from prying public eyes. You can effectively hide piles and small children inside closets, washing machines and dryers in a matter of minutes.   
(Oh wait, don’t hide the kids in the machines).

5. Lay out all of your cleaning supplies and towels. This works in emergency situations when your house is in shambles and have no time for vacuum lines or bleach spray. The mere sight of “work in progress” fools him into thinking that you are knee-deep in the trenches, but now have to stop because it’s time to make his dinner and/or head off to a school activity. I keep that caddy handy so it can be pulled out in seconds and as he is emerging from the vehicle in the garage.

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6. Something baking. Even if it’s the frozen dough-balls from the latest fundraiser. Pair with technique #5 and you might even hear,  “You cleaned AND baked? Want to eat out tonight?”


Now that you’ve just witnessed me completely come clean by telling my dirty truths are you going to bail me out?
I would really love it if you shared some of your own hints and tips in the comments below. I’ll need some new tricks after Scott finishes reading this.

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Cartoons from Pinterest

Photos from my house; before, during and after yesterday’s deep clean.

15 thoughts on “Tidy vs Clean: The Dirty Truth

  1. I have totally done the “clean the shower while showering thing.” It works well, but take my word for it: Bleach spray, while cleaning shower tiles, can’t be used for whitening teeth.


    1. Good to know, Ned. I just realized something though…our conversations over the last couple of days have referenced a certain naked (possibly documented) skydiving incident and cleaning showers. I see a most strange and unusual friendship forming.


  2. One word friend, housekeeper. I know you tried it, but tis true in our house. Actually, that is how I met Jason! A girlfriend of mine was a school teacher and heaven know we do not pay teachers all they are worth (maybe you could do a piece on all the jobs people should get paid more to do)!!! To enhance her cash flow she also cleaned houses for a handful of people. One of those houses was Jason’s (and yes, I thought single guy who has a house cleaner! Score!); she introduced us and the rest is history! Like you, I love things clean & tidy and I don’t even mind cleaning! What I do mind is the TIME it takes to clean! Hence a housekeeper we have as it is more important to have the time to do the things we would like/need to do as opposed to cleaning the homestead šŸ˜‰


    1. Hi Kera!

      That is a completely AWESOME story. Loved that you met Jason through his housekeeper…it made me smile–just like you always make me smile, too!

      I certainly do agree with your “one word.” In fact, if I had to do it all over again, I would have had a housekeeper when my kiddos were younger. Those are the days that I’d much rather spend playing with them on the floor than scrubbing toilets. Now that Tanna Banana is in college and Dane is almost in high school–my week-ends are almost completely free. Bonus? Dane likes to help me clean šŸ™‚

      Dear Friend, I appreciate the time you take to read my wild ramblings–the bonus is that I always learn a little more about your sweet family as well as a little more about myself.


      > Date: Mon, 9 Dec 2013 03:25:53 +0000 > To: >


  3. Oh Michelle, I think this just eliminated the possibility of having you over;(. We have a vacuum sitting In the kitchen, for a week, waiting to be emptied, but I don’t think that meets your caddy ready technique. I am sitting in dog hair right now. We bought a new air purifier that is supposed to work on dog hair -we will see. Even I am over it, but not way to keep up. I think I need to do the cleaner every week instead of every other -or maybe every other day?


    1. Say it isn’t so, Chris! Me coming to your house (esp) in Phoenix might be the only thing that will get me through this Kansas winter. Please re-invite me!
      I totally failed to neglect a very important statement. I completely pledge my eternal love to anyone who has a house at least as dirty as mine. Those clean ones? B-O-R-I-N-G! I’m typically happy if my house is clean 1 day out of 3 months. I’d rather have my happy dogs and family than a shiny surface (I promise!)


  4. While I like the idea that the scent of bleach will fool my husband, I don’t like to use bleach because it gets into our water system and is really bad for everyone’s health. I appreciate your humor, however.


    1. Hello! Thank you so much for reading my warped view of deception and housekeeping. This post has generated more discussion than I would have ever imagined and I appreciate you chiming in as well. I peeked over at your blog and I look forward to hearing about your homemaking/gardening journey (I love to garden, too!) One of the most rewarding parts of blogging is the new people I meet from all over. Thanks for crossing my path–I promise I didn’t pour any bleach on it šŸ™‚


  5. Michelle, your post was hilarious. You get cleaning demons. Hahah — but you know what? i can relate. I don’t think I’m as meticulous as I used to be, but I have to stay organized, and my space needs to stay relatively clean or I feel out of sorts. When my living space is tidy, I feel much more at peace.

    OK, one of my tricks is short.Shoji screens. I use the shorter ones. They come in all colors and styles, but the trick is to find one that’s around the same height as your bookcases, so they don’t necessarily have to be short. The one in the link is 3 feet tall, but the ones I have are 4 ft tall – six panels wide. Oh, and you don’t need bookcases.

    They can hide a multitude of sins and look so fashionable. I have 4 ft bookshelves that are deep, and are concealed behind screens. If they get untidy and dust ridden, no worries. You wouldn’t believe how many compliments I had with those screens, and yet my company was clueless that I had stuffed gawd knows what behind before they arrive. Put one up against a corner of your room — a tall one, and back the outside panels against the wall. That becomes your emergency place to stash. Put ‘fake’ candles behind them, and walla, you have ambiance. It’s a win-win. :mrgreen:

    Btw, congratulations on your Versatile Award nomination. šŸ˜‰ It was well deserved. ā¤


  6. Shoji Screens!! BRILLIANT! What a fantastic way to hide not only the dusty book shelves, but the completely dust-covered trim board at the base of the wall (drives me crazy!)
    You are so good to me and I appreciate your loyal reading of my random thoughts. You are a true gem!
    I hope you have a wonderful day, Victoria!
    *hugs and a wave until we meet again*

    (and thank you again for the award nomination, I can’t seem to find my tiara anywhere so your kind words will suffice!)


  7. Just came across your blog and in exchange for the chuckle, I will share my grandmother’s trick with you. Her husband was adamant that dinner must be on the table when he got home. (Yes, he mellowed out a lot in their older years) My grandmother told me that all she had to do was have the table set and stick an onion in the oven when she knew it was about time for him to get home. Then, when he came in, he would smell the onion, assume dinner was on the way and would sit at the table reading the newspaper contentedly until it arrived – no matter how long it took.


  8. ROFLOL! For a second or two I thought I was reading a private diary my husband wrote. He maintains his sanity admidst wires, plugs, three computers and various other equipment on his desk. To accompany the semi-permanent confusion, he adds three month’s worth of old mail, bills and notes to himself to remember to pick up the books from the auditor. Then comes a call and someone on the line says, “I am in town and just thought I would drop by for a minute,” and *swoop* it is all (in a matter of minutes) under his desk–along with some of the wires he stashed there last time someone came over. I dare to ask him if he will help me sweep while I make coffee and he does–everything literally goes under the rug.


    1. Now I’M rolling on the floor laughing! Maybe your hubby is really a magic man and there’s extra treasures hidden under those rugs he uses in a pinch.
      I keep hoping that’s the case here, but it’s not!
      I’m so glad this made you laugh and truly appreciate you stopping by to read!

      Liked by 1 person

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