Laura on Life

The definition of 'clean'

By Laura Snyder

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[August 28, 2010]  The definition of the word "clean"? It's all relative. It depends on which relative is doing the cleaning.

Two of my boys -- the youngest two, ages 13 and 8 -- are in charge of cleaning one of the bathrooms in my house. I have put them in charge of that bathroom because they are the cretins who use it the most, and it stands to reason that if it gets messy, they are the most likely culprits.

The plan was to have them clean the mess they make, in hopes that they would stop making the mess. Then they wouldn't have to work so hard. I made the assumption that they didn't realize how much work it would take to clean up their mess and that's why they made it.

Bad assumption. Apparently, they still don't know how much work it would take, even though they are in charge of the work.

For me, clean is, well... clean. No unidentifiable stains, spots or smells means clean. No clothes or towels on the floor means clean. No neon blue stuff smeared around the sink drain means clean. No handprints (or footprints) on the mirror means clean.

My boys think clean is how little one can do to make it look like they did something without actually doing something.

They may place the toothbrushes back into the toothbrush caddy, but on the end of the tube there is still a wad of bubble gum-flavored toothpaste that has dried to pink concrete because the cap has been left off.

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They may have installed the toilet paper onto the spindle -- an accomplishment of which they are particularly proud -- but there is evidence of toilet tissue retrieval and failure on the floor beneath it. You know, those times when you go for 12 inches and come away with a piece the size of a quarter because there is some kind of snafu in the dispenser system. Usually it happens because some insensitive person squashed the roll somewhere between the grocery store and the spindle. So toilet tissue confetti litters the floor and is virtually invisible to my boys.

Now, let me just say that I am not a clean freak. I like the bathroom to be clean, of course, but if my mother was to clean a bathroom, she would be scrubbing down the baseboards and wiping down the lighting fixtures. I haven't gotten to the point where I think cleaning those peripheral things are more important than some other things on my to-do list. The weird thing is that my grandmother thought my mother wasn't a very good housekeeper.

Not that being the best housekeeper would be one of my great aspirations in life, but perhaps someday my cleaning skills will mature into the kind of clean my mother would expect. Perhaps my kids' cleaning skills will someday mature into what I expect.

Until that time, I would just like to see a toothpaste-free faucet once in a while.


Laura Snyder is a nationally syndicated columnist, author and speaker. You can reach her at lsnyder@lauraonlife.com or visit www.lauraonlife.com for more info.

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