Cleaning is seen as a chore. We moan like mad about it. We complain about vacuuming, dusting, wiping, and whatever else it takes to rid our homes of grime. And spring, when those rays of sunlight shine on grubby surfaces and alight filthy windows, is the time when we feel compelled to knuckle down and tackle it.
The very idea fills me with dread, but I’ve taken heart from a survey that reveals how one in three women secretly love cleaning – how they find that giving their home the once-over is ‘relaxing’, ‘satisfying’ and ‘therapeutic’.
I think I know what they mean. Not that I take pleasure in brushing cat hairs off the sofa or wiping down windowsills. But once one of those drudgerous tasks is done, it really does feel good.
Last week, I felt like a weight had been lifted as I systematically cleared a pile of shirts that lay, creased and crumpled, on a chair in our living room. It took an entire afternoon, but each shirt picked up, ironed and put away gave me a feeling of satisfaction. As I went one step further and hung them in wardrobes, I was positively ecstatic. When the pile was gone, I was on cloud nine. I was so buoyed up that when my husband came home, he thought I’d been taking illegal substances.
I experience a similar feeling when I clean the bathroom. And again when I very occasionally tackle the oven or defrost the freezer. It is hard to explain – it’s the sense of achievement and the fact that what you’re doing visibly makes a difference that puts a smile on your face. The levels of satisfaction – that’s the sort of thing they talk about in market research focus groups – are probably far greater for me as my house isn’t the cleanest.
I’m so disinterested in cleaning that I once featured in a national women’s magazine under the headline ‘I’ve never Hoovered upstairs’. This was true at the time and still is to some extent, although I’ve had to change my ways under pressure from my daughters who, despite being untidy, want a show home environment when their friends come round. So when I’ve actually used the Mr Muscle (that’s still almost full after years under the sink) the results are plain to see.
But there is a downside to cleaning – the results don’t last. In my home the laundry mysteriously piles up again overnight, the floors revert to their usual crumb-strewn state and it’s a miracle if the kitchen surfaces stay clean for half an hour.
It makes me wonder whether there’s any point to this guilty pleasure at all.