When I became ill, I had to let go of my neat freak habits because it’s not easy to clean everything and have everything in its place when you’re constantly in pain. Being a neat freak is ingrained in me from growing up in households where everything had to be perfect and daily chores were a standard part of my existence. When I was a teenager, I had to reserve a chunk of my weekend time for cleaning, not just my room, but also parts of the common areas of our home. I couldn’t’ relax until I completed my part of cleaning up. That habit stuck with me when I moved into my own home, and it took a lot of unlearning for me to realize I didn’t have to live such a regimented life. Although I’ve loosened up over the years, I’m still very particular – if not outright anal retentive – about how I like to have things done. In fact, I used to find cleaning therapeutic. Sometimes to clear my head or work through a problem I would pick an area to organize or a room to clean. Working out my frustration on bathroom tiles or piles of laundry felt productive and kept my place neat and spotless, and distracted me from worry or stress for the time that my focus was on eliminating dirt. I always felt better and clearheaded after cleaning. Now cleaning makes me feel more pain.
For the past few years, I’ve had to rely on friends and family to help keep my home tidy. I’ve had to learn to be gracious when someone cleans or organizes something in a way that I would never do it. I’m grateful to have clean clothes and clean sheets on my bed, but sometimes I feel myself being critical of how other people clean things or how they put sheets on my bed – not everyone makes hospital corners. I’ve had to stop myself from re-stacking dishes that weren’t put in the cupboards the way I like to see them, which reminded me of a guy I dated years ago who deliberately misplaced things to see if I would rearrange what he had helped to put away. What do you think I did? I definitely didn’t find it funny that he did that to test me. However, I believe it’s a different story when I’m paying someone to do my housekeeping. I should be able to give instructions and point out if something isn’t done to a professional standard. On Monday, I booked someone for three hours to clean and do laundry for me. It was a woman I had booked through a cleaning service a few times before. She now works independently because the cleaning service shut down before the end of last year, and I thought it would be good to have someone familiar with my needs return to my home to help me. Sadly, it didn’t work out that way.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a washing machine and dryer in my home, so my clothes, towels, and sheets have to be taken to the laundry room on another floor. To make things move a bit faster I separated everything into loads ahead of time to make it clear what she could wash and dry together. I even pretreated some items with stain remover and let her know which clothes shouldn’t go into the dryer. She took my clothes to the laundry room, but didn’t’ follow my instructions. I figured this out the second time she brought the wrong clothes back to be hung up to dry. This forced me to have to go to the laundry room with her to sort out the mistakes. This was only the beginning of my displeasure. For some reason she decided to spend most of the scheduled time hanging out in the laundry room instead of returning to my place to clean while things were in the washing machines. When I realized how long she was gone, I called her to ask why she was hanging out in the laundry room. I couldn’t make sense of what she was doing because she had worked for me before and cleaned while the clothes ran through the wash cycle. Surprisingly, when she came back to my place, I actually had to remind her that my bathroom needed cleaning and the sheets on my bed had to be changed. Then she returned to the laundry room to put things in dryers. Again, she took her time returning to my place. When the three hours ran out, she hadn’t cleaned anywhere else, and some of my things were still in the dryer because she hadn’t taken all the dirty things out of my clothes hamper when she started my laundry.
By this point, I was in a lot of pain and so frustrated that I decided to pay her and tell her to leave. Later, I went down to the laundry room myself to pick up the last pieces of my laundry, and folded the other things she finished washing and drying earlier. My home was barely cleaner than when she arrived. She didn’t vacuum. She didn’t dust a single piece of furniture. She never stepped foot in my kitchen. She didn’t’ take out the garbage, not even the pile of paper towels she used while cleaning my bathroom, which didn’t include fully cleaning the toilet bowl or wiping the bathroom floor. I even had to remake my bed, not because I wanted hospital corners, but because of how sloppily she threw on the sheets, pillows, and duvet. Worse still, by the time I finished folding my things, I realized that some of my kitchen towels didn’t make it back from the laundry room, and when I went back to check for them they were nowhere to be found.
I’m still trying to understand how someone could believe it would be acceptable not to clean when that’s what I hired her to do. How could her work ethic and standards change so drastically since the first time she came to clean for me? How could she expect payment of the full rate for her time, which I did simply because I didn’t have the energy to argue with her? How could she lose my towels? I wanted answers to some of these questions so I sent her a text message on Tuesday asking her to phone me when she had some free time. She responded with a text on Wednesday, telling me she couldn’t talk to me. I’m sure she knows what she did, but in case she didn’t I sent her a detailed text message. I hope she’s happy with the money she took from me even though she didn’t earn it and with knowing that I’ll never book her again.
After I became ill, in spite of my severe pain, it took some convincing from friends and family for me to accept that I needed help and couldn’t do everything myself. It was even more difficult for me to agree to hire a stranger to come in to help me take care of my home because my illness is obvious, my pain medications sometimes make me drowsy and foggy, and I was nervous about being alone with someone I didn’t know. Now that this woman attempted to exploit my situation, I feel my lack of trust is justified. That being the case, I still need help but I’m not sure what I’m going to do.
The Beatles – Help!