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The Truth Behind Cleaning A Bathroom

May 15, 2011

I’ve never been particularly fond of pithy sayings like ‘Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today’, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade’, ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ (although I have been known to throw them at my children occasionally, when nothing more profound comes to mind).

My BikeSaturdays are my ‘day off’ from writing.  Now that spring is here, that should mean a couple of hours out on the motorcycle and/or in the garden and/or on the deck with a cold drink and a good book.  Yesterday, however, was a(nother) dull, dreary, rainy Saturday that precluded me enjoying any of those activities. 

I debated heading for the mall, but Saturdays at the quarter-mile long shopping emporium near my house are usually pretty hectic (and, besides, I don’t NEED anything).  I started reading a novel I picked up at the Library last week, but I just couldn’t get into it. I thought about popping in a movie or one of my BBC documentary DVDs, but I’m not really a daytime TV-watching person. I suppose I could have just done some writing, but I had just submitted something to a publisher (for consideration) the day before, so I really wanted a bit of a break.

So, for lack of anything ‘better’ to do, I settled on doing something completely out of character for me – I elected to clean the bathroom.  Now, please don’t misunderstand – it’s not that I NEVER clean my bathroom (or the rest of my house, for that matter), but housework is something I am not particularly fond of (as in: avoid at all costs).   I am, however, quite proud of my home, and want others to see it at its best.  To this end, I generally invite company over at least once a month, which forces me to spend the two or three hours prior to their arrival dusting, polishing, scrubbing, and vacuuming.  (And, yes, I’ve considered hiring a housekeeper, but I was raised with the belief that you don’t pay someone to do something you can – and should – do for yourself!)

Real Simple Magazine CoverThe notion of giving the bathroom a good ‘once over’ may have come from the fact that I’d recently read an article in Real Simple (their slogan – ‘Life Made Easier’ – is hard to resist) entitled “Clean Your Bathroom, Fast”. Since I’d already given the magazine to my mother, I found the article online, and printed it out. I was ready to go!

The first issue I encountered was that you were ‘expected’ to do certain things EVERY DAY (basically wipe down all surfaces in two minutes flat).  Since I clearly hadn’t done this, I decided I would just allocate triple the time (six minutes seemed do-able).  Unfortunately, I had also neglected to read the ‘follow up’ article: “Supplies to Keep in the Bathroom”.  I quickly discovered that I didn’t have the requisite items ‘at my fingertips’; I do, however, keep cleaning supplies in the basement.

Since I was going downstairs anyway, I stopped in the bedroom and stripped the bed, then took the sheets with me to the laundry room and dropped them in the washing machine.  While I was there, I thought it prudent to empty the lint trap and fold the load of towels that were still in the dryer.  That done, I started gathering what I needed. 

Costco PackagingIt took a while to sort through several almost-empty bottles, a couple with clogged nozzles, and to remove the plastic shrink-wrap from the package of shower spray I’d picked up at Costco several months ago (and then promptly forgot about). Armed with disinfecting wipes, shower spray, all purpose cleanser, Mr. Clean magic erasers (NOT the bathroom ones, unfortunately), glass cleaner, an old squeegee and two rather mangled sponges, I headed back upstairs (total time expended: 20 minutes).

It took slightly longer than the stated 30 seconds to wipe out the sink (dried toothpaste adheres to porcelain like quick-set concrete, and the grungy bits around the faucet took significant ‘fingernail power’ to loosen).  Cleaning the toilet boil meant another trip to the basement for the ‘Toilet Duck’ and a little more elbow grease than the people at Real Simple allowed. The mirror and the faucet weren’t too bad, but squeegeeing the shower door took significantly longer than the stated 30 seconds (where does that ‘scum’ come from, anyway – and why is it so hard to remove?!?!?!?)  In all, the total time to complete what I apparently should be doing ‘daily’ (including an additional trip to the basement when the washing machine starting bouncing around the laundry room because the sheets threw it off balance) was around 30 minutes.

By this time, I was sorely in need of a cup of tea.  While it was steeping, I checked my email, watched a YouTube video of a kleptomaniac cat my sister had sent me, and reviewed my blog stats. Then I settled down with a magazine and my (very strong) tea and was surprised when another 30 minutes passed. 

My BathroomBack in the bathroom, I glanced at the next part of the article, which suggested it should take 11½ minutes (per week) to clean the tub, tiles, floor, switch plates, doorknobs, doorjambs, and garbage can.  Since I have a deep soaker tub surrounded by tub-to-ceiling tiles, I had to take off my socks and clamber into the tub to scrub it all down.  There was NO WAY this was going to be accomplished in eight minutes, but I was pleased when I managed it in just under twenty. 

I had to make ANOTHER trip to the basement for my Swiffer Wet Jet mop (and then replenish the washing fluid and the cleaning pad, which meant struggling with another one of those giant Costco packages that aren’t meant to be opened by anyone frailer than The Incredible Hulk).  The floor needed 20 minutes to dry (before I could go back in to take care of the trim and the garbage can), so I had time for another cup of tea!  By the time the ‘weekly’ tasks were taken care of (I added basic dusting – which was NOT mentioned in the article – and discovered one of the bulbs in the light fixture was burned out; this necessitated another trip downstairs to locate a spare bulb and change it), I’d clocked in another 50 minutes, and it was lunchtime.

After a quick (30 minute) lunch, I was ready to tackle the final task – the one the article says you should do ‘every season’:  cleaning, sorting and ‘weeding out’ the bathroom cabinets.  In my bathroom, this includes a linen tower, a double under-the-sink cupboard, and six deep drawers.  However, I was confident I could accomplish this simple task in the allotted 20 minutes. 

The Bathroom CupboardsThe linen cupboard was fairly easy – I tossed a couple of towels that were getting ragged, refolded a few bedsheets, found three bottles of body lotion hiding behind two beach towels, and rearranged the ‘back up’ supply of Kleenex, QTips, and toilet paper (gotta love those giant Costco packs!)

The drawers and under-the-sink cupboard proved more problematic.  Who knew I had over thirty different shades of nail polish?  It took almost fifteen minutes to check each one to see if it had dried out or separated, and to check the colours to decide if they were worth keeping, or tossing away.  Then came the variety of cough syrups and drops (many of which had expiry dates from 2003), pain meds, salves, and bandages (including the sling and wrist support from when I broke my wrist back in 2009).  There were over a dozen bars of soap (Costco again!), several tubes of sunscreen (three expired), six brand new toothbrushes and three tubes of toothpaste, three different ‘travel kits’ (from various vacations) filled with expired and/or dried up miniature personal hygiene items, the Sunbeam foot bath I bought four years ago but only used once, some Epsom salts, a container of baby powder and two of bubble bath, and – to my surprise – a plastic basket containing bathroom cleaning supplies hidden at the back!  Total time to sort, clean, sample and remove thirty colours of nail polish, and decide what to toss and what to keep:  70 minutes (not including the ten minutes I spent chatting with my Mom, who called part way through the process).

In all, cleaning my bathroom took me four hours (as opposed to the 38½ minutes suggested by the writers at Real Simple).  I realize some of that time was probably ‘misspent’, but all in all, I’m quite proud that:

(1)  I didn’t put it off for another day;

(2)   it didn’t kill me (although I’m not sure it actually made me stronger);

(3)  my bathroom now smells very much like lemons (thanks Mr. Clean!)

Which just goes to show – you can teach an old girl new tricks, even when she’s reached … the other side of 55.

New Tricks

You Can Teach An Old Girl New Tricks!

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11 Comments
  1. May 22, 2011 12:18 pm

    I’ve always viewed the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” with a great deal of suspicion. Congrats on your clean house. I’ve been out of town for 2 weeks. The housekeeper kept a lid on grime, but my husband is that master of put everything in one huge pile style of organization. So I’ve got work to do.

    • May 22, 2011 4:58 pm

      I find is amazing that husbands (and children) don’t ‘see’ the mess but still expect it to disappear as if by magic! I used to envy that character from Bewitched who could just wiggle her nose and have it all taken care of!

      Margo

  2. May 16, 2011 9:41 am

    When I worked at the truck stop I used the steam gun fron the wash bay to clean the shop john (It was pretty good sized and really nasty….I think George Washington, and his army, took a dump in there,) It worked, but don’t know that”Real Simple” would recomend it.
    Shoulda rode the scooter, Girl….

    • May 16, 2011 10:02 am

      I recall an old episode of Tim Allen’s show, “Tool Time”, where he demonstrated the perfect bathroom – it self sealed and washed itself down (just like a car wash). I think it was all stainless steel, and there was a drain in the floor and a giant drying fan in the middle of the ceiling Awesome.

      The weather here is STILL horrible – they’re calling for ten straight (more) days with rain. Looks like the bike will be sitting in the garage for a little while longer. Thanks for commenting.

      Margo

  3. Colleen permalink
    May 16, 2011 8:39 am

    My main goal in life is to have my very own cleaning lady…or get rid of my messy husband and furry dogs…and I’d never get rid of the dogs. 😉

    • May 16, 2011 9:37 am

      I feel that way about my cat! (So much fur, so little time!) I saw an ad once for ‘booties’ for cats and dogs that work like Swiffer pads, so they ‘clean’ hardwood and vinyl/laminate floors as they walk around. I just wish mine (husband or cat, makes no never mind to me) how the vacuum cleaner works.

      Margo

  4. Cathy Hendrix permalink
    May 15, 2011 8:39 pm

    You’re a woman after my own heart! However, unlike you, I have stooped so low as to hire a cleaning lady – and have for the last 15 years! Nevertheless, the cleaning ladies do NOT open cupboards, sort through messes and re-organize for you. (Not unless you discuss this ahead of time and pay a whole lot extra!) I usually do this task at the most unlikely times. Usually I’m walking by and spy something out of place. While I’m putting it where I think it belongs, I realize that there’s no room in the said cupboard and that’s why my daughter has left it out on the counter. So . . . and one thing leads to the next hour of tossing and sorting. Not a particularly well-thought out or planned way to clean. But what I always say is . . . out of sight, out of mind and therefore off the to-do list!!!

  5. May 15, 2011 5:55 pm

    I am very impressed and feeling a little guilty…I think you know why. Cute drawing of Really 55+ making it Real Simple for the next time soon.

    • May 15, 2011 6:05 pm

      Guilt gets you nowhere! My mother always used to say “Enjoy life while you can; the cleaning isn’t going anywhere”. She was right!

      Margo

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