Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mrs. Clean

I’ve just lived what has to be one of the most humiliating experiences of my life in France. Basically being told that I’m a terrible housekeeper. A dirty person. And that I smell. No, not the last one, but they might as well have added that, as ashamed as I feel.

We met with the owners of our old apartment this afternoon to go over the rental contract and note any damage to the place. We already knew there were some repairs to be made, some pretty major, like the peeling paint and plaster in the bathroom caused by humidity in the shower. But when we arrived at the apartment I saw to my dismay that the wife was cleaning the windows, which I’d already cleaned. But apparently it wasn’t to their standards. She informed me that she’d spent two hours cleaning the windows and plastic frames around them leading to the balcony. I’ll admit it sparkles now. I’d simply used Windex and paper towels. That left traces. She did what all French women are apparently born knowing: initial cleaning with dish detergent, rinse with water and white vinegar then sort of squeegee to wipe it all. Ok, so now I know.

And now I know that to get the hard water off the shower head and cord you need to use warm white vinegar, not cold as I’d tried to do. Of course, she told me all this for my own good, you know, so that I won’t make the same mistakes in the future. The husband insinuated at one point that it just took elbow grease, and that apparently we hadn’t used enough.

Well, ok, there are worse things in life than learning you’re not the best housekeeper on the planet. Or that you won’t get nearly as much of your deposit back as you thought since those hours of cleaning they spent will be deducted. What really hurts is my pride. I think it’s worse because I’ve already felt down deep that I’m not up to par to these French housekeepers. The ones who spend hours ironing to perfection every week. Who have all these tricks up their sleeves for getting out carpet stains. Who seem to spend every waking moment chasing dust out of corners. I’d like to have a cleaner house, but I’d also like to check my email every day and relax a bit in front of the telly. Am I just fundamentally lazy?

At least my husband thinks they went a bit overboard, too. Good luck to the new tenant who will have to deal with the list of cleaning tasks the wife’s going to put inside the closet door. You can’t make this stuff up.


Jenenz said...

I felt so strongly to post something, but yet I'm not sure what to say. Is this really the cleaning standards of French women? I've seen the obsessive habit of bleaching white tableclothes and ironing underwear that my roommate's German aunts practiced. Don't beat yourself up over this. There are better battles to fight. And I'm sure you're pretty good at cleaning the house.

Anonymous said...

i'm a friend of crystal so thought i'd pop by and on reading this post had to reply too!

My MIL mere in law terrifies me in exactly the same way. Each time she comes round it is obvious she disapproves of the smudge marks on the windows, glass surfaces. she even buys me cleaning products! I have to remind myself that it has been her career, domestic engineer as such, she has never worked, been a stay at home mum all her life so it's her domain. I've learnt to live with it as i know that i spend MY time preparing lessons etc etc trying to cram everything into one day. This said, it has taken a long time to except it. I do do damage control though each time she comes round...mass cleanage.

Sunny said...

This is NOT good!!!!! You may take after your Aunt Sunny as far as cleaning. I'm not dirty by any means but can sleep like a baby even when the sink has dirty dishes or when all my clothes I wore to school that week are piled on a chair.I'm VERY sorry. Don't hold it against me.

Love you all,