I Want to Clean and Organize Old-Style.

spring clean in leuvenEditor’s note: We’ve spent the week on the Tiki Tiki talking about decluttering, organizing and cleaning from the inside out. Be sure to read the other essays and share your story, tips and ideas.

monica olivera hazelton By Monica Olivera Hazelton

When I was a young girl, we lived with my great-grandmother on my mom’s side of the familia. She was the epitome of your Latina viejita and spent all day alternately cleaning, cooking, and praying – sometimes all three at once. And she found tremendous joy in doing it. I can remember sitting down at the dining room table eating a bowl of her mind-blowing fideo and watching her mop the kitchen floor with one hand, give a quick stir to a pot of frijoles with the other, all while singing a church song (in Spanish).

I sometimes wonder (a bit woefully) how that gene got lost before it reached me.

Especially considering that the urge to clean is not limited to my mother’s side of the familia.  In fact, it is quite strong on my father’s, as well. Every time I visit him and other family members in Spain, I am just amazed at how perfectly clean they keep their homes.

My father’s casa is spotless (thanks to my stepmother) and when I go to visit my Tía Visi, I eventually find myself tiptoeing around her apartment and checking the bathroom floor for any hairs that fall out of my head. (It doesn’t matter – she immediately sweeps after I’ve been in there more than five seconds.) She’s also one of those rare women who cleans as she cooks, so that everything is washed and put away 10 minutes after the meal is over.

The homes there don’t usually have carpeting – probably because tile is easier to keep clean. And when you walk along the cobblestone roads in the towns and cities, it is not uncommon to see the abuelitas throwing their mop water into the street, or sweeping the little sidewalk that runs in front of their house.

I think of these things when I look around my house with sad eyes and see the toys laying around the floor, or the pile of folded – though clean! – clothes laying on the banister waiting for someone to take them upstairs and put them away in their allotted drawers. I can see my abuela’s finger wagging in disapproval when yesterday’s mail on the dining room table seems like mountains of paper eagerly awaiting a small earthquake so that they can escape in a shower down to my (carpeted!) floor. And I can hear the tsk-tsking of my Tía’s tongue when carpet stains from dropped play-dough, grape juice or spaghetti keep growing in size..

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been feeling that ancestral urge to clean my house from top to bottom. So I have to make haste while I can, before the feeling fades away, smothered by the hectic reality that is mi vida.

¿Y tu? Do you have a beautifully kept house? Does it smell of Pine Sol or bleach? Are your whites perfectly folded and sparkling? Or are you like me: granddaughter of a cleaning diva who does a little here and there as time permits?

My goal for 2011? Organize it. Cada cosa en su sitio.

Just like abuela.

Monica Olivera Hazelton  homeschools her two children and writes about it at Mommy Maestra. She also publishes the The Latin Baby Book Club and is the owner of Latin Baby, an online boutique catering to Latino families.

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By Contributor on February 4, 2011 · Posted in casa + cultura

6 Comments | Post Comment

Catalina says:

Nope. I don’t deep clean in the same way I used to when my boys were younger. Imagine my cleaning trends on a bell shape graph. I’m just dipping down from a peak of a piggish home. Maybe when my boys move out, my home will be immaculate once more.

Posted on February 4th, 2011

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Posted on February 4th, 2011

lisarenata says:

What can I say- I am one of those crazy women that “has” to clean as she cooks. (It does make it easier on me and hubby to clean after we are done eating.) But, that is one of the few things that I still hold on to from my super-duper-anal-clean-past. My grandma was super clean/organized and so is my mom, so there was no doubt that I would turn out the same or worse. And I was worse. I was so bad that I could tell if someone had been in my room by just looking at the carpet. Or if someone had sat on my bed, by noticing that it was no longer perfectly smooth. Really, I am not exaggerating. But I tell ya, once I got married and had kids, I had to learn to let go of things just a bit. I was going crazy trying to keep things just perfect as well as taking care of my kids, dog, hubby, etc. And then I was told to let go. Boy was it hard! My house is still clean and organized, but not squeaky clean like it once use to be- and that is okay. Because now there is time for me to truly focus on those things that are more important.
lisarenata´s last [fabulousness] ..Friday Favoritas

Posted on February 6th, 2011

Julie Diaz Asper says:

I do cleaning in strategic strikes that last about 30 minutes and don’t come very often.Instead of cleaning while I cook I tweet or check stuff online. I bet my house would look much better if I got off facebook, lol.

Posted on February 6th, 2011

Tracy says:

Love this line “She was the epitome of your Latina viejita and spent all day alternately cleaning, cooking, and praying – sometimes all three at once.”

I am sort of a neat freak these days but I definitely wasn’t always like that. My husband is a perfectionist and it took years of him complaining about Cheerios spilled in the car, toys left on the floor, dishes unwashed in the sink – for me to be “trained” LOL… and I don’t feel that’s anti-women’s lib to say since I “trained” him in other ways too ;)

My natural disposition is to be very laid back but now that I’m in the habit of making the bed each morning and things like that, I enjoy living in a clean house and I enjoy giving that to my family – I like that they have a nice place to come at the end of the day.

That being said, if I worked outside the home, all bets are off. I don’t know how women juggle that.
Tracy´s last [fabulousness] ..“Clementino”

Posted on February 7th, 2011

Roxana A. Soto says:

I know this is going to sound horrible, but please understand that this is how I grew up and it wasn’t any different from how any of my friends and family grew up, too. It’s just a way of life: One of the things I miss the most about not living in Peru is having a live-in maid! There, I said it!

My house was always sparkling clean, my clothes were always washed and ironed and ready to go, my food was always waiting for me!It was the best thing in the world and I can appreciate it even more now that I’m a mom to two little kids and I work full-time outside the house!!

The truth is that I try to keep the house clean and organized, but I’m not very successful! My husband has tried to “train” me, like Tracy says, (he comes from a very anal and cleaning-obsessed Puerto Rican mom) to no avail. I do what I can and I’ve learned to live with it!
Roxana A. Soto´s last [fabulousness] ..Traveling to Perú in Old Navy Fashion Giveaway

Posted on February 7th, 2011