What Does Clean Mean?

The bathroom, I have been told, is an excellent place to think.


I tend to find the cleaning of the bathroom is most conducive to reflective thought (something to do with the purgative aspect?) and today was no exception. I started to ponder the difference between people’s standards of cleanliness. Not changing standards of personal cleanliness throughout history (though I have read some fascinating books on the subject) but rather domestic cleanliness.

I think we all, consciously or unconsciously, have a gold standard of what constitutes cleanliness, without which a home cannot be considered a truly clean one, regardless of what else has been cleaned.
For some, it’s a clean sink, à la FlyLady. For others, it’s the dishes that get washed in said sink. Or swept/mopped/scrubbed/vacuumed floors. Or a clean fridge. I have a friend who feels it is important to dust the skirting boards.

I realized, as I worked away this morning, that for me, the most important thing is having a clean toilet and basin. If that is not done, the house is not clean. If that is done, the house is – well, not dirty.

Woman cleaning toilets

I think this probably stems from my childhood experience of Saturday cleaning. On which note, Saturday is the day for weekly housework. Five days shalt thou labour, on the sixth shalt thou do housework and on the seventh shalt thou rest. Of course, if thou dost not do the housework on the Sixth Day, thou dost not have to do it until next Saturday…

At the age of seven, I was started on bathroom cleaning and dishes – my parents being of the view that by the time you leave home you should know how to run one.
Dividing the bathroom territory up with my brother, I went for the smallest possible surface area and ended up with the basin and toilet. (To this day, I avoid bath-cleaning where possible.)
Many years of doing these two chores has ingrained in my mind the subconscious belief that once the toilet and basin are clean, my job is done.

A reclining lady with a fan by Eleuterio Pagliani (1826-1903)

Of course, this is no longer the case, so perhaps it would be as well if I got some sort of mental cleaning product and had a good scrub between the ears.

What’s your sine qua non of household cleanliness – and do you know why?

2 Replies to “What Does Clean Mean?”

  1. Oh no! A fellow young ‘sufferer!’ We (the kids) had to do Saturday morning cleaning too! I had the living room, the passage area and my own room of course. And no peanut butter on toast before it was done! Bah!

    1. Good training for adult life, though, right? Although somehow, I don’t think we would have responded well if our parents had said how good we had it, being trained up young for the greater volume of work to come!
      Getting the living room is terrible, though – always someone else’s mess!

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