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Friday, March 31, 2006

Confessions of a cleaning product addict

by Kory Loucks

It's not all my fault -- I blame it on television. Its ads for Mr. Clean or Swiffer, or Bounty -- the quicker picker-upper they all make cleaning look so easy -- and fun.
And so very, very fast -- only 30 seconds at the most -- sometimes just 15 seconds, and zap -- done.
And do you notice how everyone is having such a good time? I never have that much fun doing anything, never mind cleaning, so what is wrong with me? The only logical answer is that it must be having those actual products that make it so much fun. But it is the speed that gets me every time.
OK, so the first step to changing a problem is recognizing you have one. The day of reckoning came for me a few weeks ago I came home with some Mop 'n' Glo. Actually, it was a store-brand version of Mop 'n' Glo. I guess I had the idea of cleaning, which I felt really good about, but also was thinking about saving money at the same time, which was very responsible of me -- a win-win situation, you might say. However, when I went to put away the generic cleanser under the sink, of course not using it yet, just putting it away, I noticed I already had a full, unused, and unopened container of Mop 'n' Glo -- the real stuff.
That was when I realized that I am a cleaning product addict. It hit me with all the force of unexpected cell phone overage charges, that in fact I buy cleaning products, lots and lots of cleaning products, but rarely use them.
I have accumulated so many different types and kinds of cleaning products under my sink that I recently had to relocate some to them to the bathroom. I like to think of the ones that I moved as my Top Five cleaning products. My logic is that if I am to use any of cleaning products, any one of the Top Five would definitely be my first choice -- kind of like my own private Olympic team of cleaning products.
I have come a long way since my college days, but then I can't honestly say it was a linear progression more of a lateral movement. I remember realizing, much to my horror then, and chagrin now, that not only did I have to clean the bathroom and other areas of my immediate world, but also I had to actually pay money out of my own pocket to buy the products that I cleaned with. Money that could be oh so much better invested in shopping at Marshall's for that reasonably priced but truly adorable pink sweater. I mean, when you are faced with a choice between ammonia or angora, which would you choose?
Well, it just seemed at the time a bit like adding insult to injury. I really thought that someone somewhere should be paying me to use these nasty things that smelled awful and were ruining my nails. Perhaps if I could have been paid by the people who made these products to actually use them, it would have provided me the motivation I was seeking -- you know, somebody like Mr. Johnson and his brother, Mr. Johnson, and perhaps his son too, who I think is still involved.
That could have possibly inspired me to clean. But, honestly, I think I was just entertaining that concept as a personal if only hypothetical protest. To be perfectly truthful, you couldn't have paid me to clean. I am not proud of this fact, but I figure it is best to admit my issues so that others after me will have the benefit of my experience and not have to go through the shame and humiliation I have. It's what I do for the young people. It's who I am.
But as I said, I grew up -- laterally speaking. And part of growing up is doing what you don't want to do. So, buy cleaning products I did -- I didn't want to, but I did. And I bought and bought and bought and bought. And one of the benefits you get from buying the products but rarely using the products is that the products last a very long time. A surprisingly long time. The secret here is, of course, that they never go bad. Ever. Buy a banana and see how long that will last. But that can of Endust? It is as good as the day I bought it, 11 years ago, along with that can of Pledge, which is just as equally unused, and is, in fact, gathering dust.
It was all too much. I decided to peek under my sister's kitchen sink out of curiosity, and to reassure myself and also confirm that it wasn't just me. Much to my horror and dismay, I discovered that it is just me. At least in my immediate family. She had some dishwashing detergent and a few sundry Brillo pads. That was it. I couldn't believe it. Every available square inch of space under my sink is used by products sitting there like battle-ready soldiers waiting.
And so, they wait. And wait. And wait. I don't know what I expect them to do actually. It finally dawned on this college-educated mind of mine that they are certainly not going to be self-motivated. Rather than just dreaming that my whole house was clean, I would have to take some action.
So recently I started using one of my two bottles of 409 (why have one when two will do?) on countertops and other surfaces on a regular basis, by which I mean practically daily. I have set up an ad hoc schedule -- once a week now I clean the bathroom rather than waiting for a dinner party (which is really just external motivation to clean or risk being a social outcast).
It is all so embarrassing. Can I be the only one who has a collection of cleaning products? Actually, I have been thinking of starting a second career. I've crunched the numbers and I have enough cleaning products so that, if I started my own cleaning business, I would be set for a year, easy.
Can you give cleaning products as gifts, or does that send the wrong message? You see my sister's birthday is coming up...