Cleaning, and why I like vacuuming


When I was about 10 my bike got stolen from right outside the front of the house.

It was a Sunday and I was being lazy and had just parked my BMX on it’s kickstand on our short front path and forgot about it for a few hours.

My dad was naturally quite mad and decided to report it to the police. My dad was a bit like that.

That evening he got a mysterious phone call and when he hung up he suddenly announced, “The police are coming around to talk to you about your bike.”

I almost wet myself. I had never talked to a police person in my life. Even though I knew I had a pretty aggressive law-abiding-gene — I was still scared shitless by “Authority”.

And then my dad said, “Well you had better clean up your room — don’t you think?”

“Yes,” I said, very soberly. I raced to my room which resembled an 80s apocalypse movie crossed with the trenches of World War One.

So I did the fastest “clean” of my room ever. Naturally I shoved as much junk under my bed, but essentially I worked out what was achievable in the limited timeframe and did that task first, tackled those big jobs, then worked on non-core details once that level had been achieved.

And it was quite surprising to me how impressive my room looked in that 15 minutes or so I had — compared to the rubbish tip it was only a few minutes before. And of course the cops had no interest in seeing my room, nor did they even get past our front sunroom. But I wasn’t entirely disappointed. Apart from the fact it was satisfying to know if for some reason they wanted to do a snap inspection, my room looked at least “neatish” — it was also just a bit of an achievement to get my room in such a presentable state in such a short period of time. I quietly patted myself on the back.

As it turns out, my bike had been “borrowed” by a kid-neighbour and turned up a day later underneath some house — not his — only a street away. This was just part of the chaos and perpetual bewilderment of growing up. I was glad to have my bike back, but just a bit embarrassed and annoyed all this drama was really over nothing.

But I never forgot that intensity of cleaning I achieved on that day, and indeed I embraced it for the rest of my life. I really felt proud and so to this day if I am engaged in a cleaning activity — I do it in a really determined or almost frenetic state.

Sometimes it’s like a trance — and I almost actually enjoy it.

An ex-girlfriend once described me as a “tidy” person, not a “clean” person. Although she wasn’t really trying to be philosophical, just annoyingly critical, I think she was right. I am not too fussy about sterilising the house with chemicals and washing my hands every 5 minutes. In my “tidy” world — I am more focussed on my stuff having it’s own “place” so when I clean I can approach the job mathematically.

And it’s a little funny, but sometimes I will still do a “the police are coming around in 15 minutes” hyper-clean-up. TRUE STORY. It’s like I can treat cleaning more like an adventure or an escape – rather than a shitty chore.

But now I am a bit older I guess I kinda think of cleaning less like the cops are going to raid my bedroom and more like I was playing “Millionaire Hot Seat” with Eddie Maguire. I smash through the easy questions trying to get to that “first safe level”. Then I relax and take my time with the more difficult questions — which usually involves that “clean” cleaning with the chemicals and scrubbing and hands-and-knees stuff.


I especially love vacuuming.

In the “clean” versus “tidy” debate, it is the one “clean” thing my brain can really get into. I guess it appeals to the “boy” in there. Vacuuming is like serious indoors cleaning, but at an arm’s length (plus quite a bit more) — with a machine that makes a lot of noise, and the results are quite tangible — so when you walk around the house your feet no longer make a crunching sound.

We bought a Dyson earlier this year and despite the considerable expense — OMG — what a Revelation. Previously we had been using shitty K-mart ‘hoovers’ — as the English would say — and there’s no comparison. None. Light and dark. Good and evil.

Apart from actually doing a good job of sucking up the shit on the floors — carpet or wood — having a Dyson is like being part of a community, and a community of people with really clean stuff underfoot.

It’s a bit like buying an Apple product. The packaging, the instructions, the plain english, the diagrammatic explanations, the attention to detail — it is all so refreshing. You even get emails from Dyson telling you when to clean your filters.

The thing I love about Dyson instructions is that there are hardly any words. I officially learnt today something I knew instinctively already – we are highly visual beings. We learn more from illustrations than words. It was from this amazing video if you care to look.

In closing — I’ve also read somewhere that men who do more housework have a better sex life. I guess it makes sense. I do look pretty damn hott when I am using the Dyson, especially with all those extra attachments. Totally.