Winning at housework

Housekeeping’s never been my jam. 

But I finally realized, after eight years of trying to maintain my own home, that I needed to outsource some of the work. 

With three boys, a dog, two cats and all the hair I seemed to be shedding, my home had become a minefield of cereal, crumbs, dirt and more — daily. I could sweep and pick up all day and still fall behind the epic mess-making of our gang. 

I wanted to deep clean, too. But how was I going to do that without ever conquering the daily dish mountain? Laundry day is all week. My children do more wardrobe changes than the hosts
at the Oscars. 

And so I say this without melodrama: Steve and Tammy saved my sanity. 

Who are they? Let me explain:

Steve

On Black Friday, I gifted myself an iRobot Roomba 670 — $194.99 after getting $100 off. 

It was a bargain and I was done with having 1,800 square feet of hard floors to keep clean. 

Upon opening the packaging, I read that the machine came with a partial charge, so I pushed the circular button blinking the word “Clean.” 

Steve — that’s what I named “him” — sprang musically to life. And 43 minutes later, he beep-booped back to his charging station having completed his first “job.” 

It was love.

At first, life with Steve was a bit like having a new child in the home. He got tangled in cords and started picking up Nerf darts and biting off the foam ends. Like a preschooler, Steve was always underfoot when I was cooking supper and doing dishes. Before I learned to schedule cleanings when I was away, I’d find myself hopping nimbly over him, as not to interrupt his path of intended vacuuming. 

But we’ve adapted well to each other.

My kids enjoy taunting him: “Steve, come and get me!” And feeding him: “Mom! Steve loves eating Nerds!”

Steve does require some attention — I once received a message of imminent import: “Steve is stuck on a cliff!” I immediately began thinking where he could wander into such circumstances in my single-level home. 

A short search for my beloved Steve led me to find him perched precariously on ... our plush bath mat. It was a close call, I’m not sure how that ½-inch fall would have affected him. 

While I still need to clean corners — Steve, a basic model, doesn’t do about a 2-inch diagonal in corners — he destroys hair and dust. He cleans under the bed and has eradicated an entire colony of dust bunnies. (You can find way fancier models that do clean corners for up to $1,099.99 at irobot.com.)

With Steve, I can schedule cleanings while I’m away: After all, he is still a vacuum and does make some noise. He also requires us to robot-proof the house, which equates to modest pickup patrol — removing socks from the hallway, sweeping LEGO bricks from the floor and trying to save Nerf darts before they’re gobbled up. 

A tip for saving money: Don’t buy virtual walls. Just roll up a towel or place a basket in the robot’s path (totally effective and free).

Despite all of this, Steve is, hands-down, the best leg-up in housekeeping I’ve had since I paid my friend $50 to clean for me. (Which I also recommend if you have those rare friends who enjoy cleaning and run mostly on Caribou and smiles.)

Tammy

My second gift to my sanity was Tammy, a CPO — “certified professional organizer” — with her own company, We Love Messes! She came in with a bubbly hello and a tool belt and we got to work organizing my office. Wielding her Sharpie, she Post-it posted and pile-sorted while I made cutthroat decisions about which of the 900 magazines I would read or not. I hauled out a bag of garbage and donated piles of books.

Tammy made me more self-aware of my needless keeping of junk — and I felt empowered to toss items feverishly. Ultimately, it felt like a friend was there, but with the added advantage of not having to subject any of my comrades to the mundane and dusty task of sifting through my stuff.

Tammy is akin to a personal trainer, but instead of getting your booty in shape, it’s your home that will benefit from the hard work!

Alas, even after three hours of clutter-clearing in my office, I still couldn’t do yoga in there, which was a goal. 

Though I could now access my desk and the closet, and had twice as much usable space, there was still work to be done. So Tammy created a to-do list for me — and, my apologies if you’re reading this, Tammy — it’s still not done.

I need to make a second appointment and I’m excited to invest in making my home more relaxing and efficient. 

Tammy, whose three-hour session for me cost $200, has clients in California and elsewhere, so if you’re reading this in the Twin Cities, you might be in her area of operations. If you want to find a certified organizer based in the Twin Cities, go to napominnesota.com/housekeeping.

I know it seems like something a “real” adult should be able to tackle alone. But sometimes you need training wheels — and a helping hand — because adulting is hard. 


Amanda Williams lives in rural Minnesota with her two energetic sons.