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‘Clean up your own room.’ It’s a sound, longstanding piece of advice, although one that some people these days associate more so with celebrity clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson (he’s slowly coming back to the public domain after an annus horribilis) rather than their parents or guardians.
While I’m sure Peterson would like us to actually clean our own rooms, what he’s getting at in broader terms is, if you can’t take control of the rather simple things — well, one hopes you view such a task as simple — in your everyday life then don’t expect to start changing the world any time soon.
A clean break
It makes sense in many ways. There’s nothing groundbreaking in it, either. The majority of us who go to bed at night with our own room and/or house in disorder, struggling with our own existence, are unlikely to wake up in the morning with immediate solutions to the world’s problems.
What’s more, tidying up your own crib can be a humbling yet rewarding task for both body and mind. Get a bit of exercise in (do scrub hard, now) and take pride in your immediate surrounds.
However, there are those who don’t clean their own place and it’s not always because they’re hugely successful and/or exceptionally busy with other “more pressing” matters.
From a Colombian perspective, the hiring of a cleaner, ‘la empleada’ (a female employee, it’s rare, if ever, that it’ll be ‘el empleado’) to do such chores is commonplace for many middle-class households.
Considering the relative cheapness of having one on the books, some have calculated, with reason, that they’d be practically losing money if they didn’t avail of such services as time wasted on housework could be spent far more profitably doing other professional activities.
This is understandable. Nonetheless, I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of somebody coming into my place of residence to clean up after me. Even when I was in full-time employment, working long hours with less free time to tidy up at home, I preferred to do my own cleaning.
For the most part, this is how it’s been in my houseshares during my almost nine years calling Bogotá home. Clean up after yourself. Of course, this has led to conflicts in that perennial theatre of war, the kitchen.
‘Having a cleaner tends to make people lazier and more inconsiderate.’
Once I got out from under the care of my mother and a houseful of sisters — one, in particular, took what we could call a Naziesque line when it came to cleanliness — and began living my independent existence, my mantra has been ‘If you’re going to cook, make sure you have the time to clean up immediately afterwards.’ Few of my housemates down the years have shared this viewpoint.
So, you might ask, wouldn’t it be good to have a cleaner in such circumstances? Well, as I’m now in an apartment where a cleaner comes at least every second day, my answer is no.
From what I can see, it just makes people lazier and more inconsiderate. ‘The cleaner’s coming tomorrow so it doesn’t matter that I don’t wash up after myself.’
Thus, you get an accumulation of dirty dishes in the sink and elsewhere, something that irks me.
The other thing is, in these semi-lockdown days where those who can stay home more are encouraged to do just that, I find it unsettling having somebody going around cleaning when I’m trying to work.
First of all, I can’t help but think I can do it myself. Secondly, I feel I could do it better and feel better for doing it.
Once a week is more than enough for the cleaner, in between we can manage our own affairs. However, the main lessee is content to have her come as frequently as she does so I’ve no real say in the matter, even if I am paying for it indirectly in my rent.
Now, it must be pointed out, the cleaner doesn’t have access to my bedroom — women, in general, haven’t been entering my quarters for months. So I can happily report that I do look after my own immediate surrounds — and clean my own dishes — and have been for years.
So that’s that box ticked, Jordan. Now to take over the world.
Listen to Wrong Way’s Colombia Cast here.