Friday, May 16, 2014

Missing Miss Elvana

I know this is totally a first world problem and a middle class, first world problem at that. But please forgive me for a moment when I say that the number one thing I miss about our time in Albania is our wonderful housekeeper. There I said it and I think her every time I pick up a broom or a scrub brush.

I am not a happy housekeeper and I have never pretended to be. I clean when I need to and make sure the house is always as clean as can be when we have company. On a daily basis when it is just us however, I struggle. I make the bed most mornings because there is something really nice about slipping between smooth sheets in the evening. But wrestling a fitted sheet onto an oversized mattress? The task usually involves some acrobatics and a few not too pretty words. While I love cooking and have no problem cleaning up after myself in the kitchen, giving the counters and floor a thorough mopping is definitely not the highlight of my day. Laundry and all it entails, especially the folding of what seems like a hundred white tube socks in both adult and kid sizes is simply tedious and time consuming. I do like things to be clean so I can generally abide by scrubbing a toilet but tackling the hard water stains in the shower are enough to drive me batty. And vacuuming? Just the sound of the vacuum cleaner is enough to make me run for the hills. Everyone has things they are both good at, they enjoy, or they find relaxing but no matter how I think about it or try it, the domesticity involved in cleaning the house is just not my thing.

One of the advantages of being an American living overseas in a developing country is the ready availability of quality and affordable household help. So when we moved to Albania and hired a full time housekeeper to keep our cavernous house in order I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Initially I was resistant to the idea; after all I thought it was a luxury we didn't need, since I could do it myself (if I really wanted to). But I soon changed my tune. Miss Elvana, our amazing housekeeper, was the best thing that happened to me in Albania. She knew just what to do to make sure the house was always immaculate. Despite his best efforts, Sidney's toys were never out of place and Glenn's shirts were ironed to perfect crispness. After I got over my initial reluctance of having her do our laundry, I grew to love returning home to piles of freshly laundered clothing just waiting to be put away. There is nothing like walking in the door at the end of the day and being greeted by the smell of a spotless and totally cleaned house. (It just isn't the same when you yourself smell like the said cleaning product). Not having to fold laundry or mop down the six dust covered wrap around balconies was really nice. Hosting a dinner party where all I have to do is focus on the cooking was a once in a life time experience (or a two and a half year blip of heaven). I knew I had it good and now I am constantly being reminded just how good it was.

Because now I have my new reality. Household help in Belgium is no where near as affordable as it was in Albania. Besides, now that I am no longer working, Sidney is out of the house most of the day, and we don't formally entertain on a regular basis, it would be really hard to justify the expense of having someone clean up after us. So I clean. Sort of. In my own way. Because of reduced electricity rates late at night and on weekends, Saturdays and Sundays are a marathon of laundry. We have wood, tile and ceramic floors with carpets on top and no matter what the surface they all seem to collect copious amounts of dirt despite our being a shoeless house. And our textured walls that look so beautiful from a distance? Up close I realize just how good those textures are at trapping dust. I don't know if it is the rain or something else but Belgium seems to have a lot of spiders. And these said spiders like to take up residence in the high corners of our ceilings. Every day. And sometimes multiple times in a single day. I kid you not. And the water. Not only is it so hard that it stains every indoor surface it touches, but it also stains and streaks the outsides of our large windows. Maybe it is simply because I am not proficient in this task, but cleaning this house could really be a full time job.

So I tackle it piece by piece. It is no where near as immaculate as it would be under Miss Elvana's thorough hands but for the most part it is good enough. I try my best and that is all I can do. So today, my self appointed scrubbing of the bathroom day, I am thinking longingly about the days when our bathrooms sparkled. I don't think I truly appreciated just how good I had it. But it is what it is. Today, as I scrub I'll be grateful for only having one and a half bathrooms instead five and appreciate the fact that Glenn now wears uniforms on a daily basis, therefore reducing our laundry load. Now if only I we could get rid of all of those white tube socks........

1 comment:

  1. Oh how there are days when I would love to have a Miss Elvana! Most days I just feel like I am a less proficient version of her!