The idea of paying anyone to clean one's home is totally alien to me. I've never done it, my parents have never done it, and as far as I know, no member of my extended family has ever done it. In fact, as far as I'm concerned, the only people who've ever done it are characters in Victorian novels. And it seems especially incongruous to me that hired people came and cleaned up our home for money when our home is such a horridly run-down duplex on one of the very poorest corners of an incredibly poor town, where none of our doorways are quite rectangular and none of our doors quite fit their frames and none of our walls are quite directly upright and our landlady takes months or sometimes even years to fix anything that we ask her to fix.
However, I have to admit that the combination of two indoor-outdoor dogs, one indoor-only cat, and two humans with a flood-prone back yard from which the dogs track in mud incessantly had led to alarming amounts of filth. Specifically, it had led to a situation where, after our house had already been professionally dusted on Thursday, a visible film of dust built up overnight so that when the woman and her teenage daughter returned on Friday to finish up, they re-dusted the same objects that they had dusted the day before. Even the dishes in our cupboards, with all the cupboard doors closed, sometimes manage to build up a visible film of dust between the time we put them into the cupboards and the time we take them out to eat off them. I've never lived anywhere that collected dust even a tenth as fast as this place does, and it does get to be really too much for us to keep up with by ourselves. (I would add "especially since currently we're both employed full time," but that might imply that when I've been unemployed I've managed to clean and dust everything daily, which would not be true at all.)
So Susan hired this woman she works with, who brought her teenage daughter with her and cleaned everything in sight. Susan paid for the entire cleaning bill, because (1) she's the one who is most bothered by the dirt, (2) she's the one who cares most about having indoor-outdoor dogs, and (3) I'm the one who is inconvenienced by having noisy professional vacuuming done while I'm attempting to work from home and waiting for important telephone calls from people in positions of power in my workplace. The latter issue was particularly stressful, and although it ended up working out fine - because the people I was expecting calls from didn't actually call on Thursday or Friday - I'm still rather concerned about the prospect of this becoming an issue again in the future, because Susan wants to keep hiring them to clean the place regularly, and apparently the woman is only available during regular working hours, when I am trying to work.
On the other hand, Susan is the one who got a severe headache from the noxious fumes of all the cleaning products. But she still seems to feel it was well worth it. I have to admit that the professional cleaning significantly exceeded my amateur standards - the professionals successfully removed stains from the bathtub and toilet that Susan and I both could have sworn were unremoveable. We had both scrubbed those stains so many times with so many different cleaning products and never achieved anything close to the results that the professionals achieved. Also, the professionals' rearrangement of our possessions so as to clean underneath them produced some rather delightful results, such as a giant soda tower in our living room (at the entrance to our kitchen) that we are both now feeling inclined to keep there. The Dr. Peppers are Susan's, and the 7Ups are mine; we particularly appreciate the attention given to arranging the colors symmetrically:
The use of my hair ties to construct a makeshift hair tie holder that dangles from a nail on the bathroom wall was also rather creative. (But all credit for the delightful Fairy Soap decor being held in place by the same nail goes to Susan, who is a far better interior decorator than I will ever be.)
Anyway, the professional cleaning was largely a good experience, especially since I didn't have to help paying for it, although I'm still uncomfortable with the way the noise of having it done during my working hours threatens to interfere with my work.
The other milestone was that we bought a new mattress and box spring today. When Susan and I met, I had a 30-year-old twin bed with the same mattress I'd been sleeping on all my life, which had rather throughly exceeded its intended lifespan and had a distinct me-shaped dent in the middle, while Susan had a relatively new, hard-as-a-rock, double-sized mattress and box spring on a queen-sized frame. When I moved in with her, we gave away my twin bed but kept Susan's hard-as-a-rock one. The difference in sizes between the frame and the mattress/box spring set meant that the mattress and box spring tended to slide toward the foot of the frame, causing our pillows to fall into an approximately eight-inch gap between the headboard and the end of the mattress and box spring. We attempted to plug the gap at the foot of the bed so as to keep the mattress up against the headboard, but it never worked terribly well, and also it's just not very comfortable to sleep on a bed that is hard as a rock. Or at least to me it wasn't.
Susan was originally quite averse to the idea of sleeping on anything that wasn't hard as a rock, but since I insisted on a thick, soft air mattress for camping rather than the one-inch-thick foam rubber mattresses that she wanted to use (through which I could feel every contour of every pebble on the ground), she gradually decided that it's okay to sleep on something soft and realized that actually, our hard-as-a-rock bed was giving her hip-aches whenever she slept for ten or twelve hours at a time, in addition to giving me backaches every single night within about four to six hours. But then I became the one who wanted to delay buying a better mattress, not because I didn't want one but because I was unemployed so long and didn't feel like it was a good time to be buying expensive items. Even now, my job is a temporary one that may not last beyond the end of 2010. But at least it's lasted long enough and paid well enough to build my savings account back to levels I'm more comfortable with, so I decided that the clear and urgent need to buy a new mattress should not be delayed any longer. And Susan agreed.
So today we went to a mattress store and asked to see the softest mattress they had. I'm terrible at judging softness by lying down on something for just a few minutes, so I relied mostly on the labels about relative softness, and asked Susan for confirmation. "This is supposed to be the softest one, right?" I asked repeatedly. "Okay then, this is the one I want. I want the softest one. Let's get the softest one!" And Susan obligingly agreed to get it. Technically, it wasn't actually the very softest mattress in the store, I suppose; there was another one that cost twice as much that was supposed to be softer. But we got the softest one in our desired price range. It's a Sealy Posturepedic with a Euro-style top and various foams and such, the details of which are not important at all, because all that matters is that it was the softest one. I am absolutely ready to start sleeping on something that does not feel like a granite countertop or a hardwood floor and start sleeping on something that actually goes squish when I lie down on it. Plus, it's queen-sized! So no more losing our pillows into that irritating eight-inch gap and ending up with our heads dangling off the edge of the mattress. Hooray! The fantastic new mattress is supposed to be delivered tomorrow morning.
So between buying a new mattress for the first time in my life and having a home professionally cleaned for the first time in my life, it has been a big money-spending week in our household. And it's likely to continue being that, because my computer needs some repairs to bring it up to proper working-from-home standards. (The computer will be solely my own expense, not Susan's. The mattress is a shared expense.) But it has been a pretty good week, I think, and I'm optimistic that the big expenses will continue to seem well spent.