Saturday, January 13, 2007

Hired "Help"?

Had someone in to do some housecleaning last week.  I heard the box of CDs falling off the table, and just assumed that, having made a mess, the housecleaner was going to clean up the mess.

Wrong.  The CDs are still on the floor.

I was going to pick them up myself, but as soon as I bent over, I got lightheaded (as usual).  It wasn't worth fainting for, so the CDs are on the floor waiting for the housecleaner's next visit so they can be picked up by the person who created the problem in the first place.

And this has been the problem with many hired cleaners.  When they leave, I have a bigger problem on my hands because they have put boxes in front of the places that I need to put things away.  If I cannot put the Tupperware into the cupboard when it comes out of the dishwasher, then the Tupperware that had been in the fridge is added to the mess.  If I cannot get to the cupboard with the canned food because a heavy box has been placed where I need to stand to reach the cupboard, then I have to go buy more food, which adds to the mess, because I can't get to the cupboard to put it away.

At the moment, I can't get to the boxes where I store my needlework supplies, because someone thought it was an excellent idea to put a stack of boxes in front of them.  Which means, (1) I can't get to what I have, and (2) when I buy new stuff because I can't get to the old stuff, I can't put the new stuff away neatly, so it's still cluttering up the living room (though the clutter is receding as the yarn gets used -- I've been knitting a lot of clothes for a friend's grandbaby, so three bags of yarn is already down to one).

My house was MUCH cleaner when I was struggling to clean it myself, because I had enough brains to not block doors and drawers with heavy boxes that I couldn't move, which meant that I could put things away as they came into the house or out of the dishwasher. 

But as soon as I started hiring help, my problems started because they refuse to leave boxes in the middle of the room.  It makes sense to me to put the boxes away from the cupboards, so that I can get into the cupboards, but the only thing the paid cleaners see is that if they put the boxes in the middle of the room, I might trip over the box and sue them.  Being unused to dealing with the disabled, it doesn't register with them that I cannot simply move the box to open the cupboard.

And, as this incident demonstrates, the hired cleaners get focused on one task, and if they create a new mess in doing the task that they're focused on, they simply leave that mess for me to clean up because they don't see it as part of the task they were hired to do.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Since we have a cold snap coming (the worst in nearly 10 years), I remade the bed this morning with an extra comforter. (This is an old house with no insulation in the walls, so when it’s cold and damp out there, it’s cold and damp in here.)

The only thing I tucked in was the bottom sheet, and I was exhausted and out of breath before I even got to the pillowcases (which I decided to save till later). Nonetheless, it took me half an hour to just throw everything over the bed, and when I got the bedspread on, I simply collapsed on top of the bed, and started coughing up green gunk (which the doctor says is related to my asthma). The bending, lifting and stretching was too much for me.

After a while, I had enough energy to walk back to the living room and flop on the couch. When I got there, I realized that I’d left the bedroom light on, but didn’t have enough energy to go back to turn it off. Didn’t take long, and I fell asleep because I was so worn out from the exertion. My eyelids were drooping even before I got back to the couch.

That meant lunch was late, which meant that I was late starting my paid work, which meant that I didn’t get the dishwasher loaded as planned.

Those are the realities of living with CFS – when you try to do normal things like normal people, you wind up exhausted. The slightest exertion, like making the bed, can require an hour’s nap to recuperate.

Imagine how long your housework would take you if, in addition to each task taking several times longer than normal, you had to then rest for an hour or more after each one. No more cleaning the whole kitchen in one day – you empty the dishwasher and then cannot do anything for an hour. Then you go back and load the dishwasher, and again have to rest for an hour before you can fix lunch. If I’m having a good day, I can do 4 or 5 such minimal tasks in one day, but if I’m not doing as well and limited to 5 minutes total activity in one day, I’m lucky to even get 3 meals (one of which will probably be PopTarts or pre-made peanut butter and crackers, which I keep stashed under the bed and next to the couch).

What surprises me is the hired cleaners who don’t have CFS, and who accomplish less in 4 hours than I could myself. It’s clear that they work while I’m watching, and as soon as I walk away so I can lie down before I faint, they stop. One spent 4 hours in an already-spotless kitchen, and when she left, I found out that she hadnot done the one thing I specifically asked her to do (and paid extra for): cleaning the oven. I have no clue what she did in there for 4 hours. Maybe she wiped down the same three-foot counter a hundred times. Or maybe she rummaged through my cupboards to see if there was any silver or Waterford crystal. But whatever she did, it wasn’t what she was hired to do.

Another cleaner, after being specifically told "don’t rearrange the cupboards" did just that while I wasn’t watching. She was sure that she could organize them so they worked better for me, except that the things I use most often wound up in the back of the top shelf because she doesn’t cook the same way I do. Putting the kitchen back in order so that it works for me took more time than it would have to just clean the kitchen myself.

Yet, the judge wants me to waste my limited funds hiring these lazy incompetents to "prove" to him that I’m disabled. Some months, I spend more on housekeeping services than I earn, and am almost never happy with the results – they don’t want to do anything dirty or strenuous, they want to dust, which I’ve already done before they arrive.

When I ask them to put things away, they choose to put them in boxes "for me to sort", because they don’t want to spend the time putting Tupperware back in the cupboard – much easier to just dump it in a box and declare the job done. In 2007, I’m still looking for my business financial records for 2005; I knew where they were until someone decided the dining room table should be used only for dining (which hasn’t happened in years), and tossed all my paperwork into boxes. Not just one box, either. A little in this box, which then had some laundry put on top. A little in that box, which then had some canned goods tossed on top. A little in another box, which had some items bagged up for charity brought in from another room, unbagged and tossed in. A little in another box, which had some books put on top because someone who doesn’t read sees books only as "clutter" and can’t understand why the correct place for a book would be on the couch. A little in another box, which then had a plastic bag put on top, which I recognized as being the contents of the trash can that should’ve been taken outside to the big bin for pickup.

I ask them to put the clean laundry in the bedroom (where at least it’ll be closer to the drawers for me to put away, if they’re too lazy to do what they’re being paid for and put it awaythemselves), and they can’t be bothered – they put it in boxes under the dining room table, mixed in with papers, books, groceries, and anything else they’re too lazy to put away properly. When I pay someone $15-$20 an hour, I expect them to do what they’re told, not take shortcuts! And especially not shortcuts that make more work for me in having to re-sort things that were already sorted into neat piles.

Another cleaner neatly bagged up the contents of the recycling bin (which is marked as such) and stored it in the guest room, then used the recycling bin to store things that weren’t where she thought they belonged (instead of asking me if these things should be moved). Of course, with the recycling bin being used for storage, I had to find somewhere else to put the recycling, adding more clutter to the limited floorspace in a tiny house, and which doesn’t look as tidy as when I was properly using the recycling bin.

Frankly, I would be embarrassed if I offered to clean someone’s house for them and left it looking the way that hired cleaners have left my place. Yet, they somehow convince themselves that making a bigger mess is "doing a good job", that they’ve earned the $60-$80 they charged me to do basically nothing, and they pat themselves on the back for having kindly "helped the disabled". You have to wonder whether their own houses look as messy as some of them have left mine.

In the long run, it makes more sense (both financially and in terms of progress) to do the cleaning myself instead of paying someone to clean and then having to spend days cleaning up after the cleaner. It’s also less exhausting to do it myself than to have to unpack half a dozen boxes looking for the paperwork that I needed to take to my doctor appointment the next day, or the bills that need to be paid.



Monday, January 8, 2007

Have a laugh at a serious subject

Scroll down to the bottom for the English version of the 2007 CFS calendar.  Download is free, courtesy of the German CFS group.