One of my favorite topics– cleaning. I happen to be a connoisseur in this area, I might add. Cleaning gizmos do for me what tools do for men.
Every night, after my family is asleep, I go on the computer and indulge in a secret, somewhat shameful activity: I search for the latest cleaning tools, and buy them.
I do this not so much because I love to clean – although I do, occasionally – but simply to know that I can, should the need or desire arise. Cleaning supplies are my insurance policy and fantasy combined.
They also offer me a little bit more.
In his book Thinking Fast and Slow, Nobel-prize winning economist Daniel Kahnemann explores the “halo effect” in which the perception of positive qualities in a thing, or part of a thing, leads to positive perception of related things.
This is exactly what happens with me with my surreptitious accumulation of cleaning supplies. The mere existence of these objects gives me a halo effect – about myself. They make me look and feel as if I were a person who focuses on keeping a clean house, when in fact my home is closer to chaos on the spectrum of tidy to untidy.
Consider what I have in my closet. There are Japanese balls that promise to get your laundry cleaner when you throw them in with the wash. There is a giant Karcher vacuum cleaner that I bought because it promised to clean my floors with just steam and water. I have used it about five times in the five years I have owned it. There’s a whole array of mops that promise to Swiff, spray, “twist and shout”, and dance in circles.
There are wet mops, dry ones, ones that wring themselves out. They offer great therapy after a quarrel. When I get the urge to wring somebody’s neck, I pick up my mop. My favourite is a sleek microfibre one that matches the closet full of yellow microfibre cloths I buy in bulk at Costco. Microfibre, I think, is the greatest thing since soapsuds.
I have Oxo soap-dispensing palm brushes that I leave near every washbasin in my home, hoping to nudge everyone who washes hands to clean the basin with the smart-looking brush. (It works about 50 per cent of the time.)
I have wash cloths, imported from Sweden, that claim to hold 50 times their weight in water. I have laundry detergents of every kind, including one made from cow’s urine.
Other people may have their own pleasures, but for me the cleaning supplies section of Amazon does it every time. To gain composure and self-esteem, all I need to do is smell some sulphates and phosphates.
My latest object of interest is a Slipper Genie: a microfibre cloth attached to slippers: you can simply walk around to get clean floors. I plan to kit out my entire family with these slippers: plaid for my husband, cartoony for my teenage daughter, pink for my 11-year old, and neon yellow for me.
These slippers are cheaper than the i-Robot I coveted a few years ago, and play right into two key features that I look for in cleaning supplies: how to clean without actually cleaning, and how to clean in an environmentally sustainable way?
The i-Robot captivated me because it cleaned without me having to do a thing. The slippers have the same seduction, and they cost $12.99 (Dh48) instead of a few hundred dollars.
Do I actually clean? After a fashion. I pour lemon juice in every toilet at night so that it can do its bleaching work overnight. All I need to do is flush in the morning – and ignore the complaints that the bathroom smells like a lemonade stand.
There are some cleaning jobs I love (anything involving water); and others I hate (folding clothes, brushing lint). Like every connoisseur, I distinguish between tidiness, which I think is overrated, and cleanliness, which floats my boat. Tidiness involves organisation; cleaning involves elbow grease, as I like to say.
I can walk through an untidy room with insouciance. Piles of paper on the floor? They don’t bother me. Dirty clothes lying around? I merely step over them.
But if there’s a stain on my pristine floor, I need to know: Where’s my trusted mop?
Shoba Narayan is the author of Return to India: a memoir.