Cleaning obsessed!

Is she cleaning obsessed, or does her behaviour actually have cognitive benefits as she claims?

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Dear Auntyji

We live in an extended household with my parents-in-law. They are fairly young and lovely people. My MIL is only 53 years – and she still has an important job at a bank.

MIL works from home 2 days a week and is super organised – both at home and at work. Sometimes I hear her on the phone and I get impressed by how she brings her team together to give them ideas and execute on those.

She is always coming up with new ideas for her work.

But here is what she does that I am not too happy about.

Sometimes after any one of us cleans the kitchen, she will come and do a once-over. The thing is, we do our best to make the kitchen spotless, but there she is, wiping down the fridge or the cupboard handles etc. My FIL asked her why she does this, and she says cleaning gives her ideas. Sometimes she even goes so far as vacuuming in the middle of the day because she insists it gives her new ideas. And in her role at work, she does seem to solve problems in creative ways.

It irritates me that MIL cleans the kitchen after I do. Surely I have done a good enough job, don’t you think? Or does she think that only she can clean the kitchen to an acceptable standard. Now in all fairness, she does not complain or say anything about our cleaning standards, and sometimes I can’t see the difference after she has cleaned up, but goodness, Auntyji, this really irritates me. She’ so cleaning obsessed I think she is OCD. What to do?


Auntyji says

Arre kalmouhi. This is the thing you choose to get cranky about? Being cleaning obsessed?  What kind of a jahil are you that you choose not to see what is going on here?

Here you have a MIL who still has a corporate job and she does not give you grief – and you are getting upset because she vacuums in the middle of the day and wipes the cupboard handles? You are truly a nit-picking bahu who does not deserve such a saas.

First things first. It appears to me that MIL gets into her zone when she cleans. And she is thorough – quite possibly, more thorough than all of you. But the fact that she has not pointed out that you guys do a half-baked job of cleaning, and she just starts doing it anyway, means that she is actually using this time to think.

So, here is what you can do. Next time, when she has cleaned up after your attempt, ask her what ideas she has had. I suspect she will relate to you the insights that blossomed. You will very quickly realise that she cleans not because you have done a lousy job (although that is highly likely because you come across as someone who cuts corners) – but because the cleaning ritual allows her time to contemplate new ideas, or maybe even it relaxes her or maybe she is working on being a better human.

Perhaps you too can do the same.  Next time you have a trivial irritation like this getting your goat, I recommend you pull out the vacuum, and as you clean, assess the problem in your head. Use that time to maybe learn to think more charitably about others, or how to do something better.

And learn gratitude. You are indeed blessed. Living with your in-laws can be tricky, but if the worst thing in your household is that your MIL cleans up after your attempt, and she does not do this to irritate you but because she needs the downtime to think, then you are indeed blessed. Let the cleaning obsessed woman have her weird habit, you shaitaan ki nani. And stop obsessing about chhoti chhoti bathein like this.


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The original Australian sub-continental agony aunt. Email: info@indianlink.com.au

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