Cleaning before traveling: smart, superstitious, or quirky?



Last week before I headed out to the airport, I spent three hours in the morning cleaning up my apartment.  At one point I stopped shaking my head at myself wondering why I was taking so much time to clean an apartment that would be empty for the next 4 days.  It is an odd quirk that I have?  By the way, aren’t all quirks odd by definition?  A quirk is a peculiarity, or otherwise known as, an oddity.  Thus, I revise my last question.  Is my leaning habit quirky?  Of course, there are level of quirkiness, right? There can be slightly amusing quirks to downright extremely crazy quirks. I think. But, I digress yet again. And yet again, I display another one of my quirks.  Back to my before-travel cleaning obsession.

Here is why my cleaning habit is a bit quirky. I don’t ten d to clean throughout the week. I wake up at 4am. I work out at 5am. I eat a huge breakfast at 6am. I grab an espresso at 7am and I head into work so that I can spend 8 hours in a dimly lit, windowless, office. I come home and I am tired. I continue to work some more. I go work out because that is another one of my quirks. I really don’t see how and when I can clean. Thus, I don’t. I am, as a result, completely ok living in chaos.

Yet, when I get ready to travel, I can’t seem to leave my place in chaos.  I straighten up. I vacuum. I dust. I throw out the garbage.  I hang up my clothes. I do everything humanly possible to clean up and leave my place tidy.   I do this like clockwork. I suppose it is a good thing that I travel almost every week.  Thus, on Friday mornings, you can find me tidying up like a mad woman.  This madness I trace back to my mother.

Let me explain.

I remember a long time ago as we got ready to travel to Hawaii I cleaned up the tiny 600 square foot apartment and left a note.  It was a random note in that I left instructions should we not make it back.  It was a weird short postcard note. Laughingly, the building superintendent did see the note (I assume) because we had left our alarm on and it kept ringing bothering our irksome neighbors.  It was Berkeley. Most people there are strange and horrible apartment neighbors.  That’s another tangent and possible future rant. Anyway, I had left a note that I was a bit embarrassed about.   Now, I don’t leave notes. I just leave a clean apartment behind, just in case.

Every time I went on a trip, I had to call my mom beforehand. And the conversation always ended with “god willing.” So, I always had it in my head that one could never know how one’s journey would end.   I also had seen a silly Saturday Night Live skit called “Rest Assured Disposal” service. The tag line was “When you are gone its too late to hide any evidence of hedonistic lifestyle.”  Where a team disposal technicians “clean” up your place before others see it.  It’s pretty funny and stayed with me for a long time. That, combined with my mother’s superstitions have ingrained in me the need to clean up my place before I travel.


So, am I smart, superstitious or quirky to clean before I travel?  Or all of the above?



10 replies »

  1. A little OCD? My close family is the same, as am I. I always left a neat house before I traveled with my husband. One of my main concerns was that the laundry hamper was empty – everything washed, dried and put away.


  2. One’s abode should always appear at its best upon re-entry.
    Also; you don’t want “Baddies” thinking little of you should they take the liberty of sharing your digs in your absence.
    Alas a journey afar holds no guarantee of our return. Best to leave them laughing if not with a clean abode.B


  3. Your quirk may be related to this ancient and as far as I know strictly American thought. My mother doesn’t say this (at least to me) anymore, but many of us heard the following before we left the house, while we still lived under our mom’s roof.

    “You must always wear clean underwear. You will never know when you’ll be in an accident and end up in the hospital emergency room.”

    And holes in underwear? That would be awful. What would doctors and nurses think? Can’t you just imagine some nurse saying, “Well, he has a broken pelvis, but I’ll say this for the guy, he is wearing nice clean boxer shorts, and there are no holes in them. I’ll have the secretary note on his admittance slip: `Clean underwear.’ ”

    This is excepted from a column written by Bill Wundram, a 91 year old who writes for the Quad City Times in Davenport, Iowa. Now, while I am more than a generation younger than Mr. Wundram, and have never lived in a state as flat or rural as Iowa, the very fact that this ridiculous thought still comes to mind is a sign of the universality of the misplaced priorities passed on from mothers to their children for far too long no matter where we lived!


  4. I think it is smart, but I wouldn’t do it. To clarify the 2nd part of that statrment first, I wouldn’t because I’m usually rushing aroumd like a cazy person doing last minute travel stuff, afraid I’ll forget something important. I do, however, try to make the ned and straighten things a little, which leads to why I think it’s a good idea. When we come home from a trip, we tend to be laden with new things we acquired on the trip, alomg with all our other stuff. When I come home, all I want to do is veg. I don’t want to hit the ground running- I meed recovery time. So coming home to a neat household (clean dishes, made bed, etc.) allows me to relax and not get stressed about the additional chaos my vacation acquisitions cause. I can just eat calmly on a clean dish or get into a nicely made bed with hopefully clean sheets!
    Then again, I don’t travel for work as you do, I think. Not taking life for granted also makes perfect sense!


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