04 June 2009

Review: Mrs. Meyer's and Molly Maid

Leave it to me to wait until spring is almost over to catch the spring cleaning bug, but I say spring cleaning is whenever suits you best (besides, around here spring is mainly devoted to the garden). But in honour of this yearly tradition, I decided to review not one, but two books on housecleaning! Will the excitement never stop?

In all seriousness, I was looking forward to reading both these books. Anything that can help me do a better job of taking care of my home is welcome in it.

So I was doubly disappointed when I saw how much these books were lacking.

Having received my copy of Mrs. Meyer's Clean Home first, I started with it. I was particularly excited about this one: cute graphics and a fun design will always sucker me in. Too bad that's where the fun stopped.

As soon as I started reading, I could tell this book was ghost-written (a fact confirmed at the end of the book as I perused the "contributors" list and found the writer's name). With so much personality infused into the book's design, it was beyond annoying to have to endure the generic, pseudo-folksy tone throughout (you can tell the actual writer was trying--maybe a little too hard--but it was still apparent to me that the writer's voice isn't Thelma Meyer's voice).

Having been put off right away by the writing, I wasn't drawn back in by the content. Unfortunately the advice on cleaning was either too unrealistic (dust furniture/light fixtures/banisters/shelves once a week, but only clean the inside of the microwave once a month); too basic (did you know throwing something red in with the whites when doing laundry will turn everything pink?); bizarre (use white-out to cover smudges on baseboards); or potentially destructive (clean your computer tower with water and dishwashing liquid!) A lot of the sidebars seem pointless, and the frequent "My House My Rules" notes feel like a never-ending lecture.

Also, Mrs. Meyer's attitude toward pets borders on disturbing; it's telling that the pet advice is contained in the chapter that also deals with odours and pests. Anyone who would dab vinegar on their cat's mouth to keep it away from the houseplants should not only not have pets, but should probably be investigated by the Humane Society as well. (FYI--vinegar burns and its strong smell would be torturous to a cat.)

A few of the better aspects of the book include an insistence on using environmentally friendly products, (occasionally extreme) tips on thriftiness, and the inclusion of instructions on canning tomatoes.

You might like this book if:
--you come from a large family
--you're into a frugal and/or green lifestyle
--you remember the 1960s fondly
--you know enough about cleaning to weed out the bad advice, but still need basic help
--you don't have any pets and never plan on having any pets

Mrs. Meyer's at least has the graphics and the occasional amusing anecdote. The Molly Maid Cleaning Handbook, on the other hand, is all business, following the same formula chapter after chapter, with little to break up the monotony. At least here, one expects the writing to be generic, and readers aren't insulted with an individual's name on the cover.

Overall, this is a better book. The advice is more reasonable and there are some great features (e.g., "Body Wise" tips to prevent injury while you're working, Q&A, suggestions for getting motivated...) Although I did start to suspect the book is designed to overwhelm you with numerous lists of endless "necessary" cleaning tasks so you'll just give in and hire the Molly Maid company to do it all for you.

Probably the worst part about the Molly Maid Cleaning Handbook is that it gets really repetitive, really quickly, stating the same things over and over: clutter keeps you from being able to relax... everyone in the household plays an important role... it's easier to keep things clean in the first place... always clean from top to bottom, left to right... and don't forget the aforementioned, not particularly helpful, lists. Also, predictably, Molly Maid's obsession with abolishing clutter soon leads to books being labelled as clutter. Um, you mean like your book? If I hadn't committed to reviewing it, I would have tossed it right then and gone to read something by those of us who respect books as more than just dust-collecting space-wasters.

You might like this book if:
--You need solid, basic information
--you're anti-clutter
--you like a no-frills read
--you like lists
--you'll probably just hire cleaners anyway

I kept comparing both of these books to my gold standard: Home Comforts, and both came up way short. Granted, not everyone needs fifteen chapters on fabric care and laundry, but whatever you might need to know is in here, and the information is trustworthy. I also find Home Comforts a lot more inspiring and motivating than either of these books.

My ultimate advice when it comes to cleaning manuals is to first find a routine and schedule that suits you and your needs, and then only consult the books when there's something you're not sure about (how do you clean window screens?) or to pick up helpful tips you might not discover otherwise. The point of life is to find your own way. Trying to live according to a manual is a fast way to get stressed and still have a messy house.

Mrs. Meyer's Clean Home
Molly Maid Cleaning Handbook

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