How to clean house in the NL; OR: Why I will never be Dutch enough
Anyone who has ever traveled through the NL will notice that that Dutch are a bit obsessed with order and cleanliness. And I use the word “obsessed” lightly. They are crazy meticulous. Total perfectionists. Dutch houses are CLEAN, yo, because Dutch huisvrouwen attack their cleaning duties with military precision.
After living all those years in the NL, even I, the vrouw who will never be huiselijk enough, have a few tricks up my rubber glove that I’m happy to share. So here you go, the methods to their madness:
Adopt a new vocabulary. Forgive me for just a sec while I give a teeny Dutch lesson. The Dutch wordlekker means “yummy.” Food is of course lekker, but also weather, people, temperature, as well as anything that has to do with cleaning. Stick this adjective in front of any of the following: scrubbing, polishing, wiping, sudsing, shiny, clean, fresh... (I could go on and on) and say it with a big smile.Lekker soppie, alles lekker schoon!
Cultivate the patience of a saint. Washing machines in the NL are half the size and take twice as long. If you, like me, tend to forget about laundry until someone screams that they’re out of clean socks, washing everything in that mountain-of-a-pile will take a week and a half, which means at some point your dirty laundry will have lapped you, and you will be forced to lie to your son that those underwear really are clean, I swear.
Windows are streak-free and spotless. And I’m not talking about a squirt of Windex and a wipedown. (And whatever you do, do NOT tell your Dutch mother-in-law that this is your method of choice. She will tell everyone she knows and laugh at you for MONTHS. Not that this ever happened to me.) No, for a serious window washing, you will need a bucket filled with warm water and a dash of vinegar, a sponge, squeegee and chamois cloth. A real huisvrouw is able to squeegee the water off without using the chamois, but I never quite got the hang of it (mostly because I never quite washed my own windows). And don’t despair when it begins to storm and blow sand all over your newly washed windows, because you will be back out there with your bucket and squeegee same time next week.
Beds are gross. How else am I to explain this national propensity for taking the entire thing, comforter and all, outside to air it out? Even in the dead of winter, when it’s 100 below outside, the windows in the bedroom are open wide and the comforter is hanging over the windowsill. And as if that’s not enough, every few months, the mattresses are lugged outside and beaten. I was always under the impression that this was to get rid of the fleas, but then someone told me it was for dust, mites and body dandruff. Eew, okay, beds really are gross.
Iron your laundry. Okay, so I know lots of people iron their laundry, but t-shirts? And kitchen towels? Even underwear? I mean, is that truly necessary? I myself prefer my HankyPankies to be a little wrinkled, mostly so I don’t have to iron them.
Sweep your stoop. Whenever the wind blows sand and dirt around. As soon as a leaf falls onto it. The second your neighbor drops a cigarette butt on it. The sidewalk in front of your house must be immaculate. Because, you know, it’s OUTSIDE and all.
F@ck the environment. Use bleach. Ammonia. That bubbly stuff that eats the mold off the grout in the shower. Pretty much any of the bottles you can find in the store with a little skull and crossbones on it. And then wash it down the drain, flush it down the toilet, forget about all the little herring dying in the North Sea because of it. Because who cares about stupid fish when your house smells like a hospital and shines brighter than your newly polished silver? Nobody, that’s who.
Don’t be fooled; people are watching. Cleaning in the NL is a contest. You need to be the first to hang the clean laundry on the line, throw the comforter over the sill, sweep every molecule of sand from the sidewalk. The other huisvrouwen are watching, ladies, and they are talking about you if you do it wrong.
OR, you can be like me, and pay someone to do it.
Best money I spend all week.
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